Horny Holy Man or Sinless Socialist?


by Not Sure

26 November 2023


            In part two of a 2009 film for Prison Planet, The Neo-Eugenics War on Humanity, Alan Watt talked about the very old eugenics plan to reduce the world's population, to get rid of useless eaters with "junk genes."  He discussed the Club of Rome book, The First Global Revolution, where we can find a quote that Alan often cited, "The common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself."  In this dense talk, Alan touched on the dropping sperm count, Bisphenol A, the polio vaccine, SV40 and cancer, and eugenics breeding programs. 

            We think of “modern” eugenics as an idea developed by Francis Galton, to improve the human population by selective breeding, an idea inspired by Darwinism and natural selection.  Alan often pointed out the faith one needed to believe in the religion born from the theory of evolution.  Breeding to achieve desired results is an ancient practice.  Plato suggested that selective mating could produce a “guardian class.”  The idea and the practice did not need Darwin, though his theory certainly underpinned the sweeping programs and research which went into effect in 20th century Great Britain and the United States, which were studied and replicated in Hitler’s Germany.  Alan reminded us often enough that after the bad reputation the practices received during World War II, the study and its implantation were simply rebranded as “bioethics,” “neuroscience,” “gene therapy,” “cloning,” “biotechnology,” “human genetic engineering,” et cetera.

            Alan also often referred to scientists as the new priesthood, so it is interesting to consider the religious uses of sex and breeding.  As with anything we weren’t on hand to witness, temple prostitution or “sacred” prostitution remains something that historians can debate, but if a religion featured a fertility deity, it isn’t so far-fetched to imagine the kinds of gifts those gods might enjoy.




I found an interesting study published in 2020, entitled “‘We are all in the image of God’: reproductive imaginaries and prenatal genetic testing in American Jewish communities.”  Here are a few quotes, the study's authors cited:


    Grounded in the Talmudic morality of the Jewish obligation to the next generation, Jewish genetic testing uniquely complicates contemporary debates exploring eugenics in the DNA age.

    (Porter, 2015, p. 47).


    Whatever Jewish families do, they are in the business of inclusion and exclusion – and the exclusions, more often than not, are done silently.

    (Boyarin, 2013, p. 3).


    The question arises, when do you stop? There are close to 90 genes you wouldn’t want to have. Will this lead to people showing each other computer print-outs of their genetic conditions? We’ll never get married.

    (Tendler, quoted in Porter, 2015, p. 46).


            The authors write, “What happens when some American Jewish communities refashion assisted reproductive technology (ART) to meet the concerns and aspirations of their particular cultural worlds within the US national context? How do their distinctive practices and imaginaries enter into specific cultural circuits that reframe key terms of their reproductive imaginary? Our ethnographic research on the intersections of disability, ART and religion – in this case, among American Ashkenazi Jews – offers complex and revelatory answers to these questions.


Our work reveals two sometimes contradictory frameworks. The first is the enthusiastic uptake of genetic testing by and for American Ashkenazi Jews to prevent the birth of babies with hereditary disorders. This practice has been increasing across all sectors of the Jewish community where genetic diseases run at a relatively elevated rate.”




James Dobson is an evangelical Christian psychologist and author, who started Focus on the Family (FotF) to promote conservative “family values” in America.  The values Dobson promoted included heterosexuality and traditional gender roles, and he warned against homosexuality and feminism.  He was instrumental in shaping some of the “Religious Right” programs that energized a huge voter base to support Ronald Reagan and subsequent leaders in American conservative politics.  Dobson worked for seventeen years on the staff of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles in the Division of Child Development and Medical Genetics.  He started his writing career as an assistant to Paul Popenoe, “an American marriage counselor, eugenicist, and agricultural explorer. He was an influential advocate of the compulsory sterilization of mentally ill people and people with mental disabilities, and the father of marriage counseling in the United States.” 

Because of the damage to the reputation of eugenics, Popenoe moved his focus from pure eugenics into marriage counseling.  His approach aimed to produce “fit” marriages, with no miscegenation, chastity before marriage, and sexual education for the couple.  Though the reasons for his work in marriage counseling were eugenical (he desired to help white families stay together and produce offspring,) he increasingly found himself allied with religious conservatives, including Dobson.  Eugenics and Christianity, evangelical or otherwise, are often thought of as antithetical, as these groups have typically opposed sterilization.




Born in 1866, H.G. Wells coined the term “free love.”  He wrote about it and practiced it.  Married twice, with several long-term affairs, and many shorter ones, Wells has been called a predatory seducer.  But alas, Wells was not the first proponent or practitioner of screwing around for the sake of Utopia. 

