Sunday, 25 August 2013

Some Christians Pay Company To Monitor The Porn Sites They Visit: Fear of Hell Apparently Not Good Enough

When I was a boy, I took religion very seriously. I was a very Catholic child.

During confession, the priest was very interested in how many times I touched myself and where I touched myself. He must have just needed all the details to be able to properly calculate how many Hail Marys I had to recite. Yeah, that must be it.

I can remember feeling terribly shameful about masturbation right up to high school. Then, I stopped caring and I didn't go blind and my world didn't collapse. It was around this time I got my first 1200 baud modem that connected me to what came before the Internet - the magical world of online bulletin board systems.

And with that came my first exposure to online porn. Ever since then, I've looked at porn and I don't think it's had a negative affect. My friends know, my wife knows, it's not a big deal.

But apparently, it's a big deal to many Christians. You see, I was reading an article on a Catholic website when I came across an advert for the e-book Your Brain On Porn: 5 proven ways pornography warps your mind and 3 biblical ways to renew it. I couldn't resist. This deadly online temptation was too much for me to handle.

The book explains how detrimental exposure to pornography is and then offers the solution to this problem: get with God. In other words, pornography is very bad and dangerous and the only cure that can prevent us from falling prey to it is Jesus Christ... oh, and some software the site is pushing.

It turns out the book is being given away by Covenant Eyes, which is software that does Internet Accountability and Filtering.

The company logo is this creepy looking eyeball, that will watch your every click.

Being a father, I can understand installing internet filters and monitoring software to protect my four year old son from downloading objectionable material. In fact, Internet is disabled on his IPad and altering that feature requires a password.

What makes this software so odd is its accountability feature that's meant to dissuade adults (mostly men) from watching pornography.

Essentially, this software will log every site you visit and send a report to your Accountability Partner, who will then be able to discuss these sites with you. Sounds awkward, doesn't it? Here's a snippet from a comment on a Covenant Eyes information page:
Covenant Eyes is perfect for the college/highschool student. Web filtering software poses difficult problems when you need to do research, because many of your searches get blocked. I have used covenant eyes for over a year and LOVE it because I can do my research for school, and there are no restrictions. Instead, covenant eyes simply sends a detailed report of every website I look at to my wife's email each week. She can see where I've been and what I've been doing. It adds a huge level of accountablility to my life in a non-restrictive way. I highly recomend covenant eyes.

My first reactions are: How old is this guy, twelve? and Does your wife have all her browsing reports sent to you as well? What's she looking at?

It's amazing how sharing erotic material between two consenting adults is often seen as a fairly healthy practice to spice things up a little in mainstream culture but how darn creepy it can become within Christian culture.

Although I cannot think of any site I visit that my wife would disapprove of, I still cannot get enthusiastic about the idea of having all my searches and site visits sent to her in a weekly report. Honestly, it seems sort of pathetic to me.

Well, the Covenant Eyes website gives us the story of pastor Josh and his wife Serena.

Here's a summary. One day Serena discovers that Josh has been having an affair. So rather than leave him or seek marriage counselling, they both pick up and leave town. Then Josh goes to a church-funded retreat with a bunch of men to a cabin, where they all play a game of association using some picture cards (party on).

Josh picks a picture of a busted up bike and then breaks down in tears. When asked why he spills the beans to his newfound band of brothers all about the porn, the cheating, the lying.

Because you know, first comes porn, then comes cheating, then comes lying. Or not. Actually, most of the time first comes porn, then comes masturbation, then comes orgasm and then comes the rest of your day. But I could be out of touch.
After the mountain retreat, a small group of men began meeting weekly to encourage each other. Like Josh, these men had also divulged their dirty and sordid pasts during the retreat. He knew, meeting with them, they were men who had experienced great changes in their lives. They were men who knew the allure of sin, but they also knew how to fight it. 
Every man in Josh’s group had Covenant Eyes Accountability Software on their computers. Each week they would get one another’s Internet reports, giving a detailed list of all the websites they had visited. As they met weekly to encourage one another, they weren’t afraid to call Josh out if they saw something questionable in his life—online or offline.
Holy crap would I ever find that awkward. Sitting around talking about all the nasty sites we all visited over the week. Awkward or hilarious maybe.

Seriously though. I never knew this was a thing in Christian culture. You see, when your pastor (rumour has it that 40% of pastors are themselves addicted to porn) tells you lust is a bad thing, it's pretty freaking tragic.  And that masturbation is a bad thing, which is also pretty freaking tragic.  And that pornography is evil and damaging - well you ned to avoid these things at all cost. The godless heathen that I am, I find all this most depressing.

Anyway, it seems like a whole industry has grown up in Christian culture all about avoiding porn. And it's in this culture that companies like Covenant Eyes have became a thing and are offering digital chastity belts to discourage people from visiting pornographic websites.  (And I mean bad chastity belts, not the kind some kinky folk out there seem to use. And by bad I mean really lousy, not bad like naughty bad.)

