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October 3, 2006

Religion and Mark Foley

An addition to our ongoing discussion of religion (or its absence) and morality (or its absence):

This Republican congressman, who seems to have exchanged some "predatory" emails with teenaged male House pages, supported the interests of the Christian Coalition 84 percent of the time in 2004 (the last year I could find). He is a Roman Catholic and may have some connection to Scientology (thanks Operation Clambake). According to the Herald-Tribune in Florida, Rep. Foley supported the Defense of Marriage Act, "a measure intended to ensure that only heterosexual couples may wed."

Rep. Foley's other hypocrisies -- attacks on former President Clinton for his affair with an intern, support for tough laws against child porn and seduction of children on the Internet -- have, of course, been well reported.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at October 3, 2006 1:33 PM


I think the "take-away," as they say in business speak, is that a devotion to one or other Gods, and professed statements about the impropriety of this or that, are no indication whatsoever that the person is actually following the same tenets he is trying to force on others, or trying to get others to believe that he really, truly espouses and practices. It's an old-fashioned word, but I believe they call it hypocrisy.

Of course, as has been discussed here before, the so-called reverse is also true: just because you don't believe in God doesn't make you into an immoral hedonist.

Posted by: Wayne at October 3, 2006 2:06 PM

Thats what happens when you follow a religion that is sexually oppressive...it creates perverts who want to make sure no one has a normal sex life.

Posted by: say no to christ at October 3, 2006 4:30 PM

obviously there are several different unresolved questions and areas of uncertainty & ignorance here overlapping, eg:
- atheism/disinterested deism/involved theism (are we deliberate?)
- the relation between different answers to that question and civil law
- oppressive misuse or misconstrual of any of the above ideas
- accusation of various personal hypocrisy in various situations
to name a few...this seems too complicated for me to engage with online, so I offer just 3 questions I'd love to hear what you think:

if atheism is right, can anyone tell anyone else what is 'normal' sexuality?

what's the difference between 'say no to christ' telling us what's "normal" then accuse any disagreement as oppressive and perverse & the roman catholic church having a different view of what is normal & doing the same?

it used to be that we tolerated those who disagreed with us ("defending to the death your right to disagree with me") Now postmoderity decrees we are in our own un-translatable worlds & what's right in mine cannot comment on what's right for another. Disagreement is now abusing someone's right to be themselves. Has tolerance been redefined to mean "accept this basis or be banned from discourse as oppressive & intolerant"?


Posted by: Chris Oldfield at October 3, 2006 5:35 PM

Have to take strong exception to Chris Oldfield's attempt to blame 'postmodernism' for the increasingly narrow field of perspective one sees in public discourse (over the Foley situation and a lot more). If anything, the increasing intolerance for disagreement, dissent and debate (i.e., the value of *public* discourse, itself) can be traced rather directly to fundamentalists' securing of access to public media (esp radio and internet), success in achieving local political office (e.g., school boards with control of school curricula and textbooks) and aggrandizement of corporate power (which has obvious impact on political campaign contributions to candidates for national office).

'Postmodernism' (for good or ill) is about not making judgment calls, not about intolerance of diverse viewpoints.

"normal sex life" unfortunate choice of words for 'say no to christ' to use (agree with Chris on that) since the first point is right on target: christianity is indeed all about normalizing behavior, creating 'sinners' in need of 'saving'... use of 'normal sex life' phrase simply contradicts that idea.

Posted by: JM at October 4, 2006 12:33 AM

thanks JM. Good comments.

I would add you describe america, I am in Europe (Brussels at the moment, but grew up academically in England). VERY different. Nearly everything you said doesnt apply here. There is no such thing as a "christian right" here (thank goodness). Christians in the UK tend to recognise that as a ridiculous association. So beware reacting against what may just be american conservatism taking the christian name.

I do not "blame postmodernism for the increasingly narrow field of discourse". I blame postmodernism for wrongly isolating worlds so that dialogue is impossible & unnecessary, but that's not my point here. Here I am suggesting that a new definition of tolerance is being assumed, which is like a bad tool - it is debilitating to the task. I am asking questions of our view of tolerance here.

Ok, "postmodernism is about not making judgement calls" - same thing (because there is no basis on which to translate between our worlds, we cannot find a 'transcendant signifier' to use Derrida's phrase). It is thus not possible to call X wrong/in error. That's the background. In the light of what you said about religious views as 'normalizing', if you are atheist, how can you criticise the religious view? I suggest you will answer it is about tolerance.

But now my question returns:

Q1) what then is tolerance in a postmodern world? It used to be tolerating those who you thought were wrong, and entering into reasonable dialogue. Now you must say, "well, we all have our own opinion and their vision is as right for them as my vision is for me" - thats what makes you tolerant.

