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Oh God, Don’t Stop

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Oh GOD, Don't Stop! -A NerveCenter Discussion-    



will7


I essentially gave up religion for sex. Now sex has become part of my religion.

prettykitty


Why would God have made sex so pleasurable if it’s a sin, if it’s only about procreation? He/She could have made it semi-pleasurable, like when you stick a Q-Tip in your ear — pleasurable but not so much that you spend all day with a Q-Tip in your ear. How many people are Q-Tip addicts? Are there any groups called “Q-Tips in Your Ears Anonymous”? No.

unknown1


In ancient times worshippers would sometimes sacrifice animals or humans (and less dramatic things) to their gods in exchange for good fortune and/or protection from this, that or the other thing. Nowadays, it seems, sacrificing one’s sexuality to their god is seen as the highest form of worship. Personally, I’m not sure how great of an improvement that is. I’m not suggesting a return to human sacrifices, but sex? Why place so much religious emphasis upon virginity and intercourse?

opiate


Sex is everywhere.


     
It’s everywhere because people are so passionate about it, because we spend so much time thinking about it. Sexual desire is one of the most powerful human/animal forces.


     
Religions, I think, seek to cultivate that feeling in their followers, to make them fall in love with (a) god. By abstaining from sex, followers can redirect their desire toward their god(s). That’s the idea, anyway, and I actually think it’s beautiful.


     
But it gets ugly when the religion becomes an institution. I think of the ascetic wandering through the countryside living on a few grains of rice a day, and I feel almost envious of that person’s ability to transform all physical desire into spiritual love; but when I think of an old friend who spent years repressing and resenting his homosexuality at the behest of the Catholic Church, I feel only pity and anger. When abstinence (or moderation) mutates from dogma to decree it becomes dangerous; it becomes an instrument of control.


     
I support — and envy, at times — those who choose by themselves to pour their sexual energy into their art or their spirituality, but those who do not choose to do this and are made to feel worthless for it, these people need to be saved from their “saviors.”


rbs


Not all religions are about brain-washing. Not all religious people are brain-washed.


     
Just because the Church said something doesn’t make it Christian. Some of us choose to remain in the Church and struggle to make it (and ourselves) more authentically Christian. I know that there are Muslims and Jews who feel the same way about their religious institutions and I’m sure the same must apply to non-Western religions as well.


unknown1


Unlike most governments, employers or relationships, any particular Church claims to hold “God Given Truths” which are unchangeable and unreformable. After all, if something is a “God Given Truth” then it cannot change according to what its followers may or may not want. According to the official stand of the Church, God does not change, Truth does not change, and therefore any changes in the Church or its doctrines reflect the desires and will of God, not of the followers. It is one thing to disagree with another human being of equal or greater power, but it’s another thing entirely to disagree with God, and most churches claim that to disagree with their “God Given Truths” is to be unacceptably challenging God, and therefore challenging the church hierarchy. If any church admits that its own followers can affect and reform it, then it is also admitting that its doctrines may be subject to human will as well as to God’s. And as we all know, human will and human interpretation are extremely fallible.

     
Also, when someone chooses to follow a certain Church (as opposed to an employer or government) they are betting their soul and eternity, not just some paychecks or secular policy. There is a huge difference. Thus if someone disagrees with a Church doctrine, there is vastly more at stake.


     

Opiate, yes, sexuality is seen everywhere, but religions have been dictating sexual codes to their followers long before the Internet and commercial advertising. Religions dictating some sexual codes goes back at least to the Neolithic period when fertility rites were in fashion.


gwynne


Yes, our Puritan heritage is still taking its toll. But in truth, most of the churches that I’ve been a part of — the more open-to-reform Protestant ones — have no particular doctrines concerning sexuality. Neither does the Bible, with the exception of a couple lines easily taken out of context (and there are indeed passages which support sexuality, i.e. all of Song of Songs). Jesus spoke highly of celibacy, but Jesus advocated abandoning any worldly things that interfered with spirituality — money, sex, career, even family. People who’d learned to “be like children” and devote their lives to spiritual simplicity — rather than worry, guilt or material gain — he didn’t have a problem with. In fact, Jesus wasn’t really big on condemning anybody, with the exception of hypocrites. I constantly marvel at the irony of the Religious Right; I can see very little Christian doctrine in their practices.


     
Those of us who choose to participate in religious institutions do so, not to be told what to do, but to be given an outlet for spiritual exploration and a community in which spirituality is accepted. There are churches in which I would feel very, very uncomfortable, because of the residue retained from centuries of religious stupidity. But this isn’t always the case, and unfortunately, most people seem to think it is.


