One thing about tomorrow’s Story Hour seems to strike a nerve even with our fellow atheists, and the fact that it does so says a lot about the roles of sex and religion in our culture.
As part of the Godless Perverts Story Hour, we’re giving out three religiously-oriented sex toys, very kindly donated to us by Divine Interventions. They punch a lot of buttons, even more than your usual fuck-toys. One’s a dildo in the shape of a crucifix, one’s a vibrating silicone bible, and one’s a butt-plug in the shape of the baby Jesus.
One of the most interesting things about them is seeing how people respond to sex toys in the form of religious symbols. Even devoted atheists and hardcore perverts can get a little squeamish about them. When Greta posted about the toys on her blog last week, she immediately got comments from atheists who thought that the idea of religious sex toys was going too far.
Truth is, I have my doubts about the authenticity of one of the commenters, but I’ve heard it before, and I’m sure that there will be people in the audience who think that sticking a dildo up your ass or cunt to make yourself orgasm is taking things too far. They might think that it’s not only disrespectful, but intolerant.
It’s a variation of an issue that atheists have struggled with for years: just how much respect do we give believers, while still maintaining the integrity of our own beliefs? One of the most famous examples in atheist communities is P.Z. Myers’s 2008 “Crackergate” controversy.
So, can atheists fuck with religion, not just figuratively, but literally? Is it legitimate to use the symbols of someone else’s religion to give yourself or someone else an orgasm? Or does that just make you an asshole?
Let me tell you my answer to that. My answer only, and no one else’s. Damn straight we’re allowed to use the sacred symbols of religion in our fuck-play. The fact that the question is even asked is an excellent example of how religion is privileged in our society. The question itself says something very important: that religious is allowed to speak freely, but we are not free in speaking back. I would go so far as to say that blasphemous sex toys like these are not only acceptable, but a positive good.
I was raised as a Christian. Episcopalian, which I tell people is like being Catholic, but without the child-raping and about half the gay-bashing. Like most of the people reading this, in a Christian culture. Whether I like it or not, I already take the cross, the Bible, and Jesus into bed with me. Over the years, I’ve made them take up much less space than they once did, but they’re still there, and probably always will be. And there are people who feel their presence much more than I do.
I don’t deny people the right to indulge their faiths, even though I think that they’re factually and ethically mistaken. I don’t even ask that they be silent about their faith, although sometimes that would be very nice. But in turn, they shouldn’t ask that I or my friends be silent. And that’s exactly what people are asking for when they condemn the Jackhammer Jesus or the Bible Thumper. They are saying that after a lifetime of having religion speak to us about our sexualities, we are not allowed to use our sexualities to speak back. That’s something I just won’t tolerate.
When I commented at Greta’s blog, I said that I see the purpose of the Divine Interventions toys as not to insult religious people, but as something that can be healing for those who have been hurt and silenced by religion. I stand by that. If we don’t dare to fuck with religion, we’re being dishonest and allowing its privilege to stand unquestioned.