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Can the Christian crusade against pornography bear fruit?
After avoiding talk about sex from the pulpit for years, pastors are now speaking out against porn.
August 21st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Can the Christian crusade against pornography bear fruit?

By Ashley Fantz, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - He is a good Christian, Michael is telling his two therapists. He goes to church most Sundays. He’s a devoted husband and father of two daughters.

“But when I would leave on business trips,” he says, “I knew I was going to get to be someone else.”

“Prostitutes, porn - I took anything I wanted.”

Sitting on a comfortable, worn couch, Michael glances out the window and sees a reflection of himself set against the parking lot of this suburban Atlanta office building. He fidgets, runs his fingers over his closely cropped blond hair and straightens his green tennis polo. He clears his throat.

Above his head hangs a poster covered in words describing feelings - angry, anxious, sad. On it is a big yellow cross.

Therapists Richard Blankenship and Mark Richardson wear solemn but empathetic expressions. Certified counselors and Christian ministers, they tell him they know how to listen and nod for him to continue.

“I’ve had a record of purity since March when I confessed to my wife,” says Michael, whose name has been changed by CNN.com to protect his privacy. “No porn, no masturbation.”

“Awesome,” Richardson says, leaning forward in his chair. “God knows you’re trying.”

This is Michael’s second week at “Faithful and True – Atlanta” a 16-week counseling program that, like dozens of others like it around the country, combines traditional psychotherapy with the Bible in an attempt to treat addictive behavior.

Blankenship, a devout Christian who once struggled with sexual abuse, says his own ordeal has helped him to treat and “graduate” nearly 500 Christian men and women with similar addictions in the last five years.

He says he has helped people achieve what he calls “sobriety,” which means resisting porn and lustful thoughts.

Though controversial in secular circles, much of the evangelical Christian world has been cheering this relatively new kind of therapy. Many believers, including many Christian leaders, consider it a powerful tool for fighting what they say is one of the modern church’s biggest problems: porn addiction.

A crusade is born

Not long ago, it was unheard of for a pastor to talk about sex from the pulpit.

Today, clergy are talking about porn.

Many evangelical pastors say they don’t have a choice. The Internet has made porn unavoidable; it’s everywhere. And porn, they say, leads to a lack of intimacy in marriage, threatening the biblical mandate to get and stay married.

In the past few years, Christian leaders have established online ministries to tackle the problem, hosting anti-porn podcast sermons and Web chats. The popular evangelical blog Crosswalk.com recently ran an article headlined “How many porn addicts are in your church?”

Christian publishers, meanwhile, have produced a wave of recent books on the subject, including popular titles like “Porn-Again Christian,” “Secret Sexual Sins: Understanding a Christian's Desire for Pornography” and “Eyes of Integrity: The Porn Pandemic and How It Affects You.”

Evangelical pastor Jeremy Gyorke recently came forward to talk about how porn has affected him. In July, the 32-year-old confessed his porn addiction in a sermon at Wyandotte Family Church, just outside Detroit.

“I’m part of a generation of Christians who grew up keeping your mouth shut about your personal life,” he says. “Goodness no, we didn’t talk about sex.”

“But now that we have a little say in the attitude of the church, we’re taking a different approach,” Gyorke continues. “We’re putting it all out there, saying you don’t have to keep secrets. Come forward and admit that you’ve made a mistake, and you can be healed.”

Gyorke said he confessed to his congregation after his wife caught him looking at porn and told him it made her feel inadequate. She wanted him to seek help and to be transparent as a man of God.

Gyorke ultimately decided that viewing any porn, even once or twice, is a problem for believers.

“It’s like a gateway drug,” he says. “You can’t just have a little look. If you look at porn, you’ve already given your heart and spirit away to someone who isn’t your wife.”

As he wrote his sermon on the matter, Gyorke felt tremendous anxiety. “I thought it would make or break me to them as their pastor,” he says.

But his flock reacted with empathy and support. Several congregants approached him afterward to say that they, too, felt that they’d acted against God by looking at porn.

Different interpretations

Though the words “porn” and “masturbation” don’t appear in the Bible, Gyorke believes the biblical verdict is clear. “Sexual immorality is mentioned a lot in the Bible, and that is what porn is,” he says.

He quotes the Gospel of Matthew: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

“Porn is lust, and lust is a sin,” the pastor said.

Many religious scholars say that such a view reflects just one of many interpretations.

