Morality & Politics

Atheist Morality: Family Values

"God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and he is going to destroy you and a lot of others."- Florida State Rep. Allen Trovillion, speaking to a group of gay Orlando-area high school students, as quoted in Newsweek Magazine (April 23, 2001 issue). Every Christian knows the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but how many are willing to admit that it was an evil act? Not only do they refuse to recognize it as proof of God's capability for evil (and thus disproof of God's moral authority), but some, such as Allen Trovillion, hope that God will do it again.

What about family values? It may be a lie that Christians have historically shone the light of morality for the world to follow, and it may be a lie that atheists have no moral code, but what about the family? Who's going to protect the family if not the Christians, since the atheists have never shown any interest in protecting our children from knowledge of sex, such as the sex education classes which liberal educators keep foisting on the classroom?

This is one of the most common questions posed by the fundamentalists, and it is a question whose underlying assumptions are never seriously questioned. The first seriously flawed assumption is that "family values" have to do with keeping children in the dark about sex. Does that really make sense? What if family values were about something like loyalty, or our obligation to love our children and raise them in the best way possible, so that they will be healthy, well adjusted adults someday? Is that definition of family values any less valid than "don't let them hear dirty words or see nudity?" Humanists have families, we fall in love, we marry, we raise our children, we protect them from harm, we work for their futures, and we don't like being accused of lacking "family values", any more than we like being accused of unanimously supporting late-term abortions (a popular and completely false generalization; I am an atheist and I personally oppose all abortions in the latter half of pregnancy unless the mother's life is in immediate peril). Christians didn't invent the family; it's been around since long before Christianity, and if Christianity disappeared tomorrow, the family would remain. The fact that humanists aren't sexually repressed does not mean we lack "family values".

Naturally, the fundamentalists vehemently disagree. They say (actually, they scream from the rooftops at anyone who will listen, and many who won't) that sexuality is one of the greatest dangers facing our children. If they are exposed to the concept of sex before adulthood, they will suffer irreparable psychological harm. They will be doomed to a life of meaningless, empty, hedonistic, abusive relationships, and all because they heard their parents having sex through the bedroom wall or they saw a woman's naked breast in Penthouse Magazine. This atmosphere of Victorian-era puritanism doesn't stop when the children grow up and reach puberty, either. It actually intensifies, with parents angrily fighting to shut down sexual education programs in school because their teenaged sons and daughters will presumably remain "pure" and celibate as long as you don't tell them how to prevent the transmission of AIDS.

"No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure."- Revelation 14:3-4 (the Bible states that men "defile" themselves if they sleep with women, and that all of the 144,000 chosen ones will be men ... pity the poor altar boys in Heaven)

A good example of this puritan mentality can be found on the website. From the "Making the Right Choices" article written by church elder Richard G. Scott: "sexual immorality creates a barrier to the influence of the Holy Spirit ... it engenders selfishness and can produce aggressive acts such as brutality, abortion, sexual abuse, and violent crime." Whew! That's one steep slippery slope, isn't it? Sexuality leads to violent crime! How about this nugget from Mormon church president Spencer W. Kimball? "Kissing has been prostituted and has degenerated to develop and express lust instead of affection, honor, and admiration. To kiss in casual dating is asking for trouble. What do kisses mean when given out like pretzels and robbed of sacredness? What is miscalled the 'soul kiss' is an abomination and stirs passions to the eventual loss of virtue.". Ah, so we can't even kiss before marriage now? The Mormons are hardly the only ones to exhibit such a repressed attitude; similar attitudes have been expressed by countless Christians throughout history, starting with Paul in the New Testament.

But can any of these people explain why we must shield children from even the most innocent depiction of nudity while permitting them to see countless murders and assaults on prime time television? Can anyone explain why TV stations bleep out words like "fuck" and "tits" while leaving words like "nigger" and "greaser" intact? If the rationale behind this fanatical war on sexuality is that children shouldn't be allowed to see things that will encourage unwanted behaviour, then why are they permitted to see televised depictions of teenagers committing crimes, smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol? Why the double standard? What message are we sending to our kids, if racism, crime, and violence are acceptable for their eyes and ears while sexuality is not?

It has long been said that any movement which fears education is a movement of oppression. Are the fundamentalists so sure that they're an exception to this rule? Children do not benefit from being kept in the dark. As parents, we need to give them guidance and support, and we may even need to give them discipline. We need to set examples, we need to let them see both sides of an argument, and then we need to let them make an informed choice. If we've raised them properly, they will make the choices that are best for them. But if we think we can force them to follow our wishes by witholding information, then we are doing our children a terrible disservice. We need to tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, because your kids will not respect you if you don't respect them, and respect starts with honesty. That is our idea of "family values", not this ridiculous fundamentalist doctrine of not letting them know what a condom is for.

Continue to 6. Sex

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