Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The argument from masturbation

As airline reading The New Yorker never fails to deliver.

Julian Barnes:

My own final letting go of the remnant, or possibility, of religion happened at a more advanced age. As an adolescent, hunched over some book or magazine in the family bathroom, I used to tell myself that God couldn’t possibly exist, because the notion that he might be watching me with disapproval while I masturbated was absurd; even more absurd was the notion that all my dead ancestors might be lined up and watching, too. This wasn’t exactly a strong argument, more a mild yet convincing feeling. And it was, of course, self-interested: the thought of Grandma and Grandpa observing what I was up to would have seriously put me off my stroke.

As I record this now, however, I wonder why I didn’t think through more of the possibilities. Why did I assume that God, if He was watching, necessarily disapproved of how I was spilling my seed? Why did it not occur to me that, if the sky did not fall in as it witnessed my zealous and unflagging self-abuse, it was perhaps because the sky did not think it a sin? Nor did I have the imagination to conceive of my dead ancestors equally smiling on my actions: Go on, my son, enjoy it while you’ve got it; there won’t be anything like that when you’re a disembodied spirit; we wish we’d done more of it in our time, so have another one for us. Perhaps Grandpa would have taken his celestial pipe out of his mouth, given me an uncharacteristic wink, and murmured complicitly, “I once knew a very nice girl called Mabel.”

However, Santa Claus does exist, and he's watching. He doesn't like what he's seen.


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