Okay! Anyway.

This is pretty big business. Covenant Eyes with just the accountability component costs $8.99 per month and $2.00 per month for each additional user. If you want filtering on top of this, it'll cost a bit more.

They'll even disconnect your internet service on your PC completely until you get the courage to give their online support a call to have it reinstated. You need only press the panic button!
When someone is struggling with temptation online, they can click our Panic Button to cut off their Internet access until they feel stronger. To reinstate the connection, call our Customer Support team for free assistance.
The idea being promoted is that all forms of lust and temptation must be stoically suppressed to guarantee purity. Here's an extract from a guest post on Andy Naselli's blog. The guest poster is actually one of Andy's accountability partners.
Fighting lust is an all-out war. Even though it’s not the only front on which the battle is fought, one crucial strategy for fighting lust is accountability. And even though the Internet is not the only place where a guy struggles with temptation, Internet accountability is one of the most crucial aspects of accountability today.
You see, I think lust is absolutely awesome and that it often leads to wonderful things. Oh well, I am after all one of the lost ones. I really don't get it anymore.
The dawn of the Internet Age hasn’t created my problem; it’s just provided one more way for me to be tempted. I’ve struggled with lust as long as I can remember (even before the Internet). My deliberate warfare against my lustful heart began as I was a young Christian in junior high (when Google didn’t exist). Since high school I’ve used a biblical meditation plan to help me fight. But this meditation plan, helpful as it is, isn’t enough. For the last ten years, I’ve used Internet accountability. But this strategy isn’t the “end all” method for fighting sin, either.
Well, it could be because your a human being. It's very difficult to change this I'm afraid. But I can give you one piece of useful advice. Why not just masturbate?

I'm watching you! Wait, not good enough to keep you off YouPorn? Okay, your wife and best friend Jed will see
the report at the end of the week.
But here's my biggest area of confusion about this whole thing. I cannot count the number of times I've heard Christians say that without a belief in God nobody would have any reason to be moral. Indeed, if there is no god then humanity is left - gasp! - to police itself. And we all know that's impossible, right?

If Christians truly believe in a God that will potentially throw them into an eternal hell fire for having impure thoughts, watching pornography or masturbating, then what is the disconnect here? Isn't the fear of their almighty, just an vengeful god enough to keep them from clicking that mouse button? Isn't it enough to get them to turn off their monitors? Apparently not.

Apparently, it's social consequences that are more effective. Like their unbelieving brothers and sisters, the threat of humiliation, shaming and punishment from fellow humans really does the trick better than some imaginary friend in the sky.

As such, I'm not sure they truly believe everything they say they do, but we both have one thing in common, there is no deterrent more powerful than the possibility of hurting a best friend or spouse - no matter how messed up the reasons for the hurt are.  This is the principle of minimizing harm and avoiding social judgement. You know, the working parts of a humanistic ethical system.

That said, I recognize that porn addiction is a real thing. Perhaps systems like this are useful to people who suffer a debilitating addiction to it.

Edit 2013-08-26: Based on a comment from Lothar Lorraine, I changed the title of the post from 'Christians Pay Company..." to "Some Christians Pay Company".

Edit 2013-08-30: Corrected word 'addition' to read 'addiction'. Thanks to reader Calix for pointing this out!

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  1. Hello GP, what about the countless Christians who think this is utterly stupid?

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

  2. Mea Culpa. I changed the title to say "Some Christians". I was guilty of lumping all Christians into one basket. Thanks for pointing this out and excellent comment.

  3. Hello Godless Poutine,

    thanks for your nice answer!

    Christians like me who reject arbitrary dogma and base their entire ethics on the Golden Rule don’t generally act in this way. On my blog, I argue at length there are strong philosophical and theological grounds for doing so.

    One example of an applied sexual ethic flowing out of it can be seen here:

    That said, I do believe that Westerners are wrong in many ways concerning their usual sexual behavior.

    I try to foster an open conversation between people having very different worldviews on my blog.

    You would be most welcome there to criticize my ideas and express your atheistic thoughts :=)

    Lovely greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    P.S: could it be that French is a mother-tongue for both of us? I come from a Germanic ethnical minority in France.

  4. I...used to do this. But it was with a company called xxxchurch and it was free. And then one day I realized that a little porn every now and then is really not that bad, and I don't have to feel guilty about it. I also didn't want my brother to know every time I looked at some tig ol bitties.

  5. Thanks for your comment Wubdub! Yeah, the whole sending your report to someone else is creepy.

  6. I'm sure he meant 'addiction' and not 'addition' in the last sentence.

    Interesting article, especially from "but here's my biggest confusion...."

  7. Thanks for pointing that out! Correction made.

  8. I absolutely LOVE this!! I only wish I could find a list like this of information. Do you happen to know of any lists like that?


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