Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Brazilian for Jesus


Some time ago, I wrote a fairly protracted essay on why I was an atheist and how it saddened me that some people of faith saw that as a threat. You can read it here if you wish. It crystalised how I felt at the time and attracted lots of comments including a couple from Dave Gorman and Stephen Fry. I will reiterate here what I said then; I am a sceptic and cannot prove or disprove the existence of a god or gods. However, I see no evidence for their existence and so my current standpoint is atheist. For me, belief is not enough.

However, I have no problem with other people believing. Why would I? Their strength of conviction is no less strong than my belief in a deity's non-existence. The only time that I come out fighting is when children are told lies so that they cannot make their own decisions about what to believe or when people are hurt, supposedly in the name of some god or other. I'm sorry, but every single religion, faith and philosophy has, at its heart, a version of the Golden Rule of Reciprocity, namely that we should all treat others as we'd like to be treated ourselves (you can see the various different versions here). It seems to me that if god(s) exist then he/she/they is/are actually pretty wonderful beings - it's the twisted interpreations of their teachings by humans that cause all the problems. After all, every religion, faith and philosophy also states that killing is bad and that a higher power is the only true judge.

One of the most extraordinary uses of this handy 'interpretation' lark is a site I found recently that uses the Bible to 'give permission' for various sex acts. Now, I'm aware that it may be a spoof site but, as is the case with so many sites of this kind, there are no clues to help me make that decision. It was registered through a company called Domains By Proxy from Scottsdale, Arizona, USA so the owner wished to remain anonymous. A more obvious spoof site would tend to go over the top with a Biblical 'okay' for things like bestiality, incest or paedophilia, for example. Nor does it have a central agenda such as 'proving' that God is okay with homosexuality. So, I don't know how real it is; all I do know is that I've seen stranger sites that turned out to be absolutely genuine. So, I won't assume either way. I'll just report what the site says. If you are of a gentle disposition or are embarrassed by sexual content, I suggest you go and look at a site with baby hedgehogs being cute for a bit.

Sex In Christ is, as I say, a website dedicated to finding mitigation in the Bible for various sexual acts. Among the headings on the site are: Oral Sex and God's Will, Viagra and God's Will, Threesomes Within a Christian Marriage, Masturbation - God's Great Gift to Us, A Proposal for a Christian Pornography, Bondage in Christ - BDSM in a Christian Marriage, Bare before God - Shaving and the Bible, A Philosophical Argument for Masturbation, Anal Sex according to the Word of God and the altogether disturbing Fisting and God's Will. Here's an example of the kind of content you'll find (voyeurs note: there are no photos or diagrams).

On the subject of anal sex:

'Anal sex is confusing to many Christians because of the attention paid to the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual acts. However, it’s important to realize that these often quoted scriptures refer only to sexual acts between two men. Nowhere does the Bible forbid anal sex between a male and female. In fact, many Biblical passages allude to the act of anal sex between men and women. Lamentations 2:10 describes how 'The virgins of Jerusalem have bowed their heads to the ground,' indicating how a virginal maidens should position themselves to receive anal sex. Another suggestive scripture tells of a woman’s pride in her 'valley' (referring to her buttocks and the cleft between them) and entices her lover to ejaculate against her backside: 'How boastful you are about the valleys! O backsliding daughter who trusts in her treasures, {saying,} ' Who will come against me?'' (Jeremiah 49:4) And in the Song of Songs, the lover urges his mate to allow him to enter her from behind: 'Draw me after you, let us make haste.' (Song of Solomon, 1:4)'

On the subject of intimate topiary:

'Many women already wax or trim their bikini line, but question whether they can or should remove more pubic hair than that. Fortunately, we can look to the Bible for guidance: 'For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn.' (1 Corinthians 11:6). The point of bikini waxing is to remove hair that is not concealed by a swimsuit or panties, and this is appropriate for public or semi-public situations like swimming pools and fitting rooms. But if you anticipate revealing more of your intimate parts - that is, if someone (like your husband) is going to see you uncovered (i.e., without underwear) -- your genital area should be shaved or at least trimmed closely.'

And on the tricky subject of masturbation - 'God's great gift':

'The Scripture tells us that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and that everything that we do should glorify the Lord. While masturbation is not a sin, we must be careful to masturbate in a way that is respectful to our bodies, and respectful to God. Masturbation is a gift that we should not abuse. This means we should not masturbate to excess, or to the point where we injure ourselves. If you are masturbating until you are exhausted, or until your genitals are raw or bleeding, this is excessive, harmful, and not what God intended. If you masturbate compulsively to the point that it interferes with your work or your relationships with friends, family, and God, this is a problem. If you masturbate while indulging in impure thoughts (fantasizing about your neighbor’s wife, for example), this is also a misuse of God’s gift. Of course, this is not to say that masturbation in itself is wrong – simply that we must use masturbation in a way that is healthy and responsible.'

