I am often accused of being controversial for the fun of it. Sometimes, I am. However, often as not, I am just writing from the heart and my heart is, I guess, full of controversy. If you are so offended by controversy that you cannot read something controversial to the end, please don’t read this, because I don’t want to deal with the questions and responses of people who only read half. Also, if you don’t want to know about what I was thinking and doing in regards to sex when I was a teen, again, stop reading, because I am going to be totally honest.
I began looking at online pornography around the age of 12 or so. Pornography is a available with many themes, and one that intrigued me was orgy themed pornography. Orgy is a French loan word, which came to France via the Latin orgia, meaning secret rites or secret revels. (For the not so literate, a revel is big party.) The idea here is a big party where secret rites are practiced. I’m not clear on the etymology (story of the meaning of a word) but orgy came in English to almost exclusively mean “a bunch of people having sex with each other all at once”.
I wasn’t only attracted to the representation of orgy in pornography, I was attracted to the very idea of it, the concept of it. This concerned me. As a young teen growing up in a very stereotypically Christian environment I had (obviously) the attendent sexual obsession, but also the attendent homophobia. Half the people at an orgy were male. Though the men at an orgy were having sex with women, to be in a room where other men were having sex, even with women, seemed gay. Homosexuality held absolutely no appeal whatsoever, but orgies seemed appealing. I struggled to answer why.
Around the same time, I took an interest in cults. I read everything I could get my hands on about cults, particularly ones that included sexual deviancy. I think I did this because I considered the my desire for pornography, masturbation, sex, and particularly orgy to be a sin in and off it self. (A position, I might add, that the church agrees with.) To look at porn and to masturbate were, in my mind, bad enough. That I desired to do these things and to have sex with my female friends, and particularly desired to be having sex in a room full of other people having sex, was appalling to me. I felt incredibly ashamed. So, I guess it was natural that I looked for a group of people where everyone was like me, where my desires were not a deviancy to be ashamed off, but a communal value, perhaps, even a virtue.
When I discovered the record of the Oneida Community, it seemed that I had discovered paradise. The Oneida Community was group of “Bible Communists” who lived in upstate New York. They believed a lot fascinating things, but the ones of note here are their sexual practices. Unlike many cults which have achieved infamy for their sexual oddity, the Oneida’s were not primary a “sex cult”, they were a real religious group which positively effected the world around them. It just so happened they had some unique sexual practices.
The foundation of these practices, was called Complex Marriage. Complex marriage was a theory. In theory, every one in the commune was married to everyone else in the commune. Everyone shared in parenting. Sex was seen as both physical and spiritual. They saw nothing sinful in sex as long it was practiced in their unique way. They were not unaware of the procreative aspects of sex, and this figured into their social norms. They considered the ability to prevent ejaculation as spiritual discipline. For this reason, young men were paired with post-menopausal women until they had mastered this control. Men and women who were capable of prolonged and mutually enjoyable sexual encounters were considered spiritually mature. Immature believers were paired with them until they learned the lessons, at which point they would also begin to rotate through the commune to spread “love”. Each member had about 3 pairings a week. All children were planned, wanted, and raised by all.
To me this sounded like the most wonderful state of human affairs on earth. Of course, it didn’t last. The values got corrupted and church leaders got the most nubile and young with whom they were not “spiritually disciplined” and had many babies, not all of which were wanted by the whole community. Aside becoming selfish lovers, they also became selfish about those lovers. Demanding that the laity share, the clergy refused to share their treasured few.
When I was 18, and looking to move out, I looked at several “swingers’ clubs”. For the naive among you, a swingers club is often much more than a place where people interested in anonymous sex can meet (that’s what singles bars are for). Swinger’s clubs have rules. Often everyone gets together once a week. In some clubs you can’t refuse anyone who asks, in others, there are certain formalities of asking. Some clubs require that sex take place in front of all other guests. Some require that it does not. The point is, all of them have certain rules and methods of operation to prevent a sex cult from forming. By “cult” I mean they struggle to make sure that everyone relates as equals, and no one had undo force on any other person, to ensure total consent.
