Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The religious (sexual) imagination and radical Islam

The most remarkable thing about the chilling Four Corners' episode "Soldiers of Allah" on Monday night, in which a French Muslim undercover reporter secretly filmed conversations with radicalised Islamic wannabe terrorists and IS soldiers, was how much the young men were inspired by a specific, and very carnal, vision of the rewards of Heaven for a young male martyr.   Yes, we're talking about the expectation of scores of beautiful houris, the young virginal women of Islamic fame, living in a grand palace, waiting to attend to all the needs (nudge nudge, wink wink) of a recently arrived martyr, not to mention the winged horse which will be the expected mode of heavenly transport.

It was weird listening to the conversation in which a guy in his mid twenties was painting this picture to  his youngest recruit, a mere 16 year old, who seemed to be revelling in the promises with an almost masturbatory intensity.

Which made me think:   one of the great practical advantages of Christianity is surely the Biblical lack of a clear and detailed explanation of the experience of Heaven.  God knows, over-certainty of His* intentions has caused problem enough in the history of the religion, but I don't know that anyone can accuse it of causing horny young men to kill in the expectation that the sex they've missed out on on Earth will be on tap in the afterlife.   If anything, I've always considered the message of both Jesus and Paul (whichever you might consider the "true" creator of Christianity) to be along the lines of "yes, Heaven is definitely there and is the just reward of the deserving, and it'll be great; but exactly how it works? - trust me, you don't need to understand the details and I'm not going to try to explain."

It's a peculiar thing, that I've surely noted before, but holding too much certainly on the nature of both this life, and the afterlife, can be a terribly, terribly dangerous thing.  Even from the non-theistic point of view, the firm belief that you're just a meat robot acting out on decisions made subconsciously and without your real control is hardly conducive to moral behaviour.   And at the other extreme, of course, is thinking that Heaven is about a fantastic sex life, at least if you are a martyr.

It's odd how the lesson seems to be "it's best for all concerned to be somewhat uncertain about the metaphysics of life".

*  I don't really consider God is gendered, but I'm comfortable sticking with the male imagery.   


Not Trampis said...

Sorry but in Christianity ( Judaism for that matter) heaven is not for the deserving as there are NO derserving. That was the point of Jesus dying on the cross!

Jason Soon said...

if forced to make a choice between steve's creed and your horribly grim one I know which one I prefer, Homer

Not Trampis said...

well Soony Steve's has no biblical basis for his thoughts!

Jason Soon said...

your response, steve? (i love it when catholics and proddies fight)

Steve said...

I think Homer's just being a pedant.

Having Christ die and atone for sins might be said to have been done for humanity which did not "deserve" it in a generic sense, but the atonement having been done, it's hard to argue with the statement that Heaven is for those who "deserve" it via their good deeds and (if you are Protestant or Catholic non-universalist) are also Christian/Catholic.

TimT said...

This is a good point, and indeed I think there is some biblical justification for sex being irrelevant in heaven (though it all depends which part you read really).

Not Trampis said...

good deeds do not come into it Steve.
If they did then Christ's death would be meaningless.
If we are all sinners then there is no deserving.

Nothing pedantic about that.

Dunno about sex in heaven. It is obvious there are no married people there and it is vastly different. Indeed I doubt if anyone can really understand it.

It is nothing like living on earth

John said...

Even from the non-theistic point of view, the firm belief that you're just a meat robot acting out on decisions made subconsciously and without your real control is hardly conducive to moral behaviour.

There are people, especially atheists, who think like that. They have completely misunderstood the relevant science. Moreover why anyone takes neuroimaging as the final word on "how brains work" is beyond me. Neuro imaging is a disaster in itself let alone the way people interpret it. What boggles my mind is why people even think neuro imaging explains anything important about how brains function.

anon said...

Homer, stop skanky hoing Christianity, you imbecile.