Christopher Hitchens and Groaning During Sex

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Mr. Hitchens — may he rest in peace — was far too involved with Christianity to have ever become a Christian. If he had spent a little more time being an Atheist he might have considered the Body of Christ. But he couldn’t leave the non-God alone. He spoke of Christianity more than Her priests. He engaged Her more than Her followers. He lived the life of a pious Christian with several thousand misunderstandings of Christianity. Forever seeing Her through a microscope of misconception, Hitchens never saw Her at all.

And so I come to his misunderstanding of Heaven. For grump-machine-Christopher, Paradise is a ‘celestial North Korea’ where man is doomed by God to repeat the same actions of praise, worship, and love, forever. And ever. And ever. Amen. He decries Heaven as dreary, monotonous, awful, and well — he’s absolutely correct. That’s right folks, I’m becoming an atheist.

But he got this right: If Heaven is merely an eternal choir, it may as well be a Hell. Any action infinitely repeated would be intolerable. I swear, if I get handed a harp and am told to “start playing, never stop,” I’m pulling a Paradise Lost, Book 6.

Thankfully, it’s a ridiculous understanding of Heaven. (I’m surprised Hitchens never stopped to realize that the only people agreeing with his interpretation were literalist Christians.) He should have paid less attention to bad theology and more attention to having sex.

A sex life is monotonous. It is repetitive. It is ritualistic. It is the carrying on of certain motions that lead to certain results, again and again, forever and ever, till death do you apart, or some other tragedy occurs. It is a routine (more and more so as the children grow up, I imagine. (I know a girl who at 20 just figured out what her parents daily nap-time was all about. (Sorry if I just scarred any one for the rest of their lives. (Please still read my blog.)))) But you’d be slapped — and rightly so — if assumed that all this monotony means that the act is boring.

Sexual union in its fullness – and unfortunately I can only go by literature here — is not a limited thing, but an experience of infinity. No couple views sex as a finalized experience (it’s this awesome and no more), but as an attempt at infinite joy. Thus everyone, atheist or otherwise, naturally gasps things like “more,” “God,” and other such infinities during the act. Ritual unveils the infinite.

Think about it: If you gaze on the face of your lover again and again, you dive into her infinite worth. No one would say, “Alright, I’ve got it! You’re a 9! No more and no less!” No, the cliche “words cannot express how beautiful you are” is simply a statement of fact: Who can express the infinite? So your gaze becomes a ritual, you gaze again and again.

Or returning again and again to a truly beautiful piece of music — again you dive. For who among you can imagine saying, “I’ve discovered all Mozart’s Requiem has to offer!”? No, it’s precisely in feeling we could never discover everything a piece has to offer that we feel fulfilled. Ritual — the again and again — unveils the infinite.

So it is with sex. You live a natural, ritualistic sex life — you grow ever deeper in the infinities love, communion and joy. It is not an Erotic North Korea, this repetition. It is the very method by which we are fulfilled.

And in a beautiful binding of infinities, all these experiences make us groan. What is the human response to the terrible beauty of the soprano’s highest note in Miserere Mei Deus? A groan. What is the natural end of gazing at Michaelangelo’s Pieta? A groan, audible or otherwise. And what is the natural response to the fact of sex? A groan. Infinity stings us sweetly. It is a paradox — we cannot grasp it, yet we must. We cannot fully contain the Evermore, but we will try. We cannot comprehend the Beauty of our lovers, but we will try. We are simultaneously satisfied and dissatisfied — and so we groan in sweet frustration at the convergence of the twain, at the crashing of opposites that creates a thing entirely new.

And is that not the very face of sex? Both dissatisfaction and satisfaction? Pleasure and pain? At the risk of losing a few readers: Why is it that the words most associated with the act of sex are words of extreme dissatisfaction — f**k — and in the same breath those of ultimate fulfillment — God? It’s not as if these words are entirely intentional (I hope.) They are reactions to the act. I hold it is because sex is an awesome sacramentalizing of the fact that we are not made for comfort. We are not made for an ending world. No, we are made for things we can never grasp, for love unimaginable. We are made for infinity. The things we desire the most are the things that make us groan.

This is my response to Christopher Hitchens: If the tastes of infinity available to us on earth — art, love, sex, and all the rest — are best unveiled through ritual and repetition, I can only conclude that the Ultimate Infinity we call Heaven will be unveiled and enjoyed through an Ultimate Ritual — and that we will pant for it. The best part being that I already do — it is called the Holy Mass, and I hope to God you are experiencing it right now.

  • Matticfrancis

    Very good.

    • Lisa

      Marvelous. You got it, exactly. I groaned when I viewed the Pieta; my heart wells up in agony/joy at musical and artistic masterpieces; and the intense intimacy that is God-given with my beloved is a wellspring. Heaven will be…….heavenly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lephillips Laura Elena Phillips

    Wow… That was amazingly beautiful and incredibly powerful. Great job grasping the holiness and beauty that is sex!

  • http://twitter.com/marychapman marychapman

    Brilliant.

  • Courtney

    I think I’m blushing.

  • Lauren G

    QUADRUPLE PARENTHESES! Congrats on not stopping at “this many parentheses and no more”.

    Oh and cool post too.

    • Calah Alexander

      I’m so with you on the quadruple parentheses thing! This was a fantastic post but that…that was my favorite part. Way to go, Marc! It’s nice to have you back.

