Saturday, November 21, 2009

Matters of Personal Freedom

Why is it that others seek to debunk and breakdown what one person holds sacred, whether it's religion, values, or what is of importance to that person?

I really don't get this. One area I really see this in with personal faith in a certain belief system. People (usually atheists of radical agenda) write books trying to discredit the Bible, God, and Jesus. Why is that necessary? Is it hurting an atheist for a Christian to believe in God? The argument postulated is that religion is dangerous and destruction. I submit that it's no more dangerous than any other radical creed, such as radical atheism. It's one thing for a person to not believe and to adhere to this and attest it to others. It's another for that person to attack those who do belief and treat them as though they are idiots. On Goodreads, I was reading a review for The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. There was a radical atheist who posted comments completely denigrating anyone who adhered to any belief system. He showed absolutely no respect for anyone of faith. Excuse me, but isn't this persecution? Along the lines of the Inquisition? Um, so that means that not only has the so-called Christian church persecuted others, but atheist and nonreligious groups and people have persecuted believing people. What was ironic to me is that he adheres to his own creed 'not to believe.' For him to attack others for their own adherence to beliefs struck me as completely hypocritical. Hmm. Hypocritical is a term often applied to Christians who profess to believe in one thing and to act another way. This is often the case, but not always. I was pretty saddened by this person's vitriolic attack of others. He was particularly rude to a person who professed belief in Buddhism, trying to undermine her understanding of Buddhist beliefs. What struck me funny is why it was so very important for him to make her feel as though she was stupid and misguided. It seems like an incredibly wasteful use of time.

I was thinking about my issue with erotica being shoved down the throats of romance readers. I try to examine myself to make sure that I am being fair. That my personal prejudices don't cause me to take away or hinder other peoples' rights to what is valuable to them. I came to the conclusion that my big issue with the erotic market is that it is affecting my enjoyment of romance. It's become increasingly difficult to consider a new book or read a book without seeing some outre sexual trick being added in there to increase the steam level. I sometimes find myself asking why this is necessary. I don't feel that I am prudish. I have certain ideas about sex and what is appropriate and inappropriate for myself. However, I think sex is a healthy and normal activity (within reason). Within the context of a romantic relationship, I just don't want to see characters in a mainstream romance engaging in some sexual acts. It's jarring and distracting, and gives me a feeling of distaste. But the thing that makes it even worse is that it was put there where an unaware reader could inadvertently have her/his reading experience affected by this element they don't care for. Thus, my issue goes back to proper labeling of a book. Romance is romance. Erotica is erotica. If it's both, please just call the book Erotic Romance. If you do this, then I am well warned. If I am really curious about the book, I'll skim it at the store to determine if I want to read it. Unfortunately, it's a crap shoot now for the non-erotically inclined romance reader, unless she wants to read older books or Christian romance. Having said that, it must really suck for non-Christians who want to read "clean (please be aware I didn't coin this phrase) romance."

I was especially upset when I found out that the second book a popular urban fantasy series, that I really wanted to read, has some anal sex in it. I cannot tell you how much my distaste is for this sexual act being incorporated into romance novels. This book is not labeled as erotic. It's just labeled as urban fantasy. I was dismayed about this. I wanted to know for myself what this fabled Chapter 32 was (and I had my fears it would be going in that direction), so I decided to read this part. Reading the scene, it made me pretty annoyed. I'm not about to tell a writer what she should or shouldn't write, but I felt it was gratuitious. I really didn't feel that it was necessary and didn't make the scene any more steamy for me. It made me want to go home, pull the book off my shelf and donate it to Goodwill. I told myself that I was being silly and to get over it, but I felt betrayed. My sense of betrayal stemmed from the fact that my freedom not to read things I don't want to be read was usurped by what I assume is a majority who enjoys reading highly sexual content in books. I've come to the conclusion that this has become mainstream and I have been forced to the wayside, yet again. Now I have to be even more careful about what books I chose to read, even those that are not labeled as romance or erotica, but fall in the science fiction/fantasy genre for that matter. Unfortunately I already bought this book. I am still undecided about whether I will read this second book or just stop after the first one. This has also happen with a couple of urban fantasy and paranormal anthologies I bought. There is a story by the same author in both collections that has anal sex in one and a threesome with double penetration in another. How does this get into a book that is not labeled as erotica? I don't understand that and I really have an issue with it.

