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Secular UtilitarianismSocial Science and the Critique of Religion in the Thought of Jeremy Bentham$
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James E. Crimmins

Print publication date: 1990

Print ISBN-13: 9780198277415

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198277415.001.0001

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Christian Asceticism and Sexual Nonconformity

Christian Asceticism and Sexual Nonconformity

(p.254) 9 Christian Asceticism and Sexual Nonconformity
Secular Utilitarianism

James E. Crimmins

Oxford University Press

Though laced with a liberal amount of Benthamic irony and dogmatically argued throughout, the Analysis and Not Paul, but Jesus are undeserving of the neglect which has traditionally been their due. Not only are they representative of Bentham's desire to expose exhaustively the rotten foundations upon which the English political establishment rested, they also reflect the comprehensive scope of the intellectual constructs of his social science and, therefore, the uncompromisingly secular view he took of the world. This chapter singles out one aspect of his critique of religion in these books and their related manuscripts for special attention: the attack on Christian asceticism and its attitude towards sexual pleasures. When assessed in terms of utility Bentham found Christianity defective as a moral guide. But in its antipathy to physical pleasures, and homosexuality in particular, he found an additional reason to characterize it as the enemy of human happiness under the utilitarian calculus. Two facts make it appropriate that this aspect of Bentham's work on religion should be considered at this point: first, he traced Christian asceticism to the teachings of St Paul; secondly, a large number of the manuscripts dealing with homosexuality were originally intended for a much extended version of Not Paul, but Jesus.

Keywords:   human happiness, religion, Christian asceticism, sexual pleasures, homosexuality, Christianity

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