Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Of Hymens and True Infidelity

Commenting on a piece by William Saleton on "virginity restoration," Andrew Sullivan almost permits himself a full-throated criticism of the Abrahamic faiths:

The whole thing is a grotesque testament to many Muslims' acquiescence to male tyranny and sexual dysfunction. Here's a quote to make you grieve:
“In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt,” said the student, perched on a hospital bed as she awaited surgery on Thursday. “Right now, virginity is more important to me than life.”
If we really want to plumb the depths of some Muslim pathologies, and the roots of Islamist rage and nihilism in modernity, this attitude is one place to start. The sexual freedom of women - one of the West's greatest and rarest accomplishments - is what they fear and despise.
Almost. He fails to cite the authority upon which Jews and Christians reject the fetishization of unbroken hymens (insofar as they do). And he can't resist qualifying Muslims with "many," hinting at a presumably equal number of Muslims who don't count a broken hymen as legitimate grounds for killing, disowning, or beating a woman.

The achievement of sexual freedom for women has occurred in the west insofar as people have looked for wisdom beyond the pages of ancient texts composed by bigoted primitives. They have put aside the claim that the texts and traditions represent the fixed will of a god and have freely plucked the bits of valid wisdom from the piles of idiotic, sadistic, barbaric trash bundled as holy writ.

Sadly -- and this is a symptom of the larger fear-based rot under discussion -- those doing the plucking have rarely had the courage to admit they're doing so. Every self-styled Christian, Jew, and Muslim who doesn't hate Andrew Sullivan and wish to see him stoned to death for being gay is pretending god's revealed will is something other than it is. Likewise those of us who see value in the Golden Rule but reject and denounce the hymen fetish.

The holy books are either the productions of limited humans or the instructions of a limitless deity. The refusal to confront that question up front and answer it plainly is cowardly evasion, the spawn of endless special pleading, self-deception, and theological mush.

More and more I understand what Thomas Paine meant when he defined infedility: "Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe."

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