     
I’ve recently been attending a Congregational church, which is actually very active in local outreach movements, particularly gay rights and economic equality — not because of political affiliations, but because of basic human rights. The Church is generally in need of reform, but as Rbs said, I believe that it’s worth reforming. Religion and sex are not dynamic opposites — in fact, they can be beautifully entwined.


abaddon


In the broadest sense, religion is the rituals we use to manage our current level of understanding of reality until we progress to the next level, or until the rituals become instinctual/habitual. We need to be able to simultaneously nurture belief and foster analysis.


     
Current organized religion tends to downplay the things that I find bring the most health in people (i.e. touch, intimate exploration with others, openness to new ideas), and so it’s hard for me to see something as controversial and emotionally raw as sex fitting well into the current paradigm.


     
However, I could easily see a sex-centered religion where people forget the abstractions of philosophy per se, and generate their own body technology to enrich their lives.


     
Wow, that even sounds weird to me.


rinchen


As a Buddhist, I feel pretty good about sex. Meditation practice in particular has made the ups and downs in sex and love, as well as other areas, a little more manageable.

gwynne


I’ve always thought of both sex and religion as acts of union and creation: sex as a physical union of bodies and the creation of an indescribable intimate experience; religion as a guide to understanding the universe, how everyone is connected. It amazes me that they’ve become so separated,


     
The whole concept of “divine virginity” was not actually developed until the Christians stopped being persecuted and started becoming the persecutors. When Roman emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion, Christianity was still being seen as a “way out” for women. In other words, joining the Christians was the only real alternative — albeit a subversive one — to getting married and leading a life based on traditional familial roles. (The early Church disliked any kind of hierarchy, so they shunned the era’s patriarchal values. This is why the idea of chastity came into it in the first place: without families, Christians were able to completely separate themselves from society.) As soon as Christianity entered into the status quo, however, it became a means of controlling women, locking them up in monasteries and telling them that losing their virginity was a fate worse than death, and that it was “the one thing God is incapable of forgiving” (according to “Saint” Jerome). I always wondered how the whole “anti-sex” angle in Christianity got started, because the Bible certainly doesn’t dwell on it.


couldabin


I’ve long suspected that the Christian hang-up on sex was intimately tied to the Virgin Birth account. I mean, really:



     
She’s pregnant.


     

Her: “I’ve never had sex!”


     

Them: “It’s a miracle!”



No wonder we’ve felt sheepish ever since.


gwynne


It was always a universal interpretation of Christian doctrine that Jesus was, indeed, conceived without intercourse. The story itself is a great read; the reactions of Joseph and Mary (in Luke) are very human: Mary is terrified and Joseph decides to “divorce her quietly.” The divergence in interpretation occurs with the question, “Why was Jesus conceived by a virgin?” I’m pretty sure the early Christians (i.e. Paul) took this at face value: well, he was the son of God, so the virgin birth confirms that God, not a mortal man, is the father. When Christianity became dominant, the new “Christian elite” took a different stance: Jesus could not have been conceived by vaginal sex, because that would have made Mary’s womb “impure” and “tainted.” From this perspective sprang the belief of the Immaculate Conception, meaning that Mary was born without sin and remained without sin throughout her life. While I respect this view in terms of the powerful female deity, I think it undermines the whole point of God’s son being born to a human woman, before her marriage, in a stable. To me, this indicates a pattern that defies worldly standards — it’s the modern-day equivalent of being born to a teenage girl in a homeless shelter in Newark. Furthermore, nowhere in the Bible does it state that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth. It does mention Jesus’ “brothers and sisters.” Is this a figurative reference? I guess that’s up to the reader.


     
The Adam and Eve story, by the way, underwent a similar transformation. Their crime, as initially perceived, was disobeying God and trying to attain all the knowledge of the divine. The “Christian elite” redefined Adam and Eve’s crime as one of lust, reinforcing a) that God sees sex as sinful, b) that women are inherent temptresses and must be subdued and c) that we are all born tainted by “original sin” (another concept that does not originate with the Bible).


     
So, anyway, has anyone else ever fooled around in church? (Okay, I’m a pastor’s daughter, so it was sort of inevitable.)


boomerboy


Fantasies about Sister Carol Dorothea in sixth grade probably don’t count. Discovering the convent Kotex closet. Realizing that “Delta” symbolized other things besides the Trinity. Watching Sister Leo Marie’s breasts roll around under her habit while she wrote on the blackboard. Figuring out that the priest doesn’t get undressed before vesting. Looking at Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa” and wishing I had read the book. Trying to pick up a girl in the Sistine Chapel until we realized we only lived a block from each other.


