Self-inflicted violence in religion: Jack David Eller’s Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence

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Jan 212012
 

Eller, Jack David. Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence Prometheus Books, 2010.

I’m going back into chapter one of the book (hopefully to get a draft done by the end of the month), and that means going back into religion and violence. Eller’s book is about the relationship between religion and violence, not only that humans incorporate violence into religion, but that we also invest violence with religious meaning.

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Veil of Fear: Convent tales

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Oct 202011
 

Schultz, Nancy Lusignan (ed.) Veil of Fear: Nineteenth-century convent tales NotaBell Books, Purdue University Press, 1999 Amazon

While Rebecca Read’s earlier Six Months in a Convent (1835) was a relatively sober and realistic work, Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures (1836) heads straight into paranoid xenophobic “virtue in distress”. This is what happens if young women heed the siren song of Catholicism, and it was popular enough to sell 300,000 copies by 1860. The fears of a young republic with large, unassimilated immigrant populations that were often Catholic, and an economy shifting to industrialization with consequent shifts in gender roles, found expression in anti-Catholicism. “In times of rapid social change, such as that experienced in antebellum America, intolerance and demonization of marginal groups find fertile soil.” (pg. viii) One of the anti-Catholic agitators, incidentally, was minister Lyman Beecher, father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

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Anna Freud, spanking fantasies and “nice stories”

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Sep 142011
 

While I’ve already read Sigmund Frued’s essays on sadomasochism, notably “A Child is Being Beaten”, I’ve been putting off reading his daughter, Anna Freud’s 1922 essay, “Beating Fantasies and Daydreams” (possibly based on her own life).

What’s interesting about this essay is its explanation of how sadomasochistic fantasy operates in relation to conscious daydreams and print media. Our subject, an adolescent girl, has both beating fantasies and what she called “nice stories”:

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David S. Reynolds’ “Mightier than the Sword”

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Aug 302011
 

It started with a vision of torture.

According to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the genesis of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, arguably one of the most influential books in history, came in Feburary 1851 when she attended communion service. After taking the bread and wine and thinking of the Last Supper and the Passion, a vision hit her, “blown into her mind as by the rushing of a mighty wind.”

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May 172011
 

Bountiful BC is a community of about 1000 people near Creston BC, home to a Mormon splinter group that practices polygyny, one man with multiple wives. The shortage of women has driven the age of marriage and child birth down to the early teens, and there’s been reports of young women being moved across the border to similar communities in the US. There are also problems stemming from a lack of places for younger men in this community.

The BC Attorney General hasn’t been able to prosecute the community’s leaders, because of claims of religious freedom and the difficulty of getting people in a tight-knit community to come forward and testify. The AG has turned to an old, rarely used law, Section 293 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes any form of polygamy or any kind of conjugal union with more than one person. It hasn’t been used in decades, when it was used against First Nations.

Right now, the BC Supreme Court is conducing a reference to determine the constitutionality of S.293. Critics say that the law is overly broad and vague, and intrudes on people’s personal lives, and could apply to people who practise polyamory or even live together as roommates. Supporters say the law can be “read down” to apply only to cases where exploitation is clear.

Apart from the many kinky people who are also poly, this case is relevant to kinky people in general.

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Mar 092011
 

In the early years of the 16th century, to combat the rising tide of religious unorthodoxy, the Pope gave Cardinal Ximinez of Spain leave to move without let or hindrance throughout the land, in a reign of violence, terror and torture that makes a smashing film. This was the Spanish Inquisition…

Monty Python

I’ve only seen clips of the notorious Goodbye Uncle Tom (IMDB, Wikipedia, Google Video), an Italian pseudo-documentary that purportedly shows a recreation of the antebellum South with a focus on slavery. I decided to review the whole thing, and rented the director’s cut on DVD, which is not dubbed into English.

There are startling, horrifying spectacles recreated in this film, beginning with the horrors of the Middle Passage and running through the process of sale and labour, a perverse initiation narrative. There are periodic rapes and other abuses and mutilations. The overwhelming impression is an homogenous mass of brown humanity, undifferentiated by sex or age. How exactly they managed to get so many extras willing to be naked is beyond me.

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Oct 172010
 

Fussell, Paul. Uniforms: Why we are what we wear Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

Fussel is a snob, a crank and a square (he refers to “skate-board enthusiasts and other pseudo-degenerates”), and he would probably agree with all those adjectives assessments. He fully admits that his book is about surface impressions, but that’s what a uniform is: a surface, a membrane between the world and the self. It covers up the flawed individual and makes the wearer represent an ideal. Fussell contends that, despite the status accorded to individualism, people like wearing uniforms, even lowly ones. However, one of the first thing people do when given uniforms is to customize them for comfort, utility or style. In extreme cases, this produces the paradox of the unique uniform; WWII-era leaders, like MacArthur, Patton, Montgomery, Hitler and Eisenhower, had distinctive uniforms made for them.

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Sep 222010
 

Graphic Sexual Horror (2009), dir. Barbara Bell, Anna Lorentzon IMDB

“I’m looking for something that’ll… break through, you know?” Videodrome, 1982, dir. David Cronenberg

In the mid-90s, bondage photography was still stuck in the glamor-based, damsel-in-distress style mode that Harmony Concepts had been putting out since the 1970s.

Then came the notorious website Insex.com, hardcore bondage shoots that owed more to crime scene photos than Helmut Newton. Insex was also new in that it was designed for the web: downloadable clips instead of mail-order DVDs, and live chats. It was created, almost on a whim, by PD, also known as Brent, who cited his experiences during a tour in Vietnam, when he saw a bondage show in a Japanese nightclub. He also cited his bondage-influenced performance pieces.

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Aug 062010
 

A Man Called Horse, 1970, dir. Elliot Silverstein IMDB

This movie probably did a lot to inspire the modern primitive movement, portraying a rather familiar story of a “civilized” person being initiated into a “primitive” culture. I’m not going to address the historical or cultural accuracy of this film, as I’m not really qualified and also it’s not terribly relevant to this discussion. (The film claims to be based on authentic sources, but so did Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS.)

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