Skeptic » eSkeptic » April 27, 2016

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About this week’s feature article

What would happen if you stopped watching online pornography for a few months? In this week’s eSkeptic, the debate about pornography addiction and its effects concludes with this response to Marty Klein by Philip Zimbardo, Gary Wilson, and Nikita Coulombe.

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: Collaged version of Love in Wiesbaden by Jacob Appelbaum from San Francisco, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0].

More on Porn: Guard Your Manhood—
A Response to Marty Klein

by Philip Zimbardo, Gary Wilson & Nikita Coulombe

Marty Klein wrote a reaction to our original post on how porn is shaping young men’s sexual response. Klein suggested that science doesn’t empirically support our assertion of unprecedented rates of sexual dysfunctions in young men. In fact, all studies assessing young male sexuality since 2010 report historic levels of sexual dysfunctions and startling rates of low libido. Erectile dysfunction (ED) rates range from 27 to 33 percent, while rates for low libido (hypo-sexuality) range from 16 to 37 percent. The lower ranges are taken from studies involving teens and men 25 years old and under, while the higher ranges are from studies involving men 40 years old and under.

All addiction is one condition, and “sexual behavior addiction“ not only exists but involves the same fundamental mechanisms and brain changes as substance addiction.

Prior to the advent of free streaming online porn, cross-sectional studies and meta-analyses consistently reported ED rates of 2 to 3 percent in men under 40. That’s about a 1000 percent increase in youthful ED rates in the last 20 years. Klein dismisses this rising tsunami of empirically documented sexual dysfunction in young men as normal teenage performance anxiety, which raises the question: if not high speed Internet porn, what variable changed that could account for this astronomical rise?

Incidentally, if you cannot achieve an erection without using online porn or fantasizing about porn you have watched (but can get an erection and climax with porn), you should consider the possibility you may be part of this unfortunate swell. […]

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The Real Christopher Hitchens: Did Christopher Hitchens Really Keep Two Sets of Books about his Beliefs?

Recently a number of people have asked me about a newly published book entitled The Faith of Christopher Hitchens by the Christian apologist Larry Alex Taunton, who runs the Fixed Point Foundation and whom I have gotten to know through public debates and private conversations. The Religious News Service (RNS), for example, interviewed me about the book, explaining that they had never heard of the author and were wondering why I blurbed the book (a “blurb” is a short quote on the back jacket of books encouraging people to read it). Here is what I wrote (only the final sentence made it onto the book’s cover but the entire quote is on the book’s webpage):

If you really want to get to know someone intimately, go on a multi-day cross-country road trip, share fine food and expensive spirits, and have open and honest conversations about the most important issues in life. And then engage them in public debate before thousands of people on those very topics. In this engrossing narrative about his friendship with the atheist activist Christopher Hitchens, the evangelical Christian Larry Taunton shows us a side of the man very few of us knew. Apparent contradictions dissolve before Taunton’s penetrating insight into the psychology of man fiercely loyal to his friends and passionately devoted to leading a life of integrity. This book should be read by every atheist and theist passionate about the truth, and by anyone who really wants to understand Hitch, one of the greatest minds and literary geniuses of our time.

I thought the statement was a fair appraisal of the book, but now I am having second thoughts because of the reception the book has received in which many people seem to think that its author implies that Hitch had a death-bed conversion, or that he had serious doubts about his atheism, or that he was earnestly considering Christianity as a viable belief system. You can hear that theme reiterated in many of Taunton’s public interviews, especially by the hosts, and in the comments given to the RNS reporter, Kimberly Winston, by Hitch’s close friend of 30 years, Steve Wasserman, who “called the book’s claims ‘petty’ and ‘appalling’ when they were read to him,” adding: “I am not in the position to dispute what Taunton says were private conversations … but I really think it is a shabby business. It reveals a lack of respect. This is not a way to debate Christopher Hitchens’ beliefs—to report unverifiable conversations, which amazingly contradict everything Christopher Hitchens ever said or stood for.” […]

