As a woman, I cannot begin to understand the place of sex in the lives of the male of the species. And I suspect that the reverse is true. And a significant proportion of the population does not accept that there is a dichotomy in sexuality – and they are right!
Yet most of our institutions and laws have been founded on masculine attitudes with little consultation with others, and this particularly applies to the world’s religions!
It does seem that there is a strong link between sex and religion, in that both appear to be matters linked by emotional satisfaction.
In past centuries – and possibly still continuing in some so-called Christian communities – self-denial was seen as purifying, in a religious context, and having earthly thoughts like lust had to be banished by inflicting pain through, for example, self-flagellation or wearing a hair shirt!
Asceticism was the ultimate path to purity and the gateway to heaven. In my view, the time wasted on punishing oneself for impure thoughts would have been better spent helping people in need of support!
Followers of Christ in the Roman Catholic tradition who wished to bring others to the church were encouraged to put thoughts of pleasure and personal feelings aside, as these interfered, with the ability to concentrate on bringing to others the word of god and of salvation through Jesus Christ. The ministry of the Church demanded total concentration and those denying themselves earthly pleasure were promised life in heaven as a reward. This denial of self also flowed on to some of the sects in the protestant sphere.
Clearly, many who have chosen priesthood and self-denial of the pleasures of the flesh have struggled. Not surprising, because nature has programmed all species to procreate and, while helping others can be a source of pleasure, we all need to feel cared for.
To my mind, the ministry controlled by the Vatican has totally confused the demands they have made of their priests with the restrictions they have placed on their parishioners.
They have sought to make sex available for procreational purposes, while suspect as a means of emotional expression and pleasure. They have equated the relationship between sexual partners with the holy relationship between the church and god.
The demand that an ordained priest be celibate has always been unrealistic, and for many, the need for a less ethereal emotional satisfaction has proved overwhelming.
The sense of guilt associated with illicit sexual thoughts and actions is itself, in a roundabout way, titillating!
I was bought up in a protestant sect and am now an agnostic, conscious of the damage being done in the world by a misinterpretation of the intent of religion. This is not confined to Christianity but also Islam and Hinduism and all others, but these are the dominant ones. Religion is or should be, concerned with finding a meaning for life and a means of enabling a community to live in harmony. Science can help with the first, as well as finding reasons for phenomena, and politics could, but seldom successfully does, deal with the second!
My opinion is that one of the foundation stones of any religion, which is also a stumbling block, is the power given to its leaders, be they priests, imams, whatever, and those at risk of losing their power will go to war – on whatever pretext – to retain it.
Secular law has, in some parts of the world, replaced religious or canon law, and Shariah law is not necessarily followed in all countries where Islam is the dominant religion.
But what we need is to be governed by laws which protect and support the weak, control the power of individuals – and corporations which damage conditions for others – and follow the precept: from each according to their ability; to each according to their needs.
Sadly, the failure of religion to bring peace rather than discord has also led to the refusal to accept the findings of science. Too many still live in the past, denying knowledge more recently acquired and falling back on superstition, myths and fables.
We are currently having statements made that there are many gay priests in the PC church. It is almost certainly true, on current evidence, that many priests are paedophiles, but it is ignorant and harmful to confuse being gay – which is a given form of sexuality and normally harmless – with being a paedophile – whose predilection harms innocent children.
Australia needs to separate education from religion.
Our governments have an obligation to ensure that all citizens have an understanding of science and the current state of knowledge which it has uncovered while leaving it a matter of individual choice to follow beliefs and cultural activities which do not conflict with our country’s laws.
Female genital mutilation is unnecessary and harmful and should be illegal, as should child marriage. There are doubts about the validity of circumcision, but if it has some health benefits, so be it. Most dietary taboos date back to pre-refrigeration days and are harmless but unnecessary. Those who refuse to accept our laws in these and any other similar situation need to adapt if they plan to remain here.
Equally, acceptance of equality of opportunity for all, as a human right, means we cannot discriminate on grounds of colour, creed or sexuality, and any religion which teaches otherwise must be illegal.
We all should have the right to live as we wish, as long as no one else is harmed in the process. It is also vital that we accept difference as a fact – not a threat!
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