Sex and atheism: Greta Christina educates us

I continue to chafe at some of the so-called intellectuals on Free Thought Blogs continually referring to atheism as a "movement" and associating it with all these other causes that actual nonbelievers have every right to care about or not. I happen to think that supporting equal rights with no preference given to either gender is a positive thing, and this is why I have a reservations about feminism. I happen to think that a progressive view of politics is the best way to move society forward.

I happen to think that whatever legislation is being passed in California, specifically, the Oakland and San Francisco Bay area, will eventually filter out to the rest of the nation, and we will, kicking and screaming, one day more resemble California than the inverse. I happen to think that civil society has no place for semiautomatic weapons, but have trouble supporting the eradication of guns altogether because of legitimate security concerns and the potential for recreation-only uses. I happen to think that Black History Month is an outdated and somewhat insulting relic that should be dispensed with. I happen to think that stem cell research shows near limitless potential to save lives and improve the health and happiness of chronically ill patients. I happen to support anyone's right to marry so long as they are paying taxes and are an upstanding member of society.


What I do is express my opinions; what I don't do is dictate whatever I believe onto the entirety of nonbelievers, understanding full well that some skeptics might be conservatives in other parts of their lives. Some might be in favor of traditional marriage. Some might think Black History Month is a perfectly fitting recognition for our black brethren.

In her most recent "all the things that atheism is not" post, Greta Christina whiffs again, referring to the ludicrous "atheist view of sensuality:"

The atheist view of sensuality, of pure physical pleasure and joy in our bodies, is about eleventy billion times better than any traditional religious view. Our view — or rather, our views — of physical pleasure are more coherent, more ethical, way the hell more appealing and fun. We don’t believe in a supernatural soul that’s finer than our bodies, more important than our bodies, superior to our bodies in every way. We don’t think we have a soul separate from our bodies, period. We sure as heck don’t believe in an immaterial god who thinks that our bodies are icky — even though he, you know, created them — and who makes up endless, arbitrary, unfathomably nitpicky rules about what we may and may not do with them. We understand that the physical world is all there is. We understand that our bodies, and the lives we live in them, are all we have. And as a result, we are entirely free — within the constraints of basic ethics, obviously — to enjoy these bodies, and these mortal, physical lives. As atheists, we’re free to celebrate our bodies, and the pleasures they can bring us, as thoroughly and exuberantly as we can.

So why don’t we?

Why isn’t atheist culture more physical? Why isn’t it more focused on sensuality and sensual joy? Why is it so cerebral so much of the time? As atheists, we’ve flatly rejected the idea that there’s a higher, finer world than the physical one. Why does it so often seem as if we’ve bought into it?

She goes on to talk about how atheists — where this logic comes from, I don't know — tend to be more "cerebral" in their approach to life, and thus, the sexual lives of nonbelievers are not as fulfilling as they could be. First, we can flatly reject the notion that religious people can't have fulfilling sexual lives. That's just anecdotal, atheist know-nothing rubbish. Spoiler alert: Christians have written mounds of books about how believers can have titillating sex and stay true to the faith. Or, if you reject the notion that Christians are somehow excluded from fulfilling or even kinky sexual experiences inside the walls of marriage, pick up this page-turner: "Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Chri...."

While I think it is true that the large majority of nonbelievers try to live in the moment and appreciate that this is the only life they are going to get, it's also anecdotal to suggest that nonbelievers aren't living sexually fulfilling lives. If the former is true, that nonbelievers appreciate the brevity of this life and live accordingly, why would they not be making the most of their sexuality? This seems to be a self-defeating argument that she's making. Does Christina bring any proof to bear that atheists are prudes when it comes to the bedroom, that most of us have this nerdy side that makes us uncomfortable enjoying sex and sensuality? This is apparently the best she could do:

I know for a fact that many atheists, maybe even most of us, don’t live this cerebral way in our private lives. I know that I’m not the only atheist who revels in good food and better hooch; who fucks all afternoon and dances all night; who walks in the sun for miles and pumps iron for the sheer endorphiny pleasure of it; who literally stops and smells roses. But our public life typically doesn’t (sic) reflect this. There are notable exceptions, of course: Skeptics in the Pub and similar events leap to mind. But in large part, our public life as atheists — our events, our writings, our culture — is geared towards political activism, social change, the pursuit of science, and the life of the mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a passionate devotee of political activism, social change, the pursuit of science, and the life of the mind. But that’s not all atheist culture has to offer. Not by a long shot. This wacky notion that our selves are not separate from our bodies and therefore this life is all we have… this is one of our greatest strengths. And yet, when it comes to one of the most obvious logical conclusions of this notion — the idea that ethically pursued pleasure not only isn’t sinful, but is an actual positive good — we flinch from it in public. When believers accuse us of being sybaritic hedonists, we hotly deny it… rather than saying, “Hell yes, we’re hedonists — why shouldn’t we be?(") (italics mine)

For me personally, I think that presenting a public face that tells the world that nonbelievers celebrate the mind, while enjoying life and all the same pleasures as well-adapted, law-abiding human beings is a good message to send. One severe problem with the gay rights discourse in this nation is that Americans by and large only associate gay and lesbian people with sex. They have a preconceived notion that sex is the only thing gay people care about, and essentially, that it defines them. Obviously, this notion is terribly wrong, and I think it would be unfortunate if atheism came to be associated with hypersexuality.

We are simply people who want to experience what life has to offer and as much of it, before the lights go dim. Nothing more, nothing less. To attempt to elevate atheists beyond this, as somehow carrying the ball of humanity going forward, I think, is flirting too closely with arrogance and elitism, and this is the pretentiousness that seems to ooze from every orifice of the so-called Atheism Plus "movement."

Speaking of pretentiousness, here comes the inevitable Richard Carrier-esque exhortations from Christina:

And sometimes it can be more subtle, an unconscious absorption of less obvious ideas and reflexes. As we see with the acceptance of the preposterous notion that physical experience is less valuable and meaningful than intellectual experience, and that physical pleasure is something to be ashamed of.

So let’s knock it off. Let’s celebrate our bodies as much as we do our minds. In fact, let’s stop seeing our bodies as something totally apart from our minds. Let’s not simply reject Cartesian dualism and the absurd notion that the soul is the real self and the body is just a skanky shell. Let’s reject its mutant offspring, the absurd notion that the intellect is the real self and the senses are just a meaningless indulgence. The atheist view of physical pleasure is more coherent, more ethical, and way the hell more appealing and fun. Let’s put that view front and center.

Nonbelievers, you have your barking orders. Follow them or suffer the wrath of Atheism Plus.

Read more at Our Daily Train blog.

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