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  1. T. A. Kiehl says:

    In regards to the recent article on Taunton’s BS book, “The Faith of Christopher Hitchens” I feel the need to make a few points, some of the most controversial of which may digress from the direct subject of the book itself and more as commentary regarding a disturbing trend toward extremism I’ve noticed more and more prevalent on atheist blogs and webpages. As to the assertions made in the book, I would like to point out that I’ve been an atheist since I was 17, and at 62 I’m even more atheistic, actually more correctly, an anti-theist …BUT I’VE SUNG XMAS CAROLS FOR CHARITY the past 10 years. I love Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Christmas oratorio. I appreciate the grandeur of Cathedrals and sophisticated religious art. I’m NOT a confused person or a duplicitous one using “two books” and “hiding” religiosity. One may appreciate the beauty that inspired people of faith to create magnificent works of art, and acknowledge that religion has contributed to the sophistication of our culture, but without an acceptance of the vast evil and harm it has also wrought we have a badly distorted history. It’s a complicated world and in many cases it takes an intelligent and complicated “soul” LOL to unify these concepts, a task beyond most religious believers who have such single minded and unsophisticated world views. While I respect Hitchens for his eloquence in defense of atheism I abhor his regression into the fear based mentality that became so prevalent after 9/11. This sea change to a militaristic world view, which he furthered with his newly hateful rhetoric, helped promote and allow politicians to stoke that fear and then use it to propagandize the populace into supporting NeoCon policy agendas that turn the world into a morass of conflict. I don’t understand why Hitchens and now Harris changed their generalized anti-religious rhetoric into an anti-Islam rant. As two of the “four horsemen” they have a large part of the atheist bully pulpit and their later rhetoric turned many people against “New Atheism” as being Islamaphobic and pro-conflict, associating the atheistic movement with NeoCon politics in many people’s minds. As I consider myself one of the “Nth Horsemen” proselytizing free thought and atheism, I find this an unwelcome distortion of the HUMANIST message I try to promote. I once attempted to discuss this with Sam Harris several years ago after he became the new prophet of the popularization of Hitchens’ inexplicable and astounding right wing conversion after 9/11. I feel this disturbing new slant on atheism is detrimental to the humanistic philosophy of atheism and, as this trend worsens have come to the point that I must condemn their ideology. These viewpoints have helped stimulate the insurgence of intolerance and even racism into a once freethinking dialog about religion that is not characteristic of the atheist movement I have been a part of my entire life. The hatemongering becoming a part of the atheist zeitgeist is now often the main feature of many new websites and blogs that claim atheistic inspiration but are merely the bigotry hiding under the mantle of atheism. They smear an entire religion with the bloody stain of actions by a minority of Saudi Arabian inspired and supported Wahhabi extremists that have hijacked their religion for political purposes, much like the Popes did to Christianity in their secular struggles that almost destroyed Europe. This negative stereotype being promulgated under the name of atheism is poor publicity for our humanistic atheistic movement and undermines the real message of humanism and tolerance that most “real” free thinking atheism espouse and opens the humanistic atheistic movement to unnecessary criticism and even ridicule. I think the blame for this disturbing trend can be directly placed on the original rhetoric of Hitchens that is now being promulgated by Harris.

  2. Hugo Lindum says:

    To say that the problem in Islam and it’s violence towards non-believers is only a problem of Wahabiism is not the case.

    Recent in-depth interviews with 1,081 Muslims in the UK, which can probably be seen on line (Channel4 “What do Muslems Believe”) is quite shocking and supports the belief that significant numbers, not just a few percent, of westernised Muslims support violence against non-Muslims.

    You could also read or listen on Radio4 online, the views of Trevor Phillips, the former head of the U.K. Race Relations Board, who now believes contrary to his beliefs of 20 years ago, that large numbers of Muslims have attitudes that are at odds with western democratic societies, and support violence against those societies.

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