None of them were attractive, and coming to undertand why helped me put two and two together. The reason that orgy themed pornagraphy had interested me in spite of myself, the reason that the Oneida Community had seemed to call to me so much, the reason that the swingers clubs had so little appeal, was all the same: What I wanted was the intimacy. The reason that orgy as a lifestyle intrigued me was the idea of being so loved. To love a community of people, so much, and have that love be returned, to love the women so much that I could make love to any of them, and to love the men so much that I would share the women I loved with them was what I wanted… In short, I wanted to be loved. Not just by an individual, but loved by a whole group.
I wanted it, but I was a conservative Christian. To me to turn my back on the values of Christianity was a death sentenence. Once I even took one step on that road, the full consequences would be taken. I didn’t really want to get into some freaky sex, I wanted to be loved. I wanted, however, a love the church could not give me. The church cannot love you for who you are, since you are at worst a sinner and at best a “saint who sins”. If who you are isn’t spiritual, then loving that part of you is sin. They can love the part of you that prays, but not the part that works on trucks. However if you pray and evanglize, then they can love the part of you that prays as well as the part of you that works for a living. They must love you because Jesus does. I didn’t want to be loved out of duty or obligation, I wanted to be loved because I was unique and special. My love of science is as much a part of who I am as my love of my wife and daughter. I wanted to belong to a community that loved ALL of me, not just the spiritual parts.
As many of you know, when I was 18 I very seriously considered going to Philadelphia and starting a sex cult. I never thought that this would be right or healthy. In fact, even as I considered it, I thought that it would be corrosive to my very soul. Ethylene glycol was an early antifreeze. It is so like sugar that it even tastes sweet. It brakes down into the blood just like sugar, cell by cell. Then it goes to fuel the muscles just like sugar. Then it metabolizes into poison, this poison is filtered out by the kidneys. They stop working, and you die. Sex is so like real intimacy that its easy to confuse the two. Then at some critical point in your life where you need intimacy to make it, all you have is sex, and a part of you dies. I knew thats what would happen to me. But I was so desperately lonely and hungry to be loved by a community of people, that I almost accepted the second best to nothing at all. I didn’t care about the personal cost, I just wanted to be wanted, not because Jesus said so, but purely because of what I have to offer.
I didn’t go start a sex cult, I tried, instead, another avenue. I thought maybe I should go into “ministry”. I went to bible college, I tried campus groups, eventually, I even joined a wild eyed charismatic church who talked big about the coming revolution and change at any cost. Let me make clear here. My point is NOT is not about sex. My point is that I was so desperate to be loved by a group of people that I would have used sex. I would have done anything, I would have even given my life. And so desperate was this desire, that knowing full well I counldn’t get it with sex, I was almost willing to to use sex just to feel like I had it when I did not.
None of it worked. No mater what I did, I couldn’t be loved for what I have to offer, I had to be loved for who I knew, Jesus. I couldn’t be loved for what I could do right now, I had to be loved for what I could do in some distant future. And finally, and most painfully of all, I could not be loved for what I loved (science, skeptisicm, and rationality). The community that I wanted so much was not available in the chuch.
Of late, I have been spending a lot of time in the company of athiests, agnostics, and skeptics. For the first time in my life, I am loved by a group not because I am pimping Christ, not out of duty, and not because I have potential. I am loved for what I am, and greatest of all, the things that are most important to me: critcal thought, freedom, and truth, are something that people admire about me instead of tolerate. That which I am, is loved and respected instead of channeled into things which “support the cause”.
The desire that I have had since adolesnce to be loved by a group for who I am is finally fufilled. The Oneida Ideal suddenly has no appeal for me as I get what I need from people who respect me. I don’t to compromise who I am to be loved, I can simply be myself and people seek me out. That which the church denied to me for 25 years I have found in the rebels of the church. I have that “one thing” and I won’t ever go back.
A cynic, a compassionate atheist, a pragmatic Christian, and a fundamentalist Christian, all received an invitation to God’s banquet. The cynic got there first, wanting the satisfaction of proving its non-existence before anyone else did. He was disappointed to find a beautiful table set for four and full of all sorts of beautifully presented and delicious looking foods.
