03/15/2012 03:54 pm ET Updated May 15, 2012

Politics Proves: Sex Terrifies the Religious

Let's get honest and quit dancing around the issue with statements about "religious freedom" and "war on Christianity" and "saving our flock from government intervention."

Sex terrifies the religious.

Oh, they're having it, pretty much like anyone else, but sex as a concept terrifies Catholics, selected Protestants, certainly Mormons (though perhaps not their bigamizing brethren); surely there are issues in Islam, I don't know from Buddhists, and though I can't speak for Judaism, I invite any adherents to weigh in on the topic.

And I'm not being glib or silly here; I'm dead serious. When towering nuns tell six-year-old children that having "impure thoughts" is a sin worthy of "burning forever in Hell," that's a big problem. Using fear of sex to keep adherents from, hopefully, having it, seems a slightly terrifying way to deal with this most innate element of human nature. Maybe it's just me.

TheWashington Post ran an article today entitled: Catholic Bishops Say Fight Against White House Mandate a Top Priority. What struck me was the phrase "top priority." The ludicrous idea that at a time when the world is staggered by war, rampant poverty (much brought on by overpopulation), incurable diseases, terrorism, economic tsunamis, actual tsunamis, immigration conundrums and the battle for civil rights for many, this is their "top priority"?? How stunning to make the insurance mandate for women's healthcare "the most significant item on their agenda," as a Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated.

But it ain't about sex.... no, no, please... it's about "religious freedom."

Uh huh.

What a predictable and weary smokescreen. "This dispute is not about access to contraceptives but about the government's forcing the church to provide them," the Bishop's statement declared. Except that that is WRONG.

The government is not forcing the Church to provide them; it's giving the Church an option out and leaving it to the insurance company to provide them. To continue to twist and turn this situation into a false and baiting rallying cry for "religious freedom" is cynical at best, fraud at worst. But, hey, screw truth; it's given them their "top priority." And other Christians are jumping on the bandwagon. It's a big old jolly hayride of obfuscation and falsehood all wrapped up in the supposed victimization of the religious as opposed to the neutral protections of all. Let's not get messy old truth get all gummed up in there!

Odd, though, that a Catholic Church beset by so many problems within its own walls -- pedophilia, alcoholism, sexual abuse, dropping numbers, sexism and misogyny; younger generations fleeing in record numbers -- would make the fight against birth control a "top priority." Actually, it is beyond ludicrous; it is deflective and counter-productive. It is also about controlling sex... that terrifying sex.

Only a clueless hierarchy could maintain this transparent farce. When the majority of women within its fold already use birth control, when the bulk of its congregation selectively chooses which mandates they will actually be mandated by, when responsible family planning is seen not only as an essential but personal choice, their outdated, punitive and anti-women stance is as regressive as it is destructive.

But let's get back to my original thesis and frame this more honestly: the biggest fear, the biggest sin in Catholicism, maybe all of Christianity, is... SEX. Seriously. Catholicism has, inexplicably, made sex one of the potentially greatest crimes one can commit, leading to the illogical demand for celibacy in the priesthood (likely a reason for the compulsive sexual acting-out), celibacy for its nuns, a demand for no use of birth control by its married flock, the assignation of MORTAL SIN (on the same level as assigned to cold-blooded murder!) to any sex outside of heterosexual marriage (and specifically for procreation), the denunciation of homosexuals as perverse, the terrorizing of children on the topic of SEX = SIN... the list goes on.

Interesting, isn't it, that this Church so intent on managing the sex lives of its adherents is run by men and women who are not allowed to have any?

So these sexless leaders and spokespersons who have no (open) experience with sex, no experience with childbirth, raising a family, affording a family, balancing the needs of the children they have against the potential of more coming along if one chooses to have sanctioned and "unbirth-controlled married sex" with their heterosexual partner, these leaders and spokespersons are the ones making it a "top priority" to see to it that Catholic women damn well cannot get birth control by way of their insurance if they work or go to school in a Catholic organization.

Yep, there's some religious freedom there.... kumbay-effin'-ya, my Lord.

I was raised Catholic and know from which I speak. The systemic aversion to one's sexual human nature is just one of the many reasons I left as soon as I was old enough to walk out the door. When grade school children are browbeaten into "confessing their sins" for fear of damnation, I got a problem with that. When young marrieds are told in pre-marriage conferences that procreation is the only reason for sex, you're losin' me there (so post-menopausal women and their husbands are just out of luck??). When teenagers curious about their developing bodies are ignored, dismissed or told simply to "pray and wait until you're married," we're sending those same teenagers toward secretive sex, too often into unwanted pregnancies, and right out the church's doors. As a modern, ethical and highly moral person, I cannot, for the life of me, understand how SEX became such a subject for fear, manipulation and oppression. One need only look at the rampant sexual abuse issues within this same Church to see some of the very tragic and hypocritical results of this folly of fear.

Every religion has their good and bad; I am also aware of the many positive works of the Catholic Church and the many wonderful, loving people who remain loyal to it, even if in disagreement with many of its mandates. I have family who are still members and dear friends who remain steadfast. Unlike me, they believe they can still embrace certain aspects of the faith without accepting it all. They compare it to "being an American... we don't agree with or embrace everything about our government but we still call ourselves Americans!"

Except religion is different than government. We have a choice to belong to or defect from religion and it doesn't involve expatriation to another country. We don't get to vote the Pope out of office or legislate away an errant policy. To identify oneself as a member of a religion, you are identifying yourself with that entire religion. And when that religion is oppressive, backward and punitive, I, myself, have no willingness to accept that identification. My suggestion has always been to follow Martin Luther's lead and take the good of Catholicism, reject the bad, and start a new faith, call it, say, "Paul's Loving Church," or something like that. So far no one in my family has jumped on the suggestion.

But regardless of its good, until it stops punishing its adherents for being sexual beings, until it helps its children understand their inherent natures with love and understanding, until it removes SEX as a sin to be controlled and marginalized, it will continue to contribute to the overpopulation of often poverty-stricken nations, the destruction of families who cannot afford the children they already have, the oppression of women who attempt to control their own reproductive lives, and the flight of younger people who refuse to view sex through the filter of sin and damnation.

And it will continue to engender the antipathy of millions who view this Church not only as antiquated and regressively paternalistic, but one that does not serve well those for whom it remains their sustaining base of faith.