Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Do deities take attendance?


Jewish date:  12 Siwan 5770 (Parashath BeHa‘alothekha).

Today’s holidays:  Feast Days of Venerable Bede, Gregory VII and Mary Magdalene de Pazzi (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Stalin (Church of the SubGenius—and I have no idea what they are thinking), Head of the Forerunner (Greek Orthodox Christianity), Integrity Day (Scientology—and I am aware of the irony).

Today’s topic:  Last night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The Lunar Excitation”.  This clip deals a bit with theology:

Dr. Sheldon Cooper has an agreement with his mother, a serious (probably evangelical and definitely creationist) Christian, to attend church once a year.  His blind date, Amy Farrah Fowler, while having no problem with the notion of a god, objects to the notion of a deity “who takes attendance”.  And Amy has a point.  Your humble blogger is not aware of any religion in which the only thing which matters is showing up for services.  Religions typically expect their members to do specific things, both in terms of morality and ritual, outside of houses of worship.  If you think going to services once or twice a year is all you need to keep your god happy with you, please check with an appropriate clergy-person and verify this is actually so.

Also notable about this episode:  Our culture normally assumes that romantic love and sexual intercourse go hand-in-hand, to the extent that the first may be used to justify the second.  (I am not making up that last clause.  I have heard people justify homosexual behavior on the basis of love.  This is really the wrong way to do it, given that any prohibited relationship, including incest and bestiality, could be rationalized if the participants are romantically attracted.)  However, some people (asexuals) feel romantic love without any desire to engage in sexual intercourse.  Sheldon and Amy both appear asexual, but are quickly attracted to each other.  If this relationship lasts, this may be the first asexual romance in the history of television.


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  1. Don't worry. They'll have sex.

  2. Possibly. We can't actually tell what the characters are thinking or feeling, so Sheldon and Amy could be lying about their asexuality. Or since humans do occasionally change their sexuality, they could conceivably end up in a sexual relationship even though at the end of the episode they are still asexual. On the other hand, the writers could have Sheldon and Amy remain totally asexual, both in desire and practice, while having a romantic relationship. This would likely confuse everyone around them. Many might assume that the romance proves that Sheldon and Amy are not asexual, leading them to misinterpret the couple's behavior and denials. Sheldon and Amy might soon be on the receiving end of a lot of undesired and inappropriate advice. The potential for playing this situation for comedy is enormous.

  3. "This is really the wrong way to do it, given that any prohibited relationship, including incest and bestiality, could be rationalized if the participants are romantically attracted."

    Sheep are romantically attracted to you? How do you get consent?

  4. You ask a good question, Analyst. Weird as it sounds, I have read that nonhuman animals have at times displayed attraction to humans or have even gone further in displaying their desires. They may not be able to use words (except for the occasional signing ape), but consent is sometimes clearly real. Of course, whether the consent of a nonsentient being is legally valid is another question. (For comparison, consent of a minor may not be valid in certain legal systems, even when the minor is unquestionably consenting.)