Secular speaker says religion suppresses sexuality
Love, sex not necessarily related, lecture asserts
The controversial focus of a lecture hosted by the Rebel Secular Students Society garnered about 100 attendees on Thursday, as psychologist and author Darrel Ray spoke in part about religious ideas acquired at an early age about sexuality.
“You had no choice in what you learned about sex,” said Ray, who lectured on “Sex and Religion.” “None of what you learned about sex — from your teachers, from your parents and often times from your ministers — came from any biology textbook or from a psychological or sociological perspective.”
Before the major religions got ahold of the world, people were having sex and they were having it in “very nice and interesting, particular ways,” Ray said.
“And,” he added, “they didn’t seem to follow the pattern that Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism all made for us.”
He gave example of the Musuo, or Na, of China — an ethnic group among whom polyandry (the practice of women having more than one husband) is common.
The Na give women discretion in their sexual activity by age 13, Ray said.
He went on to facilitate an illustration of Western social norms by asking questions of the audience that could be answered by a raised hand.
Nearly the entire crowd raised their hands when Ray asked how many of them like sex.
When asked how many of them masturbate, there was minimal change in response — which Ray said was an unusual response.
“We must have some pretty sexually aware people here,” he said. “A lot of hands stayed up here.”
He explained that normally, one-half to two-thirds of a group would lower their hands at the question about masturbation.
Only two attendees raised their hands when asked if they believe the person who advocated abstinence to them actually waited to have sex until after marriage themselves.
“Well, you know, that might be right,” Ray said. “Those two people might have.”
Ray said that the constructs for what is viewed as inappropriate sexual behavior come from religious people as a result of tension found between their biology and their religious training.
Utah, the state with the highest pornography use in the United States, was used as an example.
“Mormons hate pornography and they use it more than anybody else,” he said, referring to the state’s high population of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Ray said culture and biology tell us a lot about human sexuality and what is normal and natural.
“Once you educate yourself about culture and biology and everything we know about humans and primates, it will become obvious to you, if it isn’t already, that religions know about as much about sex as they do about the rotation of the planets, about quantum physics and about cellular biology,” Ray said. “Zilch.”
What seems to be normal and natural, Ray said, is not.
“‘Normal’ and ‘natural’ vary widely across all sorts of cultures,” he said.
Hypocrisy is much a part of the contention within the world of sex and religion, Ray suggested.
“The more religious somebody is, the more sexual rules they have to follow and the more restricted they are,” he said. “Extreme religiosity leads, generally, to extreme sexual repression.”
He explained that people are immediately attracted to thinking about something they have been instructed not to think about.
“The more you tell them not to do it, the more you think about it,” he said. “Religions are programming you to do the thing it doesn’t want you to do.”
Sex and Secularism, a recent online survey headed by Ray of about 14,500 participants, revealed that by age 21, those who are religious and those who are non-religious engage in nearly the same amount of sexual activity, with guilt being a major part of religious order. He said this can affect those who identify with a religion with various intensity.
It was found that those of a Unitarian background have the lowest levels of guilt while Mormons tend to have the highest levels in regard to sexuality.
Ray said “normal” is when sex is between two or more consenting adults and it does no physical or psychological harm. Religion should not be the determining factor in sexual relationships, and guilt should not be present, he asserted.
“Love and sex are not the same and they don’t need to be the same,” Ray said. “There are many ways to love people that are not sexual and there are many ways to be sexual without love — the two don’t have to go together.”
Michael Gobaud, a recent UNLV graduate of philosophy, serves as president of RSSS, an affiliate of the Secular Student Alliance, a worldwide association.
“We’re an organization that likes to put on events like this,” he said, “to open up that dialogue about things that are taboo and not usually talked about.”
According to the RSSS’s website, non-religious thought is becoming ever more popular in the U.S. and worldwide.
”If you describe yourself as agnostic, atheist, freethinking, non-religious, or secular,” the site says, “you are one of us.”
Contact Fantasi Pridgon at [email protected]