The idea that human sexuality
is something dirty and sinful is a common trait for the Middle Eastern religions.
The Esseenes, the early Christian sect, simply avoided marriage
and sex all together. These eastern religions’s view of women was formed
by the fact that they emerged in male dominated and very patriarchal societies.
The covenant of the Old Testament between Jehova and the Jews, was really
a pact between the God and exclusively the male part of the population. Women
traditionally had a very low esteem in the Jewish society. They were seen
as being somewhat stupid, not very good learners and frivolous. Women played
a minor role in public life in Jewish society and were limited to being maternal-
and householding chores. The Jews also looked upon women as the source of
sin and death. “Original sin originated from the woman,
and because of her we all must die”. This view of women
has been part of Christianity ever since (Westermark).
Woman was blamed for the original sin, to have led innocent Adam and thus
mankind into the cesspool of sin.
The Christian view of women and sexuality are closely connected with the concept of original sin. “Behold, I am born in misdeed, and my mother conceived me in sin” (Ps 51,7). When the purely fictional characters of Adam and Eve, according to the Bible, suddenly realised that they were stark naked and had different anatomy, they took an interest in each other’s bodies. As a result the dirty and sinful bodily libido came into play. How mankind otherwise was supposed to reproduce and multiply in Gods cunning Masterplan is a bit unclear in the Bible. Maybe he had some kind of test tube cloning in mind, or perhaps some kind of pollination? Without “original sin” there would soon be no mankind for God to condemn. And we all know how much he likes to condemn , punish and kill sinners, by the thousands.
But of course, the gullible woman Eve was to blame, not the crazy Lord Almighty who placed both the three of knowledge and the seductive talking (!) snake in the three, in the garden in the first place. It is of course blasphemous to suggest that an almighty and omniscient creator God should really know what kind of creatures he creates. He should know that Eve would fall for the snake’s smooth talking. Why create man with a free will if you don’t want man to have this free will, and will punish harshly your creations for taking their own choices? It makes of course perfect sense if God is a perverted sadist deity, getting off on punishing his puny mortal creations. And it makes of course even more sense to punish mankind for the sin of purely fictional characters. What kind of a sick twisted stupid idea is that?! Still today this lays in the very foundation of Christian "thinking"!! (Your Honour, I rest my case...)
The Church Father Tertullian tells us “the woman should wear a simple dress, be mournful and full of repentance to suffer for her inheritance from Eve, the shame of being the one who committed the original sin and the guilt of being the cause of mankind’s condemnation.” According to the apocrypha Egyptian gospel, Jesus said, “I have come to abolish the deeds of women” (Edwien). It is reasonable to interpret this as referring to “Original sin”, that is female sexuality, procreation and childbirth. This is also in accordance with the bizarre Christian celibacy ideal. Women were a constant threat and challenge to the male priests and monks pledge of celibacy and chastity. The pious Francis of Assisi f.ex. warns his fellow Franciscan brothers against having anything to do with women at all, even to talk to them.
Of lesser value
The Church Fathers St. Augustine, Ambrosius and John Chrysostomos (Gold-mouth) all had the opinion that woman was an inferior creature of lesser value than men. She was not created in Gods image (because God is a man), and her main purpose was to serve and obey the man. The church fathers argued that the very caption “woman” or “female” (femina in latin) was in itself kind of obvious linguistic proof that women were inferior to men. They argued that the word “femina” consisted of the two words fe = fides (faith) and minus (less), thus “femina” meant “of lesser faith”. Christianity’s “great thinker” Thomas Aquinas also saw women as both bodily and spiritually inferior to men. He meant that women in reality were “failed” men. This alleged holy cerebral genius was convinced that girls were the result of poor semen quality or a faulty uterus. He wondered if the reason for the birth of girls could be the damp winds from the south, which besides causing rain also caused babies with an extra high water content (!), - girls (Deschner 1987). Martin Luther, who in fact contributed to abolishing celibacy, also saw women as inferior, woman were only “half a child” or a “magnificent animal” in his view (Ibid).
Are women human?
At the church council in Mâcon towards the end of the sixth century, a bishop asked the question if women were to be considered as human beings (or more precisely: belonging to the species “homo” [sapiens]). The bishop answered this very intelligent question himself with a firm No! The majority of the council however, agreed upon that according to the Bible, women, in spite of all their faults and shortcomings, had to be considered as a member of the human species. Some of the delegates insisted however that the female gender only is of this earthly world, and that after Judgement Day all women will be transformed to genderless beings.
One realises that the cognitive abilities of the prominent delegates of the Christian Church in the first centuries left something to be desired. Even a Catholic has to admit, “none of the official Roman bishops in the second and third century could be considered as real theologians” (A. Erhard in Deschner 1987).
I’m not completely convinced if the situation has improved much since then.
