Religion of Contraception

German philosopher Nietzsche [1844-1900] declared the death of God.  The God he wanted to kill was actually the Christian God.  Nietzsche hated the God of Jesus as much as he found Jesus effeminate.  The Christian God was against the human body and its passions, especially sexuality, according to Nietzsche. 

But it was not really Jesus who made sexuality a loathsome aspect of human life; the later fathers of the Church did the trick.  The second/third century African father, Tertullian, wrote thus about women:

Do you (woman) know that you are each an Eve?  The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too.  You are the devil’s gateway; you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him [Adam] whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack.  You so carelessly destroyed man, God’s image.  [emphasis in the original]

Later, another father of the Church, Augustine of Hippo [354-430 CE] argued that God had condemned humanity to eternal damnation because of Adam’s sin.  He declared that the guilt [original sin] was passed on to all human beings through the sexual act.  For Augustine, the sexual act is polluted by “concupiscence.”  Concupiscence, for Augustine, meant the desire to take pleasure in God’s creatures rather than in God himself.

A few days back, the New York Times reported how one Father Landry is repeating the words of the ancient fathers in 21st century.  Father Landry was speaking about contraception.  The Catholic Church is opposed to all forms of contraception except ‘natural family planning’; i.e., “using knowledge of a woman’s cycle to restrict intercourse to times when she is unlikely to conceive.”  This method is so unreliable that it came to be known as ‘the Roman roulette’ even among the Catholic clergy.  [I don’t know how many of the clergy actually lost out in that game of roulette and sired children without proper paternity.]

Why is the Church so vehemently opposed to contraceptives?  The Church thinks that the sexual act is an expression of love between the couples and its explicit purpose is procreation of offspring who are, again, an expression of love.  Contraceptives convert people into mere objects of pleasure. Sex becomes merely an entertainment.

There is something radically fallacious about this stand of the Church.  If the Church advocates ‘natural family planning’, it means the Church is not theoretically opposed to birth control.  You can make use of your knowledge of the feminine menstrual cycle in order to plan the number of children you may have.  But you cannot use artificial birth control methods for the same purpose.  So what is opposed in reality.  Not the birth control, but the means.  In other words, the Church is actually not opposed to birth control, but to artificial contraceptives.  The logic behind such a stand is as mysterious as most doctrines in theology.

I can, however, accept the Church’s position that sex is not merely a form of entertainment.  The sexual act is an expression of a relationship between two persons.  It is not using each other’s body merely for pleasure.  The sexual act is a union of two individuals in the tenderness of love.  Without love, the act becomes frivolous and degraded. 

The demand for banning contraceptives in order to remedy the contemporary degradation of sexuality is as ridiculous as asking to ban medicines in order to remove diseases.  The degradation of sexuality is part of the many ills that plague contemporary civilisation.  It is part of a whole complex social reality in which relationships have been rendered superficial, leisure is valued higher than meaningful activity, enjoyment is the motto of life, and people have been converted into objects (commodification). 

What the world needs today is not a war against contraceptives, but a reorientation of values and principles.  At any rate, asking parents today to bring up all the children they will have as a consequence of practising ‘the Roman roulette’ is a cruel joke.  Parents are already struggling to bring up even one child, with everything from education to health becoming expensive commodities.

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About matheikal

My more regular blog can be accessed at www.matheikal.blogspot.com
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9 Responses to Religion of Contraception

  1. DEEPAK KARTHIK says:

    Beautifully said sir.. “” The sexual act is an expression of a relationship between two persons. It is not using each other’s body merely for pleasure. “””

    D

  2. Zach says:

    I agree that the Christian Church,especially the Roman Church, regards woman and sex as something which has connotations of sin. But wasn’t the “degradation of sexuality” always there? and isn’t ‘morals and principles’ a product of time and civilization much like religion and therefore cannot be universal?

    • matheikal says:

      To a large extent, you’re right. Sex was a man’s weakness from time imemorial and all weaknesses are likely to lead many to degradation. The act of sex will automatically be degraded when it is indulged in by degraded people. My argument is that the church cannot redeem it from such degradation with its stand on contraception.

      But when it comes to morals and principles, there are universal ones. For example, love, honesty, mercy, and many other things are appreciated all over the world in spite of differences in religion, language, culture, etc. Again, my argument is not for universal morals and principles. My argument is that what is ultimately needed is change of perceptions, attitudes…

  3. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    This was wonderful and wonderfully serious with such historical contexts exposed … I had also noticed what Zach had pointed out: “degradation of sexuality” had always existed; check that, “sexual degradation” came into existence only when the concept of morality descended on Homo sapiens. Prior to this, I would suspect monogamy in some species had a pure Darwinian gene-based Natural Selection basis. It is only when the second replicator, Dawkins’s meme came on the scene, sex became sinful, something to be ashamed of.

    In my perspective sex is essential and therefore sex could not have been man’s weakness. What I mean is without the morality meme sex would have stayed purely for pleasure. Perhaps the Biblical apple could be seen in this perspective. Till Eve bit into that apple, she could have had fun unlimited with Adam!

    RE

    • matheikal says:

      Sex is a weakness, Raghuram, insofar as a man becomes addicted to it. Insofar as it is divorced from love. I know I’m making a moral judgment here. I don’t go entirely with Darwinian struggles. I believe that man is much more than a biological animal. I mean, man is rational unlike other animals. That sets him apart. I don’t care for spirituality and all that goes with it. I go with rationality. So morality too.

      • Raghuram Ekambaram says:

        Matheikal,

        I had said that man is more than a DARWINIAN animal, when I added the second replicator meme, even though memes could not have come without Darwinian selection pressures (pre-frontal cortex for higher order thinking and such). Man’s rationality, I have acknowledged that man is a rational animal when I said that morality descended on Homo sapiens.

        The biggest problem I see in your argument is, if you proceed on the path of your argument, you will find yourself setting arbitrary limits making the issue one of total subjectivity and no way of making it objective. That is almost being religious 🙂

        Thanks for disagreeing, that clarified some thoughtgs within myself.

        RE

  4. hemant says:

    I have developed a liking for what u write sir!! only after reading two of your posts..

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