The Goober Atheist: Ineffectual Nerd Edition

Years ago Richard Carrier attempted to destroy the foundation of the Christian faith by publishing his magnum opus proving definitively that Jesus never existed. And like all virgin-nerds, his work was ignored by the world of chad New Testament scholars, which lead him to resentfully hate them all. As an aside, I don’t mind atheists, but I don’t understand why you would devote several years of your life writing a book about something you believe to be pointless. In those years, Carrier could have hit the gym, learned to play an instrument, or developed a network of friends. Larry Hurtado recently received one of Carrier’s limp-wristed rhetorical punches and responded:

If you want to read a blogger going ape-shit, troll through Richard Carrier’s recent belligerent, intemperate response (here) to my posting in which I showed that his three claims that supposedly corroborate his “mythical Jesus” view are all incorrect.  It’s really quite amusing, or maybe sad.

In this long, long rant, Carrier’s repeated mantra is that his book calling into question the commonly shared scholarly judgement that Jesus of Nazareth was a first-century Galilean Jew has been largely ignored by scholars.  He seems to want scholars to go through the 700 pages of that tome and engage closely every one of his claims and assertions.  He repeatedly states that he spent six years on the book on what he calls a “post-doctoral” award (which was really a fund put together by his “fans,” to use his own term).  It must be frustrating.  But Carrier doesn’t seem to handle frustration well.

I mean, geeze. I couldn’t help but remember Carrier’s other sheepish attempt at self-assertion several years back when he posted this brilliant romantic overture to…well anybody who will please listen:

So, this is experimental. I’d like to go on a date in May. And for the first time, I’m going to try a bat signal: putting a call out on my blog. I don’t know anyone else who has tried doing that, so I have no precedent to work from as to etiquette or even arguments for or against doing it. So I’m just going to do it and see what happens and document and assess. If you know anyone who might have an interest in dating me, let them know. If you might have an interest, read on.

I’ll start by making sure anyone considering this is up to speed. I am polyamorous. I currently have many girlfriends. All I consider my friends. Some are just occasional lovers. Some I am more involved with. They are also polyamorous, or near enough (not all of them identify that way, but all of them enjoy open relationships). And I will always have relationships with them, as long as they’ll have me in their life.

Many different things can be meant by the following terms, but just for the present purpose, if by a primary relationship is meant someone you live with or just about as good as live with, a secondary as someone you date regularly, and a tertiary as someone you date occasionally, all my relationships are tertiary, but only because of geography. I live just below Sacramento, California, where the rents are cheap, which means, where no one wants to live. And I’m unlikely to move anytime soon. So relationships with me, at best, are likely to be tertiary—long distance chatting with occasional being together throughout the year. Even so, I always take such friendships seriously.

Hurtado did not need to use such rhetoric to dismiss Carrier. He simply had to quote the man.

 

Don’t Be Yourself

“Just be yourself.”

If “be yourself” means “be honest about yourself, your weaknesses, and your abilities, lie neither to yourself or others” then I agree. If it means do what you truly and really think is best, then I absolutely agree. 

But what it really means is something like this excuse your excesses, wink at your weaknesses, befriend your faults, and ignore your ignorance.

If I were to tell a struggling Greek student, “just be yourself,” then they would remain a non-Greek knowing person. 

If a new lifter goes to the gym and acts like themselves with the weight equipment they will either plateau at a non-optimal state, injure themselves or become a gymbecile.

How about a Christian who is addicted to various evil behaviors? Should he simply “be himself?” Or should he try really hard to discipline those habits out of himself?

Anyhow, I think the advice can be stated in a useful way, but in the romanticized way it is commonly used it is a bad and dangerous idea.

The Loquacious Atheist: He Is Speaking Pure Gibberish

When I heard that Daniel Dennett’s new book on consciousness was released, I didn’t care. He has a tendency to argue in this format:

  1. Here’s an idea it isn’t worth explaining from the past.
  2. Here’s my alternative that uses sciency words.
  3. It cannot be explained by current science, but with enough scientific advances, it obviously will be explained.
  4. Logic, etc.

I’m hardly exaggerating. It’s like Sam Harris, but less endearing because it isn’t podcast format and he doesn’t look like Zoolander. I stopped reading Dennett’s books when I recognized that pattern.

