John Jalsevac

130,000+ Reddit users flock to forum founded by atheist to quit pornography, masturbation

John Jalsevac
John Jalsevac
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Note: Since this article was first published, the number of members on NoFap has increased from 65,000, to over 130,000.

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, while a short film highlighting the negative effects of porn and/or excessive masturbation is in the works on Kickstarter.

Already there are over 130,000 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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St. Peter Damian
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St. Peter Damian (1049): what Church MUST do in response to rampant homosexuality among clergy

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By Steve Jalsevac

June 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The rise of the power and influence of homosexual priests, bishops and cardinals, as well as influential laity, has been a major factor in the growing chaos within Catholicism over the past 60 years. This disorder within the Catholic Church has had a negative impact on the entire world because of the resulting decline in the positive influences that Catholicism has had on civilization for many centuries.

To think that what is happening now is new, however, betrays an ignorance of history. In 1049, when St. Peter Damian wrote his treatise, Book of Gomorrah (Liber Gomorrhianus), to Pope Leo IX, homosexuality and sexual perversion in general were far more openly rampant within the clergy than today.  This horrendous state of affairs is what the Saint addressed in his appeal to the Pope for urgently needed reforms.

We often hear from sleepy, comfortable, cowardly, timid or cultural Catholics, and especially from clergy who are directly implicated in homosexuality, that we should never criticize priests, bishops and especially the Pope. Supposedly, that is a greater sin than that of the heretics and sexual perverts facilitating great personal suffering and sending souls to Hell without anyone doing what is necessary to either convert or stop them.

St. Peter Damian was not so foolish as to listen to such nonsense denying God His justice at a time when the Church appeared to be in its death throes. He understood the grave duty to be blunt about the dangers and sinfulness, to not minimize the catastrophe that would come if strong actions were not quickly taken and to demand corrective actions. And yet, he also emphasized that all of this must be done with charity and Christian hope for the persons involved in the moral corruption. Their conversion was above all hoped and prayed for, rather than their condemnation for eternity.

An Italian translated version of the Book of Gomorrah has recently been published. An English version carefully translated by one of our LifeSite journalists will also soon become available.

On Feb. 11 of this year the Rorate Caeli website published excerpts from the introduction by Professor Roberto de Mattei to the Italian version.

Following are some paragraphs from that introduction that I hope will jar awake some of the faithful, especially considering what is going on now in the United States as a result of the mad Supreme Court decision and the moral chaos around the Synod on the Family regarding Church sexual teachings.
 

Excerpts from the Introduction:

St. Peter Damien (1007-1072) Abbot of the Fonte Avellana Monastery and subsequently Cardinal/Bishop of Ostia, was one of the most outstanding figures of Catholic reform in the XI century. His Liber Gomorrhianus, appeared around 1049, in an age when corruption was widely spread, even in the highest ranks of the ecclesiastical world.

In this writing, addressed to Pope Leo IX, Peter Damien condemns the perverted habits of his time in a language that knows no false mercy or compromises. He is convinced that of all the sins, the gravest is sodomy, a term which includes all the acts against nature and which want to satisfy sexual pleasure by separating it from procreation. “If this absolutely ignominious and abominable vice is not immediately stopped with an iron fist – he writes – the sword of Divine wrath will fall upon us, bringing ruin to many.”

There have been times in (the Church’s) history when sanctity pervades Her and others when the defection of Her members cause Her to collapse into darkness, appearing almost as if the Divinity has abandoned Her.

Peter Damien’s voice resounds today, as it did yesterday, with encouragement and comfort for those, like him, who have fought, suffered, cried and hoped, throughout the course of history.

He did not moderate his language, but kept it fiery to show his indignation. He was fearless in voicing an uncompromising hatred for sin and it was precisely this hatred that rendered his love burning for the Truth and the Good.

Today, at the beginning of the third millennium of Christ’s birth, priests, bishops and Episcopal conferences are arguing for married priests; they are placing in doubt the indissolubility of the marriage bond between man and woman and at the same time, accepting the introduction of laws for homosexual pseudo-marriage. Sodomy is not being thought of as a sin that cries to God for vengeance but is diffused in seminaries, colleges, ecclesiastical universities and even inside the Sacred Walls of the Vatican itself.

Liber Gomorrhianus reminds us that there is something worse than moral vice practiced and theorized. It is the silence that should speak, the abstention that should intervene, the bond of complicity that is established among the wicked and of those, who with the pretext of avoiding scandal are silent, and, by being silent, consent.  

Graver still, is the acceptance of homosexuality by churchmen, thought of as a “positive” tension towards the good, worthy of pastoral care and juridical protection and not as an abominable sin. In the summary Relatio post disceptationem of the first week’s work in the Synod of Bishops in October 2014, a paragraph affirmed that: “homosexual persons have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community”, with an invitation to the Bishops “…are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing them a fraternal space in our communities?”

This scandalous statement was removed from the final report, but some bishops and cardinals, inside and outside the Synod Hall, insisted on the appeal to look for the positive aspects of a union against nature, going as far as hoping for “a way to describe the rights of people living in same-sex unions.”

St. Peter Damian as a simple monk, and with greater reason as a cardinal, did not hesitate in accusing even the Popes of that time for their scandalous omissions. Will the reading of the book Liber Gomorrhianus instill the spirit of St. Peter Damien in the hearts of some prelates or laypeople, by shaking them out of their torpor and force them to speak and act?

Even if abysmally far from the holiness and prophetic spirit of St. Peter Damien, let us make his indignation against evil, ours, and with the words that conclude his treatise we turn to the Vicar of Christ, His Holiness, Pope Francis, presently reigning, so that he may intervene and bring an end to these doctrinal and moral scandals: “May the Almighty Lord assist us, Most Reverend Father, so that during the time of Your Apostolate, all of the monstrosity of this vice be destroyed and the state of the Church, presently supine, may wholly rise up again in all its vigour.”