Another church council,
this time in Auxerre, in the end of the sixth century forbade women to receive
the Eucharist with their bare hands, to not spoil the sacrament. Repeatedly
the importance of women keeping their distance from the altar when attending
mass is emphasized. With Christianity the women lost their traditional free
social role in both the Roman Empire and in Germanic Northern Europe. In the
Roman society, the marriage arrangement Conventio in manum, where the husband
did not get authority over his wife or her money, was now abolished. Under
this arrangement the married woman would still be under her father’s
authority, an authority more or less reduced to a trifle at this point. After
the introduction of Christianity, Roman women and their possessions came under
their husband’s authority, and thus losing their independence.
The Bible’s regulations of marriage and gender roles were of course heavily influenced by the Jewish society’s strong patriarchal traditions. By the way, St.Mark tells us that Jesus said that if a [Jewish] woman divorced her husband, and then re-married, she was guilty of adultery (Mk 10,12). St.Mark is obviously not very well informed about Jewish society, since Jewish women had actually no right whatsoever to divorce their husbands.
With the introduction of Christianity in Northern Europe, women also lost much of their status, independence and prominent role in both society and religious life. In the pagan religion, women were central both in performing rituals and with several female goddesses in the pagan pantheon. Women had the right to inherit land and other rights under the laws, and were often the owner and head of households. In the pagan burials, there are no differences in wealth between male and female burials in the pre-Christian periods.
In polytheistic religions like the Pagan Norse religion, the eternal battle between the forces is the main theme. This battle between order and chaos is upholding the balance of the world. The different forces, or gods, are not simply good or evil; they are playing their necessary parts in the everlasting epic fight, maintaining the balance and equilibrium of the world. Christianity, on the other hand, is a harsh dualism between good and evil, between pure and spoiled, black and white. There is no room for greys, compromises or doubt. “He that is not with me is against me” as Jesus himself so eloquently undiplomatically puts it (Mt 12:30, Mk 9,40).
The pagan religions of northern Europe were faith-tolerant and accepted other religions. A myriad of different gods, both local and foreign, was not a problem for polytheistic religions. Christianity is on the other hand a strictly monotheistic religion, which does not tolerate other gods whatsoever. As result the Church demonised the old pagan gods. And with Christianity, a strong patriarchal male dominated social order was introduced. Christianity was forced upon pagan society by the authorities by sword. As emperor Constantine did in the fourth century, Christianity was now also used as a powerful political tool to get rid of the old power structures and local petty kings, and introducing an unified national sovereign authority. The pagan religion was an entire integral part of the pre-Christian society, and by destroying the pagan religion, the pagan society’s political structures also crumbled. With Christianity we also got the strict male domination of the church wedged into the society’s social structures. And there was no place for women in this new religion, except as pious passive believers.
With the male domination in the Church, women were considered as of inferior value and subordinate men, according to St. Paul’s teachings. St. Paul thought that men should be the head of women; she was created to serve the man and not vice versa. 1Cor 11,1-9; Eph 5,21-24; Col 3,18; 1 Tim 2,11-15; Tit 2,4-5; A woman should not be allowed to teach, and she should be quiet - be seen and not heard.* As late as in 1995, Pope John Paul II declared the debate of female priests for over. There was nothing to discuss; Jesus chose only men as apostles, and therefore only men can be priests. End of story!
The Church’s fear of women is closely connected with the Church’s views on sex, celibacy and chastity ideals. Women aroused feelings and desires among the male clergy, feelings they were desperately trying to suppress. Such yearnings and desires often take a lot of self-discipline to suppress, and to suppress such natural feelings cannot be very healthy in the long run. The Church’s bizarre ideas about women, sexuality and crazy paranoid notions about the workings of demons and spirits that later led to the crazy and hysterical witch-hunts, are obvious proof of this.
The official teachings of the Church was one thing, the clerical real life practice another. Chastity was not something everybody in the Church took as an absolute unexceptionable rule; popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, monks and nuns have fornicated and produced offspring since early Christendom. As an example: Pope Paul III became pope only because his sister was the last pope’s (Alexander VI) mistress. Paul himself had three sons with other women than his wife. In the Vatican corridors, popes and cardinals were not the only ones wearing dresses. When these things couldn’t be kept secret, it was only logical to blame it on the innate sinful women, who with their evil ways tempted and lured the poor pious clergy into carnal lust and sin against their will.
Christianity teaches that there is a clear distinction between soul and body, between the pure spiritual soul, and the dirty and disgusting body. Again it is St. Paul who is the main advocate for the idea that everything bodily is sinful, that the human body itself is the very home, the very root of Sin. This idea has produced a variety of bizarre events and views over the years. The Church Father Origenes sat right down and castrated himself after taking the Bible’s words of celibacy literally. Other theologians would often refer to the human body with contempt, such as a “pit of dung”, a “container of all things rotten” or as a “snow covered pile of manure” (The theologian John of Aviola, elevated to Church father in 1926).