David Bentley Hart refers to mistakes like this as the pleonastic fallacy, explaining qualitative distinctions in terms of quantitative increments toward some grander whole. He’s especially fond of the accusation in The Experience of God. In Breaking the Spell, Dennett basically argues that a bunch of physics explanations are true, biology is probably just as accurate, therefore there is no need for a first cause since more explanations will be found. In other words, being itself can be explained by things that already apparently possess being. Theodore Beale made this awesome meme about his style:

[ATHEIST+LOGIC.jpg]

Having mentioned Hart, the silver lining of new Dennett books being released is that Hart lumbers forth from whatever tome laden cavern he inhabits in order to put pen to paper for a brief, scornful essay before returning to his arcane pursuits. Apparently, Dennett does not disappoint and continues his pattern of argument. And Hart, not to be outdone, makes fun of him for it:

Dennett, however, writes as if language were simply the cumulative product of countless physical ingredients. It begins, he suggests, in mere phonology. The repeated sound of a given word somehow embeds itself in the brain and creates an “anchor” that functions as a “collection point” for syntactic and semantic meanings to “develop around the sound.” But what could this mean? Are semiotic functions something like iron filings and phonemes something like magnets? What is the physical basis for these marvelous congelations in the brain? The only possible organizing principle for such meanings would be that very innate grammar that Dennett denies exists — and this would seem to require distinctly mental concepts. Not that Dennett appears to think the difference between phonemes and concepts an especially significant one. He does not hesitate, for instance, to describe the “synanthropic” aptitudes that certain organisms (such as bedbugs and mice) acquire in adapting themselves to human beings as “semantic information” that can be “mindlessly gleaned” from the “cycle of generations.”

But there is no such thing as mindless semantics. True, it is imaginable that the accidental development of arbitrary pre-linguistic associations between, say, certain behaviors and certain aspects of a physical environment might be preserved by natural selection, and become beneficial adaptations. But all semantic information consists in the interpretation of signs, and of conventions of meaning in which signs and references are formally separable from one another, and semiotic relations are susceptible of combination with other contexts of meaning. Signs are intentional realities, dependent upon concepts, all the way down. And between mere accidental associations and intentional signs there is a discontinuity that no gradualist — no pleonastic — narrative can span.

Similarly, when Dennett claims that words are “memes” that reproduce like a “virus,” he is speaking pure gibberish. Words reproduce, within minds and between persons, by being intentionally adopted and employed.

And so it goes. 

Vice Promotes Vices?

I don’t make it a habit of reading Vice magazine. But I clicked a link today that referenced a recently released study I had read a few months ago. The author let it be known that her whole point was to try to demonize male self-improvement by associating all masculinity with the dreaded Trumppernaut. But she also made several basic errors, like implicitly supporting socialism, failing to observe that the results aren’t indicative of individual character but policy preferences, or that other things like education among net-contributors also predicts aversion to wealth redistribution. Anyway, when my eyes flitted away from the cacophony of disconnected claims clustered around interview quotes, I saw several Vice headlines: 

Gym Bros More Likely to be Right-Wing Assholes, Science Confirms

Why Smart People Are Lazier than Their Dumb Friends

Only Stupid People Have Lots of Friends

It’s doubtful that with titles like these, the articles in question are not similarly riddled with basic errors. But what’s more interesting is that every other article is about how some apparently innate trait like IQ or gender makes you better than people who work hard, go to the gym, use their time effectively, and so-on. It’s like the whole point of the website is to confirm people in their worst traits and to inculcate in them a fixed mindset. Sad.

 

The American Creed

While I am a Christian and therefore find allegiance to the kingdom of God, the person of Christ, my family, and personal virtue to trump loyalty to a nation or a state, I still really love being American. I went through a brief phase where my interest in Anabaptist theology and concerns for the dangers of statist loyalty and patriotic idolatry caused me to through out any concept of national identity with its abuses. That’s what Seneca and many of the early church fathers did with anger, it’s dangerous, so root it all out. But I do love America. I am, as David Bentley Hart says of himself, something of an american chauvinist. And so this closing salvo from Paul Johnson’s book, A History of the American People was touching to me, if not naive in some respects (I typed it because I wanted the passage to stick in my mind, any errors below are my own). It’s worth reading without my rambling reflections beneath it: 

