Age of Consent and Age of Purity Pledging

Not old enough to give consent? No worries. Make a purity pledge!

I’m lucky enough to have been raised by a family that didn’t really push purity pledges until I was in high school, which, if you’re going to make one, isn’t horribly early for most people. The thing is, they also failed to give me adequate sex ed while I was homeschooled, so I didn’t learn about sex until I was 15, which, coincidentally, was after I’d already made a purity pledge a year earlier.

While consent is hard to define, and is often defined by the situations in which a person cannot give consent rather than the ones in which someone can, I suspect most people can agree that consent should be informed. That means that the people involved have to know what they’re agreeing to in order to say yes to it. I think that’s a fair requirement, since there can be lots of negative consequences to saying yes to things one doesn’t understand. Don’t understand how loans work? Don’t get one. Don’t understand sex? Don’t have it. Don’t understand the rules of the road? Don’t drive. (Please, please don’t. That one has the added problem of endangering others as well as yourself.)  

But then you have my situation. Can a student who doesn’t know how sex works truly make a binding promise to not do it for an extended period of time? Now, granted, it was a promise to myself and God, not a legal document or an agreement to have my genitalia mutilated. But I was 14. There are girls who make that pledge at age 9, or younger, at ages when they’re not able to fully understand what they’re agreeing to. They may be told they’re agreeing to be “pure,” which certainly sounds positive. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with deciding to abstain from sex if that’s something that you think is a good idea for you. It’s certainly the safest option, but if you don’t understand it, is it fair to expect you to make that promise?

Then there’s the issue of the way many of these purity programs are run. If you’re put into a room with 100 girls, and told, “Here’s a piece of paper. Write down a promise to yourself to be pure” (which is basically what happened to me), you’d be very weird if you stood up and said, “No thanks.” So not only are you being encouraged to make this promise, you’re being pressured to do so by the crowd around you. To me, that seems less personal and less binding than a promise made to oneself based on an informed decision, and also made without outside influence. I’ve made multiple purity “pledges” in my life, and in the end, none of them was binding to me. When I became informed, and eventually met someone who was attractive and kind and with whom I was seriously considering having sex, I made a decision not to because I wasn’t ready. But when I eventually became emotionally capable of it, I decided to study my earlier pledges. Were they binding? The first one, the one I made at 14 without any information, was not. But the later ones? They were all made in a similar situation to the first:  on retreats where girls were taken into a room to write letters to themselves. That was nice, but there was considerable peer pressure involved. Sure, I could have written nonsense and signed Micky Mouse, but what if someone had noticed? I wasn’t a rebel back then. Even if I had objected to the pledge, I would have written it down, and signed it, just like everybody else. That peer pressure, to me, makes it no longer binding. You can argue that I’m rationalizing it, but it’s not a legal document, and the only person I promised besides myself is a divine being whom I no longer believe in, so at least in my case, the only person I’m disagreeing with is my younger self–and she and I would disagree on a lot of things, not just sex.

The whole peer pressure issue doesn’t just apply to sex in my opinion, and I may get some disagreement on this, but I’m not fond of marriage proposals made in crowded places, especially with any kind of camera or spotlight involved. Football games, Hockey games, Baseball, Basketball–I don’t care, I would be thoroughly pissed off if someone proposed to me at one. Just think about the pressure! All eyes in the packed stadium are on you, and if you say no,  what started as a sweet moment has ended with labeling yourself a cold bitch. The audience wants you to say yes! If you say no, you’ve disappointed them. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people say yes, and then say no when they’re in a private place. I’d say that sucks for the person who proposed, but he or she should have considered the large public pressure before deciding to propose in that place. Granted, there are some cases where the couple has already agreed to get married, and the public proposal is just their way of publicly declaring their engagement–that’s fine by me. But to do it in such a public way without any warning is extremely inconsiderate, and frankly, manipulative. It’s a big decision to make, and when you consider how easily people are influenced by what they think the people around them expect, it makes peer pressure all the more problematic.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if teens or young adults realize that they want to have sex, and decide to, they’re going to rationalize that decision. Don’t want to let them do that? Then encourage them to make a promise in a way that they feel is binding, not in a way that involves peer pressure, or pressure from adult authorities. In the end, the decision to remain pure is up to them, and while choosing to have sex is a big decision, choosing to avoid it is too.

