John Jalsevac

65,000+ Reddit users flock to forum founded by atheist to quit pornography, masturbation

John Jalsevac
John Jalsevac
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July 12, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – They’re called “fapstronauts”: men and women who, for whatever reason, have signed up to take the “ultimate challenge” and conquer the urge to masturbate (“fap” in Internet slang) and/or use porn, whether it be for a certain, set period of time, or permanently. And joining their ranks is quickly becoming one of the hottest new trends on the social media site Reddit.

The growing phenomenon recently captured the attention of New York Magazine and Nerve.com, and currently the leadership is in serious talks with Hollywood A-lister Joseph Gordon Levitt, whose anti-porn film Don Jon is being released later this year, to have him come on the site for an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session (UPDATE: This has since fallen through). Meanwhile, a short film highlighting the negative effects of porn and/or excessive masturbation is in the works on Kickstarter.

Already there are over 65,000 fapstronauts, with hundreds more joining by the day. These modern warriors against sexual temptation have gathered together under the roof of a dedicated “sub-Reddit” (/r/NoFap), where members can request publicly viewable badges (operated on the honor system) that track how many consecutive days of “fapstinence” they’ve clocked in, share their favorite tips on how to resist the urge, encourage newcomers by describing the benefits of a life of Spartan-like self-discipline, and seek solace and encouragement to get up and dust off when they fall back into old habits. 

The rules are few and simple: read the disclaimer (participants take a noFap challenge “at their own risk”); be respectful; don’t post pornography or links to the same; be sensitive in describing the details of your sex life in deference to the more easily “triggered”; and finally, only mention religion when it directly relates to your motivation to take up the NoFap challenge. 

The unlikely beginnings of NoFap: founded by an atheist

The last rule surprises a lot of people, says Alexander Rhodes, the unlikely founder of the forum, and along with it a burgeoning anti-porn social movement (although he readily admits that the general idea of quitting masturbating for a period of time online long predated the creation of the forum). Most people naturally assume that any group that takes a negative view of porn, let alone masturbation, must have close ties to the Christian/conservative social right. But Rhodes can confidently assure them that this is not the case: he himself is an atheist.  

While it might seem odd that an atheist is leading a crusade against “fapping,” the first thing that Rhodes explained in an interview with LifeSiteNews is that that’s exactly not what he’s doing. While he acknowledges there are plenty of noFap members who might disagree (and they’re welcome to their opinion) he believes masturbation can be healthy in moderation. Porn, on the other hand, he takes a darker view of.

Like a large number of (arguably most) young men his age, the 23-year-old Rhodes grew up on porn, which he discovered online at an early age. While admitting that he’s unsure if the smut is to blame, he describes himself, without elaborating, as having been a “hyper-sexual” adolescent. When he eventually became sexually involved with real women, he says he found the sex shallow and unfulfilling, and, in time, he began suffering from delayed ejaculation (the inability to orgasm during normal sex with a real life partner - an increasingly common complaint amongst heavy porn users).

That all changed one day in June of 2011. That’s when a thread about a study that found that men who don’t masturbate for 7 days experience a 45.7% increase in testosterone levels hit the front page of a popular forum on Reddit, sparking intense discussion. The conclusions of the study appealed to the budding biologist (Rhodes recently finished a B.S. degree in the science), and after several Redditors floated the possibility of founding a NoFap forum, Rhodes took the initiative and did so, “in the 23rd hour of June 20, 2011” (in the somewhat dramatic wording of a brief history of the forum penned by Rhodes).

The rest, as they say, is history. In the beginning NoFap ran weekly and monthly NoFap challenges for a small handful of devotees. But as the numbers of fapstronauts rapidly grew, the administrators hit on the idea of the badge system, and now forum members have the freedom to set their own challenges based upon their own personal goals.

“Superpowers” for fapstronauts

But what’s the point of it all? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Rhodes prides himself on the diversity of NoFap’s membership, ranging from atheists like himself to die-hard fundamentalist Christians. “I think that nofap may be the most supportive community on the Internet,” he says. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Regardless of who you are or what your goals are, the members of nofap will try to support you and genuinely care for you and try to push you to succeed.” Even the aforementioned rule about religion isn’t meant to discourage religious fapstronauts, who are more than welcome to discuss their beliefs when relevant, but simply to reduce heated and tangential religious debates that detract from the core goal of NoFap.