“…[T]he story of America is essentially one of difficulties being overcome by intelligence and skill, by faith and strength of purpose, by courage and persistence. America today, with its 260 million people, its splendid cities, its vast wealth, and its unrivaled power, is a human achievement without parallel. That achievement-the transformation of a mostly uninhabited wilderness into the supreme national artifact of history-did not come about without heroic sacrifice and great sufferings stoically endured, many costly failures, huge disappointments, defeats, and tragedies. There have indeed been many set-backs in 400 years of American history. As we have seen, many unresolved problems, some of daunting size, remain. But the Americans are, above all, a problem-solving people. They do not believe that anything in this world is beyond human capacity to soar to and dominate. The will not give up. Full of essential goodwill to each other and to all, confident in their inherent decency, and their democratic skills, they will attack again and again the ills in their society, until they are overcome or at least substantially redressed.  So the ship of state sails on, and mankind still continues to watch its progress, with wonder and amazement and sometimes apprehension, as it moves into the unknown waters of the 21st century and the third millennium. The great American republican experiment is still the cynosure of the world’s eyes. It is still the first, best hope for the human race. Looking back on its past, and forward into its future, the auguries are that it will not disappoint an expectant humanity. (History of the American People 976)

Johnson’s remarkable paean to the American people only indirectly references the government. Instead it is largely about the cultural virtues that typify Americans, broadly. Some of his language is nearly numinous in nature, but it need not be taken that way. In a civic sense, America is exceptional. The question is whether his optimism will be proven well-founded or flimsy.

I think it is stupid for us, as a nation, to look to our past and reject it. To do so is to be lost. But many do just that, and like the baptists who reject church tradition they lose their way in the waves of the culture.

An interesting question to ask for Christians who read passages like the one above is this: are there cultural tools for Christian spiritual formation? Just as each culture has unique combinations of vices, so might each have unique combinations of virtues? For instance, certain cultural emphases might coinhere with the gospel in such a way as to help it be understood even more. My suspicion is that American culture focused a great deal on industriousness and problem solving. This can be seen in technological advancements and in the fact that a form of stoic pragmatist individualism seems to have been our chief philosophical contribution (Emerson and James). And so is there a version of the American creed that is naturallennobling for American Christians without appealing to baser forms of ‘my country is never wrong’ patriotism? I think so. The idea that Christians tend to believe in ‘America: Right or Wrong’ is silly on its face as many Americans fear that abortion is bringing America under God’s wrath precisely because America is wrong to allow it. 

National Men’s Day: A Stream of Consciousness about Masculinity

To be a man is first to be human:

  1. To be a man is to seek virtue.
  2. To seek virtue, a man must seek adventure. Courage requires risk.
  3. To be a man is to build.
  4. To build is to restore the past or to create the future. 
  5. To be a man is to destroy and incorporate that which opposes building. The fur of the predator becomes the pelt of the hunter. The cave of monsters becomes a home. The fire becomes a tool.
  6. To build is to reason. To be a man is, therefore to seek truth.  

To be a man is inherently sexual:

  1. To be a man is to love women.
  2. To be a man is to find a woman.
  3. To be a man is to be desirable to women.
  4. To be a man is to be desirable, in particular, to the woman. 
  5. To be a man is to not be a woman.
  6. To be a man is to be strong, durable, and steady.
  7. To be a man is to fight. Man builds and destroys, woman builds and sustains.
  8. To be a man is to need the company of men apart from women.

To be a man is tribal:

  1. If a man needs the company of other men, then their families become a tribe.
  2. To have a tribe is to have honor.
  3. To have honor is to know shame. Men shame other men when their behavior is unbecoming of their status, family, the group norms, or the truth. 
  4. To have a tribe is to be wary of danger.
  5. To be a man, then, is to preserve the old ways. For just as to be human is to build the future, to be a man is to ensure that the progress of the past is not lost. 

On making America great again

Together we will make America Great Again, better than ever before.

This political slogan is usually viewed as either a Nazi bigot’s racist screed against all truth and goodness or as an aspiration to be achieved in the unholy walls and halls of DC.

It’s a phrase and sentiment that is not unique to Trump and I recall hearing Bill Clinton say it several times and saw a Reagan speech in class in which Ronald Reagan also said it:

we’ll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again.

As a campaign slogan it’s genius as it looks to a mythic past, removes the politician from your psyche, and puts the voter in the driver seat toward a brighter future.

But how does it function, or how could it function as a Trump-Reagan-Independent piece of American moral and political philosophy? First, let’s look at the rhetoric of the phrase: “Great again.”

