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Sex and religion don't always go together.

But the two often-divisive topics will be the focus of a forum Sept. 15 called (what else?) "Sextravaganza."

The free event, organized by the University of Utah student group SHIFT (Secular Humanism, Inquiry and Freethought), will feature three speakers who will explore various aspects of sexuality as it intersects with religion, atheism and other beliefs. The Secular Student Alliance and Humanists of Utah are also partly sponsoring the event.

Adam Isom, president of SHIFT, hopes those who attend leave with a better idea of the messages offered by religion when it comes to sexuality and alternatives to those points of view.

"I hope that … people realize there are these sort of invisible cultural scripts about what's taboo to either think, do or talk about," Isom said, "and also scripts about what's normal."

Psychologist Darrel W. Ray, author of Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality, will keynote the forum. Author Greta Christina, an atheist blogger and speaker, will likely discuss the idea that sexual morality of traditional religion tends to be based on notions of what God does and does not want people to do rather than solid ethical principles, and she'll offer atheist alternatives to those views.

University of Utah psychology professor Lisa Diamond, who studies sexual development and relationships, also will speak. She will likely discuss how advocacy for gay marriage has often relied upon potentially damaging arguments based on the seeming moral superiority of committed, monogamous same-sex partnerships and that the Bible doesn't actually condemn same-sex sexuality.

Isom, a U. senior majoring in psychology, said the forum is partly to inform people about "positive" alternatives to traditional messages on sex.

Jason Cooperrider, treasurer and co-founder of SHIFT, said the event could draw as many as 500 people, including students and community members. This is the first time SHIFT has staged the forum.

A graduate student at the U. studying neuroscience, Cooperrider said the topic is particularly important this election year, with politicians debating "women's reproductive rights and how [they're] influenced by religious viewpoints."

Twitter: @lschencker —


The University of Utah student group SHIFT (Secular Humanism, Inquiry and Freethought) will hold a forum called Sextravaganza on Sept. 15 from 3 to 7 p.m. at Orson Spencer Hall, 260 S. Central Campus Drive, Salt Lake City. Speakers will be followed by a panel discussion and book signing. The event is free and open to the public.