The pragmatic Christian, worried about propriety, figured that being too early might be a form of disobedience, but also worried that being late might have dire consequences, arrived merely respectfully early.
The compassionate atheist, fascinated and curious, arrived exactly on time.
The fundamentalist, breathless, arrived ten minutes late. He had spent the ten minutes interpreting the various possible meanings of the statement “You are cordially invited by God to a banquet” before departing.
“Well,” said the Christian, “Isn’t everything so beautiful!”
“Its lovely,” agreed the atheist
“But what does it mean?” asked the fundamentalist.
“I see nothing!” spat the cynic.
The atheist grabbed a helping of mashed potatoes with a silver spoon, and looked around to see if anyone wanted more.
The Christian looked longingly at the mashed potatoes. They looked delicious, but should he eat them?
“I see no mashed potatoes!” spat the cynic.
The fundamentalist gasped, “What are you doing?”
“I was invited to a lovely banquet which began at seven o’clock,” began the atheist. “The time is now seven oh two. I am serving the mashed potatoes.”
“But who are you to serve the mashed potatoes of God?” asked the fundamentalist.
The pragmatic smiled. He had prayed about it and know knew they were to eat the potatoes. “We’re the guests of God, of course we can eat them,” he drawled, holding up his crystal plate. The atheist dutifully spooned some on, still looking around for more takers.
“I find no pattern of mashed potatoes in Scripture,” the fundamentalist said suspiciously.
“I see no mashed potatoes,” the cynic insisted.
“What do you mean you see no mashed potatoes, they’re right in front of you,” said the atheist surprised.
“Ha!” cackled the cynic, “I thought you’d never ask. God is an illusion, this is the banquet of God. There is no God, therefore, there are no mashed potatoes.” He leaned back triumphantly in his overstuffed and comfortable dinning chair.
The pragmatic Christian and fundamentalist, scandalized together, cried out “That’s blasphemy!”
Atheist, simply shook his head, and took another bit of roast duck. “Whatever, Cynic.”
“I knew your free thinking would destroy in the end, Atheist. You share these simpletons’ disillusion,” Cynic sighed happily.
“Cynic, I have always been more concerned with truth than with not believing in God. I observe that I am in a magnificently appointed room full of delicious food. To deny the existence of the veritably of the real merely to fit an existing theory is the antithesis of science,” Atheist paused, ” As such it is your department, and not mine.”
“Are you saying that you believe this is not some sort of illusion? You fool! I’ll blacklist you! I’ll end you. You’ll never publish again!”
Athiest smiled warmly. “I’ve no doubt you could Cynic, you’ve alway held more public support than I in social affairs. Still, all the more reason to enjoy this now, while its in front of me.” Atheist held some green beans out to Pragmatic and Fundamentalist Christian.
“Thank you, kindly” said Pragmatic.
“I’ll take nothing from your fated hands!” cried the fundamentalist. “Your kind are a cancer on this earth! You have stolen the Holy food of God and you don’t even believe in him!”
Cynic’s bitter eyes picked up at the mention of cancer. “Yes! A cancer, thats what man is! A festering carbuncle on the buttocks of the earth!”
“Oh, I agree, Cynic, I agree,” gushed the fundamentalist. “Man is filth. A disgusting aberration not worthy of this table of God.”
“I see no table,” growled Cynic.
“Nor do I, Cynic. My mind could never comprehend the beauty of God. He would never present my filthy sinning carcass with such splender. This must all be an illusion created by my own mental filth,” said Fundamentalist piously.
“We are all filthy vandals,” Cynic conceded.
Pragmatic Christian had been listening with growing concern to this speech. “Uh, Fundamentalist, we are brothers, so I hate to correct you in front of our enemies, but what you are saying is wrong. Man sins, yes, but he was created in the image of God. He is full of incomprehensible value and worth as a result.”
Fundamentalist laughed, a single explosive sound. “Ha! You and I brothers? I share no parentage with you and your secular humanist plop. The intrinsic, incomprehensible value of man? The Bible says all men have fallen short of the glory of God. Fallen short, Pragmatic. Who can comprehend the ways of God? Clearly, this room is trap of Satan, a trap of pride and vain glory. Man and all his work are worthless!”
