Sunday, 27 March 2016

Sex & Religion: An Alternate Take

[Written partially as a response to Zak Jane Keir's guest post on Cara Sutra. Go and read that one too.]

A common criticism levied at religion is the assumption that all religions think theirs is the correct one, and that they will stop at nothing to attempt to enforce this view. This is certainly the portrayal that we see on the TV, often accompanied by the term "nutjob" and given airtime for the same reason that we give Donald Trump or Nigel Farage exposure. It's ludicrous to the point of farcical; we're told that Jesus - it's not always Jesus; Muhammad (pbuh) said a lot of the same stuff, as did Moses, Guru Nanak, Buddha and many other such prophets - consistently taught tolerance (Matthew 7:3), and yet Christians damn the general public into Hell despite this.

This is the commonly held view. It's just not true. I'm a universalist, as are most people in my own church, and I've never heard the concept of Hell mentioned at all. I went to church this morning - it is Easter, after all - and we said a prayer for Syria and Iraq. Just before my baptism, I even said that I follow Christianiy because it works for me, and that I wasn't trying to levy my faith against any others. I was baptised wearing a Super Mario Bros. T-shirt with a mild innuendo on it ("Clean Your Pipe!") and yet I still felt the touch of God.

ZJK's article (linked to above) makes the - fair - point that there is the opportunity to get off on the idea of blasphemy: fucking with the ideals of a religion for sexual pleasure. Horror stories of paedophilia often feature a monstrous religious figure of authority; turning the tables somewhat - smut going entirely against a religious ideal - can be an appealing idea. For the non-religious atheist (especially one who holds all religions in contempt, considering them fictitious nonsense), this may well be a comfortable and even gleeful prospect. I, myself, enjoy takes upon the Christian mythos - such as Cover Him with Darkness by Janine Ashbless - for the same reason that I enjoy classical Greco-Roman and Norse mythology: because it's fascinating.

But as for the smut that subverts religion because it can - as opposed to serving any real purpose... that I don't enjoy. It makes me slightly uncomfortable, and that's fine - YKINMK, and anyway, there's more than enough out there that tittilates me already. But I do feel unsteady (even slightly insulted, depending upon the level of blasphemy assumed) at such stories, or even factual statements in everyday discussion or debate. Christianity - like every religion - is open to interpretation, according to how you read whatever scripture.

As a white, cisgender male from a middle-class background, I'm not exactly what you'd call a "minority". I'm a WASP, albeit a rather liberal one. Yet I advocate freedom of sexual expression, living unmarried (and having regular sex) with my foreign bisexual queer girlfriend, and previously with a number of other girls of varying diverse backgrounds, only one of whom was a practising Christian and one of whom was Wiccan (at the time; I think she converted later on). I write a sex blog and occasionally invoke the name of Christ during orgasm (although most of my orgasms are quite silent - I like to make her scream His name, though...).

If you think back to the stereotype of a radical Christian, this is not what you think of. They are either predatory or chaste. I am neither. I like sex as well as - not despite - being a Christian. I've never seen them as being mutually exclusive.

According to the way I interpret my religion, God gave us existence, and part of existence is sex, which is a pleasurable thing as well as - sometimes but, crucially, not always - a route towards procreation. He also gave us knowledge, and that enables us to do such things as prohibit procreation and enjoy sex, and also to adapt it in our own ways - including the blasphemous erotic fiction that people like... and porn. And erotic romance. And BD/SM. And sex talk. And softcore. If all that stuff came from humankind, and humankind came from God, and God is omniscient, then surely there's a link there somewhere?

So I masturbate. I watch porn. I have sex outside marriage. I advocate, strongly, casual sex (and get off on the concept) while also espousing the benefits of safety while doing so. At no point, not even once, did I feel and Christian guilt during any of this. Guilt? Yes. I repeatedly thought that what I was doing, especially in my younger years, was wrong, but never from a religious perspective. Insofar as my Christianity goes, I see sexual pleasure as a gift from God, for which I am grateful.

I've never belived in Hell. I do not fear the wrath of God and I'd never describe myself as "God-fearing". I don't fear God; I love God and all He does for me. I don't see a God of anger and punishment as much as I see a God of compassion and acceptance. And pleasure, of which sex is a part, I've never seen as something incompatible with religion. I'd hope you don't, either.

After all, if we could all just learn to accept each other for who we are... then we'd be doing what a lot of the world religions tell us to!

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