“One school of biblical study says that desire is a problem and needs to be monitored as a serious threat to salvation,” says Boston University theology professor Jennifer Wright Knust.

But Knust points to scriptural passages that appear to endorse sexual desire, including the Song of Solomon, a poem that some scholars say depicts two lovers graphically describing each other’s anatomy in an ode to unmarried sex.

“This is not new. It’s a cherry-picking of scripture used to address what’s happening right now in popular culture,” says Knust, author of the recent book “Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions on Sex and Desire.” “The new thing is that it’s being used by so-called Christian therapists.”

Knust says the anti-porn trend in Christian therapy reflects new questions in broader society about what constitutes an appropriate relationship, about gender roles and rules, and about what marriage really means.

“People are concerned and confused, and want to know if God is speaking to us in our sexual roles,” she says. “Can we find answers in divine revelation? People have always hoped that there can be certainty in the Bible.

“There is no certainty,” she says. “It’s interpretation.”

XXX churches

A few weeks after delivering his confessional sermon, Gyorke organized a Sunday event at his church intended to help keep congregants away from pornography.

He gave out study guides with scriptural verses related to lust and showed a slick video from XXXChurch, the main Web-based group for the Christian anti-porn movement.

The video opens with a mock-pharmaceutical infomercial for a product called “Lustivin.” It raves about how wonderful the drug can make you feel in the short term but then lists some major side effects: premature relational difficulty, divorce, shallow relationships.

Craig Gross, a young pastor from California, co-founded XXXChurch.com in 2001. Its URL was meant to snag people who were surfing the Web for dirty pictures.

“Ten years ago, when I wanted to bring the church up to date, everyone was like, ‘This won’t work. People will be confused about what you’re doing,’ ” Gross says.

“It was controversial at the time, but the church is always behind the times,” he says. “We should have had a XXXChurch.com in the late 1990s if we really wanted to get ahead of this problem.”

The site was slow to catch on for its first few years, but now gets millions of clicks a day from IP addresses around the globe, Gross said.

This year, XXXChurch sponsored Porn Sunday, a national anti-porn event that included hundreds of churches across the country screening a video starring Matt Hasselbeck, who's now quarterback for the Tennessee Titans, and other Christian NFL stars.

Soundbites from the players speak to the struggle between porn and faith.

“Sex is an awesome thing that God designed,” Hasselbeck says in the video.

Jon Kitna, a Dallas Cowboys quarterback, talks about surfing the Web and getting deeper into porn sites. “[You] see this [link] and it leads you to a link to this … ” he says. “And pretty soon, I’m into a world that I never really knew existed.”

For $7 a month, XXXChurch offers porn-detection software that fires off automatic e-mail alerts to a subscriber and his or her chosen “faith buddy,” a kind of whistle-blowing system designed to keep Christians from going astray.

Achieving “sobriety”

But some Christians have gone much further in their attempts to tackle porn addictions, literally rearranging their lives.

When Jeff Colon, a self-described recovering porn addict in Kentucky, confessed his addiction to his wife, she told him to get help or find a divorce attorney.

It was the early 1990s. Christian sex addition counseling was unheard of. But Colon’s pastor - to whom he’d also confided - called other church leaders and learned of a Christian counseling retreat called Pure Life Ministries, a kind of Christian compound that includes a chapel and all-male dormitory on 44 acres in western Kentucky.

Today, Colon is the president of Pure Life, which he credits with saving his marriage.

He says the program has cured thousands of men of their porn addictions through a six- to 12-month program of one-on-one or group therapy sessions.

The live-in program costs $175 a week. Men must move to the campus and live alone, with wives having the option of talking to Pure Life counselors by phone. Most insurance plans don’t cover Pure Life - a moot concern, really, because most program participants quit their jobs to relocate.

That’s what Colon, who was working as an elevator repairman, did. “I don’t regret it for a second,” he says. “It was a hard time not because I lost my job or had to move from my family. It was a tough time because I had nearly lost my connection with God. That is what’s most important in life.”

Pure Life’s curriculum relies heavily on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, which stresses that if one lives “by the Spirit,” he will not “gratify the desires of the flesh.”

The scripture goes on to say that those who gratify the flesh “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Women are not allowed on campus during the initial phase of treatment.

