There is a final point to make. It’s striking that Bruni’s discussion of celibacy omits any possible benefits that might flow from this way of life. Proponents of celibacy have often spoken of a closer union with God as both the motive and the consequence of their choice. Pastor Rick Warren tells the story of the bride who insisted that as she came down the aisle to meet her future husband the choir sing the old hymn “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” For millions of Catholic and Orthodox monks, priests and nuns down through the centuries, that was a choice that they consciously made. They felt called to sacrifice earthly ties to deepen their relationship with God and to focus exclusively on serving him rather than tending families on earth.

Bruni doesn’t even think this idea is worth discussing; as far as I can tell, there are no ‘brides of Christ’ in his world view, only delusional and embittered old maids. The argument boils down to this: since human beings can’t be satisfied or fulfilled by relationships with God, celibacy has no point. It subtracts but it does not add. The celibate priest or nun is running away from normal human life and running toward… nothing.

Bruni is of course entitled to his opinion, and it’s one that many great scholars and philosophers have held. God either doesn’t exist or is so much in the background of things that he might as well not be there at all. Satisfaction is to be sought in the here and now; this life on earth offers all we need and in any case is all we have. Forget all this talk of mystical unions with Christ, forget the ecstasies of the saints, the Beatific Vision, the dream of fulfilling your life by picking up your cross and following Christ as closely as you can. Find an age-appropriate spouse of whatever gender works for you, and lead the rich and satisfying life of an upper middle class professional who enjoys the newspaper of record, and try not to think about old age, death, or anything else that suggests that the natural order is either incomplete or flawed.