The war between sex and religion has been long and embarrassing.
Since Augustine of Hippo, the ancient Roman Christian proclaimed sex was among the highest evils a Christian could engage in. Reflecting on his sexual past, Augustine writes:
Love and lust seethed together within me . . . swept me away over the precipice of my body’s appetites and plunged me into the whirlpool of sin . . . floundering in the broiling sea of my fornication . . . a frenzy gripped me and I surrendered myself entirely to lust.
He may go down as history’s earliest NoFap crank in the manosphere. Augustine embraced a doctrine called Manichænism, based on the teachings of a Babylonian prophet in the 3rd-century C.E, Mani.
Mani taught and believed that sex defiled the body, and that temptation eroded a person’s contact with God. As Geoffery R. Stone says in Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century:
Mani taught that when man procreates he replicates the forces of evil and chains his soul to the devil. The only path to salvation is to withdraw completely from the temptations of sex and the contaminations of the flesh. Above all, sex is defiling and must be shunned.
But Augustine failed at Manichænism because he couldn’t abstain from sex enough. Tragically, it’s a story that still follows us around today. In 2020, a mass shooter opened fire in a massage parlor because he felt unable to control his temptations toward sex.
He was baptized and became a Christian, but Augustine incorporated many Manichæn teachings into his Christian outlook. He called the nakedness and sexuality of Adam and Eve after the fall “monstrousness” in his devout disapproval.
According to Augustine, repudiating our sexual desires was the best way to rid ourselves of the inherent Christian guilt passed down since the fall of Adam.
Anything less than total celibacy was not to be tolerated. Sex in western history was all downhill from there. Augustinism was adopted as the primary outlook on sex throughout Christianity over time, and his thinking was expanded upon by other zealots such as Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther.
Since Augustine, sex has never been the same since. Sex has been demonized, reviled, hated, and viewed as utterly shameful, derogatory, and filthy. Christianity has imposed Augustine’s view on the rest of us ever since.
They’ve been controlling our minds, thoughts, and bodies, telling us which sexual behaviors they approve of and which they do not. Based on this doctrine, people have been beheaded, killed, and burnt at the stake for sex between consenting adults for over 1,000 years—and it’s a battle that continues today.
In the early 2000s, then-President George W. Bush was unwavering in his insistence that America practice and preach abstinence-only sex education.
He let the Evangelicals in America guide policy rather than facts, even though it was later proven that over 80% of the information in abstinence-only sex education materials was false, distorted, or misleading. Not to mention, it was ineffective.
The number of unwanted teen pregnancies increased to an insane degree.
There’s a bizarre, paternalistic mechanism for religious conservative problem-solving that says if you just tell people what to do with a scolding enough tone, you can solve the world’s problems.
Homeless? Get a job. Don’t want to get pregnant? Don’t have sex. Don’t want to be poor? Go make money. This is conservative thinking. It can dedicate enormous amounts of time to researching the nuances of the Bible but insists on reducing uncannily complex social problems to oversimplified talking points.
So it should be no surprise that the Texas GOP is demanding that all sex education be stripped from the Texas curriculum.
We demand the State Legislature pass a law prohibiting the teaching of sex education, sexual health, or sexual choice or identity in any public school in any grade whatsoever, or disseminating or permitting the dissemination by any party of any material regarding the same. All school districts, individual schools, or charter schools are prohibited from contracting with or making any payment to any third party for material concerning any of the above topics.
Until this prohibition goes into effect, sexual education shall only utilize sexual risk avoidance programs and promote abstinence outside of marriage. Before a student may be provided with human sexuality or family planning instruction, the district must obtain the written consent of the student’s parent or guardian.
If that wasn’t enough, they’re going after LGBTQ folks again, too (as always). The following section, 106, is titled Inappropriate and/or Harmful Content, and it says:
We support passage of a law more comprehensive than the Florida law that prohibits instruction in sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools. We advocate for those who violate any of the above to have their educator’s certification revoked and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law where appropriate.
But they aren’t done yet—in case that wasn’t enough, they added section 107 for good measure, which attacks contraception, saying:
Legislators shall prohibit reproductive healthcare services, including counseling, referrals, and distribution of condoms and contraception through public schools.
To rub salt into an open wound, they follow all of this up by saying that the Bible needs to be taught in schools and that schools need to indoctrinate children into falsely believing that the Bible is a foundational American document:
We urge school administrators and officials not to infringe on Texas school students’ and staffs’ rights to pray and engage in religious speech, individually or in groups on school property without government interference. We urge the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents, including the Bible as their basis.
I’ve shown elsewhere that the fight to end abortion rights isn’t about saving babies, but the desire that most Evangelical Christians harbor to control human sexuality. They’ve been trying to do so, as small Puritan Christian sects, since before the nation's founding.
The thing is, it’s not about beliefs — if it was, these oppressive Christians who’ve aligned themselves with the Texas GOP would be content with not engaging in the kinds of activities they deem against their religion.
It’s about the right to oppress, silence, and control others using religion as a justification. It’s about the incessant demand that we allow them to impose their religious views on the rest of us, a request to which we should not cede.
Thanks for reading. This story was written by Joe Duncan. He can be found on Medium and on Twitter. Sign up for his Substack publication, The Science of Sex, which explores the world of human sexuality through the lens of science.
You can check out another story from him below:
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may make a small commission through them.