  • Anonymous

    Haha, Marc, you’re one of a kind. But you’re right. Being bored with Heaven is like saying, “Oh, Bach’s Chaconne *again*? Yawn.” Repeated listenings to really great music are the attempt to know more, which leaves you knowing still less than you thought. There are some pieces I am sure I could have on a perpetual loop. Or, I imagine Heaven must be like the initial stage of falling in love, when everything they touch turns to gold and you swear you could never get tired of them — if it literally lasts forever.

  • Cheyloe

    Just like your writing, every time I click one of the You May Also Like… links, I say “Ah this is it. This is the best post I’ve ever read and will ever read,” but then you post a new one that’s ten times better and the process continues. Please don’t ever quit. This blog is a blessing.

  • http://thecatholicrealist.com/ Rebecca

    If you haven’t already read it, i suggest you read “Three to Get Married” by Fulton Sheen…this inexhaustible topic of love, sex, marriage, unity, God, ecstasy, etc. addressed in beautiful words and stunning clarity…

    p.s. every minute of waiting is worth it…my husband and i were both 29 when we finally said “i do” and got to experience the ultimate gift of marriage, a foretaste of heaven…

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.t.obrien Paul O’Brien

    As a further exploration, I also find great depth in C. S. Lewis’ “further in and higher up” idea. Joy, knowledge, and adventure seem to increase infinitely and for eternity for all those who die in Christ. There is always satisfaction and yet never boredom.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/Y7KPPA7BYDQKL22UD65EGKLGHQ Elizabeth

    Crushingly beautiful. Thank you.

  • http://www.namelessministries.com/ Starbuck

    Awesome article once again!

  • ckare

    You know what? If all catholics talked about sex like this, the whole world would want to convert!

    • Cal-J

      And every single woman who reads this blog would suddenly become very interested in getting to know Marc a little better.

      • ckare

        I think you’re right on that one!

        • Elayne

          Pretty sure he’s taken, as per his previous ode to his girlfriend’s trolling for Jesus on the PP facebook page ;-) plus I’m guessing Marc is quite a bit younger than most ladies who read this blog… and we don’t need any cradle-robbing scenarios!

          • ckare

            Ha! Ha! Well its way too late for me, 13 years married and two kids later, we have only just begun to use NFP and are only beginning to experience what Marc just described. It does feel like the first time every time now tho! – and may I just add… The stagnant and boring reality of Erotic north Korea sadly does exist, its called “a life time of artificial contraception”.

      • Jacob Neeson

        Are you using “know” in the biblical sense? (As in “…then Adam knew Eve and she conceived…”)

    • http://twitter.com/LitaLedesma Lita Ledesma
    • http://www.gadel.info/ GADEL

      True :)

    • DJames

      Could not agree more!!

    • Pippen Snifferdoo

      Theology of the Body for the win!

    • http://jabstaboops.wordpress.com Paco

      Haha, maybe we should!

  • ckare

    Your wife is gonna be one very lucky woman!

    • gazelle

      not entirely tur..but may be…some people are good at given lectures, writting books, and getting the crowd by words which really hit the mark..but may be or not..be good when it comes to carrying out this words when it comes to their spouses…

  • http://crazystable.squarespace.com/ Brenda Becker

    Dear boy.* May I compliment you for writing so beautifully and authentically about sex before (you infer) having had any. As a married woman of a certain age who also tries her hand at writing on Things Catholic, I have always been cowardly in this area, even after (finally) having actually had it. (Sex, that is. Finally.) (Let’s just say I didn’t marry young.) We get rather brainwashed that one can’t write convincingly about matters sexual unless one has made cliche’d forays into steamy swamps of carnality, an idiotic but widely-held belief that you have thumbed your nose at with stunning success. Oddly, I never thought of the truth of Church teaching as a secret weapon in terms of credibility, but it seems to be one, judging from the results here.
    And, from the perspective of 28 years of married life, I can assure you that you have got it uncannily right.
    *Voice of Stephen Fry, always useful in awkward situations.

  • SoulOfDiscretion

    Reminds me of Chesterton’s speel on how God exults in monotony, and how men, particularly adults, become bored so easily.

  • http://www.feminismthecatholicfword.blogspot.com/ Christine Falk Dalessio

    As I was scrolling down the page I kept thinking… at what part of this post will he include Teresa in Ecstasy? Well done.
    There is real beauty here – and I think the point of the matter is that our culture says – if sex doesn’t satisfy you, then try something New and Different – hence a billion dollar porn industry that continues to produce more and more bizarre and less and less “natural” experiences, and the explanation for extra marital affairs, one night stands, and more. Because if we believe we can be satisfied here on earth, which is not our home, then we will keep looking for satisfaction in all the world can offer and still, like Mick Jagger, come up unsatisfied.
    But if that unsatisfaction to which you referred joins the satisfaction in the realization that there is some great beauty in the depth and passion and intimacy that accompanies that “ritual” and yet the sacrament is only a sign of the greater Reality for which we long, if that longing is turned Heavenward then we can not only experience that ecstatic prayer of Teresa but also surrender ourselves to the other as a reflection, and only that, of Trinitarian love and intimacy. The pressure on the other is off, the freedom of sacrament remains.
    I feel the need to honor your openness about your own commitment to chastity, as well as tell you that after 17 years of marriage, the more we become open to the Holy Spirit in our marriage and our lives, the more deeply fulfilling sex really is…

  • Anonymous

    I’ve missed your blog and hope you’re back for good.

  • isaac

    you make things make sense

  • http://www.facebook.com/hannah.way Hannah Way

    Sounds a lot like Fulton Sheen’s “Life is Worth Living”: “It may be objected that there are people who are full of life who hate repetition; therefore, working toward the ideal goal is boring. No! Look at those who are full of life; they love repetition. Put a child on your kees and bounce it up and down two or three times; the child will say ‘Do it again.’”

