When I receive a communication like this one, I don't know whether to be happy or to cry. On the one hand, it's nice to be able to help someone. On the other hand, I'm sorry to have to help someone put their self-worth back together after it's been badly damaged so unnecessarily.
I received this note privately from someone on Facebook:
I watch AE on ustream and just wanted to say that something you said really helped me work through a few things :) Forgive me for being candid about the subject!
While not brought up in the Catholic faith I went to Catholic schools and have suffered problems relating to sex due to various things (minimal relationship advice from embarrassed parents, virtually no sex education from school other than in science lessons). I have been in emotionally abusive relationships since a very young age and was taught to feel nothing but guilt and shame about anything sexual. Being English (and from Yorkshire to boot), we just don't talk about those things with our parents.
Through my self-education over the past few years (and my interest in issues related to atheism) I have started to work through these things that have plagued me since I can remember. It really clicked for me however whilst watching you responding to a caller on one of the archived programmes a few days ago. You were explaining to the caller how we do not need saving from being human. You stated that seeing a person and thinking sexual thoughts is a normal state of being and entirely natural (even essential) to being human and why would we need saving from soemthing so inherant to us?
It sounds silly to say it now but I had never thought of it that way. I'd had so much misinfomation and guilt piled on me that I couldn't see the blindingly obvious.
I've been reading John Gray recently and this concept of the human as animal and natural is only just now sinking in (I don't agree with everything he says but that part got to me). It seems that you don't need faith to be still affected by some of the dogma!
I turn 30 next year and have had so many good relationships ruined by this, so many tears and recriminations that I can't explain it here. I can't even begin to think how much I have lost.
I'd been working towards it for a while but you really made it finally click with your matter-of-fact approach. I felt like "duuuuuuuh" when I realised the crap I put myself through! And it was totally unecessary! :D
So thank you. I managed to open so much of my life recently and this was one part of the puzzle that bound me to that old guilt.
All I can say to her is "you're welcome, and best of luck."
And all I can add for anyone else is "Don't tell me the average believer doesn't cause any harm."