Skip to main content

Why Unitarians need to experience orgasms (spiritually)

The joke goes something like this:

A Unitarian finds a fork in the road. One sign points to "Heaven" while the other points to "A discussion about heaven." The Unitarian follows the path to "A discussion about heaven."

There's a lot of truth in that joke. In fact I think the situation is sort of worse than that. I would categorise the Unitarian situation as more like this:

A Unitarian finds a fork in the road. One sign points to "an orgasm" while the other points to "A discussion about orgasms." The Unitarian follows the path to "A discussion about orgasms."

The problem with our religious life, most significantly about our worship life, is that we believe we are worshipping by having a discussion about worship, or praying by saying clever things about prayer. It is as ridiculous as believing you are having an orgasm by attending a three hour lecture about orgasms. The two do not compare.

We gather, sing songs, listen to words, and somehow think we have worshipped. So many times, we have not. We have merely talked about these things. Worship, prayer, God, grace, freedom, love are things that must be experienced directly, not discussed or debated.

The purpose of worship is to experience things, not to talk about things. Worship itself is an experience, a verb, a practice, a habit, not merely a concept up for philosophical examination.

You can talk all you want about sex. You can read poetry and biological explanations for it. You can analyse it scientifically, sociologically, culturally. You can read reflections on the matter from various cultures and periods of history. But none of these things are having sex. None of them come close to the human visceral and physical experience of making love. None of them can in any real meaningful way tell you what it is like to have an orgasm.

You have to experience it. Anything else, though interesting and informative, doesn't really get to the heart of the matter. If you want to know about orgasms, you need to experience one.

No actually, scrap that. Who the hell cares about knowing about orgasms when you've experienced one? The experience is primary, the knowing about it is a secondary thing, perhaps interesting for specialists, but not actually necessary, and maybe sometimes a complete distraction.

When we gather for worship, the purpose is worship itself. The purpose of an orgasm is the orgasm itself. Worship is not about hearing something interesting, informative or clever. Worship is about worship. Every time. Do not say "today's service is about social housing and here's two informative readings and here's my thoughts about the issue, interspersed with some pleasant thematic music" rather say, "Holy! Holy! Holy! We enter now the deepest experience of transcendence," or better, sing it!

Visitors do not stay in our churches because we fail to offer them any real substantive experience. They like our values and our approach but they do not find anything spiritually real in what we offer. We need to offer real religion, in a liberal and open way, not just liberalism with a sprinkling of religion as an afterthought.

I want Unitarians to desire orgasms enough to leave the discussion about orgasms and actually try them for once! I think you'll find, once we do that, we'll not be too bothered about the discussion.

Comments

Chris said…
This is an excellent and very timely post. I particularly identified with the following paragraph:

'Visitors do not stay in our churches because we fail to offer them any real substantive experience. They like our values and our approach but they do not find anything spiritually real in what we offer. We need to offer real religion, in a liberal and open way, not just liberalism with a sprinkling of religion as an afterthought.

This was precisely why I stopped identifying as a Unitarian and why I rarely attend Unitarian services now. I greatly admire the tolerance, liberality and openness of Unitarianism but I found myself always having to look outside of it to find meaningful spirituality, which I eventually and thankfully found thus making Unitarianism itself somewhat irrelevant to me. My only connection with Unitarianism now remains the friendships that I made while I was a Unitarian.

I am truly grateful to Unitarianism for helping me to think more openly, and for giving me the confidence and the 'safe space' to do so. I do not regret one moment of my brief life as a Unitarian and live with its positive legacy, but ultimately I found it to be a religion far too concerned with issues of governance and unpleasantly obsessed with how to attract new members while neglecting, if not actually hampering, the spiritual/religious heart that might have engaged me more profoundly by igniting my spirits with the beauty, mystery and sacredness of the numinous.

I wish Unitarianism well; it has an important voice, and I hope it finds its soul.
Anonymous said…
You are right. Unitarianism has become an intellectual pursuit - a church of smart arses.
Anonymous said…
Chris expresses the biggest issue facing Unitarianism as a "religion" very well.