  • Kqueenoftheworld

    Bravo !!!!!

  • Laurie Schultz

    Ok…

  • http://evangelizela.com/ Ricky Jones

    Awesome! Thanks for articulating the beauty of ritual.

  • John Doman

    Freaking awesome, dude.

  • Burke

    Marc, you’re one of the coolest dudes I’ve never met. This blog is a gift from God. Keep letting the Lord shine through you!

  • Robert Zeuner

    Marc – it is because of posts like this you are quickly becoming my favorite blogger on Patheos Catholic Portal. Not long ago JPII said the Church was entering into a “new springtime”Intelligent, faithful young people such as yourself are a perfect example of that. Well done, and please keep it up!

  • PierreFranz

    On sex and heaven;
    “…and this [contemplating the transformation of self and body that occurs in death and afterlife] reduces our imagination to the withering alternative either of bodies which are hardly recognizable as human bodies at all or else of a perpetual fast. As regards the fast, I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No,’ he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of.
    The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it. ” -C.S.L., “Miracles”

  • John Doman

    The thing about eternity is that it’s incomprehensible to us – now. C.S. Lewis said it best in the Screwtape Letters … something about how the state of time most like eternity is the present. – on what we are doing NOW. So if you want to imagine heaven, imagine the greatest moment in your life, and then imagine living in that moment forever.
    Yeah. It’ll be that good.
    And if you want to imagine hell….
    Yeah, it’ll be that bad.

  • Jay E.

    Well said man! As always!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doc-Kimble/100001742531811 Doc Kimble

    ….so now, people….stop bugging me…..when I groan….during prayer….adoration….supplication….it is GOOD to be Catholic !!!
    (mind your own business….I love God)
    *+*+*+*PEACE*+*+*+*

  • InvictusLux

    Not so much repetition my awesome young friend. Rather, more a “twinkling” as a shimmering star or a precious gem moved by sheer joy of existence to radiate and expression that divine and perfect light that enjoins the dance along its facets. Perfection is an ever revealing and expressing thing – it is not static and can never grow stale. It is unchanging only in its perfection – but not in its expression – not in its revelation. Perfection has all of eternity to glimmer and express “all that it is” – and that true perfection transcends the limits of mere time and space. Our heaven is an unbounded joy that must torment those who have forfeit it for the distractions of mere temporal babbles and visceral pleasures. We Catholics want “it all” – not just the savory soup that Esau took from Jacob in exchange for his birth right. We want the food that quenches the unquenchable desire that nothing here on earth will ever completely satisfy save Eucharist. But this is not the same as grasping at equality with God; but rather to take his hand as a child and let Him pull us into the unfathomable mysteries and joys to the bosom near his heart – his house. You are quite right in saying that we are not made for comfort. No, growth implies pain, suffering and fatigue as severe as that felt by Moses when Aaron and Hur [Exodus 17:12] held his weary arms outright during the battle with the Amalekites; as pinned and immobilized as Christ was to the cross; as fixed to suffer the penalty of their crimes as the thieves either side of Christ on their crosses (for or against Him); as as painful as Adam and Eve’s banishment from Eden for stealing the forbidden fruit. Thank God for God – He never gave up on humanity and became one of us to suffer it all with us as one of us. Unfathomable mystery as gloriously splendid as it is painful to try and comprehend…

    Isaiah 38:14
    I cried like a swift or thrush, I moaned like a mourning dove. My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens. I am troubled; O Lord, come to my aid!”

    Matthew 27:46 Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

    Romans 8:26
    In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;

    Keep up the GREAT work Marc.

  • Cierra

    I’m new to your blog but I can tell already just how marvelous a writer you are. You really have a gift for explaining things in a way that makes the divine make a little more sense. Thank you!!!

  • Mjarriel Rogers

    I couldn’t be more grateful to have read this today. This was such a great work of spiritual mercy – thank you for counseling my doubts and comforting my sorrows. Thank you, so much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maryliziz Mary Liz Bartell

    I am amazed by your perception of this truth about Faith and about Sex. This is truly an awesome blog, and very worthy of sharing with my friends. Finally someone in your age group and generation understands what I have always suspected but have never been able to articulate so acutely as you have. Praise to be Christ Jesus and your parents for having brought you to this world. Keep up the good work. As a bride of going on 2 years I can say the Sacrament of Marriage is well worth the wait for the ultimate reflection of God’s Love… Trinity reflected in the very action of making love to my husband. We hope to bring forth new life into a world of hope in Christ Jesus. And the repetition of trying never gets boring, never gets old. We are more in love with each passing day. And what wonders does God have in his Heaven are I am sure worth the wait. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love Him.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=730520187 Aaron Lopez

    This is a very sexy blog post.

    I like!

  • Kml

    “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” – Chesterton

    Great work, Marc!

    • Jennifer D.

      This is one of the best quotes I have ever read. It brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing. I have got to start reading something from Chesterton. Everytime I read a quote of his I am swept off my feet or gain some new insight.

      • Anonymous

        This was the same quote I was thinking of the whole time — it’s one of my favorite passages in Orthodoxy. Jennifer – if you do pick up Chesterton I’d highly recommend this book. It’s one beautiful concept after another.

        • Jennifer D.

          Which book is this from?

          • Anonymous

            Orthodoxy is the name of the book. The chapter is “Ethics of Elfland” and it is somewhere near the back. You can find it free online in many locations (or get it free for kindle/ipad/pdf/etc)

          • Jennifer D.

            Thank you. I misread/read too fast your previous comment.

