I am really into history, and into knowing ancient cultures. When I visit a new country or city, I want to see the history and values of that place. The best place to get a feel for that is the city’s biggest temple. Majestic displays of architecture and the best each culture had to offer in matters of art, few things express as much about a people as their places of worship.
I imagine the music, art, dances, massive numbers of people and animals in ritual, smells, colors and sound, the spiritual and cultural ethos that wrapped the whole atmosphere there. The architecture, the way the sunlight goes in, the position of the temple in the city, all have a purpose. Often the temple would have the most treasure in the city, and would surpass even a monarch’s palace in wonder. The question, maybe, is: what for? What did the glory of the temples stand for? The answer: for the gods. Temples are orderly, solemn, majestic, wondrous, because they are done to please the gods, not mere men.
Harming a temple was not mere vandalism: it was sacrilege. It was not just the expensive property of a rich person, it was the abode of the gods. Priests and priestesses and oracles would make the temple decisions, but they knew the temple was not ultimately theirs, or the monarch’s, or the people’s: it belonged to the gods.
But now, let’s be realistic: many powerful religious people, even today, are really practical atheists. They take the power of religion and bend it to their own use, their devotion is mere convention, and they show in their actions that they believe there are no gods above but themselves. These people will both worship and desecrate their temples without second thoughts. A pious priest, on the other hand, will not thread the temple inadequatedly lest Jove strikes him dead.
Christian theology says that we are priests, and our bodies are temples. Stop and think about that for a second.
When discussing sexuality and religion, often I have people ask me “what does God care about my body? About what two — or more — consenting adults do in bed? Does not an all-powerful Being have better things to be concerned about?“
That is the catch of Christian belief: We believe our bodies are temples. The human person, including the body, is what is most sacred in all of creation. When you are with another person, you are on holy ground. When you step into their secret intimate places, you are in the holiest chambers: God’s sacred territory. It doesn’t belong to itself, or the priest, or the government, it belongs to the Divine.
Part of today’s folly is that we have found ourselves worshiping and celebrating the temples, not the gods. We act as if we are the only gods there are: Gods who bow to their temples. Creators worshiping creation. Madness.
If you understand this well, the logic behind a sacred morality for healthy sexuality is rather simple: if there is a God in heaven, you are not yours, and decisions about your body should not have your own pleasure (literally and figuratively) as the measuring scale of choice. — and I well acknowledge that is one of the reasons why we would rather prefer it if God did not exist. We want temples to ourselves, to sit on the throne and stand in the altar, we want to be God. Religious or not, we find ourselves as the atheistic priest who wants to yield it all as his own.
But, maybe, we are not really alone. Maybe the temples are not really empty.
Maybe Jove still cares.