Sex and Religion

I was raised a strict Roman Catholic, destined (many said) to become a priest. As such, I learned the basics of Catholic sexuality as taught in my parochial school:

• God hates sex, but loves babies.
• A woman’s virtue is sacred, and any attempt to stain it is a sin worthy of damnation.
• Good people die virgins and go to Heaven. Bad people have sex, get diseases, die young, and go to Hell.

When I was fourteen, I discovered that I was having a theological crisis over these tenets. Surprisingly, my problems didn’t arise from my newly-discovered interest in the girl’s gym class. It came from the iconography that I found on the walls of the church, where I would go to beg forgiveness for my thoughts about the girl’s gym class.

I noticed that in all the religious paintings, the people in Heaven wore robes, while all the people in Hell were naked. And, though my inexperienced mind couldn’t quite fathom the reason for it, I instinctively knew that the tortured expressions on the faces of the damned expressed some passionate emotion that I would not truly understand until years later in a sleazy hotel room in London.

But there they were… naked. Until puberty I had pretty much ignored the writhing figures of the damned, favoring instead the holy, sanctified beauty of the Madonna, or the pious figures of the saints we were to aspire to being. But from fourteen on, it was those souls in torment that held my attention.

For a while I thought that this strange draw I was feeling toward the “dark side” was a burgeoning evil that was slowly overtaking my soul. I confessed this to the priests, of course, who dutifully assigned me Hail Marys and Our Fathers (though in the years since I’ve shuttered to think what the priests did after hearing my confessions). None of this stopped the fascination though. Even as I sat in the pew reciting my penance, I would find my eyes drifting up to the scenes of Hellish torment, scared by arousal I found in them. It became a viscous circle: Sinful thoughts, confessions, prayer, more sinful thoughts, more confession, and more prayer. I was trapped.

It wasn’t until years later that I finally understood that my guilt and fear were exactly what the icons were intended to instill. In my post-Christian phase I’d wondered for a long while why such an anti-sex institution as the Catholic Church would propagate these dark, sexual images of Hell. Surely the laity was going to see them, and at least some deviants (like myself) would be drawn to them?

Herein lies one of the most important lessons I ever learned about religion: Control is more about guilt than punishment.

Look around any church of any creed or sect and you will see it: images of what you should never, ever do. I was lucky enough to have been raised in a church whose iconography involved naked, flailing breasts, but the same idea can be conveyed using greed, avarice, gluttony, or any of the other fun Saturday night activities. You show people what they really want, then make them feel guilty for actually wanting it. It’s a revolving door of guilt and coveting that always leaves the laity looking for relief from the guilt you’ve created in them.

It wasn’t until my break with religion was final that I was able to stop and assess my priorities, based on what I learned for myself was right and wrong for our society. When I did, though, the cycle of guilt and arousal were broken. Sex became a normal, natural part of my human existence, free of guilt and shame.

This freedom from guilt and shame only lasted until I spent that summer in Tijuana, but that’s a whole other story.

Written by Wm. Hopper, http://www.heathensguide.com.

www.heathensguide.com

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9 Responses to “Sex and Religion”

  1. catholic priests | Digg hot tags Says:

    […] Vote Sex and Religion […]

  2. Anita Says:

    Hm. You must have been away sick the day they taught about marriage at parochial school. That would have been the solution to your problem.

  3. heathensguide Says:

    No I was there… I just realized they were dead wrong. Modern marriage (in the last 100 years) has been about “love”. But this is a recent phenomena. For the most part marriage is about ownership and control. Women were chattel (and basically still are in traditional marriages).

    “Anita Says:

    Hm. You must have been away sick the day they taught about marriage at parochial school. That would have been the solution to your problem”

  4. Anita Says:

    Presuming you were born sometime in the last century, can you not design your own marriage to exclude the chattel part?

    The position of women who would partake of your brand of sexual expression, free of guilt or shame for you, and possibly for them as well, is actually not good. They don’t get somebody to help pay the bills, somebody they can raise children with, somebody who can help them in their old age, or even somebody to nag. There’s really nothing much you offer them since love doesn’t exist for you.

    So it’s all about bare bones Bonobo-style sex, and nothing more. You see, you’ve divorce love from sex, as well as from your own reality. You can only hope to have great sex with a woman. Now some college-age woman might go along with that plan for a while. But sooner or later, she’ll figure out she’s just being used, and there’s no chance of you loving her. Very few women obliterate the idea of having a family or at the very least a faithful, loving husband from their minds. So then she’ll leave you, and you will be left standing alone again, another casualty of the sexual revolution. We’ve got time to hear your story about Tijuana.

    The trouble with hedonists is they too are controlled, but by their own desires.

    • heathensguide Says:

      Presuming you were born sometime in the last century, can you not design your own marriage to exclude the chattel part?

      No, it is unchristian: “Wives, be under the authority of your husbands, as is right in the Lord.” Colossians 3:18. You can make a new contract and call it marriage, but it is not what the Church calls marriage.

      The position of women who would partake of your brand of sexual expression, free of guilt or shame for you, and possibly for them as well, is actually not good.

      So, we should all just feel like slimy, dirty thing that crawl on our bellies and think horrrible, evil thoughts we should be whipped for?

      They don’t get somebody to help pay the bills,

      A roomate can help pay the bills. Bill payments and old age have nothing to do with who you have sex with.

      somebody they can raise children with,

      If you have a child, you have a commitment to the child, not the parent you had sex with.

      somebody who can help them in their old age, or even somebody to nag. There’s really nothing much you offer them since love doesn’t exist for you.

      You seem to think that I screw a woman then toss her ungraciously out the door at 3 in the morning. A woman I sleep with is a person I get along OK with who understands my intent and the limit my commitment to her. If we get along and sleep together, great. If not, we can watch a movie. No biggie. It may not be much to you, but getting along with folks works pretty well, and I extend this into the bedroom.

      Very few women obliterate the idea of having a family or at the very least a faithful, loving husband from their minds.

      Fine. Imho the ones that do are brainwashed into it by societal rules and (especially) expectation inbred in them in Church when they were young. But whatever. Thing is, it does not matter whether a woman wants an orgy or a marriage and children. Like anything else on this planet she needs to be honest about what she wants/likes, and make her decision based on her needs. If a husband is what she wants I say fine, just not me. (there are plenty of idiotic guys out there waiting to step into marriage). Choose one of them.

      So then she’ll leave you, and you will be left standing alone again, another casualty of the sexual revolution

      There a six billion people on this planet. Six BILLION. No one ever needs to stand alone or be a casualty unless they decide to be so.

      The trouble with hedonists is they too are controlled, but by their own desires.

      I’d make a horrible hedonist. I don’t like the planet enough to live my life for the sake of what few pleasures it offers.

  5. Anita Says:

    Regarding being whipped for evil thoughts, who’s doing the whipping? The Church can only propose its morality, not impose it. There’ll be plenty of time for whipping in the after life.

    You made quite a leap from my comment about the poor position of a woman living out your form of sexual expression to your question about the only presumed alternative, feeling slimy for having evil thoughts and being whipped for them. This might just be a non sequitor AND a straw man argument in one. Well done.

    You COULD see a woman as a help mate and not lust for her, but love her. And loving entails looking after her best interests.

    I suppose an art historian could tell you more about the writhing figures. I think they depict hell quite well. They show horror and vulnerability and torment.

    Regarding the original post again, (control is more about guilt than punishment) I only wish the Church had half the control you ascribe to it! And guilt is a good thing. It helps you get back to what God really wants for you.

    Do you really mean to say a guy who wants to be married is an idiot? Do you realize that’s about 80% of men?

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