  • SomeoneSmall

    Sounds like someone’s been reading Chesterton :)

  • Anonymous

    Quadruple Parentheses for the Win!

  • http://www.gadel.info/ GADEL

    Just one word: WOW!

  • Nathaniel

    Given the fact that one of the biggest reasons cited for bed death in marriages is monotony and neither partner being willing to try new things, after a mere few decades compared to eternity, your post makes Hitchens point.

    • Anonymous

      >Given the fact that one of the biggest reasons cited for bed death in marriages is monotony

      Maybe to people with a limited perception of sex. If all I ever see sex as is a way to please myself, to use another persons body to please my own, I will get bored fast. This is why nobody sticks to a single category of internet porn for long. After a while the monotony sets in and you need something *new* to stimulate your senses again (sound like a drug yet?). With the Christian view of sex it is not one person in the act, but two. The intertwining of two souls, the infinite combinations of love, compassion and expression. When I engage in sex not for myself, but for the other, and they do the same, two things trying to constantly lower itself below the other, you get the symbol of infinity.

    • Sadie

      Only boring people get bored with sex.

      • ckare

        My sex life got really boring until I started doing it properly! NFP! In fact I would go as far as to say that the mentality behind artificial contraception was harming my marriage.

    • Gail Finke

      “Bed death”? Are you serious? Actually, YOUR post proves Marc’s. If all one is after is the new, nothing will every satisfy and anything will quickly get monotonous. All I can say, as a person married for more than 20 years, is that if you are bored by sex the problem is with you, and not with sex! Doing something again and again is not inherently boring. But people who are prone to boredom can be bored by doing something even once.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

    Now you need to do a piece on how heaven has a myriad of variances – that every little bit of creation repeats without repeating.

    After all, God is infinite in Creativity as well, so that we can thumb our noses at those silly Eastern “circular” histories, which DO NOT HAVE ETERNITY.

    My point being, to add a note that notes repetition only holds as long as it also changes. Like music. Music is a series of repeating but permutating notes, which also must not be repeated endlessly in a row (hence the shuffle option on itunes, or the daily verses of Liturgy, which repeat, what, every four years or somewhat?) Infinite variety is part of infinite repetition, at least when we grow up. Mebbe that’s the problem, though: do only old people need variation? I doubt that…

    • yawsep

      Eastern histories other than Christianity, Judaism and Islam, right? :)

  • Legsbanana

    as someone who has had a lot of sex, I would say you are totally correct.

  • Taylorjsimon

    Judging from the rest of the comments, it appears that your audience has become intellectually incestuous. I urge you to seek a broader demographic that is more willing to provide you with a healthy dose of objective criticism.

    First off, I do have to give you credit for openly addressing sex in a positive manner. Far too often, I see religious folks approach such issues with contempt and harsh judgment.

    That being said, the main problem with this post is that you completely mischaracterized Hitchens’ argument, and this egregious oversight invalidates your entire discussion. The thing that he finds so abhorrent about the literal Christian heaven is being forced to do something that he does not want to do (worship God) for all of eternity. The key component here is the part about being forced to do something against his will. The earthly dictatorships he mentions in the video have done this to their people, but this torment is limited by mortality. He argues that the heavenly dictatorship would be worse because only it has the power to force its inhabitants to worship for all of eternity.

    At this point, you concede Hitchens’ point that ANY action infinitely repeated would be intolerable. Immediately after saying that, you declare that this understanding of heaven as an eternal choir is ridiculous. In your effort to correct his misunderstanding, your analogy to sex does not refute the idea that eternal worship in heaven would be monotonous. In fact, you accept it, and then you use it to argue that some of life’s most fulfilling aspects involve monotony. Wait, didn’t you just say that any action repeated infinitely would be intolerable? Which is it?

    Another major problem with your post is that you make completely unjustified generalizations about the nature of a sex life. While there certainly are some people with repetitive or monotonous sex lives, there are others whose sex lives can better be described as a series of exciting and unpredictable adventures. In addition, describing sexual union as an experience of infinity would be acceptable in some sort of creative writing, but not as a factual account of phenomena. I do not view sex as an attempt at infinite joy, nor do I grasp the infinite during the act. While it is almost always a very enjoyable experience, I would never deny its limited nature. This lone counterexample is enough to falsify your crude absolute statements.

    Further reflection leads me to question your analogy between worship and sex on an even more fundamental level. In order to connect the two, you argue that their monotony allows us to be fulfilled. However, this fulfillment is predicated on the assumption that we are engaging in these activities consensually. Again, this is Hitchens’ point that you missed from the very beginning: the Christian idea of heaven is intolerable because it involves God, the supreme dictator, violating his subjects’ autonomy by forcing them to praise him. One cannot be fulfilled by an activity he or she is forced into against his or her will. Repeated worship may be fulfilling if you are someone who chooses to worship, and repeated sex may be fulfilling if you are someone who chooses to have sex. However, we know that forced worship does not fulfill the people of North Korea, and we know that forced sex certainly does not fulfill its victims. To put it bluntly, the Christian view of heaven in which the inhabitants must praise God for all of eternity is more like repetitive rape than repetitive sex.

    Hitchens and I do not believe in God, so we do not enjoy worship activities. Even if we did believe in him, we both agree that he is not the sort of being that we would want to worship. For this reason, I hope that he is not experiencing the tyranny of heaven right now.

    • ckare

      TaylorjSimon, you have missed one very important point. God is love. Love does not force anyone to do anything. No one is forced to go to haven – the choice is ours, that is the whole point!. There is an alternative place where love sites not exist, if you prefer!

      • ckare

        Sorry that should read heaven! Although haven is good too, so I’ve been told!

