30 Bad Ideas Men Should Embrace if They Want to Destroy Themselves, Part I


See the previous parts of this ongoing series exploring culture, relationships, and religion through books:

April 11: Men Should Read Lisa De Pasquale’s Sexy Memoir

Lisa’s book provokes many questions and this post is the beginning of a series to host and encourage a discussion about them. Lisa organizes her book around 7 different men — Chris the Atheist, Joe the Catholic, John the Evangelical, Preston the Quaker, Ryan the Preacher, Adam the Jew, and Brandon the Nondenominational Believer — and how her pursuit of them shaped her own religious journey. I’m going to give each one at least one blog post excerpting from her book and raising a question for debate…. Lisa’s memoir is an inspiring journey through her own struggles with the idols she’s worshiped. In future posts I’ll consider an idol-based reading of her book in juxtaposition with other texts and the stories of the day. Recognizing the idol we’re worshiping that’s keeping us enslaved is the first step to picking it up, smashing it, and finding the free life God wants us to have. Lisa’s book collects the fragments of seven of her smashed idols and there’s much we can learn from her. Stay tuned, in future posts I’ll also consider Lisa’s insights alongside two related books I’ve read recently, Kathy Shaidle’s Confessions of a Failed Slut (which Ed Driscoll interviewed her about here today) and Dr. Helen Smith’s Men On Strike

April 17: The Normal Way Godless Men Treat Women (A discussion of Chris the Atheist’s sexual violence against Lisa and its ancient cultural roots.)

June 26 at the PJ Tatler: 30 Books For Defeating Valerie Jarrett’s Cult of Political Criminals.

That Sunday, June 29, excerpting a section of it at PJ Lifestyle: 5 Deep Books For Overcoming Our Addiction to Idol Worship

Here are links to round 1 of a debate at PJ inspired by the “spreadsheet husband” that ran July 20-24:

This extended list article today, tomorrow, and Wednesday Friday draws from the debate’s comments and juxtaposes them with excerpts from Finding Mr. Righteous, 3 of the 5 books on idolatry, and a few more related titles.

This can be understood as opening up Round 2 and and inviting others to participate. Send submissions in response to these subjects to DaveSwindlePJM {@} gmail.com or please leave comments below or feel free to get in touch on Twitter: @DaveSwindle (We should start featuring more Twitter discussions at PJ Lifestyle…)


Dear Lisa,

I hope your last few months have been less tumultuous than mine. After almost a month in our new apartment in South L.A., April and I are starting to get comfortable and settled — we finally tested out the pool yesterday. (Siberian Husky Maura remained skeptical and chose not to go in even though our landlord said she could. Someday we hope to get her swimming. She does enjoy going to the beach.) Here’s a picture of her exploring the new town, I’m going to try to collect more sunrise pictures of her:

After the first two posts in the series on your book I ran into a writer’s block, a challenge that I’ve now at last overcome: how best to explain the difference between Judeo-Christians and pagan Christians, one of the phenomena your book illustrates so vividly. This is my way of trying to contribute to understanding the wide range of religious relationship experiences you had over the years and why they varied so much amongst men who were supposedly committed to the same holy book, worshipping the same God. Illustrating the paganism of your first failed Mr. Righteous, Chris the Atheist, was easy enough. Camille Paglia is probably the most perceptive writer today analyzing the cultural blend of secularism and amoral neopagan values.


But in analyzing the varieties of Christianity in the context of their ratio of pagan to Jewish influences, there’s another writer — who’s exhibited an even stronger influence on my views the last three years — who I want to encourage you to consider both for future writings and for his insights on life in general.

David P. Goldman is a PJ columnist with a diverse background and a knowledge base ranging from economics and finance to history, philosophy, art, music and culture, to religion and theology. I read his book How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying Too) a few years ago and make it a point to try and edit as many of his pieces here at PJ as I can. I’ve just recently acquired and read his essay collection It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of You: The Great Extinction of the Nations.

Among Goldman’s unique insights is to apply the theological writings of Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig and his magnum opus The Star of Redemption to understand demographic and cultural trends today, particularly why it is that so many nations and people around the world choose to destroy themselves. Goldman’s answer: secularism produces hopelessness and does not inspire people to marry and reproduce. There is a big link between religiosity, family size, and happiness. Goldman lays out the data to both show that it’s there and then, through explaining Rosenzweig’s analysis of pagan, Jewish, and Christian cultures, explain how to fix it.

