I finally had an opportunity to meet and spend some time with Dr. Darrel Ray last weekend, as we were both speakers at the FFRF/AFA 23rd Annual Fourth of July event. I absolutely love this guy, and his presentation on how religion distorts sexuality was a learning experience. I obtained a copy of his book, “Sex & God” (signed of course), and began reading it when I got home. I did not put it down. It would literally take a chapter-length blog post to cover all the wonderful things that are within the pages of this book, so I will touch on a couple of them and leave the rest for you to find out when you buy it.
Who Will Benefit..?
On page seventeen, Dr. Ray reveals who will benefit from reading his book. Thus, I will start here. He points out four demographics, and I quote…
- If you are young and not yet experienced in marriage or relationships, this will show you the world of dating in a religious culture. You will learn about the unconscious games used by religious people to trap ou into religion through marriage and relationships.
- If you are in a new relationship or newly married, you will learn about many hidden religious assumptions that directly impact your sex life. Examining these assumptions will give you the power to make informed decisions, free of dogma and indoctrination.
- I you have been married for 10 or 20 years or more, and want to know if your feelings and concerns are normal, this may give you some benchmarks to consider and ideas to further develop your relationship.
- Finally, if you are religious, you will be able to compare your particular religion with many others. You may want to explore such questions as, “Why do all major religions use shame and guilt, regardless of their theology or doctrine?” or “Why are women universally seen as second-class citizens in the major religions?”
Well that about sums up most of us, right? The first chapter dives right in with what Dr. Ray calls “Religious Foreplay.” He gives us some examples of relationships and the complications that arise from religious indoctrination, ending with the fact that without religion, none of the example relationships he has provided would have come to the ends that they have. Following up, he gives us what is called “The Toxic Trio,” which are three key beliefs in modern religion that lead to sexual distortions. Namely,
- Belief in an afterlife,
- Belief in a voyeuristic, all-knowing god that determines your status in the afterlife
- Belief that god dictates a specific kind of sexual behavior to the exclusion of all others, as a condition for entry into the afterlife.
From here he goes on to explain how these three aspects of indoctrination effect relationships. Bam, right out of the gate this book addresses the problem of religion and how it is detrimental to the very thing that it preaches is most important. Yet another example of the contradictory nature of religion, in general.
Oh, The Shame…
In chapter five, Dr. Ray answers the question of how is shame different from guilt, how does shame work to keep people religiously infected and in line, and how is shame different in Islam versus Christianity. In the space of a few pages, Dr. Ray manages to coalesce the ideas that others have taken several chapters. He includes Scripture from both the Bible and the Koran, and feeds it into the aspects of family, male shame, modern cults and, of course, shame versus guilt.
This is the perfect segue into the next chapter, which touches on “mind police” and “thought control.” I won’t reveal the specifics here, because you really need to read this for yourself. However, if you are interested in the guilt cycle – or as Dr. Ray states, “The Police Officer In Your Head” – then you will find this equally engaging. This includes excerpts from Ayaan Hirsh Ali’s book, “Infidel,” and how sexual drive and the guilt cycle of religion has a “push me – pull you” effect on the religious individual.
Rounding out this chapter is a discussion on “Women, The Guilty Sex” which might seem obvious to you, but Dr. Ray’s insights on this covers the female gender from the cradle to the grave, including tendencies, temptations and the role of rape – citing biblical references that support the idea of female subjugation and responsibility within the religious construct.
The Science Behind Sex…
Dr. Ray gives us a thorough dose of science starting in Chapter nine, titled “Unholy Biology: Busting The Monogamy Myth.” Great stuff here, as well. This was also part of his presentation this past weekend. It addresses sexuality in the animal kingdom. If you think that this subject is in any way boring and irrelevant to human sexuality, these chapters will educate you to just how much we have in common with other animals, specifically other primates.
He goes into the commonalities and differences between humans, Gorillas, Chimpanzees and our closest cousins, the Bonobo. Seriously, some of these comparisons will genuinely surprise you, particularly the information on the Bonobos. I refuse to reveal the details here, because I want you to buy this book and read it. Suffice to say, the Bonobos have evolved in a way that is very distinct from the rest of the primates and exhibit sexuality in both biological and sociological ways that will just blow your mind.
Wrapping up this chapter is an excellent summary about sex partners and how human beings are not now, and have never been monogamous – for millions of years.
Sex And Religion In The Early Years…
This subject is addressed in Chapter 12, and contains some of the meat of the book. Get your knives, forks and napkins ready, because you will be feasting heartily here on how religion impacted early agricultural societies with respect to sexual activity. This chapter covers topics such as “Sacred Prostitutes” and the gay sex that was common and accepted in Greek civilizations. Here, Dr. Ray quotes Demosthenes, who said,
“We have our courtesans for pleasure, concubines to provide for our daily needs, and our spouses to give us legitimate children and to be the faithful guardians of our homes”
While you are chewing on that, he follows it up with Roman sex, Chinese culture, women’s roles in agricultural societies and wraps it up with a very detailed and well presented treatise on the scope of human sexuality in pre-agricultural societies, how the advent of agriculture limited sexual options and the wide range of sexual behaviors that are present in humanity in general.