    • Jennifer D.

      When one reaches Heaven they aren’t forced to praise God, instead because they are in His glorious unveiled presence they can’t do anything but praise and worship Him. Just like when one is with their beloved and you are giddy in love all you want to do is tell them how much you love them, how beautiful/handsome they are, how much they mean to you, and gaze into their face. Hitchens has the wrong idea of what Heaven is, period.

    • Jamie

      You know, I agree. I wouldn’t want to worship the sort of being that you see God as (hypothetically) being.

      I’m infinitely grateful, however, that the God who I believe is the one true God is nothing like the “god” you describe. As ckare pointed out below, God IS love, and in keeping with the nature of love, he does not force us to do anything we don’t want to to. Therefore, heaven is anything but tyranny, because those there are not there infinitely praising God because he forces them to do so, but because they choose to praise him, because they’ve received his love and want to return it.

      I think you make a very good illustration in comparing forced praise, a forced heaven, to forced sex—it’s NOT fulfilling, which is why heaven would not be, well, heavenly, if it were forced. That is why God in His loving goodness allows people to choose—whether directly or indirectly—hell. If you don’t want to spend eternity in an eternal exchange of love with God, that’s completely fine. Absolutely no one is forcing you to do so.

      I honestly hope (and pray) that you may one day experience the love that is God, and choose to return it. I won’t force you to, though, and neither will God himself. I’ve been on the receiving end of people attempting to force God, or their ideas of God, down my throat, and it is utterly off-putting, and completely counters what they are attempting to do. So I just want you to know that I truly believe that, no matter what you believe, God loves you unconditionally, and wants you to know and love him back, but will never force you to do so. That wouldn’t be love—that would be hell.

    • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Anthony S. Layne

      In addition, describing sexual union as an experience of infinity would be acceptable in some sort of creative writing, but not as a factual account of phenomena. I do not view sex as an attempt at infinite joy, nor do I grasp the infinite during the act. While it is almost always a very enjoyable experience, I would never deny its limited nature. This lone counterexample is enough to falsify your crude absolute statements.

      So you’re saying that Stevie Wonder’s inability to see the stars at night disproves their existence?

      For the rest of your reply, you commit the same error Hitchens committed: you assume that people are dragged into Heaven willy-nilly. Some well-meaning Christians, in the softness of both heart and head, have argued that everyone goes to Heaven, but that’s not orthodox Christianity — only the people who want to worship and praise God forever and ever go to Heaven.

      Of course the opportunity cost of refusing Heaven is Hell. Choices have consequences. But no one says you have to go to Heaven.

    • Jake E

      Judging by your comment, it appears that you have not looked into this blogger enough to judge what demographic he attempts to appeal to or if he tries to appeal to any demographic at all. If you had read some of of his other blogs, in particular ones dealing with the current health care issues, you would not be beginning your criticisms with snide comments about badcatholic readers.

    • InvictusLux

      @Taylorjsimon

      “[Hitchens] argues that the heavenly dictatorship would be worse because only it has the power to force its inhabitants to worship for all of eternity.”

      This is a classic fallacy. There is nothing in orthodox Christian teaching that comes close to expressing a relationship with God as a dictatorship. Quite the contrary God has told us that those who REPENT of their fallen nature by availing themselves of God’s salvfic grace and cooperate with it will be elevated to a new nature even higher than that of Adam before he fell. Christ as new Adam is the Divine-Human prototype for a new race of humanity that is capable of entering into a true loving relationship with God; that is partaking in the Divine Nature itself – Christians transcend the limits of their natural human facilities.

      John 15:15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you..

      Given this defeat of your objections, the rest of your so called critical analysis is rendered moot, without merit or constructive purpose or effect.

    • Dawn Eden

      “In addition, describing sexual union as an experience of infinity would be acceptable in some sort of creative writing, but not as a factual account of phenomena. I do not view sex as an attempt at infinite joy, nor do I grasp the infinite during the act. While it is almost always a very enjoyable experience, I would never deny its limited nature. This lone counterexample is enough to falsify your crude absolute statements.”

      Taylor, you are correct. No human being can enact something “infinite” in this life. We are created, and created nature is necessarily finite.

      Catholics believe that humans can receive the infinite God in Holy Communion, and through the Holy Spirit. We believe that God’s presence is mediated through others, including in marriage, where it is mediated through the love of the spouse. But no sexual act, as sexual act, can itself be infinite. Only the love present in it can be, and even that love is infinite only to the extent it participates in in God’s infinite love, not in the lover’s own human act of loving.

      I am sorry if overly enthusiastic efforts to “sell” the faith have served to confirm any misconceptions you may have about Christianity or Christians.

    • Alexandra

      Taylor, this is really well articulated, but it is for nothing because you don’t understand how powerful Jesus sex is. Us atheists are just doing it wrong and will never experience the infinite pleasure that comes from inviting God into our sex lives. That’s their main argument. A sex life where God is involved is some kind of worship, after all, God is love and sex is making love.

      If Hitchens had just realized that he was doing his sex wrong, he’d realize that heaven is as pleasurable as sex with God involved. Thankfully he didn’t buy into that and fully enjoyed his life, and his sex life, without having a three-way with the almighty.