John Humphrey Noyes was born in 1811 in Vermont, the son of a man who was at times a minister, a teacher, a businessman, and a U.S. congressman.  His mother was the aunt of Rutherford B. Hayes, which made Noyes the cousin of a U.S. President.  Noyes was a preacher, a radical philosopher and the founder of the Oneida Community, a socialist utopian society.  He is credited with coining the term “complex marriage.”  A complex marriage is a form of polygamy.  Everyone is married to everyone.

Noyes graduated from Dartmouth College and then entered Yale Theological Seminary where he trained to become a preacher.  He became increasingly interested in salvation from sin. “He began to argue with his colleagues that unless man was truly free of sin, then Christianity was a lie, and that only those who were perfect and free of sin were true Christians. This internal religious crisis brought about a new religious conversion within Noyes, after which he began to proclaim that he ‘did not sin.’”  Noyes became a big advocate of Christian perfectionism, the idea that it is possible to be free of sin in this lifetime.  He believed that his new relationship with God canceled his obligation to live by traditional moral standards or the laws of society.  Some similarities to the Crowley/Thelemic/sex magick “Do as thou wilt is the whole of the Law” idea.

Sometime after becoming perfect and sinless, Noyes got married.  His wife gave birth five times and four of those were premature.  (Perhaps she wasn’t perfect?)  This led Noyes to begin his study of sexual intercourse within marriage.  In the eighth year of his marriage, Noyes became sexually attracted to the wife of a new Christian convert, George Cragin.  “He persuaded the Cragins and Mrs. Noyes to merge their unions into a “complex marriage,” in which both men were married to both women, such that they could have sex together.  The two couples moved into a common house that same year.”  What the Noyeses and the Cragins did could be described as “wife swapping” or “swinging” but John Noyes called it “complex,” him being perfect and all.

If this is an area of study you’d like to dive into, much has been written about the little socialist utopia that Noyes started in upstate New York, the Oneida Community.  You can read about “male continence” and how at the post-menopausal women of the Community would train the young boys into the techniques of continence.  No chance of pregnancy that way.  Noyes maintained strict control over who could mate with whom.  He called the planned conception, birth and rearing of children “stirpiculture.”  His aims were not for physical attributes, but for spiritual perfection.  Naturally.  

Two books I’ve read on Noyes and the Oneida Community are Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community and The Ministers’ War: John W. Mears, the Oneida Community, and the Crusade for Public Morality, but you can get a decent overview of this story by a quick read of Noyes’ Wiki entry.


What always struck me about this bit of American socialist history was that it was allowed to occur at all.  Some parents of young women who joined the communal living at Oneida were outraged.  One father protested outside the “Mansion” for two years.  Noyes was well connected, and his thirty-year experiment would have been closely watched.  The timing is off for H.G. Wells to have visited, but there is no doubt that he was influenced by Oneida in his writing and his own experiments.  Another element that speaks to a level of organization higher than a fringe commune were the business enterprises that the Oneida Community started and maintained.  They manufactured and sold the Oneida steel trap which became the industry standard in the fur trade.  They also started what is now known as Oneida Limited, a manufacturer of silverware and silver-plated cutlery.  For much of the twentieth century, it was the largest producer of flatware in the world.


In June of 1879, Noyes received word that he was about to be arrested for statutory rape.  He fled the U.S. to Ontario, Canada where the Oneida Community had a factory.  In August, he wrote to his followers that it was time to end the practice of complex marriage and live more traditionally.  In January of 1881, the Community was dissolved and turned into a joint stock company.  Noyes died in Niagara Falls, Canada in 1886.  His son Pierrepont consolidated all the Community’s business enterprises into Oneida Limited.  During the First World War, Pierrepont worked for the Federal Government as Assistant Fuel Administrator.  In May of 1919, he became the American Commissioner on the Inter-Allied Rhineland High Commission to “ensure, by any means, the security and satisfaction of all the needs of the Armies of Occupation.”  Rubbing shoulders with Woodrow Wilson and Bernard Baruch as the Treaty of Versailles was worked out and all the plum assignments secured.  In 1930, Pierrepont was asked by Baruch to join a six-man commission set up by the New York State Legislature to develop a new spa at Saratoga Springs, something long dreamed of by Baruch’s father.  In its day, the Grand Union Hotel at Saratoga Springs was the largest hotel in the world.  Pierrepont Noyes remained on the commission until 1950.  I suppose we can call Pierrepont Noyes “a eugenics experiment that turned out well.”


© Not Sure


Additional reading:


‘We are all in the image of God’: reproductive imaginaries and prenatal genetic testing in American Jewish communities



John Humphrey Noyes



A Strange Liberation: Women and Male Continence in the Oneida Community



Heirs to the Promised Land: The Children of Oneida



The Oneida Community Moves to the OC



H.G. Wells, Prophet of Free Love