“People who don’t follow Christ aren’t going to get what I’m saying, but it was like intense Bible study that helped me understand how selfish I am as a sinner,” Colon says. “Basically, you have time to talk to God, and for him to show you the way to sobriety. And I’ve been sober for 17 years.”

For Colon, sobriety means abstaining from looking at porn, masturbating and performing any other sex act not involving his spouse.

“You learn that lust is just a state of mind,” he says. “If you lust for someone other than your wife, what you do is replace that lust with prayer. And you have a heart change.”

Indeed, Colon says that God was central to his recovery.

“I know secular people don’t get it,” he says. “But if I had a sponsor who was just another person, a person who is fallible, telling me to stay clean, it’s just not as powerful as God telling me that.”

“Women … drowning in this addiction”

Men aren’t the only ones who have started thinking that way about porn.

According to the creator of accountability2you, a Web-based service that dumps all the pornographic material someone surfs into his or her spouse’s e-mail inbox, roughly half of his 10,000 monthly subscribers are women.

“The Christian Church has started to realize that we’re sexual, too, and we are just as visually stimulated as men and we look at porn,” said Crystal Renaud, author of the recent book “Dirty Girls Come Clean,” a memoir about her own addiction to porn.

For the past year, the 26-year-old with punky-streaked hair has led Christian women’s porn addiction counseling sessions. Her Dirty Girls Ministries website has 450 members.

“I’ve met women who will lock themselves in a room and look at porn all day, ignoring their kids or their jobs,” she says. “I feel like I can relate because that’s all I cared about, getting my high. There are so many more women out there drowning in this addiction, you have no idea.”

Though there are few statistics to support Renaud’s claims about the extent of the problem, Christian media outlets like Today’s Christian Woman have recently run stories about women consuming porn, often theorizing that the habit starts with explicit romance novels.

Renaud has received a sexual addiction counseling certification from the American Association of Christian Counselors, though she is not licensed by secular organizations like the American Psychological Association. She promotes a five-step program she’s devised called SCARS - Surrender, Confessional, Accountability, Responsibility, Sharing - which encourages women to confess to each other about their desire to look at porn as a means of saying no to it.

In her memoir, Renaud writes about becoming a chronic masturbator and porn addict at age 10, after stumbling upon a dirty magazine in her brother’s room. It was a confusing, scary experience, she writes.

“My mother made it very clear what the parameters were when it came to sex, and there wasn’t a discussion beyond that,” Renaud said. She describes her relationship with her father as rocky, but wouldn’t elaborate.

In high school, Renaud was a leader in her Christian youth group, but she was also interested in porn. “I felt so bad and I wanted to stop looking at porn because that wasn’t what the Bible instructed,” she says, “and I knew God didn’t want me doing that.”

When she was 18, Renaud arranged to have sex for the first time at a hotel with a person she met in a Christian chat room. She says she went to the hotel but broke down in tears in her room and left before meeting the man.

“That was my rock bottom,” she says. “I remember being there and sobbing, thinking, ‘What am I doing risking my life to meet someone at a hotel I don’t even know?’”

Renaud said that she depends on God to keep her clean and that God is a kind of sponsor or monitor. When she wants to look at porn or masturbate, she and God have a kind of conversation, and the desire passes.

A crusade’s critics

The father of Christian-based porn and sex addiction therapy has a word for this “pray-away” method of sobriety.

“Hooey.”

Dr. Mark Laaser pioneered the Christian response to porn and sex addiction in the 1980s and chides counseling centers like Pure Life for what he says is their near-total reliance on prayer.

“Alcoholics don’t wish really hard to not be addicted to alcohol,” he says in a phone interview from his busy therapeutic practice in suburban Minneapolis. “The field of addiction is much deeper than opening your Bible.”

He’s pleased that more Christians are openly talking about pornography and sex addiction, but Laaser says he’s concerned that some Christian leaders and therapists are confusing sexual sin with sex addiction.

“Men come dragging into my office because their wives have caught them masturbating and labeled them addicts, or they’ve had one affair and they are now looking to have their affair excused by addiction,” he says.

“One affair doesn’t mean you’re a porn addict,” Laaser says. “Looking at porn occasionally doesn’t make you a porn addict. Those may be poor decisions, but they are not necessarily caused by clinical addiction.”

Porn is estimated to be a multibillion-dollar industry in America alone, banking at least 10 times what it did in 1970, the first time the U.S. government evaluated the retail value of the nation’s then-fledgling hardcore film, television and retail market.

