I admit the title is a little lurid, but interestingly, it turns out that some of the sexual prohibitions of Christianity have prompted the apostasy of some believers. A new book by Phil Zuckerman called Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion recounts the stories and statistics of 87 people who were raised or professed Christianity and then left it (the opposite of those adults who started out as unbelievers and converted to Christianity). Peter Leithart has a longer review of the book here, but I’ll give you a brief summary of the salient points.
The book claims 20% of Americans say they have no religion and because this is a upward trend, most of those started out religious. The reasons for leaving the faith ranged from disappointment with God when bad things happened to the influence of others to the over-religiosity of some parents. Some even leave because they feel no pull at all toward religion, meaning that maybe all of us are not born with a “God-shaped hole in our hearts” as Pascal decrees. But Leithart notes that
“In Zuckerman’s interviews, sex came up again and again, usually in the form of complaints about the ‘relatively restrictive sexual regulation that delineates who one can have sex with, as well as when, where, and how.’ A number of his subjects claimed that the only sexual instruction they received from parents and church was ‘Don’t do it,’ and many were left with the impression that sex was inherently unclean. When they slipped up and broke the rules, the easiest way forward was to give up on the faith.”
So, as you think about the spiritual growth of your children and marshal intellectual arguments for faith, remember this advice from Leithart:
“Every pastor who has counseled someone who is questioning his or her faith knows that sex is one of the main motivators. Sexual opportunities of college are as powerful as intellectual challenges in tempting students away from the religion of their childhood. Zuckerman’s study highlights the importance of teaching both those nasty ‘restrictive’ sexual regulations and expressing the glory, delight, and sheer miracle of our ‘spousal bodies.’ The trick is to display the inner beauty of the rules themselves.”