After attending a reasonably funny, thought-provoking and interesting talk called “Laugh your way to a better marriage” I was feeling pretty good. Six hours over two nights away from the kids listening to what was a marriage course dressed up as stand-up comedy.
We’d been invited by friends at the church (no, they didn’t give me shit about being an Atheist) and it had been fun. We chatted in the breaks. Bought the book. As we walked out, feeling a little closer than normal, my wife cocked her eye at me and asked “So are you going to become a Christian?”
You might be surprised to hear me say this, but it’s a fair question. Mrs Idle knows that the three C’s – continuity, community and culture – are important to me. She knows I think Atheism is missing a strong version of the three C’s. Churches tend to provide them in spades. The church is the typical Euro + Mediterranean + Asian mix that seems to be the Aussie standard these days (in Sydney it’d be + Indian also but the coast is a little behind) and better for it.
I like my religious friends – they’re good people. Good family people. People deeply interested in education, values and top-notch backyard BBQs.
Mrs Idle knows in her heart that one day I’ll become Christian (as will our daughters) the same way I know in my heart one day she’ll become Atheist (as will our daughters). In fact, attending church a few times a year is part of the deal we brokered around how to expose religion to my daughters.
I’ve even written an anti-new Atheist blog.
So it is a fair question. I could slip right into this crowd and thoroughly enjoy life. Except…
The talk (by a visiting American Pastor) was insightful, thoughtful and pretty funny. Sure, there was a bit of preaching, he tried to relate a lot of it to God when I think it could have stood on its own, it was slightly sexist at times (I found I could laugh at his simple caricatures of men but at the ones of women I’d laugh uncertainly – Mrs Idle says I was overreacting and probably I was) and some bits I found inappropriately hilarious: “Sex only works within a marriage” and the ultimate lack of self awareness in “These scientists reported the facts even though they didn’t like what they found – rare scientists indeed”.
I’d recommend the talk to any married couple.
Now I’m going to talk about four minutes out of six hours. Four strange, odd minutes. The rest of the time I was part of the audience watching a performer, but for these four minutes I was ripped out of the reverie and was, instead, watching the crowd.
Now there’s an old saying that on the topic of masturbation you are either a liar or a fool. The Pastor said he’d never masturbated. I never have either. I just wanted to get that out of the way.
The discussion at this point was about sex in marriage – yes, in a church, I know – and it was funny, well-handled and interesting. The point he was trying to make was that masturbation is bad for your sex life. Mostly he talked about muscle memory, sex drive, the drive to ejaculation instead of ‘making love’ and other stuff. Having never masturbated – ever – I was on-side and nodding like crazy.
Mrs Idle even told me she’d stop.
Then, seemingly thinking he needed to drive the point home he said “Masturbation is like being half-gay”. Bam. I was out of the zone. What. The. Fuck.
He continued. “The reason homosexuals are an abomination is that the man rejects God’s creation: the woman, and takes another man. Masturbators are also rejecting the women… and taking… themselves. Masturbators are half-gay”. And on, and on.
And the worst bit was that throughout the church people whispered to each “Gays” or “The Gays”. I’d swear the lady behind us guffawed like Cletus the Slack-Jawed-Yokel and said “Haw haw those gays”. The word was passed around like an amulet to ward off demons. Of course, the whole thing was meant to be funny and the crowd responded.
A room that moments before had been joyous was still occupied by the same sound, except it was different. The laughter rising to the ceiling was the sound of evil. It was the sound of persecution, elitism and fear.
This Pastor, so seemingly reasonable, so modern, so pro-Dad, pro-family and pro-happiness – was encouraging pure hate. His only reason was a single sentence in an old book he admired.
“So are you going to become a Christian?”
Oh, and plus theres is this: There is no God. Seriously.
I’ll say it again, this was a few minutes out of an otherwise excellent talk. I won’t disengage from the community and I know – because I’ve asked them – that the prejudice is not held by all.
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