During that same decade, Laaser had become the porn industry’s ideal customer. He was constantly on the hunt for it.
As a devout Christian, he spent a lot of energy trying to keep his porn a secret, especially from his wife, Debbie. His guilt distanced him from her emotionally, he says, and began eroding their relationship.

At the time, there was virtually no established psychological research, or mainstream therapy, for sex addiction. So Laaser reached out to secular 12-step programs, using Alcoholics Anonymous’ framework as a guide to reaching what he called sexual “sobriety,” abstaining from sex outside of marriage and avoiding masturbation.

“I remember thinking I wish my problem were drinking because I could get help easier,” Laaser said.

By the late ’80s, Laaser says, he was on the road to sobriety, combining therapeutic methods he’d learned while pursuing a doctorate in psychology from the University of Iowa and a divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.

“It began to seem very evident to me that secular therapy does not work as effectively for Christians,” he said. “And that’s because the secular world … to us as Christians, seems less moral. Sex is everywhere in secular society - television, film, billboards. It’s just so much a part of life that it is excused.

“Christians just aren’t going to seek out a secular therapist - they won’t seek therapy at all if they don’t have some aspect of Christianity woven into their treatment.”

In 1992, Laaser authored the first book on Christian sexual addiction, titled “The Secret Sin.”

“The Christian church, both Protestant and Catholic, is experiencing tremendous turmoil in the area of sexuality,” it began. “The problem seems epidemic.”

It sold barely enough copies to stay in print.

In 2005, the publisher changed the title to “Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction,” and Laaser added chapters on Internet porn. It has sold 75,000 copies.

In Laaser’s care, a patient will undergo psychiatric evaluation, just as he would in the secular world. Laaser wants to know if the patient has any symptoms of depression, ADHD or anxiety. He says many sex addicts suffer from other mental health issues.

“You may need to go to a meeting every day, or connect with a sponsor; you may need to check in with this office once a day,” he said. “Every client is different, but we’re essentially helping them establish boundaries and restrictions.”

Some secular therapists have warmed to this kind of approach.

“The deeply religious were a group that were hard to reach years ago because they had extreme shame connected with their addiction,” says Tim Lee, a licensed social worker in New York with a specialty in sex and porn addiction treatment.

But Lee and Pennsylvania sex therapist Dr. John Giugliano, both members of the Society for Sexual Advancement - a national nonprofit think tank of licensed sex therapists - worry that therapy can become overly focused on dogma and ignore the patient’s real-life issues.

“If you spend your time in session talking about what God thinks and what the Bible says, you don’t get to understand what the patient thinks and what happened in their life up to that point that explains why,” Giugliano says.

Even within the world of Christian therapy, some counselors criticize the methods of other religious counselors.

Richard Blankenship, the Atlanta-based Christian therapist, studied under Laaser in the early 2000s. When Blankenship set up his practice in Atlanta to treat sex addicts, he used the same name as Laaser’s ministry, “Faithful and True,” adding only the word “Atlanta.”

But Laaser wants to make it clear that he has no association with Blankenship’s practice and doesn’t agree with some aspects of Blankenship’s program.

Blankenship doesn’t rely enough on psychological expertise, Laaser says. Laaser objects to a therapist telling a patient that an addiction may be patterns repeated through generations, as Blankenship does. And Laaser disagrees with Blankenship’s habit of connecting a patient’s addiction to a biblical character’s family tree.

Abraham’s family tree

For the rest of his therapy session at Faithful and True, Michael circles emotions from a list that Richardson and Blankenship have provided. He circles “anxious” and then describes a fight he had with his wife about his infidelity.

Blankenship responds to Michael’s description of the fight by saying that addiction is generational, mentioning the Kennedys and the Fondas.

Then Blankenship queues up a PowerPoint presentation on a laptop, showing Michael a family tree he has designed around the biblical story of Abraham.

It has a lot of boxes. There are several pages.

Abraham, Blankenship says, was a guy who committed some sexual transgressions, like fathering a child with Hagar while his wife was barren. Ultimately, God forgave him.

Michael starts talking about his own family. He describes a difficult upbringing with a father whom he said was philandering and verbally abusive. He says sex wasn’t talked about at his house when he was growing up.

Before the session ends, Michael is assured that there’s no reason to think that he won’t kick his addiction. He’ll be on a new path, Blankenship says, toward “sexual integrity.”

