Monday, July 16, 2012

Freedom, Family, Sexual License and Fulfillment

What is freedom? We tend to understand freedom and liberty as an absence of limitations. However, if we just consider this notion for a bit, it falls apart.

Life is a game of chess. If you play chess without rules or limitations – if you can move any piece in any way, whenever you want – the game becomes entirely meaningless. Life is the same way. Every move or decision is not the same. Each carries with it its own particular costs. Jumping off a building is not the same as jumping into a swimming pool. It costs us dearly! Instead, we maximize our freedom as we live according to certain laws or principles that are consistent with our nature and goals.

Just consider a goldfish confined in his tank. Now imagine that he sees the great world through the glass in his tank and grows increasingly displeased with his fishly limitations. Determined that he will not live with this confinement, with a great show of strength and courage, he propels himself out of his tank and flops helplessly about on the waterless floor of his freedom.

Perhaps our lives are the same way, and we disdain the limitations that actually maximize our freedom and well-being. Perhaps there are inherent limitations in the area of family and human sexuality. Perhaps we too must pay a hefty cost when we jump out of our fishbowl.

Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi points to an unexpected cost of sexual libertarianism – an inevitable and severe backlash:

  • Our [Indian] neighbors could not even refer to their wives by their names. A wife was Bhitarwali – the one who belongs indoors. Women’s enslavement was then sold as traditional morality. The consequence? Not one girl in our village had gone beyond the fifth grade because the nearest middle school was three miles away. It was too risky to send a girl far out of sight…What they considered morality was, in fact, our women’s slavery. (The Book that Made your World, 277)

How did such “slavery” come about? Why would parents treat their daughters in such a repressive manner? And husbands, their wives? Mangalwadi explains that this repression was the result of sexual permissiveness. He refers to a Hindu temple in that vicinity which gives testimony to an age sexual libertarianism:

  • Every imaginable sexual act had been carved in stone to adorn Hindu temples. My ancestors’ religion of “sacred sex” had enslaved our women just as it did in the pre-Christian Greco-Roman civilization. (277)
Sexual libertarianism inevitably leads to abuse. This is generally followed by a repressive reaction, which can imprison women for centuries. It also leads to a disdain of women, even among the most “liberated.” Mangalwadi claims that:

  • Rousseau – one of the fathers of secular enlightenment and a champion of liberty – believed that woman was unfinished man. Hindu sages taught that a soul with poor karma incarnated as a female to serve males.
Mangalwadi also quotes from Swami Sivananda, the founder of the Divine Life Society regarding the backlash against “Kama Sutra” and other forms of sexual “liberation”:

  • Sex-pleasure is the most devitalizing and demoralizing of pleasures. Sexual pleasure is no pleasure at all. It is a mental delusion. It is false, utterly worthless, and extremely harmful (287)
Celibacy had become proof of “spiritual superiority,” and it entailed a diminuation of women. Although today’s non-theists – anything but celibates - tend to blunt their negative and materialistic appraisals of the female sex, their behavior seems to convey something else:

  • As skeptics, atheists and humanists prepare to gather for their largest meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, attendance by women is expected to be down significantly. Officials for The Amazing Meeting, or TAM, said Wednesday (July 11) that women would make up 31 percent of the 1,200 conference attendees, down from 40 percent the year before. A month before the conference, pre-registration was only 18 percent women, organizers said…Online forums have crackled with charges of sexism…In June, Rebecca Watson, a skeptic blogger and speaker, canceled her TAM appearance because, she said on her blog, she does “not feel welcome or safe.” Other nontheists -- both male and female -- have shared stories of unwanted sexual attention at nontheist gatherings, including propositions for sex and unwelcome touching…Meanwhile, two more skeptic/feminist bloggers announced they will not attend TAM.
One feminist skeptic even responded with the previously unspeakable – she’d rather associate with Christians!

As one thinks, so too does he live! If the female is no more than a material object and life has no more meaning that self-gratification, why then not make use of the physical “resources” at one’s disposal!

“Liberated” Yale’s notorious “sex week” also reveals the correlationbetween sexual “liberation” and the eventual enslavement of women:

  • Every two years undergraduate students at Yale university are invited to two weeks of pornography, porn stars, fetishes, sex toys and sex talks, all in the name of the university’s infamous “Sex Week.”
However, what started as “liberation” has turned into abuse and now a university crackdown:

  • The clamp down on Sex Week follows several years of heightening controversy surrounding the event, compounded by a formal complaint filed by 16 students alleging a “hostile sexual atmosphere” on campus characterized by pervasive harassment and assault.
Perhaps ironically, “liberation” comes at the cost of enslavement - the objectification of the female. When sex is understood exclusively as personal gratification, then the object of this gratification becomes little more than an object.

Mangalwadi explains the repressive veiling of Muslim women as a reaction against libertarianism. The Prophet Mohammad had visited his loyal follower and adopted son Zaid. Zaid wasn’t home, but his stunning wife was. She later related to her husband how captivated Mohammad had been. Therefore, the faithful Zaid divorced his wife so that Mohammad could marry her.

Although initially Mohammad refused this offering of his son’s wife, conveniently, a subsequent revelation (Sura 33.2 - 33.7) provided liberation from such an inconvenient restriction. What was the result of this enhanced freedom? Mangalwadi concludes:

  • The Islamic world learned that it was safer to cover your women’s beauty than to be sorry. (280)
Mangalwadi also argues that the sexual freedom available through polygamy and divorce also served to devalue the women. In contrast to sexual “liberation,” sociologist Rodney Stark argues that:

  • A major aspect of women’s improved status in the Christian subculture is that Christians did not condone female infanticide…the more favorable Christian view of women is also demonstrated in their condemnation of divorce, incest, marital infidelity, and polygamy. As Fox put it, “fidelity, without divorce, was expected of every Christian.”…Like pagans, early Christians prized female chastity, but unlike pagans, they rejected the double standard that gave pagan men so much sexual license. Christian men were urged to remain virgins until marriage, and extramarital sex was condemned as adultery. Chadwick noted that Christianity “regarded unchastity in a husband as no less serious a breach of loyalty and trust than unfaithfulness in a wife.” (The Rise of Christianity)
Mangalwadi concludes:

  • I believe the habits of India’s heart (habits gaining ground in America since the 1960s) have been at the root of the enslavement of our women and the stagnation of Indian civilization. (281)
Indeed, what civilization has prospered as sexual “liberation” has been widely practiced? Instead, we maximize our freedom and well-being as we live in accordance with the physical laws. Perhaps this also applies to the teachings of the Bible!

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