Monday, September 3, 2007

Delusions & Sex & God

A short entry, on "The God Delusion" not yet read. I admit that I came across a random excerpt by Richard Dawkins and found myself disappointed at its sloppy tone. The assertion by our eminent don, whatever it was, even I recognized as erroneous, so it must've been a whopper. I came across John Scalzi's entry from his blog "Whatever" a year ago in a Google search for what Warren Johansson coined around 1980 as the "sodomy delusion." This term stems from the medieval panic that this "peccata contra naturam" occasioned-- once you go bareback as it were, you never go back. The Church feared the mention of this "mute sin" but had to inveigh against its contamination. Confession had to elicit it from those in the know and make them feel guilty, yet the pastors did not want to let on to the supposedly innocent penitents that a whole underground community existed who were up to more perverse offenses than the garden, or barnyard, variety practiced surely by so many in a farm-based, six-to-a-flea bitten blanket, poverty-stricken and itchily randy (aren't we all) culture. Did you know that besides, given prohibitions against sex (even for procreation only, limited to that one position), married couples could only engage licitly at one low point in the 7th century-- and that risked them sinning by too much enthusiasm, or "libido" which to theologians is a sinful state-- once a week at worse? And that blanket term against nature covered a multitude of sexual sins. I recall a riposte to "natural law" about instruments God made being put into unnatural orifices: if a hammer is used to pound nails, is it sinful if you make it smash nutshells?

The trouble is, that this impossibly ubiquitous injunction was cruelly placed not only on the backs of those who sought love in another man's embrace ("homosexual" is a dubious term from 1869 when a German theorist sought to place in a "third sex" those who presumably were unavoidably attracted to the genitals of their own body when seen on another) and not only against male-on-male intercourse, but widened to practically any sexual activity, given the lack of control that Augustine knew well before he abandoned his mistress (and his son Adeodatus) and eloquently lamented. At the same time, as my earlier review last month of Mark Jordan's book notes, the classification compressed into an assault on narrowly defined, yet frustratingly elastic, actions against "nature." This jumble's still classified under what Foucault rightly calls "that utterly confused category" of "sodomy," as much a mess today as it was in the time of Peter Lombard, if not Augustine in his understanding (sic) of the outrage committed by those men who wanted to "know" (yada yada yada) the male guests rather than the poor virgin daughters tossed out into the raging crowd of inhospitable bitumenites (my coinage).

Back to the entry on Dawkins' screed. As my friend in Belfast mentioned to me on my visit, it's often poorly written, evidently. I mean to plow, if quickly through it. Didn't Emerson advise to wait a year before reading a bestseller, anyway? Scalzi's riposte that tenured folks get to vent not on those of us outside the protections of academia on blogs but in books hits the target!

Blog image:
Dawkins review by Scalzi & long thread of responses:

1 comment:

harry said...

Even before puberty, I thought that story about the father throwing his daughters out to the drunken men, in order to prevent them from fucking his male guest, was, as they say in Oakland, hella weird. Early on I sensed that literal interpretation of scriptures was useless... or if true, scriptures were useless.