--> I dont know what tolerance means any more if I cant disagree first. If I say "o your view is very true & I tolerate you", or "nobody's wrong & I tolerate all of you" ...I've got to say your wrong before I can tolerate you dont I?

--> how is this tolerant at all...because the 1 place that people do disagree with them, in their definition of tolerance, there they say, "if you dont agree with our definition of tolerance, you should be excluded!"

apologies for the length but hope it's clear.

Posted by: Chris Oldfield at October 4, 2006 6:24 AM

Clear? To me judgment is assigning importance.
Tolerance is allowing others different judgments without penalty.
Most all judgment is done pre-consciousness.

Words. How can one possible live in a postmodern world? Kinda ruins the meaning of modern, no? To me, postmodern is the future.
But then I do not live in either Europe or America; I live in my head.

It needs coffee.

Posted by: Jay Saul at October 4, 2006 8:29 AM


First off, nothing about christianity is normal for the human animal. There are tons of studies done on indigenous peoples around the world past(Native American plains peoples) and present(trobriand Islanders) that prove sex with children is NOT a normal human behaviour. It is behaviour brought about by sexual oppression, virgin taboos and the sexualizing of children through propaganda. And any person with half a brain can see the it is partiarchal religions such as the Abrahamic religions that all have strick sexual "morals" and virgin taboos that make children all the more tempting to them. The more pure and virginal the better and you can't get anymore pure and virginal than young children. IT doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the whole picture, just common sense...or at least the common sense of a person who hasnt been brainwashed.

Posted by: say no to christ at October 4, 2006 11:55 AM

Christianity, in all its varieties and counter-intuitive forms, is as normal as normal can be for the human animal. Otherwise it would not exist.

We are not the ends of evolution. Religion is a transitory product of the odd state of awareness we live in. We are run by ancient pre-religion emotions yet able to rearrange matter to form gadgets and ideas that break through these very same drives. All this is just a link in the chain. We can break it or extend it, but we cannot understand it.

Posted by: Jay Saul at October 4, 2006 12:07 PM

Sorry Saul I don't agree with that. Why havent all humans evolved to crazy patriarchal religious ideaologies? There have been tons of studies that show patriarchal religions evolved out of drought and famine. Think about it. Where did the Abrahamic religions originate? The desert and one of the driest and most harsh desert there is. Their savage behaviour in their holy books coincide with the behaviour we see in people who are living in drought and famine at present. There is also a good book(Saharasia) put out by a scholar named James DeMeo who spent 12 years researching university libraries across the world to create the first ever human behaviour map and it shows the origins of child abuse, sexual repression, warefare and scocial violence, evolved out of the Saharasia area after it dried up and that patriachal religions and its violence are only 6000 years old. Which is rather short time in the course of human history.

Heres a link to other societies that did NOT evolve patriarchal religions and they are better off for it.

Posted by: say no to christ at October 4, 2006 1:24 PM

Nature takes multiple routes. Naturally.
(Drought and famine are natural occurances)
People can believe anything. Naturally.
The hardest thing for humans to believe is that they create and edit reality. Naturally.
We put our selves at the center of everything. Naturally.
Human re-engineering of the brain will change everything. Naturally.

Posted by: Jay Saul at October 4, 2006 1:52 PM

The human species has not been able to adapt to such dry environments therefor they must migrate out of it. The change in behaviour is not that of natural human behaviour. To understand what I am talking about you must know how draught and famine effect the brain. The brain will not grow to its full potential when denied the proper nurishment and nuturing. Our species can NOT survive without water and food and can barely get by on small amounts. Those that make it out alive do not not make it out unaffected by its trauma. They lack proper social skills such as empathy, campassion and respect for others. Their relationship with nature destroyed and replaced by gods of war, who are anti-female, anti-sex, anti-child, and anti-pleasure are then enforced by any means possible on those that still live in tune with nature or just do not have the same beliefs.

It has not been religious beliefs that has moved us forward in the course of evolution it was the people who dared to think outside its box and challenged the irrational and crazy dellussions of very oppressive religious leaders. Religion holds us back every time. It is science and understanding of the natural world that gives us a future .

Posted by: say no to christ at October 4, 2006 4:56 PM

Yikes these comments really get weird sometimes. You've obviously not read the literature on tolerance. Read the UN declaration on tolerance for instance, and notice the "except for everyone who doesnt agree with this view of tolerance" emphasis slipped in.

as for "it is science and understanding of the world that gives us a future", I can only urge you to engage with this properly. Go for the best, get the academically rigourous, not just the pop-science catchphrase approach. Read "Dawkins' God" by Alister McGrath (Oxford)- his PhD was in Biochemistry & now is professor of historical theology. A fascinating man to read. 100 times more informed than we can be here.