      • Marc

        heehee

      • Anonymous

        Alexandra sarcasm, irrespective of how will it may self-please and feel good to self never transmits well across cyberspace. It’s kind of like, well, never mind…

        Let me correct something that you said that is theologically-technically wrong. Sex does not compare well to beatitude with God in heaven. Some may liken sex to a limited foreshadowing of that beatitude but its not in the same plane of experience and woefully inadequate as a comparison for a relationship for the Creator of the Universe and Heaven. God is spirit and way above our own created natures; though we are both material-spiritual beings. The joys and pleasures of heaven are light-years beyond mere physical hormonal rushes and even our current natural-human emotional capacity. Those in heaven are elevated in nature (God is authentic and can not love at a nature less than His own and leave us without the means to reciprocate – what Jesus is all about).

        Sex is intentioned to be a unitive and creative. While it is disrespectful to refer to God’s participation in our lives and marriages in the manner you do here (e.g. “three-way”) , it is true that he uses us as His instruments for creating new life; whether one believes in Him or not. Because we are immortal beings it follows that our actions, licit or not, have eternal consequences for better or worse – begetting new life is more special than many many imagine. That is, bringing new life into the world is participating with God to bring a new immortal being with the potential of being itself endowed with eternal existence & beatitude with God. Since God created man and women BOTH in some aspect of His own image the unitive aspects of intimacy are a special occasion for married couples to commune with each other at a very intimate and committed level.

        Pax

        • Alexandra

          I know you think it is disrespectful, but respect has to be earned, and the Church hasn’t earned the respect of non-believers. Moreover, Marc was “disrespectful” of Hitchens who is as close to a leader as the New Atheists will ever have, so the tone set wasn’t exactly serious business here.

          Anyway, it sure seems like you were agreeing with my statement but with pomp, some random capitalization, and more flowery language.

          • Anonymous

            That old “respect has to be earned” ditty might as well be written on a restroom stall for the lack of pedigree that it has. It appeals to the ‘old Zeitgeist’ of yesteryear but even most of today’s the modern-secularists generally hold to a semi-civil presumption of “I’m OK, you’re OK” (but hypocritically reserve: ”until you disagree with me’ ).

            Let me ask you a thing. When you by chance have a random occasion to dialog with another human being of any age, race, sex, creed, ethnicity or social-condition do you automatically disrespect him/her if they are not of the same estate (higher or lower as you may self-assess) as you or do you first recognize the common humanity in each person and extend a common human respect? Or do you just disrespect those who have a religious belief?

            No, I am NOT agreeing with your statement since you’re using an inappropriately obscene vernacular (e.g. three-way) that is beyond most normal people’s experiential base or standards of decency. Just because you reject our world view does not give you license to drag us into the filth of yours.

            That said, it is however our contention that in a Christian marriage relationship God DOES indeed participate in our lives by blessing us in every good way while we remain in His good grace. Those who are “alive in Christ” (in His grace) have an indwelling of His Spirit that restores the disfigured image of God in each of us. That makes Intimacy a pure and holy thing; and also makes celibacy the same unless/until called to that station in life. Note too that God is in a relationship with Himself in the Unity of His Three Divine Persons – Creator/Father, Son and Holy Spirit (The Trinity). This divine inner working of God is a deep mystery more deep than any material or scientific paradox discovered by any human to-date (e.g. the dual-nature of light, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principal, the inexplicable anti-Darwinistic phenomena of the butterfly’s step-back-into-larvae stage metamorphosis etc. etc.). But just because we don’t understand things too unfathomable we adults don’t generally find an occasion to mock something – especially when evidence suggests something much greater than our own knowledge and experience.

            Pax

          • Anonymous

            To volley back in the same “people’s court we can certainly retort with the spin of a similar ditty: “respect is a two way street”. Love love…

          • Alexandra

            Like I said, you just don’t like the language I used, but I made the same point with less embellishment.

      • Annie

        For a person who dislikes this blog as much as you seem to, you sure were quick to jump back into commenting as soon as Marc returned to posting. Could it be that you were waiting for him to return? Could it be that something, even a small something, of what he writes about here appeals to you on some level?

        • Alexandra

          Oh I just like bickering with people, and people around here have provided great civil discourse. I was definitely waiting for him to return.

          Marc’s writing amazes me because it’s generally complete nonsense, but there is a method to it.

          I don’t dislike this blog at all. I enjoy it very much, but not for the same reasons that most of the other readers do.

    • FrJosephPeek

      As to what you describe as Christopher’s original premise of a heavenly ‘dictator’, he stands vastly unfinformed about Catholic theology. The loving God would NEVER force anyone to participate in the heavenly ritual who did not so desire, as he rightly infers – that would be hell! So, God in his infinite mercy has allowed those who do not so desire to isolate themselves from the heavenly worship, from himself and from the Church, as much as they can. For as Archbishop Sheen notes, “Heaven is where we say to God, Thy will be done. Hell is where God says to the individual unrepentent, thy will be done.” Hell, therefore, is the allowance of a merciful. loving God for those who choose for all eternity not to love him.

      • Veritas

        I have had a lot of trouble wrapping my head around your comment. It seems paradoxical to me that a god with “infinity mercy” says, “thy will be done” to the “individual unrepentant,” and then sends them to eternal suffering/torture for making their choice. I highly doubt that the “will” of an individual unrepentant person would be to face eternal suffering, and given this assumption, a person is not really given a choice in the matter after all; it is a threat that is veiled as the guise of a choice.

        Which brings us to the point of why “God” is a dictatorship. Nobody in their right mind would choose eternal suffering over eternal bliss, but according to “God,” who apparently has a monopoly on happiness, the only way to “be happy” is to “worship” him (i.e., act as a slave who is grateful to their master, and “chooses” to submit).

        • InvictusLux

          There are plenty of paradoxes in nature that science is unable to resolve. Paradoxes are a way of life for us humans. They demonstrate the limits of our cognition, observation and the woefully inadequate views that we construct of our environment. Take the paradoxes as strong hints that there is much truth beyond our comprehension yet to be understood.