The 90-minute session comes to a close with a prayer.

Blankenship and his co-counselor Mark Richardson lower their heads.

Richardson asks that God look after Michael. He asks God to bless this therapy process. Michael is heading out into the world, he says, heading back into a culture of temptation and lust and ungodly ways.

Look after him, the therapist says, keep him on the right path.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Sex

soundoff (3,536 Responses)
  1. sinless

    Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

    September 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  2. Aaron L.

    America is a secular nation. They can try all they want, but Christian Nazi oppression will not hold in this country. I'd bet my left and right arms on that.

    September 9, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • SCAtheist

      We're getting stronger every day.

      September 9, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  3. The NetProphet

    I can find no where in the bible Where Jesus called his disciples to hate any one, He taught to forgive your those who hate you and to bless them that attack you. the exact words are in Matthew 5:44 " But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." I am so sorry that the name of Jesus has been used by some Christians to further there own selfish desires. We who are followers of the teachings in the bible spend so much time not doing what the Lord clearly teaches. To the world I say stop hating each other and do good help those in need, feed people who are hungry, do good to all you meet, Jesus never spoke out against any one except to the religious people at that time and it is not any different now ! From Gods perspective we all are guilty of crimes against GOD and man. I pray that all people stop and think does hate, greed,selfishness solve any thing?
    And to the Christians ? can you really say that you are walking in the truth, when you lie cheat and steal or act like the world around you? we are called to be a light but yet we are no different that the rest of the world, is it any wonder the world see you as hypocrites Does not the Jesus warn about the "yeast of the Pharisees" in Luke 12:1 Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy!

    September 9, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • SCAtheist

      Take a quick read of the OT

      September 9, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  4. wilbur

    This is a 'must listen' version of Halleluja. It is German but very well translated. It is by a religous group called Rammstein

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHXMpAfJ7t8&w=640&h=360]

    September 9, 2011 at 2:24 am |
  5. SERMON JAM

    PAUL WASHER SERMON JAM SHOCKS CHURCH !

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7wsXmvuP7U&w=640&h=360]

    RUN 911 CHURCH OF CHRIST EMERGENT SERMON JAM

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries&w=640&h=360]

    September 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  6. RobynH

    Once, I was all messed up on Drugs.
    Now, I'm all messed up on the Lord.

    September 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • BrassMonkey

      A far more dangerous and expensive habit...

      September 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  7. Mike

    The worst article I've ever read so far.

    Shame on you, dhimmi CNN.

    Did Muslims / Atheists or whatever paid you to write such an article? Shame on you, CNN.

    Shame on you.

    September 8, 2011 at 4:16 am |
    • SemperFideliS15486372

      I AGREE. I. AGREE!

      September 8, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • SCAtheist

      Here comes the Christian persecution complex again

      And I was hoping the Marines were crawling out of their jars (ex-Marine here)

      September 9, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • BrassMonkey

      First, I'd like to commend you on your excellent grammar – it's very hard to ignore such an eloquent, well-thought-out response.

      Second, I'm sorry to hear that this is the worst thing that you've ever read, but then again I've heard that "The Illustrated Childrens Bible" is an excellent piece of work.

      September 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  8. stephanie

    Hmmmm. Here we find a dialogue of “arguments”—but as arguments go, of the most juvenile kind. If it’s reason we’re searching for, it’s best to lower our expectations a bit this time. Instead we’re free to scroll through a near catalogue of informal fallacies thrown about carelessly in hopes that our voices be heard. Unrestrained personal defensiveness seems to be the most common thread that binds the whole mess together. Not that it’s surprising; we are on a touchy subject. Let's face it: we in Christendom face a narrowing stereotype that is not helped by articles like this one. Obviously, some of the devout take that pretty personally. However, while I'm also not pleased to read what seems to be nothing more than a subtle mockery of Christian ethics, I'd like to think that our best defense is not to reply with more of the same. We don't have to defend ourselves, we who by the necessity of the most central concepts of our theology ought to have no personal defense. There are many of us who are weaker than we realize, and in an effort to be heard and enjoy some personal accolades as leaders of the faith, are, but only to look foolish for narrow-mindedness, cultural irrelevance, or logically flawed explanations of theology. Not to mention hypocritical behavior (as far as the moral objectivists are concerned) or useless ethics (according to the more numerous post-modernists). Some fine examples of this and other such objectionable Christian behavior are available in abundance, and are undoubtedly true on multiple counts of many of the interviewees of the above article.
    Fortunately for us, the argument ought not to be about our personal validity, but about the objective value claims we make about the truths of scripture and the essential elements that genuine Christian faith has and does contribute to society. And these contributions don’t always come from whom you might think. No notorious headline figures, no voices of the many Christian subcultures, or (shhhhh) even the big names –Mike Huckabee, James Dobson, or Sarah Palin, don’t ya know, need be on the roster. The truth and its validity is another discussion entirely, but at least we’d be having the right conversation.
    To the author, I challenge you as well. You won't prove your point worthily with through yet another ad hominem stake in the ground. You’re right about one thing—there are worthy and the unworthy in the Christian churches. We know this, and so does everybody else. If there is a point worth proving about Christian ethics and whether or not there is still a useful place for them in our culture (that's your real point, isn't it?) why don't you try a more objective approach that will engage a more useful dialogue? Who knows, there might be something powerful in the discussion that follows.

