"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
This is one of many famous passages from the Sermon on the Mount attributed to Jesus.
What Jesus appears to be saying is that thinking about sex with a woman who is not one's wife is the same in the eyes of God as actually engaging in the physical act of adultery.
Well, if that is indeed the case, then I must admit that I am guilty of adultery many times over! And if thinking about adulterous sex is enough to send a man to hell, then why not just actually go ahead and do the deed? After all, one might as well experience the pleasure if punishment for the mere thought of it is a foregone conclusion.
To take it further, if thinking about committing adultery with someone is the same as committing adultery, does the same rule apply to other thoughts? If I think about stealing something, have I already stolen it in my heart? If I contemplate bludgeoning someone with a baseball bat because I saw that person littering, am I already guilty of physically harming that person?
And what about good deeds? If I spend all day in the confines of my home imagining that I am helping elderly people who have fallen on the sidewalk or providing food and shelter to scores of poor people, is that the same in the eyes of God as going out and actually helping these people? If not, then why are sinful thoughts given the same weight as sinful acts, while charitable thoughts are not given equal weight to charitable deeds?
The way I look at it, a conscious act that is harmful to oneself or to others, that is an act that inflicts physical and/or mental damage or injury, is unlikely to occur without the person carrying out the act having first thought about it. A person is not likely to steal, commit adultery, or commit murder, for example, unless that person has first thought about committing these acts in his or her mind. In summary, all harmful deeds are a product of thought. But on the other hand, not all thoughts about these deeds will lead to people actually carrying out the deeds.
Going back to the adulterous thoughts which Jesus spoke of, a married person, whether man or woman, can contemplate committing adultery with someone, be it a co-worker, acquaintance or friend, and then realize upon further consideration that a few moments of sexual pleasure is not worth the possibility of wrecking a marriage or friendship, or possibly contracting a sexually transmitted disease. The adulterous thoughts are then discarded.
And this is where I argue that Jesus, the alleged son and one third part of the god who supposedly created our universe, gets it horribly wrong. Our minds function as laboratories where we can contemplate possible scenarios and their possible consequences. Thus, as I mentioned above, a married person can seriously contemplate the possibility of committing adultery but then come to the conclusion that he or she would prefer not to go through with it. But according to Jesus, that person is already guilty of adultery simply for having considered the possibility. Since the human mind is incredibly difficult to control, the god of the Bible has established a standard that turns all of us into a race of Winston Smiths engaging in thought crimes.