The news that conservative states tend to be the biggest consumers of online porn (with heavily Mormon Utah occupying the top spot) is but the latest in a string of moral embarrassments that have left Christians red-faced. Earlier research showed that the highest incidences of teenage pregnancy are there too, in spite of popular chastity movements like “True Love Waits” intended to reduce teenage sexual activity. And that’s not all. In the so-called Bible Belt, rates of murder, divorce, and domestic violence tend to be among the highest in America, as well.
Christian apologists rationalize these facts by explaining that “we are all sinners, Christians included”, but this misses the point. The issue is not that Christians do bad things in the first place, but why they do many of them more frequently than their non-religious counterparts. This is an anomaly; a deviation from the expected state of affairs, where Christians “ruled by God” should be “convicted of their sin” and do less of it than those governed by more secular (read: inferior) ethics. So, why the worse behavior? While Christians scramble for an answer, allow me to venture a few of my own.
I think the main reason is that Christianity discourages the development of a strong sense of moral intuition. Adherents are taught moral commands, but are rarely given substantive, practical, or rational reasons for their basis. In other words, they know what they shouldn’t do, they just don’t understand why very well, other than “because God said it”. Unfortunately, a pragmatic approach to moral issues is out of the question for Christians, because it would open the door to questioning a broad range of moral commandments, and thus undermine the entire basis of moral absolutism. The downside of such a system is seen most dramatically when the adherent believes that they have divine sanction for their behavior, which removes that sole, divine constraint. In contrast, humanist ethical systems place more emphasis on the practical consequences of a breach. Avoid gluttony not because God says it’s a sin, but because the health consequences are diabetes, higher medical costs, and lower life expectancy. These ethical systems are also adaptable, able to respond to new information, experience, technology, and realities.
Another possible reason for the higher incidences is that since many commands lack a negative or immediate consequence for disobedience (which is odd given God’s alleged omnipotence and omnipresence), disrespect for all commands is fostered. By way of example, think of a country like Mexico where laws and regulations are many, but enforcement is lax or non-existent. Such a situation tends to breed increased lawlessness overall, particularly when prohibitions are viewed as improper, irrelevant, or counter-productive. Many militant Christians understand this problem, which is why they’re often so eager to establish a link between sin and calamity, however tenuous. (But have you noticed that such calamity is rarely, if ever, blamed on the infidelity of their own communities? Hmm…)
A final possible reason is that Christians are actually morally confused, mostly due to the moral schizophrenia of the Bible and the behavior of their prominent leaders. If you’re a Christian, mixed messages abound. For example, the Bible proscribes killing (Exodus 20:13), except when it prescribes it (Exodus 22:18 and 31:15). Slavery, polygamy, and violence can all be justified there, or they can be condemned. Among popes, pastors, and preachers can be found the most truly reprobate behaviors. What’s a little porn compared to gay hookers and meth?
I know Christianity helps some people behave better, but at least in some ways, it makes them act worse. Mr. Apologist, why is that?