Atheists Have Best Sex Lives, Mormons Most Guilty About Sex? Dr Darrel Ray

Uploaded by MidweekPolitics on 01.07.2011

Announcer: The David Pakman Show at
David: Back on The David Pakman Show, giving away an iPad just minutes away. You can hear
The David Pakman Show on the go if you've got an iPhone or Android phone, download the
Stitcher Smart Radio app and put in promo code "David", you'll be entered to win $100,
and also be supporting The David Pakman Show, which is really what everybody should want
to be and should be doing.
Let's get right to our interview with Dr. Darrel Ray. We spoke to him just before the
start of today's show.
Darrel Ray is an organizational pscyhologist, consultant, and author of "The God Virus:
How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture", and he's also founder of the organization
Recovering From Religion.
Dr. Ray, this is fantastic, I'm so glad to speak to you. I have so many questions. You
did this study, which involved 14,500 respondents, and tell me what was the goal of doing the
study, and then what did you find out?
Darrel Ray: Well, we were looking at six hypotheses, but the overall goal was just to find out
what's going on in the secular community. As most people know, almost all religions
are pretty consumed with sex, and we just wanted to know what happens when you leave.
I guess the biggest thing that we found was the level of guilt that people experience
around their sex or sexuality drops amazingly. I mean, in other words, secularists just don't
seem to have much guilt once they've left religion.
David: Well, I would argue probably a lot of more religious people would say that's
the problem with atheists, right? They don't feel guilty about the stuff they're doing,
one of which would be having sex.
Ray: [Laughs] Exactly, exactly. But we have to remember, it doesn't matter whether you're
Christian or Mormon or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist, every religion seems consumed with
sex and sexuality, and they all have their own unique little twist on it, but what they've
found is that sex keeps you coming back. And I talk about this in my book "The God Virus".
And that was one of the reasons I wanted to do the research. I talk about the concept
of the guilt cycle, and it's a new concept, I don't think anybody's ever read about...
or, written about it before I was writing about it. The guilt cycle is simply... it's
pretty simple, it's that religion teaches you the disease, and then gives you a false
cure for that disease. So religion teaches you guilt, and then turns around and says
oh, but we can absolve you of that guilt if you just come to our particular church. So
David: Now, your background is you... you know a lot about this; you were actually raised
a fundamentalist Christian, is that right? I mean, now I think you consider yourself
an atheist, but that was your upbringing, fundamentalist Christian?
Ray: Very much so. My parents even became missionaries. My grandfather was a country
church minister, my other grandfather was chairman of the board of a very conservative
church. I mean, I've got relatives that are missionaries and ministers even today. So
yeah, it's pretty strong in my family.
David: So how do you end up... I mean, I spoke... interestingly enough, you're in Kansas, I
spoke with Nathan Phelps, who's one of the sons of Fred Phelps, of course the "God Hates
Fags" church, he left, and he told this incredible story about leaving at midnight on his 18th
birthday. And it's an unusual story in the sense that, much the same way that one's politics
often mirror those of their parents, I think religion even more so tends to. How did you
end up leaving?
Ray: Well, Nathan is actually a friend of mine. He's actually been to my house. We have
a good... a kind of interesting relationship, but... sharing, swapping stories and such.
It was a long process for me.
My family did the best they could, and their religion was an important part of it. I don't...
I don't hold any grudges or anything against my family, I just, you know, at one point
in time... I went into the ministry, I have a master's degree in religion from Scarritt
College for Christian Workers, before I went on to get my doctorate at Vanderbilt, and...
in psychology. And I just, after going through two years of that stuff, I realized I couldn't
tell somebody else to believe what I didn't believe.
So it was a slow process. I also had family, I had a kid, lots of very religious in-laws,
you know, all that stuff that keeps you... you just can't hardly leave. And so I finally
was able to make a break after I got divorced, and I was able to get some perspective outside
of... outside of having to go to church every Sunday. I mean, it was almost unheard-of that
nobody would go... somebody would not go to church every Sunday in my family.
David: So then you...
Ray: But anyway, that wasn't...
David: Yeah. So eventually you become an atheist, you do this study. Now, you can understand
why many would say well, you're coming at this from a very particular perspective, so
when you say, as many of the headlines do, atheists have the best sex lives, you can
understand why people would say well, hold on a second, this guy is looking for this
particular answer. He's already... he's already bought into one side of the argument.
Ray: Well, that's... yeah, that's the criticism, but I'm a scientist first. I'm not an ex-religionist
or an atheist. I want to know the truth. I'm after what's the real facts out there, not...
I'm not trying to support my opinion one way or the other. And that's... and that's why
there was... there were so many surprises. We had a number of different things.
But one of the checks, we have several checks, David, in our research. Yeah, 14,500 people
filled it out, almost 10,000 completed it. We have to just say that there's two different
numbers here. And so it's over a 65% completion rate, and we had 69 questions. It took about
an hour for people to fill this out online.
And we had no control over who took it, any more than other sex researchers have control.
So one of the biggest criticisms we get is that it wasn't randomized. Well, I defy you
to find a randomized sexual study. It's just not possible.