“Worthless!” agreed Cynic.
“Come Cynic, let us leave this illusion of joy and return the true reality of suffering and pain.”
Cynic rose stiffly, offering his arm for Fundamentalist.
Tears welled in Pragmatic Christian’s eyes, “But brother, you haven’t even touched the food given to us by our Father!”
“For twenty minutes I have sat here, and God has not feed me one bite!” said Fundamentalist primly. “Unlike some people, thought I may starve, I will not presume upon God.”
“But,” began Pragmatic, “You cannot sit at a table God has layed in front of you and told you to go to and talk of starving.”
Fundamentalist smiled condescendingly. “Oh, Pragmatic, who are we to presume to take matters into our own hands? God will build what he wishes. When we try to do God’s work for him, can’t you see we are usurping Him?”
Pragmatic sputtered, “But its right in front of you and He put it there for you to take!” to Fundamentalist’s back as he walked toward the door arm in arm with Cynic.
An awkward silence descended on the banquet hall.
“So,” said Pragmatic Christian.
“So,” agreed Compassionate Atheist.
“I’ve never really talked to an atheist before,” said Christian.
“I don’t often talk to pragmatic Christians either,” said Athiest.
Pragmatic cleared his throat, “I’m a little afraid of you, to be honest.”
“Yup, me too,” said Atheist around a bite of pheasant.
Pragmatic Christian was delighted. “I am afraid you will corrupt my mind with your evil atheist ways, are you afraid that I will convert you to Christianity?”
Compassionate Atheist smiled gently before answering. “Well, no. I’m afraid of other things.”
“Like what,” asked Christian wide eyed.
“Oh,” began Atheist, “say, an Inquisition.”
“Oh, is that all,” laughed Christian. “We don’t do that anymore.”
Atheist nodded. “Why is that Christian? If God is the same today, tomorrow, and forever, why is it that you don’t do that anymore?”
“Well, because God never asked for that! That was evil men who merely used the power of the Church for evil!” said Christian confidently.
“Ah,” intoned Atheist, “and what will keep that from happening again?”
“Well, that would never happen today! My Christian leaders are working hard to seize political power so they make sure bad things like abortion and homosexual sex don’t happen. I am sure they could prevent an Inqisition too when they run this country,” he said helpfully.
Atheist choked a bit on his merlot. “Uh, um..mmmm. Uh, Christian, why did the Inquisition happen again?”
Christian leaned back into the velvet chair, ready to tell a story, “Well you see the Church left its position of spiritual power and, pursuing a ends-justifies-the-means school of thinking, seized political power. This power was used for good at first, but gradually, the level of power the Church had began to attract evil men who eventually…” he trailed off, his face a mask of betrayal and shock.
“You seduced me, Atheist, you used your evil demonic power to make me think evil of the Church!” Christian yelped. “At least I am not responsible for the Nazi’s!”
“I never knew the Nazis” said Atheist quietly.
“You lie, Atheist, you lie like your father the devil!” shouted Christian.
Atheist sighed. This had happened before. He mentally counted to ten and then back down. “Christian, Hitler claimed he would bring back traditional family values. He was supported by Christians, and often used Biblical points of view to justify his position.”
Christian, realizing he was standing, sat back down. “Well, I’ve heard that before, but Hitler did so many un-Christian things, that I sort of forgot it. I’ve never understood how people who loved Jesus could support something so horrible.”
“Well, it has a lot to do with those two characters who just left, ” said athiest with a wry face. “A skeptic, which most Atheists are, would have investigated Hitler’s claims. It takes Cynic and Fundamentalist to manage a genocide.”
“Yeah, I thought you and Cynic were best buddies, but he seems to really hate you,” said Pragmatic Christian, side stepping the second half of the comment.
“Its all about skeptisim, Christian. I believe in asking why, and trusting what I see over what somebody tells me. Cynicism are often mistaken for being skeptics like me, but we have less in common than you and Fundamentalist.”
“Really?” said Christian, “I thought all you godless heathens were alike. Uh.. no offense.”