          One of the oldest paradoxes is why people do dumb and self destructive things so frequently. There’s a difference between the nature of harm itself and between the insanity of repetitively embracing a self-harming course of action. It is the nature of sin (the harm) that the more one sins the more detached one becomes from reason and the higher-nature of the human spirit that was meant to be with God. When one sins, one alienates themselves not only from God but from one’s self, fellow man, church, Creation itself. Thus there is a cascade addictive nature to sin that presents a gravity (concupiscence) or an appetite for it. Our choices to sin become more like reflexes and habits than as conscious choices. We take on a different sub-human nature when we sin – loss of dignity – dis-”graced” – falling further and further from the image of God that Christ restored to a fallen humanity.
          A sinful soul in the presence of God would suffer an eternal and irreconcilable spiritual pain. Hell is a kind of Mercy since it has finite limits whereas a finite & sinful soul in the presence of infinite good would have no limit to pain – it would combust with envy simultaneous with loathing its own limited nature’s ability to possess what it can’t and want to flee. It is said that God forces no one into Hell – the soul’s dying unrepentant have lost all semblances of good (striped of God’s grace) and choose to leap of their own accord into hell out of self loathing & shame – out of awe for God yet burning envy.
          Don’t make the mistake of saying that God tortures a soul. It is the very nature of sin itself that causes the pain of hell; and also the terrible knowledge of what one could have been had they chosen to follow God’s Will in all their life’s choices. It is an unimaginably benevolent God that let’s us choose our own destinies. The choices are more than fair. An infinite happiness beyond anything we can imagine or an perpetual regret that is too terrible to imagine yet not as nearly to the same degree of suffering as those who have chosen to be happy with God eternally.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kate-Harrison/506221740 Kate Harrison

    Holy Cow! How do you get the courage to write this stuff? I’ve seen these parallels myself, but would’ve never been able to write on them so boldly. “Be not afraid” indeed. Keep up the good work!

    • Fisherman

      That’s the beauty of the Internet, you don’t have to look people in the eye.(disqualifying chatroulette)

  • Lisa

    Great discussion here. The thing that cannot be grasped by those who have chosen love apart from God (who IS love) is that God and virtue are sufficient for happiness not only eternally, but also in this life. As complex and wonderful as some of the culinary creations by great chefs are, there is somply no flavor or creation of man that rivals a simply ripe pear, strawberry, sun warmed tomato, or creamy avocado. He created all things for His pleasure and He delights in our discovery and our praise. Joy in loving your spouse with the interest of making them feel fully loved, is returned and that is the infinity spoken of here.

  • Jake E

    Just as a general statement to people commenting on this blog: I don’t want to hear about your sex lives and I doubt your husbands would want me to hear about your sex lives. Just sayin’.

    • InvictusLux

      Jake no one here is being specific – it’s a conceptual level of dialog centered on principals only. Not even Polly Anna should blush here…

  • Wayneg87

    Well, this guy tackles hard issues, unlike most religious bloggers. Theres a bigger issue he might want to tackle…Does religion save you? Will doing what your religion tells you to do get you into heaven? Here are some issues: men dressed up to make themselfs separate from other men. This is frowned upon in scripture. Bowing to graven images: this is one of the worst things you can do befor god.

  • James H, London

    Awesome stuff. Just amazing, again, thanks from me too for expressing what I always thought but seldom articulated.

    While we’re on the topic, can I ask a quick prayer for all those who don’t get to express their love enough, or at all, even with NFP or no history; and those lonely ladies or gents left behind in the jungle of modern relationships. Such as these, will read this and weep.

  • Anonymous

    Marc, awesome article, the way you talk about sex is so interesting that you seem older than you actually are, i can see you teaching many many years into the future :)

  • Jane Hartman

    Marital sex is the way our creator has designed us to come together as one and co-create with him. It’s a type of eternity though still fallen. Sin has splintered and fragmented us but God has promised to bring us all together and make all things news. The great marriage in heaven between Christ and His Church will have to be awesome – we won’t be wanting to do anything but praise and connect with Him. ” Eye hath not seen, Ear hath not heard what God had promised for those who love Him…..” Marc Barnes, you are brilliant. Glad you’re back.

  • Anonymous

    Beautifully written – you capture the essense of Being perfectly.

  • MichelleMarie

    “We are not made for comfort”.

    Exactly what I needed to hear. The awareness of my discomfort was making me miserable this weekend! But to accept the discomfort stops the spiraling.

    Reminds of one of Fr. Barron’s quotations from the Catholicism Project, something to the effect that receiving the Eucharist makes you more keenly aware of injustice because it binds you to the body of Christ, and therefore, to all other humans within the body of Christ, some of whom are experiencing terrible pain. And hence you feel others’ pain more keenly. It was the answer to the question that I didn’t ever think to formulate, but hung in the background to my life all along: why the Eucharist isn’t simply a happiness pill. It’s more like… an expansion pill, one that slowly widens your insides to eventually include the whole world and everyone in it! eek!

  • Angela

    Oh, my! Ckare… I agree. Marc does make it sound fabulous!!! Actually… I had butterflies in my stomache while I was reading! Wow. Such insight for someone so young.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1640074522 Joseph Jablonski

    Another incredible post! Keep up the great work BadCatholic!