Worship: Why Do It?

Something that Catholics get a lot of crap for is worshiping figures other than God, such as idols, Mary, and the saints. They say no, we’re not worshiping those people, we’re honoring them, as you would honor a war veteran or a hero. They’re role models. And I get it. I understand the distinction between honoring the saints and worship, and I don’t see anything wrong with considering the saints great role models if you’re religious (except in the case of St. Rita. But that’s a topic for another day.) I do, however, take issue with the act of worship itself, and what the supposed necessity of worship says about who God is.

Think about it. Why does God want us to worship Him, and why should we do it?

Here are some reasons I can think of, and my responses to them:

1)  God is our creator. He made the universe, so we need to worship Him.

Well, ok. I like to paint. I sure do appreciate compliments on my painting skills, but I don’t want my friends and family to worship me for them. Compliments should be earned, so they shouldn’t come in a continuous stream. They should appear when they are deserved so that they mean something. Sure, if one believes in God, He would appear to have done a great number of good things. He is believed to have created the universe, so sure, praise Him for that. Thank Him for that. But why do that every minute of every day for the rest of your life, and expect everyone else to do that too? Doesn’t God expect us to do other things with our lives than shower Him with praise? Doesn’t He eventually (or instantly since he’s omniscient) get tired of people bowing to Him and repeating prayers like the Our Father (a.k.a. the Lord’s Prayer) over and over again? While writing this, I’m listening to my parents pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which is a repetitive prayer kind of like the rosary that is (surprise surprised) prayed using a rosary. It’s somewhat shorter, but it’s just as repetitive. Catholics are fantastic at repetitive prayer. They have a ton of prayers to choose from, and can combine them into advanced combo prayers like the rosary, which somehow are supposed to get them more attention. But now, God has to listen to a ton of people saying the same words over and over again. It’s like getting a form letter from every single person on Earth instead of a personalized message. It’s not more personal, and it doesn’t do anything to “build a relationship with God,” a goal I will address later.

2) Worshiping God will help us get to heaven.

That seems an awful lot like kissing up to me. Assuming it does help us get to heaven, that would mean that God only wants people who kiss His ass and grovel before Him to come to paradise. Imagine if you’re the smartest person in the world, and everyone else doesn’t come close to your intelligence. Wouldn’t you want to encourage the people around you to learn more, and to reach their full potential in the hopes that you can have some real intellectual companionship? According to Christianity, God would rather have a bunch of “faith-filled” people bowing to Him and singing His praise over and over again than real friends. A truly omniscient God should find this boring, but the Christian God loves it.

Which brings me to reason number 3:

3)  Worshiping God and praying to Him will help you build a relationship with Him.

As nice as it feels to receive a compliment, I expect more out of my relationships with people than endless praise and admiration. I crave things like intellectual stimulation, companionship, and a helping hand when needed. If I wanted someone to praise me endlessly, I’d hire someone to do it. It would get old really fast, though. I’ve heard many times that prayer is how one forms a relationship with God, and that worship helps with that too. But what kind of relationship involves one person expecting constant praise and worship, and the other person giving it obediently? That sounds like the relationship between an evil villain and his terrified lackey. I mean, Voldemort has that kind of relationship with some of his Death Eaters. What kind of benevolent God wants his ass kissed? An insecure God, of course. But an all-powerful, all-knowing God shouldn’t be insecure, should He? That just doesn’t fit. Either God doesn’t need to be worshiped, or He isn’t the God Christians believe Him to be.

Seriously, what does God get out of being worshiped? I’ve seen TV shows where an evil character (usually a cartoon) grows more powerful the more people shout compliments at it, or praise. That’s not how God’s supposed to be though–He’s supposed to already have all the power He needs. He can do whatever He wants, and should be intelligent enough to expect more from His INTELLIGENT creations than perpetual groveling.

This video on YouTube posted by DarkMatter2525 let me know that I wasn’t the only one to see a problem with this, and it partially inspired this post. His channel in general has helped me view my former religion in a way I hadn’t before, so I highly recommend checking it out.  

Happy thinking!