This is an article posted by KEVIN SMITH who is on the board of directors for the Centre for Inquiry, Canada's premier venue for humanists, skeptics and freethinkers, located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Sunday, August 28, 2011 in answer to the question “Are lascivious thoughts immoral if not acted upon?"
What’s in a word? That depends on its cultural definition, and what century we are referring to. In ancient Greece, lascivious meant lustful, and was a general term for a playful, lively desire, without immoral sexual baggage.
This was a good thing for both men and their assorted gods, who not only had lascivious thoughts about those of the same sex, but also acted upon them.
The definition changed with the rise and influence of Christianity throughout Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. It became God-speak for impure sexual thinking. Enter guilty pleasures of the mind. The omnipotent, omniscient creator, able to read our dirty little minds. And we do have them. We are all Winston Smiths, in Orwell’s 1984.
Big Brother is not only watching, he also threatens severe torture for thought crime.
Those of us who don’t believe in fictitious damnations allow for lustful thoughts without self-condemnation. Sexual desires, including sexual fantasies, are natural. There is no harm in thoughts, providing they don’t become obsessions and, if carried out, they’re consensual. However, making people feel guilty about lascivious thoughts is most certainly harmful.
There may be some relief for those who struggle with sinful thinking. A sexual enlightenment is occurring in Evangelical circles. In the last few years, several books, sex manuals for Christians, have been released. They encourage sexual experimentation that would make their 19th-century counterparts roll in their graves or turn green with envy.
While encouraging, this revolution needs to go further. I have some pity for homophobic American politicians caught in same-sex affairs: a life of self-loathing for “immoral” thoughts and actions, where the only cure is a futile “pray their gay away.”
The only outcome is a family torn apart.
From a humanist perspective, the question should be, “Is labelling thoughts as lascivious immoral?”
Religion and Porn
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