I remember being introduced to this concept in college by my classics professor, Dr. Boughner. It was eye opening on two levels, because the concept itself is worthy of discussing at length, and also because it opened my eyes to the notion that phenomena exist around us which we are superficially aware of, but which we don’t really focus on, simply because they lack a name.
Dr. Boughner was a philologist, which is a fancy way of saying he studied language. Not foreign languages, exactly, but the very philosophical nature of language, how our use of words actually has an effect on how we think. I remember having a very long discussion with him about procreationism in his office.
It was here that I learned of how young atheism is. There had been a fundamental shift in the definition of the word “atheist” during the 19th century, and Dr. Boughner insisted that no one before this time was an atheist in the way we think of it today. And indeed, there is not a single piece of written evidence that suggests anyone denied the very existence of gods before this time.
Atheist meant “against the gods” before it meant “lack of belief in gods.” An atheist was labeled such for their impiety, blasphemy, or simple immorality. The forerunner for atheist in the modern sense was “deist,” which implied the gods were unimportant, because all they did was get the ball rolling on the universe while it ran unattended under the laws discovered by science.
Atheism was the next logical step, because it finds no need to refer to gods in instances where knowledge is unsure. Atheism was the child of Deism and Agnosticism, an understanding that the world was governed by laws, not a personal deity, and that the creation of the universe need not be explained using the primitive notion of gods simply because we don’t know for certain what the real answer is.
But deep down… don’t you just know there had to be some individuals who didn’t believe, well before any of this? We have no proof, since they left no written record of the idea, nor did they talk with anyone about it long enough to create the vocabulary necessary. There is no evidence in the scientific sense…
However, I believe that some individuals somewhere, at sometime, maybe not even particularly intelligent or wise individuals, managed to come up with at least the slightest inkling of the notion that the gods are a bunch of hooey. Someone had to have been the little child who pointed out the emperor had no clothes, and maybe they were quickly “corrected,” but still, someone at some point before the 19th century must have doubted the very existence of the gods.
While everyone has heard of creationism, not many people have heard of procreationism. It’s a term slowly making the rounds in academic circles and which occasionally leaks out in literature or perhaps in an editorial or two. But it’s not particularly mysterious or difficult, so if you’re in the dark, fear not.
Procreationism is the belief that the sole purpose of sex is for procreation. While the two are not really related, it has some similar qualities as creationism. For one thing, most people who believe in either of them are religious fanatics. Also, both are mind-rapingly wrong.
I guess you don’t have to be religious to believe in procreationism, but I think it helps. Just to be clear, procreationism means that any sort of sexual activity that is not between a married couple for the purposes of having children is wrong. This means premarital sex, masturbation, hand jobs, blow jobs, anal, homosexuality, post-menopausal intercourse, or any acts done with someone who is sterile are expressly immoral. I’m sure there is a spectrum in there where some of the less Biblically-attested examples above are waived, but for the most part, sex is not seen as something that should be for anything but making babies in the eyes of a procreationist.
I should also point out that the overwhelmingly vast majority of people, whether or not they are religious, do not hold strict procreationist views. However, I think the idea is there, and people implicitly acknowledge the line exists, even if they had never thought to think about it before.
And while most people don’t adhere to it strictly, parts of it have become part of our culture, and even public policy. Our numerous hang-ups on sex are largely traced to the artificial shame imposed by what is essentially procreationist dogma that exists in Christianity. Schools teach unrealistic abstinence education courses in lieu of real sexual education, and our schools now have some of the most disease ridden pregnant teens in the industrialized world because of it.
The Religious Right had their chance, and they proved once again that Theocracy fails. We should start taxing churches the way we tax any business, that might pick up some of the slack. Why do they get a free pass just because they’re selling bullshit?