    September 8, 2011 at 4:03 am |
    • Jeremy

      Stephanie, I would like to converse with you further if you are willing. I would like to give you my email address. Just reply to this and let me know one way or the other.

      September 10, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  9. Stephanie Klein

    Hmmmm. This dialogue history is a near catalogue of informal fallacies. Personal defensiveness seems to be the most common thread that binds the whole mess together. Let's face it –we in Christendom face an ever-narrowing stereotype that is not helped by articles like this one. Obviously, the devout may take that pretty personally. However, while I'm also not pleased to read what seems to be nothing more than a subtle mockery of Christian ethics, I'd like to think that our best defense is not to reply with more of the same. We don't have to defend ourselves, we who by the most central concepts of our theology can have no personal defense. There are many of us who are weaker than we realize, and in an effort to be heard and enjoy some personal accolades as a leader of the faith, are; but only to look foolish for narrow-mindedness, cultural irrelevance, or logically flawed expressions of theology. Some fine examples of this behavior are available in abundance, and are probably among the interviewees of the above article. And by the way, isn't the Playboy/Bible image a pretty appropriate one? How could it not be?
    Fortunately for us, the argument ought not to be about our personal validity, but to the objective claims we make about the truths of scripture and the essential elements that genuine Christian faith has and does contribute to society. Not the notorious headliners, not the subculture, and not even Mike Huckabee, James Dobson, or Sarah Palin, don't ya know. It's the power of faith in Christ as opposed to self that is our only argument.

    To the author, I challenge you as well. You won't prove your point worthily with a cautious but firm ad hominem stake in the ground. You are right. There are the worthy and the unworthy in the Christian church. We know this, and so does everybody else. If there is a point worth proving about Christian ethics and whether or not there is still a useful place for them in our culture (that's your real point, isn't it?) why don't you try a more objective approach that will engage a more useful dialogue. Who knows, there might be something powerful in that.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Copper's Donut Shoppe

      Stephanie ~ please take your meds ~ it is begining to sound like word salad!

      September 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Pointless and Boring. I used to tell my high school students that the best way to write is to use simple constructions and commonly used words. The point is to communicate not show off,

      September 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  10. paul1121

    tallulah13, Good point and I agree about equal representation. I would have at least made an attempt to find equal represenation. Religion is a very sticky subjuect, for sure.

    September 7, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  11. JamesRaynor

    something about christian virtue and celibacy really turns me on. ganna go watch some p0rn.

    September 7, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  12. Samsword

    I'm curious why the idea of souls and spiritual matters is so alarming. It can't solely be because they are "unverifiable." Half of the scientific world is "unverifiable." I mean, compare what science knew 100 years ago, to what we know now. The concept of plate tectonics was laughed to scorn, there was no "theory of relativity," and we literally had no grasp of what truly lay beyond our solar system. I can wager that in 100 years from now, our base of knowledge will seem "primitive" to what they've discovered and theorized about. Everything is constantly being shifted, challenged, and changed. I mean, you're really going to base your worldview, your life, on supposed "scientific knowledge" that will be obsolete in a few decades?

    Look, I'm not saying just accept everything you hear. In fact, please DON'T. But, at the same time, be open-minded. Consider the possibility of spiritual things. Try praying, fasting, meditating, or whatever. Not simply going through the motions either... really try it for yourself. Study is fine. Read lots of ideas. Read books of religion, science, philosophy. But try things on your own. Don't simply regurgitate what some guy in lab coat, or some news reporter says. Find out what you really believe on your own terms, YOUR experiences, not theirs. You may surprise yourself.