“Not at all. Cynicism is about being mentally lazy, assuming that conventional wisdom is true. Skepticism checks everything to make sure it is as true as it can be. It looks at all the options and chooses the most likely one. Skepticism never says that God isn’t real, only that he doesn’t seem very likely within the limited parameters that we can test,” said Athiest.
Christian looked puzzled. “But how does that make Fundamentalist and Cynic alike. Cynic hates God, hates anything religious, anything spiritual, honestly, even hates anything beautiful. Fundamentalist is convinced in the beauty and power of God. How come they get along so well?”
Athiest smiled. “Cynic believes that he can figure out anything by consulting what people all ready think. He only uses the powers of his mind to look at established wisdom. Fundamentalist believes that he can figure out anything by consulting what people think about his Holy text. He only used the powers of his mind to look at established wisdom. The only difference between Cynic and Fundamentalist is where they draw their inspiration.”
“I often thought something like that,” admitted Christian. “Fundamentalist is so concerned with what what has been said about the Scriptures, he often gets distracted from the message, arguing about dispensations and translations. Neither one really thinks about what makes things true or investigates things.”
Now it was Atheists turn to look surprised. “I didn’t know that you were that interested in asking why or investigating things, Christian. I guess I sort of assumed that you were like Fundamentalist.”
Christian grinned. “Well, you can’t interpret scripture without asking why. The Bible is a very large book and a skilled charlatan can make it say anything. We always have to check what scripture says against other scripture to make sure it all fits. When someone says they have some new doctrine you can’t say ‘Ok’, no sir! Paul compliments a group called the Bereans for being, as you call it ‘skeptical’. In my church we call that ‘Being Berean’ and its a good thing.”
Atheist and Christian shared the last piece of pie. Christian privately thought he had won a great victory for the cause of Christ with Atheist. Atheist, in turn, found it delightfully ironic that the best Christians were the most skeptical ones. When the last morsel of pie was done, Christian turned to Atheist.
“Compassionate Atheist, what do you think of this banquet we have had. Do you still not believe in God?”
“I don’t know, Christian.” He said. “I see a beautiful meal, but I never saw anyone make it.”
“But someone had to make this all!”
“Well,” Atheist said “I admit the mousse was divine, but I can’t say that God made this because with the test methods I have, the most reasonable explanation would not be God.”
Christian looked pained.”But if not God, who made all this beauty?”
“I don’t know Christian. But I can agree with you that it is beautiful,” said Atheist.
“How? What is the source of beauty if not God?” cried Pragmatic Christian.
“I don’t know Christian, but I will enjoy finding out. The joy of my life to understand mysteries,” said Atheist solemnly.
Christian looked shocked. “But that is the joy of my life, to discover the mysteries of God. Surely, Atheist, it cannot be your joy to discover the mysteries of his Creation?”
Atheist chuckled, “Why not Pragmatic Christian? Did you assume since I have never met your God that I saw all the world as a empty gray? I love life. I love to explore. I found your statements about the intrinsic value of man deeply moving. We agree on so much.”
Christian spoke quietly “I guess I did assume that about you. Do you really see the world as thing of great of beauty to be explored?”
“I do,” said Atheist.
Then you are doing the work of God. To bad you will burn in hell, dear friend, thought Pragmatic Christian.
“Well, I wish you luck, Atheist. I hope we meet again,” he said aloud.
And I hope your “being Berean” delivers you from this madness before Fundamentalist seduces you or kills you, or Cynicism comes calling on the heals of disillusionment. You’re much too valuable to lose, dear friend, thought Atheist.
“I’m sure we will, we have so much more to talk about.” said Athiest aloud.
This is not a flippant thing that I am about to do. I think a lot of people who care about me are really confused about what I believe, so I am going to give you all a view into a letter to God that I am sincerely writing as well as posting. If you, the blog readers, think you have an answer that can backed up, please feel free to answer any of the questions below in a comment.