  • Patricia Galgani

    I often use sex as an example, when i speak to married evangelicals, baptists, non-denoms who challenge my belief in honoring the saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary. They love to say us Catholics are idolaters because we love these humans soooo much, we give them honor and place them on pedestals to the heights that should only be given to Jesus. They believe we put them on equal footing with Our Lord because of our processions, our veneration of their relics, their statues, pictures, etc. I quietly look them in the eye, and I ask them to describe to me how they love and honor their spouses. I start first with asking how they honor their spouse when their birthdays, anniversaries, holidays come around. I slowly progress to how they show each other how much they love them. Then finally, I ask them about their sex life. I ask them, “do you hold back? Or do you give it your all?” To that point, many are a little shocked and seem a bit uncomfortable. I’ve had some become offended. But I come to the point: “No, you love these humans soooooo much, that you put them on a pedastal, you give your total selves to them in your lovemaking because you are expressing a deep and passionate love that equals nothing else in your world. Goodness, you must be worshipping them!”

    Gets them to re-think their criticism of us everytime… :)

  • Angela

    After reading this post for the 2nd time the image and dialogue from the movie, When Harry Met Sally comes to mind. Harry and Sally are in the restaurant and Sally begins to “fake it”, well… I keep hearing “I’ll have what she’s having.” Wow!

  • Johnno

    An analogy of playing sports also works. People doing the same thing over and over and loving it. Same goes for playing music. Of course there is variation in all things, even those that seem monotonous, and likewise its the same for Heavenly worship.

    Hitchens isn’t forced to go to Heaven, he and other atheists who don’t want to be with God can freely choose hell and keep company with each other where everyone’s in agreement that they don’t want an authoritarian God… but of course without established order they must all then fend for themselves and suffer the cruelties of each other. There’s nothing wrong with having a fixed authority. Atheists it seems would rather argue for anarchy, but of course they don’t. They only pick and choose what suits them when its convenient. There is no logical rationale nor consistency.

    Atheism is a religion with its own set of repetitive and monotonous beliefs that’s only fit for the suitably well-off who neither suffer greatly, nor experience joy greatly. They’re an in-between oddity that in time as it becomes more and more obvious their fictional accounts of the world’s existence from nothing gives greater way to the obviousness that God exists, where the latter will seem so obvious and real, that the fate of atheism is a tragic one. For in a future where we believe God returns and is so apparently evident in a new creation, those future generations will refuse to believe that mythical people like them could ever have actually existed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lisa-Mladinich/1124041137 Lisa Mladinich

    This is beautiful! And so true.

  • Eatshit

    You are pretentious and annoying as fuck.

  • LamberthG

    Per Lamberth’s argument from autonomy, putative God has no rights over us- no right to be the ultimate judge and no right to send anyone to any kind of Hell! He’d face the one-way street of having to have put us into a better place in the first place per Fr. Meslier’s the problem of Heaven!!
    No rational being even wants worship, much less demand it.
    Prattling those hosannas forever relates in no way to sex in this sense.
    This gnu atheist goes to the theistic heart!
    Hitchings fathomed all to well Christ= insanity!
    Igtheist Morgan [Ignostic Morgan]
    Fr. Griggs
    http://fathergriggs.wordpress.com The Meslier problem is at the top of the blog. Read it- carefully.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Pawn007 Jim Doyle

      You’re arriving to this thread about 8 months late. At least we know now that the triggger-on-update softare works.

      Where does Lamberth conjure up his notion of putative “rights” from? What is their origin? By what right does he claim a self-authority to apply a dialectic progression that telescopes from an unknown and nebulous standard of his own making to even assume that the Universe is universally rational? The problem with rhetoricians and theological critics is they can only momentarily impress us with an occasional demonstration of apparent reasonable-doubt or “reasonableness in argument” by appealing with certitude to a line of reasoning or assumption that is itself uncertain. They go full circle, spin wheels and get no-where fast but can never account for where the standard of reason comes from absent any tangible experience or real transcendental knowledge – only guesses and crutching on assumptions of their own infallibility in their logic. The entertainment is in witnessing these same play “as God” in their own small-cranium-world and expecting to gain esteem (worship?) for nothing profoundly said at all — all while expecting to be exempt from the same criticisms for the same absurd tilting-at-windmills behaviors that they can’t see in themselves but see in those who do believe in God.

      I don’t believe there is such a thing as an atheist. I’m a non-believer there. There are just two kinds of people – those who hope and believe in a Creator being and those so shot full of certainty in their own infallibility or indifference (the worst kind of hate & contempt known to man) that they can’t or won’t extend the benefit-of-the-doubt that they just might be wrong. It’s more than a case of optimism and pessimism – its matter of humility and obstinate hubris.

  • rod dunsmore

    I doubt the majority of people commenting on this post have ever read Hitchens. He decimated “religion” in all aspects theology aside. I cant see how you people can be so naive and just plain stupid to believe something that has been so destructive throughout history. The author of this horrid regurgitation of words doesn’t even make the connection of the sexual references he uses to your Christian religions history of raping children. Hitchens was a scholar you would not last a minute in a debate with him and if you think you would get fucking real. If GOD is a jealous GOD then FUCK HIM! Keep telling your children stories of how a devil is inside them i cant think of anything sicker than this foolish fairy tale. Its a sick fucking game your playing and Hitchens advocated his life to stopping it! SHOW some GODDAMN respect instead spitting on a dead man you sir are FUCKING COWARD. PATHETIC shame on all of you

  • Blake

    It seems to me someone is incapable of understanding Hitchens’ logic…

    Even if Hitchens is everything you just made him out to be, that doesn’t prove your position what so ever. Its a shame that you defiled his name in this post, it really is… Its also a shame that you will never come to experience his beautiful mind because of your contemptuous mindset towards other beliefs. Biased, actually.


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