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The pointlessness of pornography

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By John Jalsevac
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Note: This is part five of a five part series on pornography

Part I: My porn addiction
Part II: Porn, devil or an angel?
Part III: Three ways to kick porn out of your life
Part IV: The fight for sexual sanity in a world awash in porn

December 13, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - A quote of dubious origin, but often misattributed to G.K. Chesterton, goes like this: “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” It is a somewhat shocking claim, but is, I think, nevertheless true. And the corollary is obvious: that every young man or woman who searches for pornography on Google, is unconsciously looking for God.

I do not believe that most people who look at pornography do so because they are particularly interested in sex, per se – at least not at first. Women, especially, are likely to confess that their interest in pornography is not so much about body parts, or how they come together, but is rather an expression of their deep craving for romance, affirmation, and relation. They don’t so much care about seeing nude men, as they do about fantasizing about having a satisfying love affair, in which all their unspoken needs and ardent desires are anticipated and met.

And while men, naturally more promiscuous, have earned a reputation as sex-obsessed brutes, I’m not sure that the reputation is entirely deserved, or that our motivations in viewing porn are any less “sublime” than those of women. Certainly in the beginning, I did not go to porn in search of sex, for I was not completely clear about what sex was. All I knew is that I increasingly found women beautiful, and that I wanted to see more of them.

There is, in men, a reverence for the female form that I think would be difficult, if not impossible ever to fully convey to a woman. For the average man, the female body is imbued with a sense of mystery and of meaning that rises very nearly to the level of the mystical. Every detail seems to whisper promises of happiness, of excitement, of mystery, of adventure, of fulfillment. This, of course, is why our advertisements are so packed with photos of beautiful, and often scantily clad women. Advertisers are not simply making their ads “attractive” by using these attractive women, they are cynically associating the aura of mystery and meaning that surrounds the female body with their banal and useless products.

Many great poets and artists, citing Genesis as backing, have claimed – with, I think, good reason - that woman is the pinnacle of physical creation, God’s final and greatest masterpiece. Perhaps this is why many men look to the female form to satisfy their deepest cravings. They have surveyed the earth and found nothing more beautiful, nothing more exquisite, nothing more sublime: and so have devoted their lives more or less to pursuing this most beautiful thing.

Why, then, does it fail to satisfy? Because it does fail to satisfy.

What man who has given in to the craving to view porn can ever honestly say that he has found the happiness that he hoped to find? Almost inevitably he has found disappointment. At first, it is true, there is the excitement, the anticipation, and then the thing itself, and finally (since masturbation typically accompanies viewing porn) the climax. But then there is the aftermath – the sense of deflation, of waste, of emptiness, of pointlessness.

In time the porn addict may come to accept those brief, highly intoxicating moments of anticipation as the nearest thing he will ever experience to happiness. But if he is being honest he will admit that he has settled – that he really craves something much, much more satisfying, but does not know where to find it. Again, here I am speaking from personal experience as a man, but I have heard women speak of the same thing – the sense of repulsion that follows a bout of viewing porn and masturbation, and which ironically drives them back to porn in the hope of erasing that sense of emptiness and recapturing the ecstasy that briefly seemed akin to happiness.

There are, I think, two reasons for the sense of pointlessness associated with porn. The first is the most obvious.

Sex is designed to bring two people together, to unite them, to bridge the gap between them. And it is also designed to be creative, to have the potential for new life. Porn, on the other hand, is simply an attempt to fool the body and the mind into thinking that sex has occurred. But the body and the mind will not be fooled. Porn is to sex what the Twinkie is to food. The first few bites of the cellophane-wrapped bundle of oil and sugar may be delicious, but the taste soon cloys, while the Twinkie provides no meaningful nourishment to the body. Eat only Twinkies and you will soon lose your taste for real, nourishing food, and you will become sick. Porn is sex without an object, sex without nourishment. It is a parody of sex. It is like winning a lottery, only to be told the prize is in Monopoly money. Porn does not, and cannot satisfy, for the simple reason that it is not real: it is fantasy, a shadow of the real thing, a mockery of sex.

But there is also another, and deeper reason for this sense of pointlessness. No one has addressed this reason better than the British Christian writer C.S. Lewis.