And it starts with applying it to our own lives — his ideas are just as useful at the macro level as they are for understanding ourselves and interpersonal relationships. The same techniques the West needs to use for defeating the sex-and-murder worshipping barbarians on the global stage we can use for overcoming these challenges in their smaller manifestations in the people around us and in our own unruly, jealous hearts.

So here are some of the bad ideas that your book does a great job of exposing — warning signs for both men and women — and some related ideas too that will yield further insights into the challenge of overcoming the stumbling blocks preventing us from being the righteous people our friends and family need us to be.

1. Drunken, Chain-Smoking Cynicism

As embodied by Chris the Atheist on page 14 of Finding Mr. Righteous:

If he couldn’t do that, he couldn’t control his other impulses either. His impulse to drink. His impulse to be so cynical about the world. His impulse to leave me because I wasn’t thin.

Lisa, did you choose to give the fake name “Chris” for the atheist boyfriend after Christopher Hitchens? Am I the only one who sees some parallels between the two with their pronounced atheism, addictions, and the wild mood swings?

It’s rarely stated this simply and basically but much of what religion produces is a sense of discipline to learn how to control one’s moods and correct bad habits. To really practice a religion one needs to develop the discipline to be able to read, study and debate the Bible. And the process of doing that allows one to gradually gain the strength to conquer the ups and downs of our moods.


2. Racial Nationalism: aka “Ethnic Self-Adoration” aka Pagan Tribalism

As described in David P. “Spengler” Goldman’s It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of You, on page 28:

Idolatry in the form of ethnic self-adoration never waned among the European peoples, despite their centuries of Christian Tutelage.

Lisa, like you I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with Christianity over the years. But it was never God or Jesus that was the problem for me. It hasn’t been a question of “Does God exist?” but rather, “Which understanding of God is most accurate? And what does He require of me?” I’ve wandered in the theological wilderness, weighing one doctrine against another, perpetually trying to find theologians, books, and philosophers who can illuminate the path forward.

Goldman in his books provides a history lesson of what it took for Christianity to dominate Europe, how this compromise inspired the creation of America, and the deadly impact it has today. Christianity has evolved and grown since the beginning through a process of syncretism, taking the customs of and cultures of neighboring peoples and reinventing and adapting them to the faith. Sometimes this works well and other times it doesn’t. At root Christianity functions through combining the traditions of the Jews with those of pagan (nature-worshipping) tribes. (“Where do chocolate bunnies on Easter and Evergreen trees and magic elves on Christmas come from?” the snarky atheist activist of today likes to point out as though he’s discovered something new and radical.)

I think what inspired me to flee the Christianity of my teen years was that the balance was off — it was too pagan, too New Testament-focused, and deeply lacking in an understanding of the Old Testament and the Jewish tradition. What was most missing? A real deep understanding of the 2nd Commandment and what it’s designed to defeat: idolatry. Without an understanding of what idols are and how they work then the Christian creates idols without even realizing it. And then the emotional satisfaction he receives from it he mistakes for an authentic spiritual experience.

That was one of my big angers from my young Christian days, when I came to accept that emotional experiences had been sold to me as Godly encounters, when really my emotions were just being manipulated by skilled preachers who knew what buttons to push.

“Rosenzweig contends that it is the Jewish mission to guard Christianity against idolatry.” – page 89 of Leora Batnitzky’s Idolatry and Representation: the Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered.

3. Pauline Christian Apocalypticist Paganism: Believing that wives should be whores, serving their husband whatever he wants on command, and then, worse, using the Apostle Paul as Biblical justification.

Be skeptical about marriage advice from a celibate guy who wishes fewer people would get married — just like him — and who believes the world is coming to an end.


As described in this very first comment exchange from “Would You Want a Husband This Incompetent at Turning You On?” on July 21, the passage from me that inspired the response (which is necessary to reprint in full so one can see how only half of a sentence was chopped out by the commenter responding):

Because it’s not a wife’s responsibility to be her husband’s happy whore, eagerly providing him with his orgasms on demand.

