The modern latitudinarians speak, for instance, about authority in religion not only as if there were no reason in it, but as if there had never been any reason for it. Apart from seeing its philosophical basis, they cannot even see its historical cause. Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system (and especially our present one) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to attack the police; nay, it is glorious. But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars. -G. K. Chesterton OrthodoxyThe Bible was written to suppress people---Larry Flynt
Let me clarify my position on these issues somewhat better. My original comments on this issue was occasioned by Richard Carrier's sexual harassment issues, but also in response to some issues in the recent history of the atheist community, such as Elevatorgate.
I mentioned that a more liberal view of sexual conduct is often a selling point for atheism. I did not mean to suggest that people who are atheists are atheists because they want sex. That would be the Christian version of the Ultimate Bribe Argument. The atheist version of the Ultimate Bribe argument is that although theists present rational considerations on behalf of their religious beliefs, we can be sure that these rational considerations are not the real reasons they believe what they do. Rather, it is because they get something that cannot live without emotionally, namely the hope of eternal life. The Christian version of the UBA says that atheists don't want to think of their sex life as morally wrong, nor do they want to go through the difficult and painful process of repenting of their sexual sin and observing limits to their sexual conduct, so they look for any excuse they can to deny the truth of Christianity, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that supports it.
But I think a lot of people think that a more liberal sexual ethic is an important side benefit of atheism, one that liberates a person from the guilt they might feel if they have failed to satisfy what they believe Christianity requires of them. While eternal life is a motivating factor for some Christians, sexual freedom is a motivating factor for some atheists. But if these arguments are pressed far enough, they become discussion stoppers. Any attempt on either side to offer an intellectual reason for believing one way or the other can be stopped just by saying "I don't care what you say, I know why you REALLY think what you do." I realize that these explanations are appealing to people who can't see any intellectual value in their opponents' position. And I think we do have to be aware of the ways in which nonrational considerations might affect our beliefs, and that we might be less rational than we think we are. But in thinking about what our opponents believe, all we have are possible psychological explanations.
What I said was that we shouldn't be too terribly surprised if the atheist community has a problem with sexual harassment. Some have suggested that these problems have arisen because atheist communities are more sensitive to sexual harassment and take it more seriously than others.
But I think there is another possible explanation. Possibly secularists, in overreaction to the sexually restrictive character of the world's leading religions, have, as it were, fallen off the horse on the other side, and are not willing to recognize that sex, like every other type of activity, must be guarded by ethics, and that in this area as in others, there are times when we would very much like to do what would really be highly unethical and wrong. The Orthodoxy quotation, though it concerns a somewhat different matter, suggests the direction of my complaint. To read some people of a secularist persuasion, there is no possible reason why any reasonable person would ever want to have moral rules restricting sexual behavior. Thus, sexual behavior gets a pass even when it does harm in a way that other conduct does not. The exception seems to be a requirement that the parties consent, but even here the complexities of what really constitutes consent is simply not recognized.
In C. S. Lewis's Essay "Have We No Right to Happiness," Lewis points out a blind spot that modern people have concerning sex:
Let's start with Richard Dawkins. Remember his comments downplaying the sexual misconduct of even Catholic priests? Or his Dear Muslima comments about Rebecca Watson's complaints about how men pursued sex at atheist conventions. Watson, to be sure, is anything but an advocate of traditional sexual ethics. She objected to the way in which such sex was pursued. Yet, somehow by making these complaints Dawkins implied that somehow she was trivializing the suffering of women living under Sharia law, or suffering female genital mutilation.
Or consider Darrel Ray's denial that sex addicts exist. That people pursue sex compulsively, even when it harms themselves, their families, and their careers, seems as obvious as can be, and to deny this seems like a great occasion for the Strait answer:
I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
From my front porch you can see the sea.
I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
If you'll buy that, I'll throw the golden gate in free.
I am certainly not suggesting that Christians don't have blind spots when it comes to sexual issues. Chief amongst these has been the tendency in Christian groups to make sexual compliance a litmus test for spiritual success, and the mistaken idea, very prevalent until recently, that same-sex attraction is always repairable.
However, traditional sexual ethics facilitates a stable atmosphere for childrearing, eliminates the need to market oneself throughout life as a sexual partner, and prevents people with money and power from taking using that power for sexual benefit. Even from a secular standpoint, these goals need to be taken seriously.