Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

The same knowledge also discloses, unfortunately, how very difficult the task of introducing a more rational ethic must always be. There are some who accept the present confused heritage merely because they have never thought about it: to change their attitude it is only necessary to focus their attention on the facts. But if we take a longer view we see that tolerant and rational codes are only maintained by tolerant and rational human beings: and history shows us how easily intolerant individuals can be produced, and how easily they can arouse the buried resentments and desires which lie beneath the surface of even the most urbane personality. Hence to propose the task of introducing a more rational, less biased sexual code implies the task of decreasing the number of intolerant and obsessive individuals in society. The problem therefore becomes one of social therapy in its broadest sense.

Psychiatry has taught us that the source of sexual guilt and intolerance is the experiences of earliest childhood. It is not so much that we inherit from the past institutional forms and obstinate beliefs— for, as we have just noted, both matrist and patrist conceptions have at times been accommodated within Christian institutional forms and expressed in terms of Christian beliefs. It is rather that we transmit to our children systems of irrational anxieties which, however much they change, always prevent them from approaching their problems with sufficient detachment. It is primarily in this sense that we are, as Ibanez once said, ruled by the dead.

Unfortunately, the prospects of such a rational treatment of the problem are far from rosy. Today we have to think on a world scale, and taking the world as a whole, one notes many signs that the application of reason to the problems of human happiness is being abandoned in favour of a frenzied projection of aggressive feelings against others, under the sanction of a myth. Humanism is giving way to fanaticism, under the pressure of irrational fears, just as it did in the days of the Greeks. And, just as was the case two thousand years ago, the fanatics have adapted for their purpose the doctrines of an obscure teacher, creating out of them a powerful myth, with which to defeat the myths of their rivals. Five centuries ago people were encouraged to blame all their misfortunes on witches, and to discharge their hatreds in putting them to death. Today our heresies are political, and— as in the case of the Cathars— fanatics are prepared to put whole populations to the sword rather than permit them to exist. Thus it is true in a very profound sense that the Catholic Church and the Kremlin are natural opponents. Each is battling to secure control of the human unconscious with rival myths, or organized systems of beliefs. The depth of their enmity is a measure of the similarity of their aims.

We, born amid the wreckage of the old myth, regard the new with precisely the same feelings of horror which animated the Romans when they saw the growing popularity of the Christian myth. The Romans were not accustomed to persecute people for their religious beliefs, but they made an exception and persecuted the Christians because they were horrified by the Christians’ intolerance and fanaticism, their readiness to justify the most appalling means by the end to be attained, and because they felt that they presented a threat to the whole established order. Marcus Aurelius, that great Pattern of morality, sought to crush Christianity as “without question immoral“.(76) As Dill says:

“Christianity was from the Roman viewpoint a renunciation not only of citizenship but of all the hard-won fruits of civilization and social life.”