Dissatisfied husbands, want to know the secret to having sex with your wife whenever you want? It is not your wife’s responsibility to be ready to go on command, it’s YOUR responsibility to know your wife so well that you are capable of seducing her anytime. When you want to have sex with her you don’t ask her, you put her in the mood yourself. It’s really that simple: know you wife well enough so you can push the right buttons, say the right things, and create an environment where sex just naturally happens.

Unfortunately, that’s more work than most men are used to for getting orgasms. Twenty or thirty minutes of close attention, massage, and foreplay first? Taking the effort to really get to know your wife’s unique preferences and turn-ons? Learning how to read her moods? That’s effort — and energy.

The very first response, from a commenter who has been trolling me at every occasion for months (when did anonymous internet trolling become an approach to Christian Evangelism?):

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Lisa, here’s a question to consider as you continue your explorations in Christianity; it’s the one that ultimately drove me out of it: what does one have to believe — or do — in order to qualify as a Christian? By many Christians’ definitions I’m still a Christian — I have faith that Jesus rose from the dead and the Bible is the most Divine book ever written and should serve as the moral basis for everyone’s lives. There is an afterlife and some kind of transcendent reality beyond nature (calling it “heaven” is fine) and we can get glimpses of it through mystical practices. Is that enough? Or am I only a Christian if I go to the right church and believe X, Y, Z, about Mary, the virgin birth, Paul and who gets into heaven and who doesn’t? Who gets the authority to make that judgment?

I guess I’ve moved in the direction of understanding religion more as something one does rather than just a set of correct beliefs one holds in their heads. This is a more Jewish than a Christian attitude, I’ve come to understand. 

4. Catholic Paganism: An emotion-based faith fixated on the sadomasochistic imagery of the crucifixion in which the believer projects his own sexual guilt onto the picture of Christ being tortured for it in his place.

As embodied by Joe the Catholic’s response to the brutality of The Passion of the Christ — a memory rightly paralleled with his strange decision to give up premarital sex for Lent — and also illuminated through a passage from page 29 of Catholic Pagan Camille Paglia’s Sex, Art and American Culture:

“He knew he would always be forgiven.” — from page 39 of  Finding Mr. Righteousdescribing Joe’s spirituality:

“Catholic crucifixes and gory depictions of the martyrdom of ecstatic saints preserve the pagan intuition that our lives in the body are submerged in the Dionysian continuum of pleasure-pain.” – Camille Paglia, page 29 of Sex, Art and American Culture


Lisa, in making this point about the latent paganism within Catholicism it’s most definitely not a critique of all Catholics — just those who base their faith in the emotional experience of their God being tortured. Many throughout history and the world today I admire and characterize as Judeo-Christians rather than pagans, their faith based in reason and the 10 Commandments rather than the raw emotion of perpetually reliving the gore of Christ’s execution.

One great example is in an author and her book that I’ll be exploring later on in this list. Elizabeth “The Anchoress” Scalia’s Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life offers an accessible, Catholic approach to idolatry that I very much endorse.

5. Theological Idolatry: Being obsessed with finding the single, right doctrine and then enforcing that all others embrace it too.

As critiqued on Page 43 of It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of You, with America named as an antidote:

How does this sound: there isn’t a correct theology. The American way of worship is to treat the spiritual territory the same as our ancestors treated the land: to continually explore further, always move to a better place when the opportunity presents itself, and never stop trying to improve how we approach the world.

The universal Judeo-Christian values inspired by the Bible should be the basis for everyone, regardless of whether they embrace a Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Buddhist, Secular, or occult theology.

6. Secularist Sex-Worship: “If I can expect that sex becoming close to non-existent once I’m married, what possible reason do I have to ever get married. Both the fact that this guy was pushed to this point, and attitude of people like you in response to it, just reinforce the fact that men have no reason to get married.”

As embodied in commenters at Dr. Helen Smith’s “A Classic Example of White Knighting” responding to me (worse ones coming later in the list…)

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Lisa, something that I’d encourage you to think about as you continue exploring the intersection of the religious and the secular: often I really do think that religious people should actually accept atheist arguments instead of argue against them.


Not all secular marriages are doomed to failure. Many of them work quite well and both husband and wife live happy, productive lives loving one another, perhaps even having a child or two. The important thing is that husband and wife are aligned in their values. The primary problem with the couple in the silly viral story of the husband keeping the spreadsheet of times his wife turned him down for sex is just that they have different priorities and their lives are more oriented on their own pleasures and pursuits instead of striving to maximize the other’s happiness and well-being.