But what about the story of Onan and the origins of onanism? Yup, he (you can tell it's 'he' by the rampant sexism alone) has an answer for that too:

'Many people are under the impression that the Bible specifically forbids masturbation. In reality, the Bible does not even mention masturbation. The story of Onan (Genesis 38:7-10) is always cited as an example of how God will punish masturbators; this is where we get the term 'Onanism,' which refers to masturbation. However, the story of Onan has absolutely nothing to do with masturbating. After his brother died, Onan was commanded by God to impregnate his brother’s wife. Onan had sex with her, but defied God by pulling out before he ejaculated so she wouldn’t get pregnant. His seed spilled on the ground – due to coitus interruptus, not masturbation – but this detail became equated with masturbation by those who apparently had their own agenda.'

Their own agenda! The irony is so heavy it's crushing.

As I said, I don't know if this is a spoof or not. What I do know is that some people will use it as 'proof' that they can indulge in various sexual practices and God won't mind. It's also causing genuine debate on some Christian forums. Amid the fire and brimstone and demands that 'This evil site must be shut down!' you'll find comments like:

'When the Church was teaching me I was going to hell because I was gay while growing up in the late 70's/early 80's I knew these teachings didn't fit into the words of a loving God found in the Gospels. I read the Gospel of John and was startled to see the relationship between Jesus and John went beyond anything else Christ had with another human being. It was quite clear they were in love. I mean, come on, one of the most heart wrenching moments in history is when John leans back against the 'bosom'of Christ and asks who will be the one who betrays Christ and thus kills Him. It must have been so devistating (sic) for John especially since John must have had 'could it be me'playing in the back of his mind. It is one of the most intimate moments of any literature and for the Vatican to try to tell us being homosexual is wrong and evil, and hence Christ is evil according to their teachings, then you know institutional religion is the one which is nothing but evil. Love, IMO, is never wrong.'

'That is just hilarious! I am right now forwarding this to a few of my very Christian friends, want to see how they will react to it. I will just let them and some of my other friends know... hey, if you are dating a Christian women... print this out and show it to her :-)'

'It just goes to show how far people will go to twist the word of GOD, to fit their own agenda ,but the thing is by doing it they will only cause it to backfire on them.{GALATIONS 6:7} Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.'

'Who is to say the writers of the site do not utterly and wholeheartedly believe what they wrote, if you say they are wrong and they say they are right it just becomes a circular argument. If you think they are wrong, prove them wrong, don't just say they are wrong because you say so. Christians seem to believe they can bash anyone that doesn't agree with them (sic), but if someone gives it back they cry foul. If anything sites like that should strengthen your belief, no need to get into a hyperbolic argument where never the twain shall meet. If this site offends you, don't look at it, [and] if it makes you question your belief then the basis of your belief is not so solid.'

'I've had the 'hair on the back of the neck' kinds of conversations with religious people who quote the Bible, and you start to realize that their mind has taken a walk off the map. Once you remove from yourself the hindrance of reading the Bible in an honest manner, with the same rules of English that you would use to read a newspaper, then ALL SORTS of 'Biblical' possibilities are available.'

'I have studied this website thoroughly and feel confident that the authors behind it are Christian, know God and know what their (sic) talking about. Scriptually they have twisted nothing but come to their conclusion through thorough reading, and personally as a Christian I am very impressed with there site. It's great for Christians who have been wrongly painted, pointed at, laughed at, stereo typically thought of by many as boring and frigid as quite the opposite. It also gives people the opportunity to learn something about Christianity and reminds us all that the bible is as relevent today as it was back then.'

'Cool, I just bookmarked it.'

For me, as an ethical atheist humanist, such considerations don't matter. I don't need a website to cherry-pick quotes from a holy book to vindicate me. I make my choices based upon my personal ethics and respect for myself and the other person involved (if I get that lucky). I don't need to be told what I may or may not do by some book that was, let's face it, written by committee. As I wrote in my 2010 essay, one reason I find belief in god(s) so troublesome is that the guidance he/she/they gave us - in the form of holy books - is so wishy washy. If a supreme being could make something as extraordinarily complex as a dragonfly's wing or a human brain, why couldn't they have passed on instructions in a non-ambiguous form?

Sadly, it's left to us all-too fallible humans to figure out how he/she/they actually want us to live our lives.

But with every human 'given' free will, that was never going to work was it?

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