For desert, Dr. Ray follows up with…
Modern Religion and Godly Misogyny…
This is the part of the book that will keep you up way past your bedtime. It explains how religions have been systematically sustained and supported violence against women for thousands of years, and the cost to our societies that result in this repression. It covers the distortions in western religions, the Jewish faith – specifically Leviticus, the Christian distortions with a concentration on Corinthians – along with quotes from church fathers such as Tertullian, who uttered this,
“Do you know that your are each of Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live, too. You are the Devil’s gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die”
What a peach that Tertullian was, eh? Dr. Ray also includes the Muslim distortion, which is particularly barbaric in some sects and is described as an “invasive species.”
There are several chapters that fall under section four of the book, which covers the tools that religion uses to distort human sexuality. Specifically, it’s use of natural emotion and psychological and biological processes that are used to, as Dr. Ray states, “distort and shape our sexuality.”
In this section, you will learn about how the rise of universal religions play into what are otherwise normal human sexual drives. If you are a fan of Buddhism, you will learn a thing or two about how this religion also distorts human sexuality in many ways that are similar to Christianity and Islam. Included in this section is how religion uses disease, political and military power for the purposes of conversion and subjugation, as well as suppression of natural human sexuality.
One of the more interesting aspects here is how the neurosis of death effects sex. This addresses the hunter-gatherers, who had no concept of the afterlife, and how the agricultural societies that developed the concept of life after death and used it to terrorize people. This harkens back to the “Toxic Trio” he discussed at the beginning of the book. Nice segue, Doc!
Chapter 18 is a gold mine. It addresses why religious parents fail at sex education, forcing them into dishonesty with their children and covers sexual guilt in marriage and child rearing that has detrimental ramifications for everyone. Some of the topics include,
- Children, Parents and Sex
- Sex-Negative Messages to Girls
- The Power Of Oblique Communication
- Guilt In Religious Marriage
- The Poisoning Of Men And Boys
Other topics include bullying, homophobia, masturbation and the importance of non-religious sexual education for children and adolescents.
It’s A Trap..!
Rounding things out, Dr. Ray goes on in Chapter 22 about “The Jesus Trap,” which was amazing to read. In this section, he discusses why some people convert to the religion of their mates, and the patterns that can also trap nonreligious people, including atheists.
From this point on you should be prepared to cancel all of your appointments and have some snacks handy. Dr. Ray delves into the personal stories of those who have fallen into the Jesus trap, emotional blackmail and the psychology behind the Jesus trap. Not to leave the reader unarmed, he also provides strategies for dealing with the Jesus trap, which include how to engage in open, direct and detailed discussions, and being honest about your sexual attitudes.
Finally, Dr. Ray outlines why we are, as he states, “A Walking Conflict.” You will find out about our individual and societal concepts of the relationship between love and sex, our socio-sexual orientations, and the relationships between our desire for adventure, excitement and stimulation in comparison with our seemingly contradictory desire for stability, predictability and the need for the “routine.”
Some of the topics in this part of the book include,
- Monogamy not being our default position
- Imprisonment by the Religious Map
- The various Types of Marriages
- Avoiding Religious Definitions of Marriage
You had to know this would come up, right? Well, Dr. Ray addresses jealousy from a variety of perspectives and wonderfully integrates this most damaging emotion into the psychological aspects of our sexual relationships. He discusses why we live in a jealous culture, how we have learned to be jealous and how jealousy is factored into religion by default. He refers to scripture and how the concept of jealousy is indoctrinated into our children.
Jealousy is responsible for the destruction of many relationships, and Dr. Ray gives you the tools you need to address this issue within your own relationships, as well as the ability to discuss it with other people you may know to be having problems in their relationship due to it. In his explanation on how to “unpack jealousy,” he addresses some of the misconceptions that our society has about all men being cheaters and all women being gold diggers.
Fascinating stuff, since jealousy is an emotion that is not present at all in my marriage, I found this information to be enlightening.
The End Of Religion…
Nice concept, but it is also how Dr. Ray rounds out the ending of his book. And it is spectacular! Dr. Ray states,
“Religion is evolving to survive, but it is losing the battle in many regions, largely because of the Internet. Sexual information is far more available now, which interferes with religion’s ability to use sexual guilt to perpetuate”
Brilliant! Dr. Ray introduced us to this subject in his book, “The God Virus,” and expands on it here with excerpts from the book and how some churches are coming to terms with pre-marital sex and homosexuality. Included are examinations of statements made by people like Josh McDowell (Campus Crusade for Christ).
What I wrote just skimmed the surface of this book. The information, insights and science that is contained within these pages should be part of every reasoned thinkers library. The tools that Dr. Ray gives to combat the issues that encompass human sexuality and its relationship to religion are tantamount to having every tool in the hardware store.
I cannot state emphatically enough how thoroughly I enjoyed reading this book, and it is my recommendation that you add it to your collection – and not stuff it in the part of your library that you tend to ignore, but put it on the shelf you reserve for reference. I give “Sex & God” five stars…
About Dr. Darrel Ray:
Dr. Darrel W. Ray is the founder of Recovering From Religion, as well as the author of four books, two on organizational team issues as well as The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture and Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality. He has been a psychologist for over 30 years, practicing counseling and clinical psychology for 10 years then moved into organizational psychology and consulting. He has been a student of religion most of his life and holds a MA degree in religion as well as a BA in Sociology/Anthropology and a Doctorate in psychology.