The S & M Aspect of Religious Belief

by Pitt Griffin on September 22, 2014 · 0 comments

in Religion

“The blessed in the kingdom of heaven will see the punishments of the damned, in order that their bliss be more delightful for them.” ― Thomas Aquinas

The religious are clearly obsessed with sex. They drone endlessly on about teenage sex, gay sex, premarital sex. They warn of orgiastic sex, pederasty and bestiality. And I suspect that they have the same varieties of sex as everyone else does.

And as it is with regular folks, there are things that aren’t typically seen as sexual that cause sexual frisson in the devout. Consider this headline from ‘Charisma Times’, “Rick Joyner issues Urgent Warning: ISIS Coming to America as the ‘Gate of Hell’ Has opened.” On the face of it, it appears a warning that terrorists threaten the American homeland. But consider the Wagnerian language, the imagery. And tell me it doesn’t suggest a masochistic sexual delight.

This epochal language threads its way through many such pronouncements. Rep Paul Broun, decrying science, warned a church group, All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell”. It’s not enough for Broun to present a sober case for why science is bunk, he must resort to gotterdammerung.

Religious sorts throughout history have turned to mortification of the flesh as self-punishment for perceived failings. Or as a talisman against disease and other blights. Take, for instance, the flagellants of medieval Europe. Is it unreasonable to think that at some point this abasement became its own reward?

Jimmy Swaggert, one of the 20th century’s outstanding hypocrites, was busted patronizing a prostitute. He wept. He prostrated himself (metaphorically). And he offered this.  “I have sinned against You, my Lord, and I would ask that Your Precious Blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgetfulness, not to be remembered against me anymore.”

It is bodice-ripper quality. How he must have enjoyed luxuriating his way through those words. Imagine the fun he had practicing that in the mirror. Not that he did it him much good. He was busted again. And this time trotted out the decidedly non-sexual, but still deity-driven, “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.”

Leviticus, chapter 18, helpfully provides a list of forbidden sexual partners. Mostly close female relatives, but also dudes and animals. The list drags on for 17 verses. Exploring in harrowing detail the varieties of sexual experience. And just in case you missed the point, the list gets repeated in chapter 20. This time the list may last only 12 verses, but the element of punishment – mostly capital – is layered in, adding piquancy to sexual contemplation.

And then there is punishment – especially the fire and brimstone kind – that are so beloved of so many pastors on Sunday morning. Once again hell raises its fiery head as warning to the miscreant. The wages of sin are paid in exquisite gradations of pain. And the punishment is eternal. How is it not sadism to contemplate your fellow man suffering those agonies?

God himself is not immune. The Old Testament can be well described as a torturer’s handbook. The torments handed out are both physical and mental – and endlessly inventive. A column of salt? Genius.

The non-religious relish sex for what it is. It takes the religious to add in the ancillary delights of forbidden fruit – literally in one case (if you believe in that sort of thing). I suppose they shouldn’t be begrudged. Except that they keep involving the rest of us in their perversions.


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