It’s the dedication to the core goal, says Rhodes, that unites all the users: that shared commitment to quitting porn and masturbation for some higher cause, whatever that might be. And those higher causes can vary dramatically from user to user. For some - the extreme cases - it’s quite simply a question of “do or die.” As Rhodes describes it, “they’ve never had a girlfriend or a boyfriend and they sit in their basements all the time looking at porn and masturbating and they never go outside and they don’t have jobs.” 

For others it’s as simple as the novelty of seeing if they can do it, or, somewhat controversially, the belief that abstaining from masturbation will give them the confidence they need to “get laid” with a real-life partner (A common theme on NoFap is the back-and-forth exchange between those who complain about the “get laid” crowd, and those who complain about the complainers, arguing that there’s no “bad” reason to take up a NoFap challenge). For most, the motivations fall somewhere in between: a desire to take control of their sexuality, or to make better use of their time, or to enhance their personal relationships, or to follow the teachings of their religion, or all of the above. 

By all accounts, for most people it works. Many users even tout what they call the “superpowers” they acquired during a successful NoFap challenge. These include (but are not limited to): dramatic increases in social confidence, energy levels, concentration levels, mental acuity, motivation, self-esteem, emotional stability, happiness, sexual prowess, and attractiveness to the opposite sex. A surprising number of users also express relief that they no longer feel “creepy” when they meet or see girls on the street, and that they are less likely to discover sexual subtexts in totally innocent conversations or situations. Some credit NoFap with literally saving their lives after years of crushing guilt, failed attempts to reform, and hopelessness. 

Some do experience such dramatic results, admits Rhodes. But he is careful not to promise anything at all to fledgling fapstronauts. For him, the benefits were well worth it, but didn’t amount to anything like “superpowers.” The most noticeable effect was an almost immediate cure for his delayed ejaculation. On top of that, he experienced elevated motivation, and, perhaps most importantly, a significantly greater sense of intimacy in his real-life romantic relationships. Some others, he says, don't experience any benefits at all. 

As a scientist, Rhodes is hesitant to speculate about why he or other fapstronauts might experience any positive effects, explaining that what he and the other moderators are really holding out for is a large controlled study into the phenomenon by a well-known university. In his explanations he’s more comfortable using the language of evolutionary biology than philosophy or theology, and he promptly sends new fapstronauts to Youtube to check out the neuro-chemistry-based TedX talk, “Your Brain on Porn.” However, when pressed on why he thinks NoFap has enhanced his romantic relationships, he reluctantly responds. 

“As for me personally, it’s just a relationship is so much more than…it’s really hard to put into words. A relationship is so much more than sex, because sex….By taking away masturbation you are relying on your partner,” he says hesitantly. “I just felt a stronger bond, a stronger attachment. Like an infatuation, like a schoolboy crush. It just does something. 

“I’m not really sure what it is. You’re devoting yourself completely to your significant other instead of random pixilated girls on the internet who you've never met. It’s about enhancing your meaningful relationship, instead of establishing five-minute relationships with virtual girls online.” 

He then lapses into silence, and adds: “I don’t really know why. It’s science.” 

NoFap will “save the world”

Not all of NoFap's leadership team is equally circumspect. One of Rhodes’ fellow forum moderators - who, because of the amount of deeply personal information available on the forum, prefers to be known simply by his Reddit user name, FaplessAndFancyFree (“FAFF,” for brevity’s sake) - has more definite ideas about why NoFap is changing people’s lives.

(Read the complete interview with FAFF here: Can a Reddit forum change the world? This Catholic, and recovering porn addict, thinks so)

FAFF describes himself as NoFap’s “resident Catholic/conservative weirdsmobile,” and is as quick to cite (from memory) specific passages from the Catholic Catechism and Thomas Aquinas as Rhodes is to speak about evolutionary psychology.  But despite being surrounded with all the wealth of Catholic theology, including Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, from an early age, FAFF says he found himself in the same humiliating position as his atheist colleague: obsessed to the point of addiction with pornography and masturbation.