Michael Ruse, a Philosopher of Evolutionary Theory I read during my Masters gave it this review:

"A wonderful book...This is scholarship as it should be - informed, feisy, and terrific fun. I cannot wait to see Dawkins' review of Alsiter McGrath's critique"

Posted by: Chris Oldfield at October 4, 2006 5:43 PM

Chris said"Yikes these comments really get weird sometimes. You've obviously not read the literature on tolerance. Read the UN declaration on tolerance for instance, and notice the "except for everyone who doesnt agree with this view of tolerance" emphasis slipped in."

What in the hell are you talking about? I was responding to your comment about about normal sexual behaviour. I am saying that it doesnt take the UN or any other autoritive figure to tell us what is normal for human behaviour. Believe it or not, we here on the net are not the only people in this world and we do have documentation of people living in tune with nature without all the restrictions and taboos about sex and still do not rape, have sex with children, animals or ingage in sadomasochism. They self regulate and do a way better job at being decent humans.

As for Alister McGrath...No thanks. You lost me when you said he became a theist.

I am a big fan of Dawkins and as a matter of fact I am going to his book signing in San Fransico next week. I cant wait! I am also a big Fan of Brian Sykes a professer of genetics at Oxford University. Dawkins isnt the only evolutionary biologist that I follow there are tons of them out there. Dawkins has made a name for himself amung the atheist cuz he is so outwardly spoken about the damage religion is doing to the world over.

One of my favorite sayings of another great atheist scientist Carl Sagan "I dont just want to believe, I want to know".

Posted by: say no to christ at October 4, 2006 6:24 PM

But the world is being not being run by people who want to know; it is being run by people acting out their sexual fantasies on a world stage.

Can things get any more surreal?

I am waiting for them to start mixing up some poison koolaid.......

Posted by: Jay Saul at October 5, 2006 12:02 AM

Say No to Christ,
You are seriously misinformed about historical/modern cultural practices re childhood sexuality. Pederasty, pedophilia, and related practices are evident in a variety of non-Christian, non-Abrahamic, non-desert societies throughout human history. (Think ancient Greece.) In many of these cultures, sexual acts between an adult and a child are accepted or even prescribed as "rite of passage" rituals. Plato discusses/condemns the sexual activity frequently found in the teacher/student relationship in the Athenian culture of his day in his "Symposium".
As for the prohibition of/taboo against pedophilia actually CAUSING the behavior, you're missing a bit of fundamental logic here. Such behaviors must, logically, PRECEDE any laws that proscribe them. We do not pass laws or institute moral codes forbidding behaviors that do not exist. Since causation is asymmetrical, it would be illogical to assert that the laws CAUSED a range of behaviors that preceded them.

Posted by: Melinda Barton at October 5, 2006 10:41 AM

As for human nature: I think it would be difficult to determine what is/is not human nature consider a.) the differences in natural behavior between two different individuals due to differences in their biology. b.) the effects of disorder c.) the role of human consciousness in controlling/sublimating natural behaviors. The most we can achieve is defining what is common/uncommon. Pederasty, pedophilia, etc. are far too common (even universal) in many societies.

That being said, whatever our beliefs, I think it is common if not necessarily natural for us to do what feels good or fulfills some need/desire rather than what we believe to be right. It is also common for closeted gay people to use homophobia as a cover and for child molesters to conceal their behaviors from suspicion by taking up respected positions or even being publicly outspoken against the behaviors they practice in private.

Posted by: Melinda Barton at October 5, 2006 11:08 AM

What is unnatural? A particular human behaviour may be uncommon but cannot be unnatural.

And to believe that human behavior in stressful conditions is unnatural is irrational. Nature is constantly stressful. Ask my wife. Life does not act outside of its nature for nature is what is. Even the most farfetched, looney tune thought is a product of natural conditions.
The fact that one of these looney tune thoughts could parsipitate setting back the evolution of our branch of life a few hundred million years means nothing to anything but us.

