Religion and Spirituality in Society International Award for Excellence

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the Religion and Spirituality in Society Research Network.

Award Winner for Volume 9

The Sexual Revolution: The Scientific Revolution Déjà Vu

Political changes in recent years have provoked an increase in human-rights activism as exemplified in the tenor of Gay Pride. Politics, religion, and science are at odds, and the underlying factor appears to be religious opinion. This social upheaval is reminiscent of the Scientific Revolution. Indeed, this article argues that the Sexual Revolution is a continuation of the former, and the turmoil is of a kind, the result of an upending of long-standing beliefs. As a geocentric universe gave way to a heliocentric universe because of the natural sciences, an emphasis on biological procreation in sexuality now gives way to an emphasis on interpersonal communion, a spiritual matter, because of the human sciences. No easy solution to the controversy is available, but the research evidence, often ignored by religions and politics, is laid out. Commitment to this research offers an honest path to respectful diversity and social harmony despite a jarring reconceptualization of fundamental societal presuppositions.

I am grateful and honored that my article on the sexual revolution has been judged deserving of award. I begin with a personal note.

Ordained in Rome, I began my professional life as a Roman Catholic priest, eventually equipped with a PhD in theology, only tardily to recognize my homosexuality. Grappling with it, in experience and research, I came to my current position—and became best known for my What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality. Unable to function as a priest with personal integrity, I earned a PhD in psychology, resigned from active ministry, and with serendipity, or call it Providence, have been integrating psychology and religion as a professor at a state university. One concisely packaged product of my personal and intellectual trek is this article.

Its main argument, that the sexual revolution is the continuation of the scientific revolution, is easy enough to understand. Far more noteworthy is the article’s appeal to the spiritual dimension of human sexuality.

Our age has added psychology to earlier emphasis on sexual biology—which, itself, was seriously mistaken. I advance spirituality as essential to psychology. In previous offerings—The Human Core of Spirituality, Sex and the Sacred, and Brain, Consciousness, and God—I elaborate this theme taken almost for granted in my article: a fully naturalistic understanding of spirituality (open, as desired, to theist amplification). Relying on Bernard Lonergan’s analysis of distinctively human consciousness, I specify the spiritual dimension of human mentality, namely, human consciousness, and see it as the basis of transcendent interest and experience apart from any appeal to God or other-worldly entities. I must confess that I wrote as if this understanding were actually an aspect of contemporary psychology whereas even today’s Psychology of Religion hardly addresses the matter in this naturalistic way. I am proposing that psychology be expanded to explicitly include the spiritual component of humanity. Then the standard model of “body and mind” must be expanded to “body, psyche, and spirit.” This novelty cuts across the whole field of psychology and is, I think, the most important feature of the article. I used sexuality to exemplify the impact of ideas presented in detail only elsewhere.

The implications of that shift in understanding are far-reaching. One important implication is ethical. If the spiritual is the distinctive and constitutive dimension of humanity, it must predominate and qualify the other dimensions. We have always held that reason should outweigh emotions and physical urges. Similarly, in human sexuality the interpersonal communion of lovers, rather than the procreative connection of genital organs, should be the prime consideration. Then mutual respect, love, and caring—proportionate to each situation—is what make sexual sharing right and good. Then many forms of sexual sharing are legitimate, not only procreative heterosexual intercourse in societally sanctioned marriage.

Of course, regretfully, this article counters the official teaching of my Church and ongoing widespread opinion. In contrast, I hope this analysis provides an advance in understanding, and inspiration, as well, all to the good.

Daniel Helminiak

Past Award Winners

Volume 8

The Significance of Communal Religious Freedom for Liberal Democracy

Hans-Martien ten Napel, The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp. 25-33.

Volume 7

The Study of Buddhist Self-Immolation Beyond Religious Tradition and Political Context

Easten Law, The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp. 25-41.

Volume 6

Black Church Leaders’ Attitudes about Seeking Mental Health Services: Role of Religiosity and Spirituality

Okunrounmu, Elizabeth, Argie Allen-Wilson, Maureen Davey, and Adam Davey, The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp. 45-55.

Volume 5

Restoring a Rhythm of Sacred Rest in a 24/7 World: An Exploration of Technology Sabbath and Connection to the Earth Community

Lisa Naas Cook, The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.17-27

Volume 4

On the Emergence of a Western-Islamic Public Sphere

Dilyana Mincheva, The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.15-26

Volume 3

Spirituality as Strength: Reflections of Homeless Women in Canada

Christine A. Walsh and Carolyn Gulbrandsen, The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.97-112

Volume 2

Western Muslim Intellectuals in Dialogue with Secularism: From Religion to Social Critique

Dilyana Mincheva, The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.13-24

Volume 1

Logology, Guilt, and the Rhetoric of Religious Discourse: A Burkean Analysis of Religious Language in Contemporary Politics

David Greene, The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.97-106