    September 7, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • durundallives

      Well said. It is not supposed to be for everybody, but the option should be there. That being said, it is a sad state of affairs when we are made to feel uncomfortable in our own bodies at the behest of figures whose own moral fiber are constantly being brought into new light. All things should be in balance, and that balance should be left up to the individual, not dictated by those who can not or will not understand. If you are that insecure, or have that little to offer your partner such that you can not even trust them to draw the distinction between reality and some fantasy: then perhaps the problem is with you.

      September 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Anon

      Yes, it's not surprising that Christians have to make up $#IT.

      September 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • DougieT

      I don't believe that the concept of "souls and spiritual matters" is alarming at all. The actual problem that many folks have is being told that a collection of books written by human beings with an agenda is the absolute only possible truth in the universe. Not only that, we are told that we should not question anything in the Bible but to just take on faith that everything written by these other human beings is totally the way that everything works.

      I would think that God would prefer for us to think for ourselves instead of being coerced into believing what these men have written or suffering eternal damnation. After all, if I examine the facts for myself about any subject matter and come to the conclusion that what is presented is true then it will mean much more to me than if someone tells me to believe without questioning or be punished for eternity. The threatening dogma entailed in the Bible is the type of behavior I would expect from other human beings but not from a God who cares only about his created beings. I would think that "God" would be above that sort of thing.

      September 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Ben

      Well, I do consider myself open-minded. It's just irritating that "open-minded" is only an acceptable status if you're changing from agnostic to religious. The reverse is usually considered a sin, and usually ends in borderline strangulation from all the images of hellfire and brimstone getting stuffed down your throat.

      September 7, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      For me, the rule of thumb for judging an action is not what the Bible or Q'uran or the Gita or the Diamond Sutra tells me. It is to consider whether the action is life affirming for all living beings. I don't find the abusive nature of Fundamentalism in religion or politics life affirming. Setting itself up as the only true way is bigotry. Bigotry is not life affirming.

      September 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  13. DougieT

    I have a feeling that God doesn't give a rat's rectum if people beat off. I'm sure that He's got more important things to worry about than that.

    September 6, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Will

      Nothing is more important to him than the spiritual well being of his children.

      September 7, 2011 at 2:50 am |
  14. wilbur

    The Cross is the instrument of Homicide. Christians worship it. Mary was r aped by a Roman or Nubian (black) soldier and Jesus was born. If they had electricity and Jesus was electrocuted would you worship the electric chair? The Catholic priesthood has long satisfied themselves any way they want from the lovely Borgia family all the way to child r ape.

    September 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  15. Jeremy

    To CalgarySandy,

    I respectfully appreciate your reply to my various posts, but I still have not heard any logically consistent answers given to the questions that I have asked. In fact, from your various posts I gather that you are a very bitter person and have allowed this bitterness to shape your thinking and perception on matters. It also appears to me by your responses that you bring several biased presuppositions to this discussion, and yet you would accuse Christians of doing just that. I am terribly sorry, but I do not need to be convinced of the validity of the Judeo-Christian worldview, for I have studied the various worldviews, personally, in my search for truth, and have found them all wanting with regards to the most fundamental questions in life. All worldviews that is excpet for Christianity. To you, the God of the bible would be tyrannical and belligerent because you have read various portions of scripture which speak of Him as being a Holy, Righteous and Just God. I gather that this strikes you as a very dissatisfying portrayal, and it should for two reasons: One, you are reading a portion of the bible which describes a portion of His attributes which can be remedied by simply reading the WHOLE bible to see what it has to say regarding His longsuffering, kindness, and love; that, I dare say without which, you would not even be able to sit here and slander Him with the irreverance conveyed in your words. Secondly it is dissatisfying to anyone who loathes the idea of having to be held accountable for the things that they say and do in this life. The whole idea of judgement is just not suitable to many people's worldview that life is all about them. Desiring to be rid of the burdensome yoke, they endeavor to cast it off from them, not realizing that when they do this, they must assume another yoke. Under the yoke of self-centeredness and self-seeking is where we find many skeptics today. And the question I have for them and yourself is: Are you really content? Are you really so better off than those whom you criticize and spurn as being followers of medieval myths?

