The Bible vs. Pornography; Or ‘Cause you know it when you see it…

by Anna Blanch on March 3, 2010

Insidehighered.com reported the following this morning: 

The Bible vs. Porn

The Atheist Agenda at the University of Texas at San Antonio has found a way to attract converts away from religion (or at least to publicize that cause). The San Antonio Express-News reported that the group has attracted considerable attention with a “smut for smut” offer in which students who turn in a Bible or another religious text can receive a free pornographic magazine. The atheists say that the “smut for smut” title is appropriate because the Bible includes passages about violence and torture.

Where do I start?*

So the bible has Sex and Violence in it! Duh! Every kid in Sunday school knows about Ehud. The hilt of the knife being covered over by belly fat! It’s icky, and disgusting and part of the history of Israel. And Ehud is only scraping the surface…

Are they contending that pornography is somehow superior to violence and torture or that they are equal?
I think they might be attempting to somehow argue that pornography is superior to the Bible. For what exactly I am not sure? promoting the oppression of women? pushing the limits of taste?

Either way, this is offensive to me but not just for the reasons you might assume.

For one, are they going to extend this “offer” to every piece of literature that contains violence and torture – what about Ivan Denisovich? or Les Miserables, or War and Peace, or even The Matrix?

I strongly believe that a familiarity with the bible, in the very least as a piece of literature, is fundamental to a solid grounding in Western Literature. It is essential. You cannot fully appreciate authors such as Shakespeare, T.S.Eliot, John Donne, Milton, W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Dorothy Sayers, Marilynne Robinson, Tolkien, Lewis, Flannery O’conner, Wendell Berry without a working knowledge.

Oh, no, I think the intent of this campaign is very much about the scriptural and theological nature of the Bible. It’s also an example contrary to the common argument that Atheists simply promote freedom of religion or no religion. Rather this is an example of the lengths campaigners will go to promote freedom from religion. Even if it means distributing demeaning sexually explicit materials.

While I find this campaign bemusing and an indictment on the moral decrepitude of those involved, I will not interfere with their right to do it. Do i think the whole thing is abhorrent? YES.  Do I hope they get arrested if it is found that they are distributing this material to minors? YES.

Limits on the freedom of religious or non-religious expression are something that concern me more than almost any area of social policy. As soon as one group starts infringing on the ability of groups to engage in worship then i start thinking about how fickle the notion of government and power really is – law is both a shield and a weapon, and i am hesitant to have it turned against me!

I feel completely out of the loop – I wasn’t aware of the apologetic and proselytizing nature of the atheist community at University of Texas – San Antonio. But i guess if publicity is what they were aiming at they’ve got it.

*I spent part of the morning thinking through whether or not I enter the fray on this one. But i decided it was worth it. Also, I never ever thought I would discuss pornography in any sentence involving the bible ever. especially on Goannatree. I guess there is a first for everything – though that ain’t always a good thing.
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Anna Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD student in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. She lived in Texas for 2 years until September 2009.

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