Posted by: Jay Saul at October 5, 2006 11:42 AM

Ok all of you are not looking far enough back in history and are not looking at the documented studies on indidenious peoples that have not been invaded by patriarchal religious societies due to migrations out of desertification. The Abrahamic religions are not the only patriarchal religions that exist. Have none of you ever heard of Sikhism, some sects of buddhism as well as some sects of hinduism and there are many more? But, the three biggest, that are most influencial are the Abrahamic religions. I know what I am talking about I have been following this for over ten years and there is such a thing as natural human behaviour just like there is such a thing as natural animal behviour. Most humans do not behave natually due to childhood traumas and sexual repression brought on by religious beliefs that evolved only 6000 years ago out of drought and famine. Just being born in a harsh cold metalic hospital room is a form of trauma, male and female circumcision, denial of the breast, unresponsive mothering to babies cries, harsh punishments, hitting, sexual abuse and sexual repression. And you are in a sad state of denial if you think the majority of people, if not all, in the US have not suffered from more than one form of abuse throughout their childhood. Think about all the sexual guilt that the MAJORITY of people suffer from ESPECIALLY women. We are taught from a young age that sex is a sin, dirty, and shameful and only recently has the church changed its stance on sex, but only if your married. Are you all trying to tell me that it is natural to fear sex the way the majority of people do, that live here in the US?? That goes COMPLETELY agaisnt nature. Period and its NOT normal.

Some links for more information







Posted by: say no to christ at October 5, 2006 3:41 PM

Malinda Said:" (Think ancient Greece.)"

Are you saying Greece and its infamous man/boy relationships are older than 6000 years?

And do you believe it is normal to fear sex the way the MAJORITY of Americans fear sex?
I just don't see how that can be seen as normal for natural human behavior. There is such a thing as normal human behavior just like there is such a thing as normal animal behaviour. When then function naturally then they are behaving normal.

I am not a relativist. I don't believe in it. There is only what is natural and what is not and religious beliefs with its imposibilities and absurdities are NOT natural therefore they are not normal.

I also posted another response with a buch of links to suport my views, but the owner of the blog must approve it first. Hopefully they will.

Posted by: say no to christ at October 5, 2006 4:15 PM

No, I'm not saying that ancient Greek culture is more than 6,000 years old. I was using it as an example of a non-Abrahamic, non-desert society that practiced pederasty.
In addition to the problems with defining "natural," I also have problems with your theory for a few other reasons. 1.) Appeals to nature in defining what is true/false or right/wrong are logically fallacious. 2.) Biological/Neurological studies have shown that we "naturally" believe in the supernatural. Think the "G-d module" or "G-d net" theories supported by empirical data. 3.) Many of the attitudes/behaviors you condemn have outlived their usefulness but had potentially valid justifications in their beginning. You also don't consider how different societies perceive the practices or define "childhood", "sex", "virginity," etc. 4.) How humans respond to extreme circumstances (such as the heat/drought of the desert) is part of our inherent biological capacities, therefore, in some way, "natural." 4.)Tracing sexual practices in ancient societies is extraordinarily difficult, especially when working around taboos against certain behaviors or taboos against discussing sexual behavior in general. Many societies, especially pre-literate ones, don't keep very good records about their sexual attitudes and behaviors. 5.) Even IF you can positively assert that a particular sexual behavior was rare or even non-existent, you cannot differentiate between social taboos being sufficient to prevent people from acting on a natural impulse and the absence of the natural impulse. 6.)This smacks waaaaaaaaay too much of the naturalistic arguments in favor of homophobia, sexism, racism, etc. for my taste.

Posted by: Melinda Barton at October 6, 2006 1:41 PM

Just finished reading some of your sources, which are unreliable to say the least, especially as regarding "trauma" brought on by circumcision and hospital birthing practices. Considering that infants in the days after birth are incapable of self-awareness and thus of being "traumatized" emotionally/psychologically by an experience, any "link" between events in the first days of life and lifelong attitudes/behaviors is highly suspect at best and completely absurd at worst. "Recovered memories" of this period and theories based upon these "memories" have been debunked for just this reason.

Also, denial of the breast in the form of starvation and denial of the breast in the form of bottle-feeding are two different things. Starvation would obviously effect biological/neurological development whereas bottle-feeding with pumped breast milk or properly devised formula does not. Again, there is no emotional/psychological trauma possible before that stage at which an infant achieves self-awareness.

The information provided on HIV/AIDS has also been debunked by mainstream science and flies in the face of all we know (via empirical testing and statistical analysis) about virology in general and the HIV virus specifically. Not to mention that safe sex practices are not just a way to get kids to fear sex, but a way to prevent the spread of many STD's and unwanted pregnancies. Considering the rate of both, some would argue that our teens aren't scared enough.

All of the following known discoveries call the "peaceful human" hypothesis into question:
-Signs of violence/cannibalism in ancient North American cultures, which had been separate from other humans for at least 10,000 years
-The discovery of "warrior" burial grounds in Siberia dating to long before 4,000 BCE
-sites around the Nile Valley dating to 12,000 BCE, including Jebel Sahaba, where the remains of more than 50 people imply violent deaths
-signs of inter-tribal fighting/social violence in Southeast Australian sites dating from 11,000 to 7,000 BCE

Posted by: Melinda Barton at October 6, 2006 3:44 PM

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