But framing the issue from the position of the single, totally secularist male transforms the moral calculus of the universe. If there’s no heaven and hell, if all human life is going to someday be erased when the sun turns into a red giant (or if the Apocalypse is right around the corner…) then why should a man self-sacrifice and live like a family man raising children when he could choose the Donald Sterling/Larry Flynt/Charlie Sheen/Bill Clinton/Bill Maher modern-day polygamy lifestyle? Paraphrasing Lady Clinton, what difference does it make?

7. Evangelical Idolatry: Being more concerned about saving as many souls as possible by converting them to an Evangelical, Born Again theology than living life and raising a family. Imitating Paul and ignoring the Jewish tradition again.

As hinted at in John the Evangelical, from page 159 of Finding Mr. Righteous:

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Lisa, if it wasn’t for your book, I don’t know if I’d have ever seen the parallel between the radical secularist and the intense Evangelical worldview: in both very different ideologies marriage and a family are not a high priority. I speak of this from experience. During my high school Evangelical years, I just assumed that my future would be a single, childless one.

The world was filled with billions of souls who were doomed to spend eternity in hell. How did it make sense to take years off to raise a family and give a wife adequate attention?

Embracing Evangelism as a value above all others meant I could let God use me to save as many people from hell as possible and ignore everything else. How could I possibly weigh the joy and pleasure I’d get from married life against the hundreds or thousands of lives that might potentially be saved from hell by more dedicated Evangelism? Well, the answer was right on my wrist of course: WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? (Too bad I wasn’t smart enough to realize real Biblical-living would require many more bracelets to weigh what Moses and other figures would do…) And the answer to me then was obvious, Matthew 16:24:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

8. Secularist Nature-Worshiping Paganism: Those who get their emotional fulfillment from taking in the beauty of the natural world and attaching more value to it than human life.

As defined on page 85 of It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of You:

After rejecting revealed religion, modern people seek a sense of exultation in nature.

I think part of the reason why paganism is often so difficult to see and understand is because it wears so many masks and finds so many diverse expressions depending on which aspects of the natural world adherents focus on worshipping.

9. Right-Left Political Idolatry: Seeing everything almost exclusively in terms of the fight between those who believe in “Left-wing” ideologies and those who believe in “Right-wing” ideologies.


An example from the comments on A Classic Example of White Knighting

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Click the image to see volume 1 of Susan L.M. Goldberg’s greatest hits collection, from May.

I’ve grown really burnt out on Right-Left political warfare over the years. It’s a useful rhetorical shorthand to use sometimes when everyone can agree on what it means, but a really lousy place to choose to live, regarding oneself primarily as “on the Right” or a “leftist” or “us” fighting “them.” The causes and ideas need to be framed beyond the stereotypes of baby boomer liberals vs conservatives. Finding Mr. Righteous does a wonderful job of that.

10. Technology addiction

Page 67 of Elizabeth Scalia’s Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life:

Here’s an idol that I remain enthralled to, as I imagine a good number of us do. Achieving greater discipline to overcome the phone, iPad, and laptop’s electric pull remains a challenge. Scalia shows the deeper dimensions to it as well — the way that our need to have our opinion and views affirmed through out social media networks can also become the most subtle of idols.

Throughout her book Scalia is so very perceptive at pointing out the shining and reflective quality of idols to send back to us what we put into them, in a distorted form. Remember that next time you look at the phone, screen, or iPad. Or think of it now… Hello Screwtape, can you hear me? How are you, today?

See also, Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock, reviewed and summarized by Chris Yogerst here at PJ Lifestyle: 5 Secrets For Thriving In A World When Everything Happens NOW


In Part 2 tomorrow: considering the coming hyper-charged idols of tomorrow’s advancements, the perils of thinking we can imitate Jesus completely, and the matriarchal cult of Ayn Rand… Updated: Now posted.

And in Part 3 on Wednesday Friday the worship of pleasure, chugging too much workahol, and the best reason to return to God and Biblical values. Updated: now posted.

Updated: See also from Hannah Sternberg, “5 Life and Relationship Lessons from Finding Mr. Righteous


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