I feel it is vitally, crucially important for the future liberty of humankind that we firmly establish this: when we work with ethics, morals, or the law, we should only censor doing. We must not censor thinking. What is in your mind is your business, and your business alone.
And I think this extends into self-censorship also. It is a noble endeavor to attempt to control one's thoughts. It is vital, in fact. But don't let anybody tell you that a thought is the same as an act. If I have a mere thought about killing somebody, I am not a murderer because of that. And similarly, if I have a thought about having sex, I am not then an adulterer.
The world is built from our thoughts, so we should shape our thoughts with great diligence. But this does not mean that we should make ourselves sick with worry if our thoughts are not always perfect. Heck, look at the world itself.
Letters to Domai
I was pleased to read the letter from Nate, where he reassessed his understanding of lust.
I'm not a religious person, and I have liberal views on sex and sexual attraction. But whatever disagreements I might have with Christians, I share Nate's concern about people (usually women) being portrayed merely as sex objects. And I also agree that popular Christian teaching goes too far in condemning nudity and the appreciate of a beautiful nude person.
Although I'm not a believer, I am familiar with the Bible and find some of it very insightful - when it's allowed to speak for itself and not twisted to fit the beliefs of the reader. The word translated "lust" in the Sermon on the Mount simply means strong desire (the Greek word "epiphero" or some form of it). Jesus uses the same word when he said he had "eagerly desired" to eat the last supper with his disciples. There was no specific word for sexual "lust". Sometimes strong desire is appropriate. Sometimes it isn't.
There is more. Jesus' audience might have recognised Jesus' warning as similar to the commandment not to covet anything belonging to your neighbour. But what does covet mean? All the other commandments deal with actions, not impulses. The best explanation, as one scholar writes, is that "[The word] describes not merely the emotion of coveting but also includes the attempt to attach something to oneself illegally. The commandment therefore deals with all possible undertakings which involve gaining power over the goods and possessions of a 'neighbour,' whether through theft or through all kinds of dishonest machinations."
I'm sure you don't want your letters to turn into a weekly Bible study. But I felt that if Christians understood their sacred book a bit better, they would find they have more freedom than they knew.