    September 5, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • max

      however, much of what christianity purports as truth doesnt actually pass the smell test. I ask a fairly simple question to illustrate. where, in the old testament does any PERSON get cast into the lake of fire to suffer for eternity? judaism was a regional religion with no mandate to spread or grow. very tribal in orientation, if you rather.

      christianity has a much broader goal. spread the word and convert anyone. the issue was that there was no stick. a carrot of living with god in heaven was all sweet and everything but doesnt mean much to a non-believer. how does christianity counter this – create a hell. now it becomes "convert or burn for eternity". a much better argument for converting folks.

      its an intersting argument some christians make about parts of the old testament. there is now a new covenant. jesus died for your sins so there is no need for animal sacrifice, eating kosher, avoiding a woman when she has her period, etc etc. god suddenly became much more of a sweet and loving god, where before he was jealous and prone to killing people that defied him. oh, except for one little thing – if you dont believe in his son you will burn for eternity.

      if your faith makes you feel better, i think thats wonderful. dont pretend its based on actually studying and having some remarkable insight though. everyone needs a drug to get through and yours is faith....

      September 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • DougieT

      @max: Amen, brother!

      September 7, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  16. Jeremy

    To CalgarySandy:

    I thank you for your reply to my question. I am also happy to inform you that Biblical Christianity condones NONE of the things you listed as representing "dark age mentality". Now, with regards to the comment regarding the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, this is no longer even something that the most critical historians of ancient history espouse. The fact that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jewish man who lived and was executed during the reign of Tiberius by the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate, is attested to not only by biblical sources, but secular sources such as: Cornelius Tacitus the Roman Historian, Josephus, Suetonius, Lucian of Samosata, Pliny the Younger, and Thallus, and Phlegon, and Mara Bar-Serapion. If you so desire I shall provide source references for this information. I am also sure that you are aware and familiar with the writings of a man named Thomas Paine? The American revolutionary who held Christianity in utter contempt speaks of Jesus as being a "virtuous and amiable man"...

    September 4, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Anon

      Josephus' writings about Jesus has been known as a forgery among biblical scholars for years and the rest of the historians are just hearsay with zero evidence.
      Thomas Paine was not ignorant about comparative religion either.
      "The christian religion is a parody on the worship of the Sun, in which they put a man whom they call Christ, in the place of the Sun, and pay him the same adoration which was originally paid to the Sun." -Thomas Paine-

      September 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • DougieT

      "The christian religion is a parody on the worship of the Sun, in which they put a man whom they call Christ, in the place of the Sun, and pay him the same adoration which was originally paid to the Sun."
      ---– ----
      That reminds me of that episode of the original Star Trek series where on a certain planet the crew thought that the people were speaking of worshiping the sun. Then Lt. Uhuru set them straight and enlightened the crew that those people were actually worshiping the Son.

      September 6, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  17. Patricksday

    Thou Shall Not Kill, Can Religion stop War? Of course it cant, its more concerned with what adult people are doing in the privacy of their own home.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Where do the Crusades fit into that?

      September 6, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Will

      Do what you can where you can. Its thou shall not murder not kill.

      September 7, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  18. TheyNotHim

    I love that picture at the top...gonna put it on my FB and let it spread to the ends of the earth...is that the same as being fruitful and multiplying?

    September 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  19. Da King

    No. That's just one of the many reasons why God gave his son. For God so loved the World!

    September 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Snowman3300

      Do you ever get tired of using empty words combined with fear mongering?

      September 5, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • ROLF FRAZER

      I can not wrap my head around this Christian concept: God loved the world and gave his ONLY son. Apparently, you believe in a personal God able to to do anything, but only once in all creation. i.e. Sent a son to save humanity. Some people decide to kill God's son. God's son rises from the dead(A Miracle)and continues to save humanity. Really!!!
      What kind of a father would permit his son to die a rather horrible death. A Loving God, indeed. How many people has God actually saved since his son apparently died for our SINS. What is He saving them for???
      QUESTION: Why should I give my life to another? If I give my life to another(Christian concept)do I have a life?
      I have to live for MYSELF, not for an IDEA called religious belief that promises pie in the sky when we die.
      I realize certain people need something to believe in or they are lost. Good luck in your belief system.

      September 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  20. Al

    The vatican can not stop priests within their circle engaged in pedophilia, much less a more widespread behavior. I wish these people would let society alone and let them take care of their own problems.

    September 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.