One is tempted to say, “It takes one to know one”.
The denial of natural feelings and desires cannot be very healthy in the long run. Whenever pious monks felt sexually aroused and felt a tingling sensation in the groin, it was not uncommon for them to dive naked into freezing waters in lakes and rivers, even in the middle of the night and in wintertime. Standing in freezing water to their waist bending their knees repeatedly and singing hymns with rattling teeth and purple faces, they conquered the devious sin. Some wrapped heavy pieces of iron to their penises as penitence, others isolated themselves in small rooms for years, some rolled themselves in ant nests as the holy Macarius, or rolled naked in thorn bushes as the holy Benedict. The pious Schenute did his penitence by weeping all day, and Antonius, the founder of the Antonite order, smeared himself with pig excrements (St. Antonius is by the way the holy catholic protector of cattle).
Others got the wonderful idea to live on grass alone, and grazed the meadows as cattle. To do penitence by standing still and mute for days at end was also a very popular thing among many pious Christians. Others took more drastic measures. The founder of the Dominican order, Domingo du Guzman (1170-1221 AD) whipped himself unconscious regularly to maintain his chastity and to strengthen his piousness.
The over-the-top pious syrian Symeon Stylites (means pillar man in Greek)(390-459 AD) roosted on top of a high pillar for 36(!) years, praying, preaching and doing ascetic exercises. This was not the first deranged idea this Symeon have had. Earlier he had stood firm in a dry well for five days on end praising God’s glory with constant singing, and then he let himself be walled up during fasting, without any food or drink. He did this at least 28 times. This happened around 412 AD after he was expelled from the monastery in Taleda because of his fanatical penitence-eagerness. After several years with his relentless energetic and manically urge to do penitence, the other monks couldn’t take it any more and kicked him out.
After the five days in the well and the fasting episode, he then let himself be chained to a rock and hung there for a while, until he got this marvellous idea about the pillar. Then he had already been contemplating standing on one foot for the rest of his life, but the idea of ascending a pillar was obviously more appealing to him. Symeon then became the first of the church’s holy pillar saints. Symeon also took the Church’s negative view of women very seriously, to such a degree that he refused to see his old mother for the rest of his life. (His mother Martha later also became a catholic Saint, because of her son Symeon’s “great achievement”). Women were not allowed to approach his pillar, and had to keep their distance. He also used to throw stones at passing women from his small platform on top of the pillar, if they came too close (Deschner 1987).
Twice a day he held exhorting preaches to visiting pilgrims from this elevated platform. Symeon’s pious pillar ascension inspired a multitude of aspiring pillar saints, who also roosted themselves on top of high pillars, often for decades. Some of the later ones were smart enough to build themselves small shelters on top of their pillar. Soon there were numerous of such pillars with a deranged bearded and ragged holy men roosting on top. Regular forests of pillars were erected, and competition could be hard. A Roman monk, John Moschus, writes about a long and bitter religious dispute between a catholic and a monophysitic pillar saint, who stood and yelled and ridiculed each other from their respective pillars (Deschner 1990). Symeon and probably all the other pillar saints were probably completely raving insane, but to the Church they are holy ideals of piousness, chastity and asceticism.
Criminal Law and Punishment
Under the influence of Christian teachings, Constantine - the first ”Christian” emperor, started to criminalize moral misdemeanours. This had earlier been considered belonging to the private domain. Among other things, “stealing brides”, also in the cases were the bride consented, now got a death penalty. Not only the “kidnapper” groom and the bride, but also the participating staff (servants, wet-nurses etc) were executed by forcing melted lead down their throats. Participating slaves were burned to death. For sexual relations between a male slave and his female owner, the woman was decapitated and the slave burned. A corresponding regulation for sexual relationships between male owners and female slaves didn’t exist of course.
In spite of the Christian religious ideals of chastity and celibacy, the reality was, as we have seen, somewhat different. According to the sources many monks (and nuns) were acting like frivolous libertines. The sources suggest that many became monks just to be able to fornicate undisturbed (Deschner 1987). In the end of the 16th century many male monasteries were teeming with women and children. Homosexuality was also not uncommon in many monasteries. And many nun monasteries were in reality working brothels, and competed many places in Europe with the local prostitutes. Already in the ninth century there are many comparisons between nun monasteries and brothels in the texts. The clergy complained regularly about nun monasteries being open both day and night, to both laymen and randy priests. Chastity and celibacy had obviously a hard time, and if the nuns didn’t have access to men, they had to help themselves as best they could. Marguerite Gourdan was France’s most famous brothel owner in the 18th century, and a well-known producer of wooden penises, popularly called “nun heirlooms”. When she passed away in 1783 they found hundreds of orders for her wooden penises from French nun monasteries (ibid). Many monks had on the other side a strong inclination for voluptuous statues and pictures of St.Mary, and it was not uncommon to find kneeling monks masturbating in front of a well-proportioned statue of St. Mary.