I don’t get you. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten you. I know people say this is because you can’t be gotten, but I don’t buy that. Even if I never understood you, thats what friends do, they try to understand where each other are coming from. People tell me that you want to be my friend, and I guess I want to be yours. I say “I guess” because I am not really sure. I hear that you offer a love like no other, but you seem to charge a price like no other as well. The US Military (my employer) says I must offer my life for them. This I must do only once, and often as not, should the opportunity arise it will be to save my comrades. You demand not a single, ill-though, impassioned second to save those I love, but every second, of every moment, of everyday, for the rest of my life. My job demands my life but once. You demand it forever, in this existence and the next.
All that I know about you is contained in my heart, the words of those around me, the world around me, and the Bible. Though emotions give life color and verity, they make a poor compass. I will not trust my heart to know you, not if I believe what you say in the Bible. You say the heart is “deceitfully wicked”. I can’t trust what is deceitfully wicked to guide me. And the heart is capricious, loving someone one moment and hating them the next. Thats why a good man speaks from his mind not his heart, which you also say: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”
The words of those around me are sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly, but regardless of specific instance, generally useless when its about the spirit. Truth is not true because of consensus, it either conforms to reality or it doesn’t. Besides if my heart is wicked why are other peoples’ hearts different? I cannot be alone in my sin: “For all have sinned…” When it comes to you, everyone has an agenda and I can’t trust anybody who claims your name to say to me only what benefits you and not what benefits the speaker.
The world around me is beautiful. I love the trees and ocean. I like to ride my bike in the roasting sun and have the wind blow the sand stinging against my legs. I see around me beauty and order. Because the world you have made is full of order I see man’s greatest dream over my head everyday. We always wanted to fly. With the physics you made as part of the universe you created and the minds you gave us we figured out how to make great tubes of aluminum fly through the air not as stupid bullets, but guided in flight by our hands, obeying our constant whim. Science, the systematic study of a rational universe, is the greatest tool we have ever found. Because with science, we can make an airplane fly, and our ancestors could not. Yet… you and science that describes your creation are not in agreement. You claim to have made the earth in 7 days, and the genealogies you provide in Scripture tell us that the earth is about 7000 years old. The science that gives us such a window into the depth and power of the Mind that designed all says that the earth is 4.5 billion years old.
I trust the descriptions of this rational universe we live in to be true everyday. Every day I use my front door because I trust that I still can’t walk through my wall. Every week I put gas in my car and expect to get around 30 mpg. This is because I trust that the description of the combustion of hydrocarbons with oxygen producing CO, CO2, water vapor, and l trace amounts of various things will function the way they always have since the 1600’s when we began to study such things. But the science that flawlessly describes the 60 cycle alternating current which is invisibly turning my monitor off and on with clock-like precision mysteriously fails totally to date the earth I live on.
Contained in my blood is DNA, which I have always believed that you were the author of. The ability to even visualize this DNA did not exist until 50 years ago, and I’ve thought us blessed that we could have this lens into how “fearfully and wonderfully made” that we are. My father, dying of a virus, may yet be saved by the executed knowledge of DNA to create a cure. The tens of of thousands of people cured by the recombinant DNA created were saved by man doing his best to manipulate the physics you created. Yet this knowledge points to evolution. The more we know about DNA the more man appears to be related to African Apes. False conclusions show themselves in false results, but recombinant DNA heals. How can it be so repeatably, veritably right in all regards but this one?
Finally, the Bible, my source of meaning and context since childhood. The Bible I have is a Protestant Bible. It does not contain the Apocrypha, because that is not part of the Protestant tradition. The Catholic Bible does contain it, because of the Council of Trent in the 1500’s, over a millennium after it was written, decided it too was canon. But it wasn’t written when it happened. Your word was written 50 to 100 years after the events it describes happens often by people who weren’t there. Why? Why would wait a century to write your inspired word? If the writers were writing your words, why was the canonicity of many unestablished till the 400’s? Then, a more then a millennium later at Trent, the Catholic Church had to take a stand. Luther’s sola scriptura meant for the first time the Catholics had decide what was scripture (since prior to this tradition and papal bulls were equal in authority to scripture).
God, this looks horribly like humans, not like you. Your omnipotence seems sorely lacking in all these proceedings, as clearly as it is lacking in the actions of those who claim to act in your name. Please answer these questions, they confuse me very much
The lost sheep