I am always keenly interested in our understanding, appreciation, and uses of our human bodies. Somatics and mind-body arts practices are one focus of my research and writing. My own opinions about a philosophy of living one's life, and enjoying the use of our bodies are, generally, non-religious, Epicurean, skeptical, and philosophical.
Religious views of the body-mind are a serious impediment to scientific and pragmatic progress.
"Two thousand years of Christian discourse—anatomy,
medicine, physiology, or course, but also philosophy, theology, and
aesthetics—have fashioned the body we inhabit. And along with that
discourse we have inherited Platonic-Christian models that mediate our
perception of the body, the symbolic value of the body's organs, and their
hierarchically ordered functions. We accept the nobility of heart and
mind, the triviality of viscera and sex (the neurosurgeon versus the
proctologist). We accept the spiritualization and dematerialization of the
soul, the interaction of sin-prone matter and of luminous mind, the ontological
connotation of these two artificially opposed entities, the disturbing forces of
a morally reprehensible libidinal humanity ... All have contributed to
Christianity's sculpting of the flesh.
Our image of ourselves, the scrutiny of the doctor or
the radiologist, the whole philosophy of sickness and health—none of this could
exist in the absence of the above mentioned discourse. Nor could our
conception of suffering, the role we allot to pain and therefore our
relationship with pharmacology, substances, and drugs. Nor could our
conception of suffering, the role we allot to pain and therefore our
relationship with pharmacology, substances, and drugs. Nor could the
special language of practitioner to patient, the relationship of self to self,
reconciliation of one's image of oneself with a ideal of the physiological,
anatomical, and psychological self. So that surgery and pharmacology,
homeopathic medicine and palliative treatments, gynecology and thanatology,
emergency medicine and oncology, psychiatry and clinical work all obey
Judeo-Christian law without any particularly clear understanding of the symptoms
of this ontological contamination.
The current hypersensivity on the subject of bioethics
proceeds from this invisible influence. Secular political decisions on
this major issue more or less correspond to the positions formulated by the
church. This should be no surprise, for the ethos of bioethics remains
fundamentally Judeo-Christian. Apart from legislation on abortion and
artificial contraception, apart fro these two forward steps toward a
post-Christian body—what I have elsewhere called a Faustian body—Western
medicine sticks very closely to the church's injunctions.
The Health Professionals' Charter elaborated by the
Vatican condemns sex-change operations, experiments on the embryo, in vitro
fertilization and transfer, surrogate motherhood, medical assistance with
reproduction, but also therapeutic cloning, analgesic cocktails that suspend
consciousness as life comes to an end, therapeutic use of cannabis, and
euthanasia. On the other hand, the charter praises palliative care and
insists on the salutary role of pain. These are all positions
often echoed by ethical committees calling themselves secular and
believing themselves independent of religious authority."
- Michel Onfray.
Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Translated from the French by Jeremy Leggatt. New York Arcade Publishing, 2005,
2011. ISBN: 10161145008X. Annotated bibliography, 246 pages. VSCL. A
lucid, strong, well reasoned, insightful, and stylish presentation. Excellent
explication of the French and European writing on atheism, anti-clericalism,
irreligion, deconstruction of religions, and anti-fascism. His detailed knowledge of religious customs and ideas is very impressive. I agree with
Professor Onfray's assessment about the negative influences of the three
monotheistic religions surveyed; as I do with the dynamic and robust
critiques of religion by
Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris. The above
quote is from p. 47 or Professor Onfray's book.
When my mother, June, was dying of colorectal cancer,
she spent her final days comfortably in a hospice. When she died my superstitious
Catholic father said many times that the hospice killed her, that the hospice
practiced euthanasia, that the hospice was sinful and evil. No matter how
much I explained hospice care to him, he would not listen. It is no
wonder my mother did not want to see my father at the end. I concluded
that that he would rather have seen her suffer more, believing that suffering
was good for the soul. He was often a mean and rigid macho man, lacking loving-kindness
When I was 12 years of age, I was told by my priest
confessor that masturbation was a mortal sin, evil, unnatural, and inspired by
the devil; and, that I would go directly to hell for eternal horrific punishment
if I continued to masturbate. I knew that that masturbation was pleasant, harmless,
disease free, legal, and entirely private. I could not understand how if I
should murder somebody I would go to hell, and if I masturbated I would go to
hell. These church rules and penalties regarding masturbation seemed to me
arbitrary and absurd.
The longstanding mistreatment of women by religious
authorities and religious rules is also completely unsatisfactory to me.
Dr. Ben Carson, for example, a recent secular Republican political candidate, believes our laws should be changed so that any
woman who is impregnated by a rapist or through incest should not be allowed to
have an abortion even if she chooses to do so. Reflect also on how women
are oppressed and mistreated under the domination by Islamic men.
I was not surprised to read that the
Islam, and Mormons still
all object to vasectomies. Religions supported and encouraged slavery for centuries. Religions significantly slowed the progress in anatomy for many centuries by refusing
to allow post-mortem autopsies. Large families are encouraged by religions (more paying believers in the long run I suppose) despite the grueling poverty of overpopulation. Examples of the pernicious effect of
religion on medicine, psychology and public health can, unfortunately, be multiplied with ease.
The fact that people hold antiquated and false views about bodily functions is not so troublesome as the fact that their religious leaders want to force everybody to accept, obey and follow their nonsensical opinions. These religions do not favor freedom of thought and action, scientific investigation, and freedom of expression. Most sensible and modern 'social church goers' simply quietly ignore and disregard most of these outmoded ideas about bodily functions and behaviors pandered by their priests and preachers, if they can do so without being harmed by the local religious police enforcers.
I have never gone to any church since I was 16, after I
left Catholic high school. What a wise move on my part to
abandon the silly rules,
anti-scientific opinions, fables, myths, superstitions, and authoritarianism of
organized religions. A
good life is much
easier to live and enjoy, without the burdens of religious twaddle.
"The source of man's unhappiness is his ignorance of
Nature. The pertinacity with which he clings to blind opinions imbibed in his
infancy, which interweave themselves with his existence, the consequent
prejudice that warps his mind, that prevents its expansion, that renders him the
slave of fiction, appears to doom him to continual error."
- Baron d'Holbach, The System of Nature
"The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to
reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to
think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this
view of life. It is still more humiliating to discover how a large number of
people living today, who cannot but see that this religion is not tenable,
nevertheless try to defend it piece by piece in a series of pitiful rearguard
- Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 1930