Atheists Do It Better: Why Leaving Religion Leads to Better Sex
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In fact, for the handful of atheists who reported that their sex lives worsened when they left religion -- 2.2 percent of participants -- almost all tell the exact same story: Their sex lives got worse because... well, to put it bluntly, their partners or potential partners were still religious, and now that they were atheists, they weren't getting any. Their spouses got upset because they'd become atheists; their pool of potential sex partners dried up. As one respondent commented, "My wife said to me, 'How can I sleep with someone who doesn't share my faith?'" And another, somewhat more waggishly: "When I was a Christian I could lay any girl in church, now that I am an atheist, they won't even talk to me."
And perhaps one of the most powerful messages in this report -- if one of the least surprising -- is the decidedly negative effect of religion on sexual education and information. People raised in more strongly religious homes ranked the quality of their sex education as significantly worse than people raised in less religious homes: 2.4 on a five-point scale, as opposed to 3.2 from the less religious folks. And more religious kids were less likely to get sex information from their parents than the less religious ones -- 13.5 percent, as opposed to 38.2 percent -- and more likely to get it from personal sexual experience and pornography.
In case the irony of this is escaping anyone, I'm going to hammer it in: The highly religious, "family values" crowd are more likely to get their sexual information from porn and fooling around... while the less religious folks are more likely to talk to their parents. And in case anyone's wondering why sex information is being included in this study on sexual happiness: Accurate sex education and information has been consistently shown to be one of the cornerstones of a happy, satisfying sex life.
Which, again, atheists are a lot more likely to have.
So what should this research say to believers?
Well, the most obvious message should be: "Come on in -- the water's fine."
In debates with atheists, many believers will argue for religion on the basis of how good it makes them feel. They'll argue that religion is emotionally useful, psychologically useful, socially useful: that religion gives people a sense of meaning, moral guidance, comfort in hard times, etc. It's an argument that drives many atheists up a tree -- myself included -- since it has absolutely nothing to do with whether religion is, you know, true. (Believing in Santa Claus might make kids happy and better-behaved, but you wouldn't argue that people should keep putting cookies by the fireplace on Christmas Eve well into their adult years.)
But if this report is to be believed, then this argument is conclusively shown to be bogus... even on its own terms. At least when it comes to sex. (It's probably bogus when it comes to the rest of our lives as well -- or rather, it would be bogus if our society didn't privilege religious belief and treat atheism with bigotry and contempt. Countries with higher rates of atheism actually have higher levels of happiness and social functioning than more religious countries. But I digress.)
Religion doesn't make people happier. Not in the sack, anyway. Religion makes people less happy. Leaving religion makes people happier. There's no reason to hang on to beliefs you don't actually believe in and that don't actually make sense to you, just because you can't imagine a happy and fulfilling life without them. We know that leaving religion can be a scary and painful process... but once it's behind you, life is good. And the sex is great. Come on in. The water's fine.