It’s a visionary phrase that needs no basis in historical fact to be helpful. A platonic vision of an ideal America can galvanize political pursuit toward a brighter future. But America does have a great past: the Internet, baseball, football, the constitution, Texas, space travel, etc.

So my view then, obviously, is that the phrase is a great piece of rhetorical  Americana. But how could individuals work to make America great again without specific reference to policies or voting? For this I call upon Teddy Roosevelt. Let us ask, how can America be great again, Teddy?

Make Americans Great Again or Pursue Positive Virtues and Encourage them in others

As I have already said, our first duty, our most important work, is setting our own house in order. We must be true to ourselves, or else, in the long run, we shall be false to all others. The republic cannot stand if honesty and decency do not prevail alike in public and private life; if we do not set ourselves seriously at work to solve the tremendous social problems forced upon us by the far-sweeping industrial changes of the last two generations.

The Bible always inculcates the need of the positive no less than the negative virtues, although certain people who profess to teach Christianity are apt to dwell wholly on the negative. We are bidden not merely to be harmless as doves, but also as wise as serpents. It is very much easier to carry out the former part of the order than the latter; while, on the other hand, it is of much more importance for the good of mankind that our goodness should be accompanied by wisdom than that we should merely be harmless. If with the serpent wisdom we unite the serpent guile, terrible will be the damage we do; and if, with the best of intentions, we can only manage to deserve the epithet of “harmless,” it is hardly worth while to have lived in the world at all.

It is character that counts in a nation as in a man. It is a good thing to have a keen, fine intellectual development in a nation, to produce orators, artists, successful business men; but it is an infinitely greater thing to have those solid qualities which we group together under the name of character–sobriety, steadfastness, the sense of obligation toward one’s neighbor and one’s God, hard common sense, and, combined with it, the lift of generous enthusiasm toward whatever is right. These are the qualities which go to make up true national greatness, and these were the qualities which Grant possessed in an eminent degree.

Of course the all-important thing to keep in mind is that if we have not both strength and virtue we shall fail. Indeed, in the old acceptation of the word, virtue included strength and courage, for the clear-sighted men at the dawn of our era knew that the passive virtues could not by themselves avail, that wisdom without courage would sink into mere cunning, and courage without morality into ruthless, lawless, self-destructive ferocity.

Encourage Masculinity

I do not believe in mischief-doing in school hours, or in the kind of animal spirits that results in making bad scholars; and I believe that those boys who take part in rough, hard play outside of school will not find any need for horse-play in school. While they study they should study just as hard as they play foot-ball in a match game. It is wise to obey the homely old adage, “Work while you work; play while you play.”

A boy needs both physical and moral courage. Neither can take the place of the other. When boys become men they will find out that there are some soldiers very brave in the field who have proved timid and worthless as politicians, and some politicians who show an entire readiness to take chances and assume responsibilities in civil affairs, but who lack the fighting edge when opposed to physical danger. In each case, with soldiers and politicians alike, there is but half a virtue. The possession of the courage of the soldier does not excuse the lack of courage in the statesman and, even less does the possession of the courage of the statesman excuse shrinking on the field of battle. Now, this is all just as true of boys. A coward who will take a blow without returning it is a contemptible creature; but, after all, he is hardly as contemptible as the boy who dares not stand up for what he deems right against the sneers of his companions who are themselves wrong. Ridicule is one of the favorite weapons of wickedness, and it is sometimes incomprehensible how good and brave boys will be influenced for evil by the jeers of associates who have no one quality that calls for respect, but who affect to laugh at the very traits which ought to be peculiarly the cause for pride.

Of course the effect that a thoroughly manly, thoroughly straight and upright boy can have upon the companions of his own age, and upon those who are younger, is incalculable. If he is not thoroughly manly, then they will not respect him, and his good qualities will count for but little; while, of course, if he is mean, cruel, or wicked, then his physical strength and force of mind merely make him so much the more objectionable a member of society. He cannot do good work if he is not strong and does not try with his whole heart and soul to count in any contest; and his strength will be a curse to himself and to every one else if he does not have thorough command over himself and over his own evil passions, and if he does not use his strength on the side of decency, justice, and fair dealing.

Take Personal Steps To Create American Comraderie

Any healthy-minded American is bound to think well of his fellow-Americans if he only gets to know them. The trouble is that he does not know them.

