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Monday, August 11, 2008

What's Wrong With Pornography?

I once read a book called "Descent Into Hell", by Charles Williams. Though it was a long time ago, I still think about from time to time, especially when the topic of pornography comes up. (Links via Jennifer)

I don't have the book with me to thumb through, so this is what I remember. As I recall, it was a difficult read with an unusual writing style. As best as I can explain, the style of the book is somewhat Twilight Zonish, where the spiritual dimension is concrete, kind of like "One Hundred Years of Solitude". (Is this genre called magical realism? I dunno.) The conversations were also weird and stilted, with characters responding to each other's unspoken thoughts rather than the topic at hand.

The book is, like the title says, about a professor's spiritual descent into Hell. What's disturbing is that he is an ordinary person and not particularly evil, and his slide is very gradual and happens in a way that I can't dissociate myself from. Would I want to be the nicest guy in Hell? (shudder...)

This professor likes a girl very much who is a college student, but when a rival boyfriend shows up, rather than have the typical love triangle is when the book takes a horrifyingly weird turn. He creates in his mind his image of her, which then becomes real. He then carries on his affair with her image-in-the-flesh, a succubus if you will. And I found myself wondering, well why not? (And how many people wouldn't buy or "marry" a robot who looked and acted human enough) After all, it looks and feels exactly like her, but is adoring and warm and uncomplaining and has no personal needs that would conflict with his. She is perfect (except oddly, much lighter than her real counterpart when he picks her up, symbolizing I think the superficialness of the "relationship" that does not require heavy lifting). So he holes up with her and spends all his time with her, and finally when he encounters the real girl one day he realizes he doesn't like her and he's no longer attracted to her. And this leads to the weakening of his intellect and his inevitable spiral into Hell.

Basically the question the book poses is, would you rather be happy living a lie or unhappy with the truth? The professor knowingly takes on an image of his own making, but at the cost of his intellect and capacity to love. This is my image for pornography, deliberately choosing to be happy with a lie. But it could be applied to other addictions. Using drugs as a way to experience "happiness" at the expense of truth, for example. Or the way women delve into romance novels and fantasy. And ultimately, all sin is living a lie, because it is a turning away from God who is Truth personified.

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