GRAPEVINE -- Are we born to cheat?
Yes, said Noel Biderman, the founder of Ashley Madison, a dating website for married people looking to stray. Monogamy, he argued, is a failed experiment.
No, said Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine. People are not animals; they have free will.
The two men debated that question and others related to marriage and infidelity Thursday night in a packed auditorium at Fellowship Church. An HBO film crew was on hand working on a documentary about sin.
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"People have always cheated," Biderman said. "Monogamy places an artificial strain on relationships."
Young answered, "Marriage is more than a commitment. It's a covenant."
The debate turned repeatedly to the role Biderman and his website play in adultery.
He founded Ashley Madison in 2002 after reading that 30 percent of users of Internet dating services were pretending to be single.
Ashley Madison now has 8.5 million members and a presence in 10 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Britain and Germany. Every seven seconds, someone signs up for the service. The overwhelming majority of members are men.
Biderman argues that his site does not cause adultery. Cheating has long happened in the workplace, he said, and more recently, on social networking sites like Facebook.
"An affair happens because your relationship is not working, not because of a website," Biderman said. "I just allow people to do it discreetly."
"What if I supply bombmaking materials to terrorists?" he asked. "I'm not making the terrorist, but am I responsible?"
The two men -- who are both married and in monogamous relationships -- could not agree on much.
Biderman said infidelity could save a marriage on the rocks by causing someone to fall back in love with a spouse. Young said he has never met anyone whose life improved after cheating on a spouse.
Biderman said people have cheated for thousands of years because it's human nature. Young said monogamy is God's plan.
The debate was moderated by Mary Jo Eustace, a Canadian actress and TV chef who knows well the sting of infidelity. Eustace went through a painful and public divorce after her husband, Dean McDermott, had an affair with Tori Spelling. She chronicled the tale in Divorce Sucks, part memoir, part survival guide.
"The fallout of infidelity is massive," Eustace said. "It has been a rocky, rocky road."
The men could agree on one point: "We don't know what goes on behind bedroom doors," Biderman said. "We can't judge others because we don't know."
Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056