Hang on the the highest ideals even when you can only achieve “good enough”

He must have high ideals, and the leader of public opinion in the pulpit, in the press, on the platform, or on the stump must preach high ideals. But the possession or preaching of these high ideals may not only be useless, but a source of positive harm, if unaccompanied by practical good sense, if they do not lead to the effort to get the best possible when the perfect best is not attainable–and in this life the perfect best rarely is attainable.

But when we come to the countless measures and efforts for doing good, let us keep ever clearly in mind that while we must always strive for the utmost good that can be obtained, and must be content with no less, yet that we do only harm if, by intemperate championship of the impossible good, we cut ourselves off from the opportunity to work a real abatement of existing and menacing evil.

Avoid Pathological Altruism

Anything that encourages pauperism, anything that relaxes the manly fiber and lowers self-respect, is an unmixed evil. The soup-kitchen style of philanthropy is as thoroughly demoralizing as most forms of vice or oppression[!], and it is of course particularly revolting when some corporation or private individual undertakes it, not even in a spirit of foolish charity, but for purposes of self-advertisement.

We must possess the spirit of broad humanity, deep charity, and loving-kindness for our fellow-men, and must remember, at the same time, that this spirit is really the absolute antithesis of mere sentimentalism, of soup-kitchen, pauperizing philanthropy, and of legislation which is inspired either by foolish mock benevolence or by class greed or class hate. We need to be possessed of the spirit of justice and of the spirit which recognizes in work and not ease the proper end of effort.

Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty, and the Devil

In the three most recent adaptations of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock, Elementary, and the Game of Shadows) at crucial moments Holmes is deceived by Moriarty into making a tactical error and in the mean time a song about demon forces is played.

There Are Spoilers Below

In the movie, Holmes is fooled into thinking Moriarty intended to bomb an Opera house during Don Giovanni. Upon Holmes’ arrival, the chorus of demons is played as the main character is received into Hell. 

In the American procedural, Holmes is fooled into thinking a serial killer is Moriarty (when indeed the real Moriarty’s identity remains opaque to him) and Gil Scott-Heron’s, Me and the Devil, plays:

And in BBC’s version, Sherlock rides to the court house to function as an expert witness, and Nina Simone’s Sinnerman plays in the background:

 

Now, is this all just a coincidence or does something in the source material lend to this interpretation? No, it is not a coincidence. Yes, there is one reference to Moriarty as an evil on a diabolical level:

“[He] has, to all appearance, a most brilliant career before him. But the man had hereditary tendencies of a most diabolical kind. A criminal strain ran in his blood, which, instead of being modified, was increased and rendered infinitely more dangerous by his extraordinary mental powers. Dark rumours gathered round him in the university town, and eventually he was compelled to resign his chair and to come down to London…” – Sherlock Holmes on Moriarty in The Final Problem

 

I doubt that anybody I know was interested enough in that confluence of media and Sherlock Holmes source material. I had wondered to myself, “why had they utilized that sort of theme in these modern versions of Holmes, particularly when he’s portrayed as an atheist in two of them?” Since I hadn’t read the Final Problem in a while, the answer was unknown to me. When I went back to it, there it was.

I think part of the appeal of Holmes today is that his intelligence is used in fighting evil, I hope people go back to the books and read them though. Holmes is portrayed more humanely, more philosophically, and though I love the modern adaptations, more excellently in the originals.

Hugh Hefner and the Problem of Sexual Non-Polarity

Ross Douthat opined on the death of the arch-pornographer:

Hugh Hefner, gone to his reward at the age of 91, was a pornographer and chauvinist who got rich on masturbation, consumerism and the exploitation of women, aged into a leering grotesque in a captain’s hat, and died a pack rat in a decaying manse where porn blared during his pathetic orgies.

Hef was the grinning pimp of the sexual revolution, with quaaludes for the ladies and Viagra for himself — a father of smut addictions and eating disorders, abortions and divorce and syphilis, a pretentious huckster who published Updike stories no one read while doing flesh procurement for celebrities, a revolutionary whose revolution chiefly benefited men much like himself.

That’s a great paragraph. Hefner contributed, in his own way, to the dissolution of the very foundation of American culture that made innovations like spaceships, smart phones, and breast implants (central to his lurid industry) possible. But to refer to him as “a father…of eating disorders…” is ludicrous.