There is a problem with retention.

People may well be coming through the door, armed with high expectations based on what they read on the web etc, and then what?

Then they meet the reality.

And let's be brutally honest here, the issue is not about "growth" but "survival" for most groups.

Hence the observation about a religion "far too concerned with issues of governance and unpleasantly obsessed with how to attract new members "


Many workplace communication related courses use videos to film individuals so they can critique their own performance and learn about how they come over.

Perhaps this might be a good use of Unitarian TV?

Yes it is good to film and highlight the bigger groups with the good guys - Ant Howe @ Kingswood - and we assume Stephen himself of course (!!)

However it might also help some of the smaller groups to see their total interaction across a worship session.

If you walked into this group for the first time and this is what you encountered, would you want to stay?

Trouble is such a group might take one look at the resulting video and end up closing because of the shock.

So on second thoughts, perhaps not, but still a useful thought process.
Cody said…
" ...the way you make love is the way
God will be with you." "Breadmaking" by Rumi
This point was re-emphasised for me today reading The Inquirer's report of the Psychical Society lecture about "spiritual experience[s] characterised by overwhelming love."

Literally a lecture about this experience, rather than seeing our primary purpose in gathering to be to open ourselves to this experience and to let it guide our lives.
Nick Honneyman said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Hi Stephen I just realised that I left my email address on my comment, would you be able to remove it please so it's not picked up by spam people. Thanks, and well done on a brilliant blog too! Nick.
Nick, I can't edit comments so I have deleted the whole comment on your request. All the best. Stephen.

Popular posts from this blog

From liberalism to radicalism

I've been reflecting recently on the journey I've been making from liberalism to radicalism, and how I'm beginning to see it as a necessary evolution if you're not going to get stuck in a kind of immature liberalism that fails to serve both you and the world. By liberalism I mean ideas and movements that emphasise personal freedom and not being restricted by the patterns of the past. By radicalism I mean ideas and movements that emphasise justice, solidarity, and liberation from oppression. Yes, I'm using broad categories here. Let me give an example. Let's talk about sexual liberation in a Western context for example. We can talk about women getting more agency over their bodies; gay and bi people being able to have sex with one another and marry one another; we can talk about the work of overcoming shame around sexuality. All of that is liberalism. It's good stuff. It's still ongoing. So we might ask the question "where next for sexu

Am I an activist?

  I remember being at some protest outside the Senedd once, and someone introduced me to someone else, and said, "Stephen is an activist." I remember thinking - am I? I don't know. What does it mean to be an activist? Who gets to use that title? Am I an activist because I turn up at a few protests? Or do I have to be one them organising the protest to be an activist? Do I have to lead? Do I have to do the organisational work to be an activist? Because the truth is that since I moved to Cardiff I have kept myself at the periphery of a lot of activist groups. I go to meetings, I hear about things, I turn up at protests, but I have rarely got really fully involved. Why is that? It's not for the reason that I don't have time. I do, in fact. But often I sit in these meetings and protests and think "Is this effective? Is it worthwhile? Is it going to produce something at the end of it all that is worth the effort?" I suppose, coming from the world of church I

LOST and theology: who are the good guys?

***Spoiler alert*** I'm continuing some theological/philosophical reflections while re-watching the series LOST. One of the recurring themes in LOST is the idea of the "good guys" and the "bad guys." We start the series assuming the survivors (who are the main characters) are the "good guys" and the mysterious "Others" are definitely bad guys. But at the end of series 2 one of the main characters asks the Others, "Who are  you people?" and they answer, in an extremely disturbing way, "We're the good guys." The series develops with a number of different factions appearing, "the people from the freighter" "the DHARMA initiative" as well as divisions among the original survivors. The question remains among all these complicated happenings "who really are the good guys?" I think one of the most significant lines in the series is an episode when Hurley is having a conversation with