David: Sure, as we know. I interviewed Paul Cameron, the incredible anti-gay, ex-gay-type
activist, and he once had assumptions based on 17 people filling out a survey he personally
gave them. So certainly we have to look at that information. He still stood by those
results, by the way.
Ray: Oh...
David: You know, the thing that isn't part of this study that I would be interested to
compare to is what is the sexual satisfaction of people who are still practising their original
religion, because we're looking at people who have left their religion...
Ray: Right.
David: ... and it would be interesting to have those other numbers to compare to.
Ray: It would be, but you know, if you put a survey up on the Baptist church's website
and said answer these 69 questions, I'm betting we wouldn't get a very high participation
rate, because some of the questions we ask are pretty, you know, pretty wild, with respect
to religionists, you know, like when did you start masturbating? Well, you're not supposed
to be masturbating if you're a Baptist or a Catholic. So it's... we probably wouldn't
be able to get people to respond too well. So it's...
David: And how ironic, by the way, that there's 69 questions in this test, but we'll leave
that for a different day.
Ray: Yeah. [Connection cuts] We did not intend that.
David: Can you address any specific sexual practices more common among Mormons we should
be keeping an eye out now that Mitt Romney is a Republican front-runner?
Ray: Well, I don't... if you've looked at the survey, you'll notice something, and one
of the internal checks is is there a difference, by denomination, in guilt level? One of the
questions we asked was when you were still religious, how much... how much guilt were
you taught? And it went one to-- 10 to-- a scale of one to 10, excuse me.
Well, what we found is we could actually classify groups, or denominations, by how much they
used guilt. Well, you may not... you may be surprised to know that Catholics, of course,
are the ones that everybody says are the most guilt-ridden religion. Our research shows
something different. Our research actually shows the number one most guilt-ridden religion
among the 14,500 people we questioned is Mormonism.
So yeah, there's some stuff there. And what we found, we found some fascinating stuff.
We found that Unitarians are the least guilt-ridden people in our whole sample, even less guilty
than atheists and agnostics, which is... which is interesting.
David: Huh. And where do Jews figure on that scale?
Ray: Jews were very much on the low end. But we have to remember, we've probably got a
lot of cultural Jews in our sample, people who were raised pretty secular to begin with.
David: Yeah.
Ray: I doubt if [connection cuts] former Orthodox Jews filled out our survey.
David: And you know, it's interesting, because my producer feels an incredible amount of
guilt when it comes to sexual activity, but it's not so much because of the religion,
it's more he just feels bad for the women that are subjected to his advances, you know.
Ray: Our research didn't look at that detail.
David: That would be the next study, I think. So in general, you're not saying that you
can say specifically that atheists have the best sex lives, but what seems to be very
clear is that the amount of guilt associated with sexual activity seems to decrease significantly
when not bound by the teachings of a particular religion?
Ray: You've captured it perfectly. That's exactly what we say. And those darn headlines,
you know, journalists that haven't even read the report, say that-- we have better... atheists
have better sex, it's just... we didn't say that. We say you have less guilt around sex.
That probably, I mean, I would guess it leads to better sex, but I can't prove that. I didn't...
that wasn't what I was studying. We didn't go into anybody's bedroom, we didn't count
orgasms, we didn't count the number of orgasms. We did look at other research, though, and
there is some other research, not directly related to religion.
And one of the criticisms, of course, is that you're, you know, you're testing a bunch of
atheists, but a lot of our people... other people that filled this out were very dedicated
to a religion at one point in time. We had Seventh-Day Adventists, we had Baptists, we
had Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, we had them all. So there's quite a bit of
former religiosity here.
Some of these people were Sunday school teachers and going to church three and four times a
week. They were very dedicated to their religion. So the questions we asked were around well,
OK, how did this work for you when you were religious versus how when you left? And we
were able to compare all these different... I think we had 28 different religions, self-identified
religions in this sample.
So now we can discriminate between these and find out, you know, what are the teachings,
kind of the focus of each one of these? And we got some real interesting results. For
example, it didn't matter how religious you were, some of these people had even gone through
abstinence-only training and that sort of stuff when they were still religious, it did
not matter how religious you were, you started masturbating about the same time as a non-religiously
raised child.
David: You know, I did read that, and I encourage everybody to go check out the study. I looked
through it, and it's fascinating. We've been speaking with Darrel Ray, organizational psychologist,
author of "The God Virus". And you know, I think the next study that you should do is
let's look at the bizarre sexual practices of anti-gay zealots. I think that my audience
would be fascinated by that. Dr. Darrel Ray, great to talk to you. Thanks so much.
Ray: Thank you, David.
David: OK, take care.
All right, on today's bonus show, Chris Hansen from "Dateline NBC" caught cheating by a hidden
camera. That would certainly be ironic, or "oronic", to quote Michele Bachmann, Mark
Halperin suspended by MSNBC for calling President Obama a "dick", and some new tennis grunt-silencing
technology on the BBC. Apparently they're taking the tennis grunting very, very seriously
over there, Louis. So, we'll give away the iPad just minutes away,
and plenty more to talk about. Stay tuned, back after this.
Announcer: The David Pakman Show at
Transcript provided by Alex Wickersham and For transcripts, translations,
captions, and subtitles, or for more information, visit, or contact Alex