     
Other than that, no.


     
So, can anyone report a religious sexual experience, other than St.Teresa? Or perhaps a sexual religious experience?


soulshaker


I know that when I am with my lover there is a heightened sense of closeness not only to her, but to a higher level of awareness, of being. This doesn’t mean that I get closer to god when we’re fucking (though there are moments), but it does mean that I am experiencing something that is beyond anything neurophysical, biological or of normal consciousness. I feel closer to her, and with that I am closer to feeling a oneness with everything.

gwool


Boomerboy, Does this mean yelling out “Oh god?” Would this be the so called immaculate conception? Why is the aforementioned conception deemed immaculate? Was there no wet spot?


     
Or does a religious sexual experience involve role playing and altar boy costumes? How about a crucifix replete with head spinning and green bile projectile vomiting à la Linda Blair in The Exorcist?


     
Or is it a woman yelling “Jesus Christ” when you’re a little jumpy with the trigger finger, if you know what I am saying, thereby leaving her in the lurch?


     
I don’t know, I can’t imagine seeing God while in the act. Seeing stars, maybe, from hyperventilating, but not God. God’s not the first person I’d think of to add to the bedroom if my wife and I opted for a threeway. Linda Blair, maybe, but not God.


boomerboy


After reading Emma Taylor’s letter from the editor, Are You There God, It’s Me, Emma,” I came back to this page and I am struck by the negative tone of this board compared to Emma’s open, honest search for a place in her life for being a fully sexual being and a fully spiritual person who misses something that religious experience feeds.


     
Religious tolerance is in short enough supply in the world. Thoughtful hedonists should give each other the room to discuss ideas that seem foolish, like trying to reconcile our sexual lives with our religious and spiritual and moral experience.


erasrhed


I never had an intensely religious upbringing, though I was always “strongly encouraged” by my dad to go to church every Sunday. I was raised Episcopalian, and by teenage years got the impression that church was just rituals and rules where automatons stood, knelt or sang on cue . . . and there was occasionally some helpful advice on life. I didn’t perceive a consistency between what was preached and how the constituents lived and so started questioning the whole religion thing. But I was paying attention that whole time and don’t recall hearing anything from the pulpits seriously dowsing the fires of passion. Maybe that’s just Episcopalians.


     
I’m journeying down my own path to enlightenment, and eventually may find a group that embraces spirituality like I do while incorporating healthy sexual thinking as well. It’s all part of the beauty of life! Until then, I’d like to raise a glass to Emma and all of y’all who seek to find sex in the spiritual, and the spiritual in sex.


     
L’Chaim!



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  • Dispatches

    Voicebox III: Divine Ecstasy: Sin, Asceticism, and Sexuality in the Catholic Tradition

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     DISPATCHES




      


    Eliza’s delight in her church is a symptom of her hysterical constitution. Peter would be less troubled about his soul if he would take more exercise in
    the open air, etc. A more fully developed example of the same kind of reasoning is the fashion, quite common nowadays among
    certain writers, of criticizing the religious emotions by showing a connection between them and the sexual life. Conversion is a
    crisis of puberty and adolescence. The macerations of saints, and the devotion of missionaries, are only instances of the parental
    instinct of self-sacrifice gone astray. For the hysterical nun, starving for natural life, Christ is but an imaginary substitute for a
    more earthly object of affection. And the like.
    — William James, from The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902





    The
    easiest way for a sex magazine to write about Catholicism — and all its obsessions and prohibitions about sex — would be
    to fall into to the facile psychologizing that James criticizes. We could lament Christianity’s distrust of pleasure, underscore
    its rejection of the body, and wash our hands of the matter. But such a process would efface the extreme complexity and
    tension that exist in the many Christian takes on sexuality, both now and over the ages.


        

    Our mission, then, is not to “criticize religious emotion,” but to explore Catholicism’s historical approach to
    sexuality as seen through Christian texts, trends, laws and art. We’ve assembled five participants — cultural critic
    CamillePaglia, ex-monk
    Thomas Moore, professor of religion
    Elaine Pagels, married priest
    Robert Francoeur and feminist Catholic reformer
    Frances Kissling — whose careers and lives
    have given them rare insight into the connection between spirituality and sex.