The book can be found in Italian here. 

(Note: the name of the saint is spelled Damian in English and Damien in Italian and French. In Fr. Mattei's quotes is it spelled Damien)

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Bernadette Smyth, the head of Northern Ireland's Precious Life, speaks at LifeSiteNews' Rome Life Forum in May 2014. Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Victory in Ireland: Pro-life leader’s ‘harassment’ conviction overturned

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By Pete Baklinski

BELFAST, June 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Northern Ireland’s most prominent pro-life leader who last year was found guilty of “harassment” against an abortion facility director has had charges thrown out of court on appeal due to insufficient evidence.

“I thank God for my vindication and for helping my family and me through this horrible ordeal,” stated Bernadette Smyth, head of Northern Ireland’s leading pro-life group Precious Life, after the Monday decision that quashed the previous guilty verdict.

“Our prayers have been answered. I would like to thank the wonderful work of Aiden Carlin Solicitors and all my legal team. ‘Precious Life’ and I will continue with the work we have been doing over the last 18 years, which is to advocate for unborn children.”

Between 2012 and 2014 Smyth, 52, had been among a group of pro-life sidewalk counselors who prayed, handed out leaflets, and talked to passers-by outside the illegally operated Marie Stopes abortion facility in Belfast.

In 2014 Smyth was found guilty of “harassment” against the facility’s operator, the former politician Dawn Purvis who claimed she was intimidated by Smyth’s comments and “witchy” laughter. The legal attack came at precisely the moment when Smyth was publicly leading an effective campaign to oppose the liberalization of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.

Smyth was ultimately handed a £2,000-fine, 100 hours of community service, and a five-year restraining order.

Smyth's lawyer challenged Purvis' claim that his client's interaction with the director on two occasions had left her in fear, pointing out in court on Monday that Purvis was a seasoned politician with a former role within the Progressive Unionist Party.

“Are you not a person with a bit more fortitude than that?" he asked.

When Smyth's lawyer asked to have the case thrown out, the judge agreed, ruling that the evidence at hand was insufficient for a successful prosecution.

“Today Judge Gordon Kerr quashed the conviction, ruling that Bernadette Smyth’s laughter outside the Marie Stopes center in Belfast was not criminal behavior and that there was insufficient evidence that Bernadette Smyth had harassed Dawn Purvis,” Precious Life stated in a press release.

Pro-life groups welcomed the news as a victory.

“We’re delighted that justice has been served and that the court has thrown out these ridiculous charges against Bernadette Smyth,” said Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute.

Uí Bhriain praised Smyth for giving her life to “supporting women in crisis and providing real assistance to mothers and babies.”

“This attempt to shut down her pro-life work was reprehensible and she should never have been dragged through the courts to face these baseless accusations.”

“Bernadette Smyth can hold her head high as the court has vindicated her good name and the important work she does to protect mothers and babies,” said Uí Bhriain. “We are delighted with today’s ruling which overturned the miscarriage of justice which saw Bernadette accused of harassment.” 

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Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

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Bishops conduct exorcism over the entire nation of Mexico to cast out demon of abortion

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By Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

MEXICO CITY, June 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – An unprecedented event took place in the city of San Luis Potosi, in Mexico, as a group of bishops performed an exorcism on the entire country.

“Mexico opened the door to the devil when we legalized abortion,” said Cardinal Juan Sandoval, Bishop Emeritus from Gualajara, who led the exorcism. “It’s the legalization of homicide,” he told El Universal.

The first ever exorcism on a whole country took place last month behind closed doors inside the Cathedral of San Luis Potosí. It was made public once Pope Francis was informed it had happened. Only one journalist, Roberto O’Farril, was allowed inside.

“Mexico is living a demonic infestation similar to the one these territories lived before the evangelization and before Our Lady of Guadalupe’s apparition,” said O’Farril in an interview with AciPrensa.

He compared abortion to the sacrifices performed by the Aztecs. “Many of those sacrifices were human sacrificies,” he continued. “Young warriors and damsels whose chests were cut open to take out the heart and offer it to these demons.”

According to renowned exorcist Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea, who was also present, an Exorcismo Magno “is useful in a situation in which great violence is unleashed in a country.”

San Luis Potosi’s Archbishop, Mons. Cabrero, explained the exorcism was done to ask “for the liberation of this strong presence of the enemy.”

“This prayer is certainly extraordinary, but it’s still a practice within the Church,” he explained in interview with AciPrensa.

Official data show 138,000 legal abortions have been performed in Mexico City since abortion was made legal there in 2007.

A recent study from the Guttmacher Institute revealed that Mexico has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, with 33 in every 1,000 pregnancies ending in abortion.

In 2013, LifeSiteNews reported the case of a man who claimed he was suffering from demonic influence because of the legalization of abortion in Mexico. Renowned exorcist Fr. Amorth confirmed the possession and tried to exorcise the man's demons, concluding the demons would leave him when the abortion law was reversed.

O’Farril, who covered this man’s case, said the demons possessing the man had said that time, “She had banished us from Mexico but your stupid laws have allowed human sacrifices to return.”

According to Sandoval, “the grave situation we are living in Mexico has a very profound root,” that goes “further than human evil, it is the devil, who is very connected to death, he’s been the murdere[r] since the beginning.”

Sandoval went on to compare the victims murdered by the cartels, who are often dismembered, to the children who are “torn apart inside their mother’s womb.”

CNN Mexico reported Sandoval might go on to perform more exorcisms in other Mexican states.  

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