Religious “Body Horror”


I’ve been reading Stefan Molyneux’s book “Real Time Relationships: The Logic of Love”. In the following quote, he gives an interesting opinion on why the church is so against the body:

“The deepest emotions occur in the body, and the body is immune to propaganda. This is why control and rejection of the body is essential to all exploitative power structures – think of the hostility that most religions have toward the body.”

The Christian church sadly fits the bill, both of being an exploitative power structure and of being hostile to the body. For example, take this excerpt from and article entitled “The Relationship of Flesh and Spirit” on the Christian web site

Your soul is saved, but your flesh, your present physical body, is still dead and cannot be salvaged. It will perish and return to the Earth. (You get a new body later.) Your present flesh will still lust to do those things that are unlawful, while at the same time your heart and the Spirit will condemn those thoughts and feelings and empower you to avoid the temptation. But no Christian is perfect in the flesh, and as you go through this life you will sometimes give in to those feelings and will sin in the flesh (but not in your heart).

FACT: The flesh of Christian people still wants to sin after they are saved.

The flesh itself “wants to sin”. It is, essentially, evil. Is this common Christian notion supported by Jesus? What he has to say on the subject seems limited to this single statement:

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. “

Jesus says that the body is not valuable, but says nothing about it being either good or evil.

What does Paul, of who Michel Onfrey in “In Defense of Atheism”, said “his self hatred turned into vigorous hatred of the world and all its concerns: life, love, desire, pleasure, sensations, body, flesh, joy, freedom, independence, and autonomy,” actually say?

May your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.

Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.

God will transform the body from its humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has to subject all things to Himself.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Do you not know that your bodies are the limbs of Christ? Shall I then take away the limbs of Christ and make them limbs of a prostitute? May it never be!

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit that is in you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?

I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage, now as always, Christ will be honored by my body, whether by life or by death.

It seems safe to say that Omfrey has read a lot into what Paul has to say (or rather, lied about it). Paul believed that when the kingdom of heaven on earth came, our bodies would still be physical, but would be transformed by god into perfect, immortal bodies, like the bodies of incarnated angels. He views our bodies as spiritually dead due to sin, but he doesn’t seem to me to hate them, merely to look forward to their future perfection.

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

He even encourages marries couples to engage in healthy relations:

The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, but then come together again, so that they are not tempted because of their lack of self-control.

Perhaps the idea that the body was evil came from the old testament, the source of many of the worse ideas believed by Christians? Guess again:

You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves.

For you formed my insides; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted, but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

So where did this idea, the core of protestant puritanism, come from? It was simply not strongly believe in by Jesus or his followers. While it is true that bodily impulses may tempt one to adultery or other behaviors that are immoral, it is not the body that is sinful, but the person whose body it is, if they allow their instincts to rule over their reason. The difference between humans and animals our consciousness, free will, and ability to defer gratification and control our impulses.


About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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