Why Does Adultery Get Quicker Condemnation Than Any Other Sin?

The number one news story this week has been the affair by the South Carolina governor.

Why? Are we quicker to condemn adulterers than other sinners?

I think we are. Why? I suspect that most people in a committed relationship, particularly in a marriage, have high anxiety about adultery and other violations of sexual norms. Therefore, we’re quick to condemn those who do things that we would find devastating (or that we could easily do and devastate ourselves and others).

I’ve been listening to Dennis Prager’s radio show from yesterday. Here is how his website DennisPrager.com describes them:

Prager H1: Is there no moral conflict to publishing Gov. Sanford’s stolen private emails? Dennis is angered by the deflection of attention from the more important topics of the day: Iran, North Korea, Nationalizing Healthcare, and a 1000pg Cap and Trade Bill. Dennis talks about the terror in Teheran… Axis of Evil, does anyone remember that?! He is then joined by Debbie Lee of Move America Forward… to discuss their 2nd annual ‘Troop-A-Thon” www.troopathon.org Which will hurt America more: Gov. Sanford’s Affair or the publishing of his stolen emails? Farrah Fawcett dies at the age of 62 after a long battle with cancer.

Prager H3: Dennis poses the question: Why is adultery treated differently than other sins? Is adultery less forgivable by religious people, Christians in particular? Why are we quicker to judge the character of an individual for adultery than other sins? He discusses the topic with callers.

Luke says: I’m sympathetic to Prager’s point of view, but I am even more interested in why society reacts as it does. I think it is a self-protective mechanism. All societies have sexual norms and the violation of some of these norms tend to create a more visceral response than any other type of violation. That’s why a man or woman who catches his/her spouse having sex with someone else and then kills the spouse tends to get off with a much lighter sentence than other forms of murder. We instinctively understand that the violation of certain sexual taboos is something that many people kill over.

I can’t imagine that there is anyone who values his marriage who does not have anxiety over adultery. This anxiety accounts for society’s trigger-happy response to adulterers.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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