But the reason I brought up this discussion about the erotic elements in the book really does tie back into the discussion. Freedom. Do I want all erotic books banned? No. I could care less if people want to write, publish, buy, and read them, so long as there is a safe place for those of us who do not want to read them. I go to the bookstore and about 1/3 of the Romance shelves are populated with erotica, and I mean serious erotic content with threesomes, extreme bondage, domination and submission, anal sex, sex with one character in animal form, group sex, you name it. Is that really romance? No. It's erotica. So why shelve it with the romance books and label some of these books are romance? That's mislabeling, and that's wrong. Someone is going to be very unhappy when they take this book home to read it and, bam! Personal freedom has been compromised to some extent, in my opinion.

You walk through life and you often find yourself in these situations where there is a group that thinks differently from you, and you are the outsider. This is not a good feeling at all, especially when your rights to believe differently are denied. I have heard that atheists feel that way in the United States. I don't feel that is the case. At least it shouldn't be. That's why I believe in separation of Church and State. Not because I don't believe in God. But because I fear the effects when a leader uses his power to enforce policy based on his own personal beliefs or the beliefs of the group he belongs to. It's wrong, because he is compromising the rights and privileges of Americans who do not fall into the group in which he belongs. One of the comments made on the review of another book by Richard Dawkins was this fear of Christian nationalism. Even though I am a Christian, I fear Christian nationalism too. For more than one reason. The one above I stated, and also because of the backlash on Christians who have no part in this process. Also for the fact that this one person or group doesn't speak for all Christians and never will.

I'm a live and let live person. I really don't care what you believe. As long as you don't force your beliefs on me and try to take away my right because I don't share your beliefs. Do I think all beliefs hold equal value to me personally? I'd be lying if I said yes. I do think some beliefs have more legitimacy than others. I do have a disdain for certain belief systems. I'm just being honest here. But at the same time, as long as the person who takes up that belief system does it of their own free will and is not coerced into it or damaged physically by that belief, I don't feel I have the right to tell them not to believe what they believe.

One other area that I felt I needed to talk about was the disdain that others show for romance novels. I don't like watching football. I think it's boring for me personally. But do I feel that football is a bad thing that needs to go away? No, because I can always change the channel. I can choose never to attend another football game if I don't want to. Why is it that others have to make fun of romance novels and those who read them? Let me ask you who disdain/hate romance novels and think the readers are mindless idiots something. Have you even read a romance novel? No. Then get over it. Let me give you a romance novel to read and then you can express your opinion. If you don't like it, then let me give you another one. Even if you don't like that one, I'll keep giving them to you until you realize that you cannot condemn a whole genre because of personal taste. Even with my dislike of erotica, I don't think it's all bad. I've read some erotic stories that were good. It's just not my personal taste. That's okay to say, I don't care for that genre. It's another thing to say that a genre has no merit. It's wrong and judgmental. Let me give you some advice if you are one of those people who hate romance novels and think those who read them are idiots: why don't you go focus on what you enjoy doing and stop wasting your mental energy in such a fruitless manner. You won't make romance novels go away, and you won't stop every person on earth from reading them. Sorry, but it's not going to happen.

I guess why I posted this because of a need to get it off my chest. Just some final food for thought from this blogger: Focus on what has value for you. Let other people believe what they want to believe. Don't expend your energy on making that person feel crappy because they don't think or believe like you. It's just not a good use of a person's time and the effects don't really turn out so good. We all have to live in this world together, after all.