There is almost no research literature supporting the claim that media portrayals of thin (or overly thin) women influences eating disorders. Women weigh, on average, as much now as men did in the 1960s, and men are fatter too! Just looking around in the 1940s-1980s one would see more thinner people than one would likely see on television now. So, unless Douthat wants to argue that publishing air-brushed photographs of women with low BMI causes mass binge eating disorder, that element is flatly false. 

It matters that it’s false. Implicit in the idea that media portrayals of thin women create disordered eating is the notion that the male preference for certain body-types in their sexual partners is a form of exploitation and oppression (see The Feminine Mystique). 

But Hefner, for all his evil, didn’t create sexual preferences any more than 50 Shades of Gray did. He exploited them.[1]The idea that the general male sexual preference for reproductively viable partners is a uniquely evil invention of the modern American man is a pox on our modern worldview that contradicts biology, the history of literature and art, as well as an implicit attack on the value of sexual polarity in the first place. Douthat, apparently buys into that.

Hefner’s influence is so rotten, not because his wares imply the notion that a beautiful woman can catch the eye of a man and procure resources from him, that’s part of what marriage is! Instead, Hefner’s whole industry is so dastardly because it exploits sexual polarity in order to undermine it all together. How? When sex is reduced to actors acting and individuals watching, the immediate motivator for sexual reproduction and competition is rendered void. When men who have normal sexual desires find themselves more motivated to masturbate to porn than to make money, invent the future, and raise families, civilization loses. But not only does civilization lose, when men and women do not engage in the dance/war of dealing with the fact that they are practically different species from one another, they lose an essential component of meaning in their daily existence. 

The economic, individual psychological, and evolutionary results of a vastly pornographic culture are worth further reflection in the future.

Camille Paglia, who wrongly assesses Hefner as a positive influence on our culture, has a much more realistic and controversial read on the allure of pornography:

The unhappy truth is that the more the sexes have blended, the less each sex is interested in the other. So we’re now in a period of sexual boredom and inertia, complaint and dissatisfaction, which is one of the main reasons young men have gone over to pornography. Porn has become a necessary escape by the sexual imagination from the banality of our everyday lives, where the sexes are now routinely mixed in the workplace. 

 

With the sexes so bored with each other, all that’s left are these feminist witch-hunts. That’s where the energy is! And meanwhile, men are shrinking. I see men turning away from women and simply being content with the world of fantasy because women have become too thin-skinned, resentful and high maintenance. 

And American women don’t know what they want any longer. In general, French women — the educated, middle-class French women, I mean — seem to have a feminine composure, a distinct sense of themselves as women, which I think women in America have gradually lost as they have won job equality in our high-pressure career system.

She’s probably right, but I’ll add two thoughts.

First, Hugh Hefner and those like him, by providing a fantastical world of unattainably attractive women has contributed to the collapse sexual polarity. Why be masculine if you can simply image having sex with the sort of people you wish loved you? And why by gracious and feminine when men live in pornworldtm

I would add that men themselves have become too boring, Christina Hoff Sommers wrote about how the public school system has contributed to this. But that is its own problem. To be a safe and good husband/father entails a bit of boredom, but to be too safe is to invite less attention from women [unless you’re tall or rich]. It’s stormy sea, but honestly it’s one that people have navigated in different ways that have been fun and fruitful for thousands of years. 

The question is this: what could you do to extract yourself from pornworldtm on the one hand, and utilize sexual polarity to enhance your virtue and sense of meaning on the other? 

References

[1] The research on sexual motivation vs sexual orientation is interesting. Here are a couple of paragraphs from a recent attempt at a theory of sexual orientation:

“…In our understanding, not all stimuli that are perceived as sexually arousing necessarily correspond to a sexual orientation. Instead, in terms of the chronophilias, it seems useful to differentiate between a relatively rigid sexual orientation for specific body schemas (in terms of sexual attractions as opposed to sexual behaviors and/or identities that are to a much larger extent malleable by cultural and social norms/expectations; Bailey et al., 2016) and relatively incidentally acquired (for lack of a better term) sexual motivations based on experiences of sexual arousal or gratification contingent to certain stimuli…

 

…If it was an evolutionary successful strategy to seek fertile females, modules that direct sexual attraction to visually accessible indicators of reproductive maturity and fertility should have reproduced with a higher frequency than others. As youth or maturity are social constructions rather than perceivable characteristics of potential mates, these modules should be sensitive to easily perceivable features…

 

Nevertheless, to fully understand why so many men turn out to be teleiophilic and heterosexual, it seems reasonable to assume that at least some of the building blocks of this sexual orientation are pre-discursively determined. [I know in academia you can assume nothing, but how was this not obvious?]