It was not very different in the Vatican. Pope Sixtus IV in the fifteenth century is famous for building the Sistine Chapel, but he also built a brothel. Sixtus was himself one horny bastard, and raped both his own sister and his children. He also earned approximately 20.000 ducats in taxes each year from his personal prostitutes. Both the Pope, cardinals, bishops, abbots and abbesses bought and sold brothels and prostitutes at this time. It was a huge industry, papal Rome had in 1490 less than 100.000 citizens, and 6800 of these were prostitutes. This means that every seventh woman in Rome was a prostitute at this time.
Masturbation and homosexuality
The widespread monastery life was instrumental to suppress the population growth in the early Middle Ages. Up until the 14th century the Catholic Church seems to be fairly liberal with non-fertile ways of getting sexual satisfaction. Lesbian and gay relationships were not uncommon in monasteries, and were largely ignored if not committed publicly. Masturbation was also considered as a minor sin and usually ignored. If caught in the act the penalty was usually quite mild. As an example, penitence books only gave 50 days of penitence for a bishop who had been caught masturbating in church (!) (voluntare semen fudit in eglesia). For a priest the penalty for this was only 30 days of penitence (E.Bjøl). Masturbation was considered normal for the young ones, and 14 of 17 medieval theologians deal with, and accept, female masturbation, especially in cases when women didn’t get orgasm during intercourse. The reason was the widespread belief that orgasm was necessary for impregnation.
After the Black Death had sent huge parts of Europe’s population home to Jesus in the middle of the fourteenth century, the church changed its view on non-fertile and “unnatural habits” drastically. These things were now considered as serious sins. As a result masturbation was considered harmful and the cause of blindness, epilepsy and several other illnesses. And this view made its way into the medical world, and is just one example of how misanthropic Christian moral has corrupted medical progress. Surprisingly this view of masturbation as an unhealthy crippling menace continued until the twentieth century! Amazing!
Rules for married
The pious ideals of the Christian Church have always been chastity, asceticism and celibacy. Already the Apostle council firmly stated in their decree, that among the worst deadly sins were trinity, paganism, murder and sex without marriage. Even sex within the marriage was considered a sin, so the church started regulating it. In the early middle ages this kind of filthy activity between married couples was forbidden on Sundays and other holydays, on days of penitence and prayer, on Wednesdays and Fridays, or Fridays and Saturdays, and of course in the forty day long Fasting, in the four weeks of Advent, before going to Altar (Eucharist), under pregnancy etc (Deschner 1987). If we add all this together we find that sex within marriage was forbidden in eight months of the year! Later in the Middle Ages this religious ban was reduced to just half the year. Breaking the rules was punished with penitence, but also with deformed and handicapped children, epilepsy, leprosy and demonic possessions, according to the Church. The moral concerned clergy discussed thorough and deeply which sexual position gave the least pleasure for the participants, and therefore could be accepted by the church. What deep insights, broad experience and factual knowledge the church had on these matters, is not entirely clear. Anyway, the result was that all other sexual positions than the “missionary position” was considered a crime just as serious as murder. The church viewed marriage as doubtful at best. According to St. Augustine married persons got a lesser place in heaven than unmarried did, and only completely abstemious marriages were really ”true” marriages.
Family planning and the use of contraceptives, both ”mechanical” devices and pharmacological ones were widespread and quite common in Antiquity. In the Christian world family planning and contraception have more or less been unknown until modern times. And in modern times the Catholic Church had tried to fight this with all means necessary. The Pope is still at it, with his reactionary crusade against contraceptives, also in heavily overpopulated developing countries with colossal Aids- and HIV-problems. How many people have died and die because of deceases easily avoided with condoms, how many illegal abortions or unwanted children growing up under horrendous social, economical and hygienic conditions This papal crusade against contraception is not only stupid, it is malicious and evil. Instead the Vatican has their own “developing” projects, building schools and churches in developing countries to further promote mythical, magical, racist, misanthropic and completely irrational ideas discarded by science centuries ago. With the fierce enthusiasm The Catholic Church has for fighting contraception, one can ask: When has the Church showed any similar enthusiasm to fight the weapons industry? When have the bishops engaged themselves and their vast influential organisation in fighting the production and use of bombs, grenades, mines, napalm and nerve gas? Never! But in fighting contraception and family planning the influential Catholic Church has showed an impressive and burning commitment.
The hypocrisy of the Church never ceases to amaze us.
(c) R.L. Børsheim