Ironically, he stumbled on NoFap the same way many other users do – while searching for porn to use for masturbating. What he found amazed him, and revolutionized his life: a group of mostly atheist and agnostic Reddit users who, without ever reading a lick of Catholic theology, were independently discovering, simply through personal experience, everything that he had learned from years of reading the writings of the Church. 

“They were -- often without realizing it -- reaching in the direction of sexual truths that I recognized from my catechism,” he says. “But they hadn't read this stuff in a catechism, hadn't been taught it from a pulpit or an NFP class or their parents. They were discovering it (slowly, in pieces) by having lived through it.  They were stunned by what they were finding, which went against what they'd been taught.  And they were no less stunned to discover, all of a sudden, that they were not alone in feeling this way.”  

But the thing that struck FAFF the most, was quite simply what he describes as the “joy” of NoFap users, “the joy of people who have just heard the good news of freedom from pornography for the first time.” This contrasted with what he had experienced in many religious-based sex addiction recovery programs, which he says tended to be too full of guilt and “self-flagellation” for “joy to take root.” While he wouldn’t necessarily recommend sending a Catholic teen with a porn problem to NoFap, due to some of the uncouth material and more bizarre ideas in circulation on the forum, he says that it proved to be exactly what he needed to get a handle on his problem. 

“I found the spirit of NoFap very attractive -- holy, in its violent and sometimes graceless way -- and their hope and joy proved a little infectious,” he says. “So, every time I felt the urge to read some erotica, I went there instead and dispensed advice and encouragement.” In time, the moderators of the community noticed their new highly active member, and invited him to join them in moderating the forum. The result, he says, has been “a time of unparalleled success in my long battle to learn chastity.” 

Much of the power of NoFap, says FAFF, is precisely its secular nature – the fact that, without ever even explicitly mentioning morality or ethics, its users are discovering profound moral truths, and making them available in an unthreatening manner to others who are deeply hurting and in need of those truths, but who might not be willing to listen if those same truths were told them by their local pastor. 

“NoFap does not impose,” he explains. “Officially, it does not even propose -- the mod team is scrupulous about keeping our Official Seal of Approval off any particular version of the program.  There is a lot of debate, but no doctrines.  We simply provide a space for thousands of young men and women to tell their stories, and then we invite readers to ask themselves: does any of this sound familiar to me?  NoFap does not cite the authority of revelation or philosophy or history or science.  Our sole authority is one's own experience, and, though that authority has a hard time reaching the clean, universally applicable conclusions we find in, say, the Summa Contra Gentiles, it's also the hardest authority in the world to impeach.” 

Which immediately brings to mind a famous quote from C.S. Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy, about the renowned Christian apologist's own failed and miserable youthful experiments with illicit sexual pleasure: “What I like about experience is that it is such an honest thing," he wrote. "You may take any number of wrong turnings; but keep your eyes open and you will not be allowed to go very far before the warning signs appear. You may have deceived yourself, but experience is not trying to deceive you. The universe rings true wherever you fairly test it.” 

At the same time, FAFF admits that NoFap, on its own, isn’t necessarily enough. As a Catholic, he says, he feels that he has been given an advantage over many of his fellow users. While they are left to fall back on their own willpower and resources, he knows that he of himself cannot possibly win the fight for sexual purity, and that ultimately it is an operation of gratuitous Grace. “One of the great cruelties of secular humanism is its suggestion that a person can shape himself into anything he wants simply by putting his mind to it,” he says. “NoFap is a great help for the 99% of the process that is simply putting your mind to it, but sometimes it misses that last 1% that has to come from somewhere else.” 

"I know I can't resist this temptation all on my own.  I am not in control of it.  Without help from some factor outside my control -- I recognize it as grace, others may call it good luck -- I will fail."

But for all of NoFap's flaws, FAFF can barely contain his enthusiasm for what the forum is accomplishing. “I think this movement is (slowly) going to change the world,” he says, with what might seem like a hint of hyperbole. But when pressed on the point he stands by his declaration, and explains:

“As more and more people experience the terrible effects of pornography on their communities, their families, and their spirits, arguments about science and scripture and philosophy and sex are going to continue, as they always have.  But lived experience bypasses the porn industry's stranglehold on academic sexology, skips right past teleological arguments about genitalia.  

“In the end, NoFap changes the world without ever winning an argument or even taking a position on anything.  We change the world just by asking the right questions.”

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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