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Sunday, 28 March 2010


Barrie Bramley

Nicely presented Clive. It is so easy to ridicule what you don't understand. You've done a great job explaining the depth and breadth of this type of commitment.



what if there is no God?

Clive Simpkins

Nick, Swami Vivekananda famously said: 'No need to believe in a god. Just do the disciplines to develop perfect concentration and experience the result'. So atheism definitely catered for on the so-called 'spiritual' path.

Brendan Love


How refreshing it is to read an unbiased, realistic argument as to the choices that these people make.

Once again, the media has taken things a step too far and as you point out 'tarring the genuine' is totally unfair.

The media also fails to articulate that 'abstinence' is different from 'celibacy', which I think leaves most people misinformed.

I agree with Barrie, your piece sets the record straight and provides historical perspective.

Thank you!

Graeme Codrington

Nice thoughts, Clive.

May I commend to you the movie, "Keeping the Faith" (2000). Don't be put off that Ben Stiller is in it (or that's it's a romcom) - the presence of Edward Norton should indicate its quality.

It's about a priest and rabbi coming to terms with their professions. In one amazing scene where the priest (Norton) has come very close to breaking his vow of chastity, he speaks to his mentor, an older priest. The older guy explains that your vows (Clive, I think these would be what you're talking about in terms of Sannyasa) are not things you do once at some point in the past. They must be renewed daily (maybe even more often). It takes constant (concious) effort and commitment.

I think he's right.

A great movie. A great moment. A great truth.

Clive Simpkins

Thanks Barrie, Nick, Brendan and Graeme for the thoughts. Graeme, yes. An author whose name has disappeared in the mists of my memory, wrote about it and described it as 'a journey on the razor-edged path'. Vigilance essential. Very apt.

Colin Wood

Well framed Clive.
Perhaps commitments to chastity should be subject to a more rigorous kind of graduation. One in which the devotee's internal musculature is tested and certified to re-direct powerful emotional energy before any potential over-commitment is allowed. A sort of "proof" that we're worthy of chastity, not that chastity is a pre-requisite.

How many of us can't even divert a less powerful urge like anger? Taking vows of chastity might be a wonderful thing to do, but the horny gene doesn't listen in, take notes and switch off the moment we take the vows - it's still there and if we can't handle it afterwards there's no way out.
If you take matters into your own hands (figuratively speaking), it's a sin, if you nab a choir boy, its a sin, and the only moral way out is banned / forsaken.

The psychopathology is one thing - deal with it as we may, but I wonder how much of all this could be avoided with putting vows of chastity, not at the beginning of the priesthood, but at the end, and for those in the pressure-cooker already, a way to escape without imploding their own, and other's worlds.

Clive Simpkins

Thought-provoking insights Colin. I think the Church should give serious thought to a second (quasi-lay) order. In which priests and nuns would have differentiated garb but be permitted to marry or have relationships.

Let those who (as you say) are able to go the distance, choose that 'first order' high road.

For the others, make it possible to follow the vocation but in a manner suited to their capacity at the time. The RC Church has made enormous 'accommodations' in Africa, hybridising the hard and fast rules or even turning a blind eye to them - so why not on a matter of such crucial importance one wonders?

Anil Salick

I served as a missionary for 2 years and was expected to be sexually pure and chaste. I was able to subordinate impulse to the fervent and rigorous chores of service, labour and helping others to the extent of my guilt and shame. The sexual desire/ urge is biological. We're all born with it. Religion loves to use guilt and shame to manipulate what is simply natural and normal. We are born to have sex. It's in our biological make up (lust). Love however is a deep connection and intimacy with another, (heterosexual, homosexual or whatever your preference to another human).

My take is that celibacy is unnatural, not normal, and a man-made instruction that unnecessarily burdens and stretches acceptable principles of discipline, ethics and subordination to human values. In the name of religion, people do all sorts of things to hurt, pain, repress and depress themselves.

Did I also tell you that I did this at the age of 19 to 21? No regrets, that's life... but I am so glad to have come 360 around these issues.

I am proud to be a good atheist for the sake of goodness itself:-)

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