Secular Religion: Religion is about intent
by phil on Saturday Jan 3, 2009 3:01 PM
A recent study finds that abstinence pledges are ineffective. Teens who make the pledges have as much premarital sex as teens that don't, and are more likely to be unprotected. Will this matter to the Christian Right? Probably not. To be part of the Christian Right is to hold Christian principles and ideas foremost in your mind. It means that you are largely defined by Christianity, and not by other towers or fonts of principles, such as science. You can still believe in science and be a Christian, but to define yourself as a member of the Christian Right, you put the burden of proof on everything outside of Christianity.
But there is something charitable in the way that members of the Christian Right think about things that I don't think secular liberals get. To the Christians, intent is very important. They believe that at the very least, abstinence pledges represent a well-intentioned response, and that is what they want to drill into their children.
Plus, there is a logical fallacy in the side of the debate taken up by the secular liberals. Abstinence pledges don't preclude the teachings of sex education. Just because you encourage your children to take abstinence pledges, does that mean you shouldn't teach them about safe sex? On the other hand, that might create too much cognitive dissonance, because why would you worry about condoms if you made a pledge?
I also read one other study that abstinence pledges work in some cases, like about 20%, for pledgers who go to Church regularly. If that is the case, that wouldn't show up on an study that looks only at the average. The result would still be, "there is no noticeable benefit to abstinence pledges," which in our media reads as, "Abstinence pledges don't work!"
It's also possible that the presence of abstinence pledges reduces premarital sex in general in a community, whether or not the pledges are taken or not. If everybody believes that nobody is having premarital sex, then maybe it loses its cool. For example, members of the boy band Jonas Brothers wear purity rings, and there are a few other pop teens who talk about saving themselves. Plus, the popular teen vampire romance Twilight has an undertone of abstinence. These kind of events wouldn't have been cool when I went to High School, in the 1990s, which was all about the ethics of Clueless.