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Homosexuality, Erotic Artists and the Bible

By Association Co-founder Paul Woods.

Guido Reni's St SebastianI initially indented to write an essay exploring the similarities between practising homosexuals and artists of erotica – whatever their sexual orientation. To show how we have a common bond in that we have all been condemned and persecuted, by both secular and religious society, and to illustrate how we have engaged on a similar crusade aimed at promoting understanding, tolerance and acceptance.

My starting point was the oft held belief that homosexuality was unambiguously condemned in the Bible. I sought out the offending passages, found them, read them and was confused by them. I was not convinced either way. I sought clarification from people from both sides of the argument – those that seek acceptance of, and condemnation of, homosexuality as set out in the Bible. Both sides still seemed very unconvincing in their responses. The problem seems to be that both parties want their answers to fit within biblical teachings and have biblical support.

I kept asking myself 'Why?' Why are both God and the Bible so against homosexuality? I can fathom no reasons for such hostility - either on grounds of spirituality or for medical or scientific reasons. If anyone is embarrassed or offended or shocked by homosexual relationships then it is the fault of these individuals and they should look to rid themselves of their prejudice. Why do we find it necessary to have a view either seen as accepted or condemned by the Bible anyway?

If I ask why God and the Bible condemn murder then I can see sound reasons why this should be. One does not need to be a believer in any god to see the reasons for this. Atheists too have a strong sense of morality and ethics. It may also be argued that they are capable of more sincere values as they do so out of what is right and just not out of fear of a particular Gods wrath. If one needs an example of how capable and powerful is the thinking of humanity then we need look no further than the fact that humanity created God!

Even amongst those that believe in a God this issue is not clear cut. The issues of homosexuality has split the Anglican Church who are about to embark on a two-tier existence. For those who want an acceptance of homosexuality within the church I applaud their abilities to adapt to contemporary society. For those who want to adhere to a more fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible it is endemic of the false and hypercritical church thinking. If one accepts that homosexuality is a sin in the Bible and in God's eyes then surely one has to adhere to the prescribed punishment, that of death by stoning? If one follows further then there are many other sins for which death is Gods answer -God is not big on counselling. I don't hear too many Anglicans demanding the death penalty for sins committed. Is it a case of an À la carte Bible, select the bits you like and ignore the rest? The fundamentalist Christians would say that you cannot select only the parts of the Bible that you feel are more appetising – but I don’t hear them call for homosexuals to be put to death; well not often anyway. The most they will say is that they hate the sin but love the sinner. I guess we should be grateful in this instance that such muddled thinking exists because when one has a group strictly adhering to a religious text then one gets the Taliban and the world can do without an Anglican Taliban!

To base a condemnation of a vast swath of humanity, to demonise them, persecute them, abuse them, strip them of their rights all based upon nothing more than a few obscure and contradictory lines in the Bible is ludicrous, inhumane, immoral and unethical but I assume it must be very Christian.

As always my studies and research leads me to the conclusion that the Bible itself (and most other religious dogmatic scriptures) is based upon such shaky and disintegrating foundations that its text can not be taken seriously as an authoritative source from which to base thinking and ideas that so seriously determine how we are allowed to lead our lives today over 2000 years after the presumed birth of Christ.

If one looks at the Bible historically I find it impossible to take it seriously as an intelligent reasoned authority. It had an aural history. How accurate was that history propagated? Which versions were written down? How accurate and truthful can a history be when written so long after the events and based on what authoritative accounts? What kind of people were creating and compiling the writings for the Bible? Who was translating the writings? Why do we assume they must have all been such truthful honest people just because we are dealing with the religious people and the Bible? Just look at the dubious histories of most of the Popes! It is well know how difficult it is to translate from one language to another even today and so many things have to be interpreted and have artistic licence applied. How accurately were these or indeed could these things be carried out? How scrupulous and truthful were they? What kind of political or religious agenda were they working to? How much is written as a guide for the state of society and for the world at that given time that just would not or should not be applied to different people in different times and circumstances? When the various councils sat to determine which writings were to comprise the official definitive Bible how was this decided? Which writings were excluded and why?

I cannot accept that the bible is infallible nor can I accept its authority over my life. I can accept the belief in god but only as a belief constructed by the individual, for the individual, as a means of easing the passage through a very complicated life and easing the pain of death and the hereafter.