To the surprise of no sane individual, on a planet where seven billion people exist by means of sexual reproduction, men appear to be evolutionarily hardwired to be teleiophilic (attracted to the sexually mature) heterosexuals who prefer visible cues of reproductive fitness. But within the confines of sexual orientation, variances of sexual motivation occur due to choice, enculturation, and so-on.

The insidiousness of Hefner’s influence is not in that he created a sexual preference for certain alluring features (obviously, he sold what already interested the sort of people who buy porn). Instead, he contributed to the transformation of sexual motivation toward masturbation, which makes the hedonic release of orgasm easier than the process of finding a mate and setting out on life’s journeys together. Masturbation was always available, but in a more secular culture it is no longer associated with shame which might lead to trying to find a mate. It also never used to be performed in the context of access to millions of pornographic images and videos. As mentioned above, this deadens one’s sense of meaning on the individual and civilizational level. Hefner contributed to that. 

The rise in weight [from food availability and mass binge eating] and the consequent decrease in reproductive viability of men and women in the United States is an entirely different issue and to imply that sexual attraction is not tied to reproductive cues in the absence pornography is wishful thinking about the most fundamental market place.

 

 

Pornography is Cultural Subversion

While at the most obvious level pornography exists as either an alleged celebration of the human form or as a trangressive method of making money by playing on a constellation of psychological issues: insecurity, loneliness, depression, and our need for immortality, the genre is less obviously meant for something else. Nate Abrams (a Jewish author) wrote:

Extending the subversive thesis, Jewish involvement in the X-rated industry can be seen as a proverbial two fingers to the entire WASP establishment in America. Some porn stars viewed themselves as frontline fighters in the spiritual battle between Christian America and secular humanism. According to Ford, Jewish X-rated actors often brag about their ‘joy in being anarchic, sexual gadflies to the puritanical beast’. Jewish involvement in porn, by this argument, is the result of an atavistic hatred of Christian authority: they are trying to weaken the dominant culture in America by moral subversion. Astyr remembers having ‘to run or fight for it in grammar school because I was a Jew. It could very well be that part of my porn career is an “up yours” to these people’. Al Goldstein, the publisher of Screw, said (on lukeford.net), ‘The only reason that Jews are in pornography is that we think that Christ sucks. Catholicism sucks. We don’t believe in authoritarianism.’ Pornography thus becomes a way of defiling Christian culture and, as it penetrates to the very heart of the American mainstream (and is no doubt consumed by those very same WASPs), its subversive character becomes more charged. Porn is no longer of the ‘what the Butler saw’ voyeuristic type; instead, it is driven to new extremes of portrayal that stretch the boundaries of the porn aesthetic. As new sexual positions are portrayed, the desire to shock (as well as entertain) seems clear.

 

Abrams goes on to ask what reason, if any, should anybody be ashamed of such a cultural influence. 

It would appear that pornography is not just a nihilistic use of pleasure to cynically pursue profit from the chronically lonely and undersexed, but it is (for some) a mode of cultural subversion in a ‘spiritual battle.’ The problem with secularists who engage in spiritual battles is that their lack of belief in spiritual things does not nullify the negative effects of “winning” on the side of evil. 

To win the spiritual battle against Christian-values/Christendom in their American iteration by using pornography has all of the measurably bad effects porn has. I think the one positive thing that porn has allegedly accomplished is that neighborhoods with higher porn consumption supposedly have less sexual assaults (it’s a study I’ve heard cited but have never found). All of its known effects and qualities: lower libido, social isolation, wrong sexual expectations, being generally disgusting, and requiring the enjoyment of the debasement of others are all observably bad for individuals and civilization.  

Anyway, American Christians should think of porn this way: it’s an attack on your soul, it’s a mocking of the past that brought you into existence, and it’s an attempt to cancel your continued influence on the world after you die (by dissolving the structures meant to help you raise a family). 

Porn sucks. Subverting the goods of civilization sucks. And I don’t believe in associating norms and self-mastery with authoritarianism.