        

    Whether you worship God, nature, yourself or nothing at all, this discussion, as it unfolds over the
    next two weeks, might illuminate the ways in which the 2000-year-old Christian tradition directly and indirectly informs
    your culture and politics, your beliefs and behavior. Keep checking in, and remember, your confessions and testimonials are always
    welcome. —n°







    Question I


    Why has Christianity rejected many expressions of sexuality as antithetical to spirituality while various
    Eastern traditions — Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism — have been more accepting of sexuality, have
    even embraced sex as a vehicle for spiritual transcendence? What do you think about the connection, if any,
    between sexuality and spirituality? In the Christian view, is Shakespeare’s mortal coil, Milton’s perfidious
    bark, just a weight holding us down, preventing us from achieving greater divinity, or is the body, as Blake
    explains, a portion of the soul discerned by the five senses?



      3.30.99


      Camille Paglia touts the pros of neuroses

      Thomas Moore thinks sex is living

      Elaine Pagels is a proud heretic

      Robert Francoeur disconnects sex from original sin

      Frances Kissling begs to differ with Nerve



        Francoeur responds to
    Paglia,
    Moore and
    Kissling

        Moore responds to
    Paglia,
    Francoeur,
    Kissling and
    himself







    Question II


    Redemption though the mortification of the flesh — fasting, hair shirts, flagellation,
    celibacy, reclusion, martyrdom, et cetera — has been prevalent in the history of
    Catholicism. Since pain and denial can lead to an acute awareness of the body, did such
    practices ever have any sexual components for ascetics?



      4.2.99


      Camille Paglia sees bulimics as God-seeking sexual hysterics

      Thomas Moore on a popular medieval sex aid: the hair shirt

      Elaine Pagels questions the comfort of fig leaves

      Robert Francoeur compares flagellants and violent lab monkeys

      Frances Kissling wonders if S/M can be a gift from God



        Moore responds to
    Paglia and
    Francoeur







    Question III


    In The Soul of Sex, Thomas Moore says “religious institutions remain close to pornography, sometimes in their
    art . . . because ultimately both are concerned with life’s deepest meaning and mystery.” Do you see any
    connection between Catholicism and porn? Did Catholic artists ever purposely infuse their art and iconography with suggestions of
    sexuality in order to help convey the power of spiritual ecstasy to the masses (consider such Christian-themed works as the
    illustrated “O” in Bede’s commentary on the Song of Songs,
    Donatello’s David,
    Caravaggio’s Doubting Thomas, and
    Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Theresa)?
    And, if so, how should that affect the way we interpret contemporary renditions of Christianity such as
    Andres Serrano’s photograph Heaven and Hell,
    Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ,
    Madonna’s video “Like a Prayer,” and
    Terrence McNally’s play Corpus Christi (all of which many religious
    fundamentalists have condemned as pornographic and blasphemous)?



      4.5.99


      Camille Paglia thinks sacrilege is so five-minutes-ago

      Thomas Moore doesn’t take porn literally

      Elaine Pagels chats with Andres Serrano

      Robert Francoeur is holding out for decent phallic symbols

      Frances Kissling reminds us that immorality isn’t always about sex



        Pagels responds to
    Moore

        Francoeur responds to
    Moore






    Question IV


    The Catholic Church continues to stand by its distinction between “natural” sex
    (heterosexual, married) and “unnatural” sex (homosexual, outside the sanctity of marriage)
    in a time when society is becoming increasingly accepting of “alternative” lifestyles. Do
    you think the Church is becoming any more or less tolerant? Should it by definition not be
    tolerant? Will unwavering commitment to this stance lead to an eventual decline in the
    authority of the Church? Or would altering the doctrine as it applies to contraception, female
    and gay priests, abortion, gay marriage and masturbation be an invitation to contumacy
    throughout the whole of the religion?



      4.7.99


      Camille Paglia suggests starting your own damned church

      Thomas Moore recommends being Catholic, complex and fully sexual

      Elaine Pagels won’t second guess

      Robert Francoeur thinks the Pope is stuck in a time warp

      Frances Kissling has little faith that Catholics obey the “rules”



        Kissling responds to everyone so far





    Question V


    Has Catholicism (or any other religion) shaped your own sexual life? Does one dictate the other?


      4.9.99


      Camille Paglia rebelled against ’50s Catholicism with ’60s rock n roll

      Thomas Moore doesn’t know anyone more interested in sex than monks

      Elaine Pagels examines the quiet influence of her Protestant roots

      Robert Francoeur battles the anti-sex demons of his youth

      Frances Kissling doesn’t think God cares who’s sleeping with whom





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