An indication that the Bible is a fallible authority, seriously flawed and a very poor guide is the fact that so many religions, sects and factions have been spawned, from its writings and teachings, who all so disagree with each other, over the readings and interpretations, that they slaughter each other, discriminate against each other, breed hatred and intolerance for each other because of it? And they are supposed to be following the same book to worship the same god. It is so cloaked in ambiguity and multiple interpretations that it renders almost useless any probability of clear dissemination of information and complex ideology and should therefore be dismissed.

Where would we be if today's medicine knowledge was based solely upon a 2000 year old medical text book and we stubbornly said 'That is the way it was done then and we will do it the same today’ and failed to question the thinking and practices of the time? How ridiculous and dangerous it would be if we were to treat modern diseases and ailments with 2000 year old thinking and medicines! What if we were to live by rules, laws and morals of 2000 years ago? Quite simply, we shouldn't.

I do believe there are some fundamental rules and concepts set out in the Bible, that as a decent society, we should observe but these are generally matters of common sense and can be found in other non-religious texts. As concepts for society they pre date the idea of monotheism and have continued to be adequately mapped out by humanity without the need of Biblical referencing or of being enforced by a dictatorial God.

I converse with God everyday. God dismisses the Bible as a folly of youth. He detests state religions. He is not offended by sexuality (it is in fact built into his design). He consistently insists he does not exist and I for one believe him.

Homosexuality will not bring down humanity and the whole furore should be a non-issue.

Likewise erotic art will not cause the downfall of society. We will not all descend to 'Sodom & Gomorrah' depths of depravity just because artists explore the complex issues involved in sex and sexuality. Exploring a subject does not always indicate wholehearted acceptance or agreement but it help to develop and advance ideas so that, as a society, we can make intelligent, reasoned and informed judgements as to what is acceptable, what is not, what should be allowed, what should be censored and what should be punishable.

The list of issues bound up in sex and sexuality as well as the depths, heights and range of emotions encompassed are plentiful and powerful and affect so many parts of our lives:

How do partners relate to each other sexually in or out of marriage? What are the sexual codes of practice acceptable when searching for a partner? Do we agree that arranged marriage/forced marriage are culturally acceptable or is it an abomination to be eradicated? How do we conduct ourselves when interacting with other members of society? Should we experiment sexually and at what age is this acceptable? Sex before marriage, is it a good or bad thing? How should people dress and behave in the workplace and in public? How should sex education be taught, by parents, at school or just leave people to work it out for themselves? What is acceptable between consenting adults in private or public? How should rape be dealt with through the courts? Should the identities of both the alleged victim or alleged perpetrator be hidden or disclosed prior to a verdict? How best to tackle paedophilia? Who are the main perpetrators of such acts? Random attacks by strangers or calculated 'grooming' by a family member or know friend? Is it paranoia out of control? How far should the lives of everyone be compromised to protect children? What should the age of consent be? Should same sex couples be allowed to adopt? How do we deal with prostitution? Should brothels be legalised? How do we stop sex trafficking? What should be censored from the media such as magazines, newspapers, television, cinema, videos, DVD, computer games and the internet? How much and from what should children be protected? How much responsibility should adults and parents have? How much should be enforced by the state? Can pornography be defined?

As one can see - the list of issues is a very long one and some examples are extremely complex. Yet all reach deep into so many elements of our day to day lives. The Bible, a series of books written over 2000 years ago, along with other texts such as the Koran, are nowhere near adequate as a basis to deal with these questions/subjects. Indeed many religions wholly fail to confront them and when they do the confused and often blinkered thinking of their followers can be positively dangerous. Career politicians use the issues to gain votes but there are no principled politicians fighting for what is right or just for society irrespective of vote popularity.

Being an erotic artist is about joining in with this debate, exploring those difficult issues and, if not producing direct answers, at least encouraging open debate enlightening and guiding others towards formulating answers and concepts for change. Good erotic art is not about offending people or ignorantly challenging society or ignorantly dismissing people with a belief system.

If fundamentalist religions could detach themselves from dogmatic scriptures and work with society, for the common good of the people, then together a safer more beautiful world could evolve. This can only come from intelligent thinking, unfettered by religious bigotry and dogma, from a free thinking, questioning society that is both capable and willing to change and adapt. Prepared to accept when things have gone wrong and make efforts to try something new and try again. This kind of free thinking does not exist within a people who strictly adhere to a God and texts, such as the Koran and Bible, as their guide.

Artists must, as an imperative, explore every aspect of sex and sexuality through all forms of media – it is an intellectual challenge. They must be allowed to take up said challenge and be actively encouraged to do so.

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