In his autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis catalogues his encounters with what he labels “Joy.” Joy, in the sense that Lewis uses the word, is that overwhelming sense of desire, the “immortal longing,” which is at once painful and immeasurably pleasurable, that we sometimes experience when we encounter something beautiful. It is, of course, nothing other than the divine discontent, the “restlessness” spoken of by St. Augustine in his Confessions, the pulley of George Herbert’s poem that draws wearied man to the breast of God.

Lewis points out that some irreligious people have interpreted Joy as simply a manifestation of the erotic instinct. Now, this is not an entirely unreasonable interpretation, since Joy very often is associated with sex. A newlywed beholding his bride on their wedding night, for instance, will experience a veritable tidal wave of Joy. But even a newlywed will in time learn that sex, no matter how pleasurable and loving, is not an adequate answer to Joy. Sex may lead to the experience of Joy, but Joy is not the desire for sex. Joy is a desire for something immeasurably more, and those who go looking for that something more in sex, or even worse, in porn and masturbation, will be sorely disappointed.

“Those who think that if adolescents were all provided with suitable mistresses we should soon hear no more of ‘immortal longings’ are certainly wrong,” Lewis explains in Surprised by Joy. “I learned this mistake to be a mistake by the simple, if discreditable, process of repeatedly making it.”

He continues:

I repeatedly followed that path – to the end. And at the end one found pleasure; which immediately resulted in the discovery that pleasure (whether that pleasure or any other) was not what you had been looking for. No moral question was involved; I was at this time as nearly non-moral on that subject as a human creature can be. The frustration did not consist in finding a “lower” pleasure instead of a “higher.” It was the irrelevance of the conclusion that marred it. The hounds had changed scent. One had caught the wrong quarry. You might as well offer a mutton chop to a man who is dying of thirst as offer sexual pleasure to the desire I am speaking of. I did not recoil from the erotic conclusion with chaste horror, exclaiming, “Not that!” My feelings could rather have been expressed in the words, “Quite. I see. But haven’t we wandered from the real point?” Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for Joy. I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.

In other words, the reason porn fails to satisfy, is the same reason anything else fails to satisfy – because it is not God. And the reason we become addicted to porn is the same reason anyone becomes addicted to anything – because we do not possess, and do not know how to possess, God, and thus we frantically scramble about for something to take His place. Woman may be the pinnacle of creation, but even the most beautiful and most fascinating woman ultimately fails to satisfy a man, because creation is not enough – we desire the Creator. One need only consider the endless cycle of divorce and remarriage among the world’s most beautiful people in Hollywood to see how true this is.

If you have ever attended AA meetings, you will have noticed the curious fact that many of those who struggle the most with addiction, are also some of the most passionate, sensitive, and interesting people you will ever meet. AA meetings are packed with people who are anything but “normal” or “boring” or “safe” – they are filled with philosophers and poets and artists, who, in their desperate desire for happiness, have followed the rabbit down the rabbit hole, only to discover their terrible mistake. This is, I think, one reason why the 12-step program puts such a strong emphasis on a belief in a “higher power.” God is the only real, long-term solution to addiction: not only because He is the only thing that can possibly fulfill the infinitude of man’s desires, but also because He is also the only One who can give us the strength we need to fight the myriad temptations we will face, and to catch us when we inevitably fail: he is both the Goal and the Safety Net.

Yes, it may be possible for a certain type of person to beat a porn habit (or any other addiction) simply through willpower and psychological tricks. But in general, I do not believe most people with a porn problem will ever be able to ditch porn for good without developing a relationship with God. For without God we will continue our frantic searching for the Thing That Will Satisfy, a search that will be continually frustrated because there is nothing on Earth that can satisfy. And in our frustration we will return again and again to the thing that promises happiness, but instead leaves us feeling deflated and miserable.

Yes, a porn habit is a shameful thing. But if it brings us to our knees, and reveals our weakness and our need for something – or better yet, Someone – greater than ourselves, then it may yet prove to be our salvation.

I will leave the final word of this series to former Playboy pornographer turned devout Christian Donny Pauling. I once asked him how he believes people can beat a porn addiction. This was his response:

So many people don’t ask for help because they’re sitting there feeling guilty about their actions, saying, “There I go, I’ve done it again.“ I think that they need to realize that, although sin does separate us from God, He still loves them. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. His love doesn’t change. It’s not conditional.

God who loves us that much is not looking for a reason to send us to Hell, he’s looking for every reason to bring us to Him. So just stand back up. Stop letting your guilt get you down.

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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