Religion and sex, avocados and toast, Kanye and Kim... matches made in heaven (excuse the pun) right? In some ways of course, the words 'religion' and 'sex' are often seen together, bandied about with phrases like "steer clear", "not with them", "can't use that" and "after marriage" attached. Generally speaking however, the two tend to avoid each other like the plague. The divine doesn't seem to want to muddy its clear, holy waters with something so messy, normal and...fun.
Until attending a talk by a new girl crush of mine, Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Hebrew Bible scholar who fronted BBC2's series The Bible's Buried Secrets, also an atheist), I thought this had always been the case. After all, Catholic priests don't marry (with implications that sex and/or women is/are bad); St Paul hated the female sex and the Christian Union at school/Uni was hardly full of um, liberated types. Francesca tells a different story however and spills the beans on God's secret sex life. She argues that there is plenty of evidence in the Bible to show that God had sex. God had a wife, Asherah and a body to boot. It is, Francesca therefore argues, the more recent Christian and Judaic interpretations of the ancient text that have imposed a clinical, non-sexy reading onto the original Hebrew, ignoring accurate translations and inferences. She sets this in context by explaining that only Christianity, and religions of a similar period have a problem with sex. The ancient religions before them were a little more footloose and fancy-free when it came to the bedroom. Zeus, the king of ancient Greek gods, unashamedly had sex with a woman of the earth and out of their antics half human, half divine beings sprang forth. Francesca is clear that it would have been highly unusual at the time the Bible was written for there to have been a distinction between the Gods and us when it came to sex. We were at it and they were at it. So what changed for the divine to be seen as sexless and for such relative restriction to be passed down onto us?
In short it's due to a serious pair of culturally constructed goggles. The flagship message of "procreation rather than pleasure" has been consumed, digested and rooted in religious thought for rather a long time now, and old habits die-hard.
Crazy though, that two such normal and long running human activities are now so often at loggerheads with each other. Deepak Chopra (a bit of a big dog in the spiritual New Age movement), claims that spirituality and sex are interconnected and that sex is actually most people's only form of meditation (that is if you aren't one of the 6 million already using the Headspace app.) If you think about it, he's right - the universe and everything alive in and on it exist as a result of sexual energy. It's life giving, quite literally. Bizarre then for it to be knocked, controlled, boxed and prescribed by anyone. Though I must wrap up my crediting the wonderful vicar who conducted our wedding a year ago. Firstly, praise be that he avoided the "sexual union line" but most importantly kudos goes to him for the reminder that human sexuality should not be trivialized. In his eyes this was due to its ability to take us back to how we were supposed to be - free, naked and not giving a toss in the Garden of Eden. There certainly is magic in the idea that a part of life needs to - and must - remain carefree, bright and breezy. Maybe the Greeks and their pots had it right all along...