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Life in Lubbock, Texas taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on Earth, and you should save it for someone you love. –Butch Hancock, country singer/songwriter

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COLORADO SPRINGS — After dessert, the 63 men stood and read aloud a covenant “before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.”

The gesture signaled that the fathers would guard their daughters from what evangelicals consider a profoundly corrosive “hook-up culture.” The evening, which alternated between homemade Christian rituals and giddy dancing, was a joyous public affirmation of the girls’ sexual abstinence until they wed. (from “Dancing the Night Away, With a Higher Purpose,” New York Times, May 19, 2008.)

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.