This post is an edited version of part of a reply I wrote to a comment by a reader named Boluwade Kujero on the article, “Is Masturbation Always Sinful? Does it Always Come from Lust?” My full comment responds to a few more of Mr. Kujero’s points, and applies the ideas presented here specifically to the issue of fantasizing while masturbating.
In this material world we are often hindered from acting on our goals and intentions by many external circumstances. We can therefore fool ourselves into thinking that we are morally clean when in fact it is only social pressures or practical concerns that keep us from acting in very immoral ways.
But according to Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), after we die, when we are living in the spiritual world, those social bonds and external hindrances are gradually taken away. When this happens, unlike in the material world, whatever we think and intend, that is exactly what we say and do. If we think something, we just go ahead and say it. If we want to do something, we just go ahead and do it.
Our intention is the reality behind our actions
That’s because the inner reality and source of our actions is our intention or will to act. And though our intentions and actions often get separated here on earth, in the spiritual world that separation is erased. There, our intentions flow seamlessly into our actions, and our thoughts flow seamlessly into our words. This is what Jesus was talking about when he said:
There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. (Luke 12:2–3)
That’s how it would be here on earth, too, if all social rules and practical restrictions were removed. Everything hidden inside of us would be out in the open. We would all act upon everything we intended or desired.
But that is not the case here on earth. And the reason it’s not the case is to make it possible for us to go through the process of spiritual rebirth that Jesus spoke about in his nighttime conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1–21, in which he said:
“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)
And because in the end—in the spiritual world if not here on earth—we will act upon whatever we desire and intend, it is our inner intention to act upon a particular thought or desire that is critical.
When we are merely fantasizing, we have no such intention.
But when we have the sort of burning lust or “coveting” that the Bible condemns in the Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17), we do have the intention to act upon those wrong thoughts and desires. And we will act upon them if we think we can get away with it. That’s why the Bible forbids coveting: because coveting is the sort of desire and intention that leads us to do things that are evil and wrong.
Imagination and fantasy are necessary for our spiritual growth
But as I just said, when we are merely fantasizing or engaging our imagination, we have no intention of actually doing what’s running through our mind.
And we need this ability to imagine, think about, and fantasize things that would be evil if we acted upon them.
This ability is necessary so that we can mull over in our mind the moral rights and wrongs, and the likely effects, of actually saying or doing particular things. This is part of our spiritual rebirth or “regeneration” process. God gave us a thinking, discerning mind and an active, creative imagination so that we would have the ability to consider and evaluate within ourselves various things we might say, and various courses of action we might take, before we actually say or do them.
- The ideal is for us to recognize in our mind and imagination that something is wrong so that we don’t have to learn the hard way by acting upon it and reaping the painful consequences.
- And the ideal is for us to recognize in our mind and imagination that something is right so that we can direct ourselves to speak and act based on it.
That’s why the idea that every fantasy about something that would be evil and damaging if we acted upon it is bad as a fantasy is mistaken and counterproductive.
God gave us the ability to imagine and fantasize both good and evil situations and behaviors so that we could turn these things over in our mind, evaluate them in our head and in our heart, and decide within ourselves what we believe to be good and evil, and what we will and won’t speak and act upon.
It takes time to change our desires, thoughts, and actions
This is not a simple process of fantasizing about killing our boss or about having sex with a married man or woman, saying, “That’s bad,” and then never thinking about it again. Rather, it is an ongoing process in which our inner desires, both good and bad, continually present themselves for view in our thoughts and fantasies, and we evaluate them over an extended period of time.
We humans do not change instantly. Our process of being spiritually born again is an extended one. It takes place over our entire lifetime.
It is unrealistic to think that we are going to quickly overcome and defeat every unworthy thought and desire, and become instantly pure and clean. We must face our true thoughts and desires over and over again, examine them multiple times from every angle, and yes, sometimes go ahead and act upon them in order to fully comprehend why some thoughts, desires, words, and actions are evil, and why some thoughts, desires, words, and actions are good—and then make an informed choice for the good over the evil.
Fantasy is where we face our inner self
Attempting to suppress every illicit fantasy the moment it occurs to us is not merely unrealistic. It is actually damaging to our spiritual health and our emotional life.
Our fantasies don’t just spring up out of nowhere. They come from deeply held thoughts and desires that are part of our unreformed, unregenerate self. And we can never face and deal with those parts of ourselves if we continually suppress any awareness of them, and pretend that they are not there.
Facing them in our minds in the form of imagination and fantasy is how we let them out far enough for us to see them for what they are and evaluate them without actually saying or doing them.
We choose good or evil within our mind and heart
The inner life of our imagination and fantasy is precisely where we make the decisions that determine the direction of our life.
- If we condone our illicit fantasies and foster the intention to actually act upon them, we have made our choice to go in an evil direction. Sooner or later we will go ahead and do the evil and destructive things we have fantasized about.
- If recognize within our mind and heart that acting upon them would be wrong, and forbid ourselves from acting upon them, we have made our choice to go in a good direction. If we stick with that resolve, those fantasies will gradually lose their appeal for us, and will fade toward the periphery of our mind.
These are the greater issues involved in our fantasy life.
Acting something out in fantasy or imagination within our minds simply is not the same as acting upon it in real life. One is theoretical. The other is actual. One has effects only within our mind. The other can have far-reaching and highly damaging consequences for the rest of our life, and even to eternity.
The bridge between the two—if we build that bridge—is our intention to act.
If we intend to act upon some imagination or fantasy if and when the opportunity arises, then spiritually it is tantamount to actually acting upon it, even if the opportunity never does arise. That’s because in the spiritual world, there will be no disconnect between our intentions and our actions as there often is here on earth. There, whatever we intend, we do.
That is precisely why coveting and lust are condemned in the Bible as evil. They are condemned because they are an intention to act upon the evil things we desire. Coveting and lust are not mere fantasy. They are a burning desire to do the evil things that we desire in our heart.
God’s gift of imagination and fantasy
But fantasy and imagination by themselves, without any intention to act upon them, are a good and healthy way for us to see and recognize the desires of our heart, both good and bad, spin out scenarios of what they would lead to and result in, and make a choice and a decision not to act upon the evil ones, and to act upon the good ones.
At least, that’s what God wants us to do.
And if that is what we do, then even our illicit and wrong imaginations and fantasies have done their job. That job is to show us what is truly inside us, and give us the opportunity to progressively reject and root out those parts of ourselves without the damage and destruction that would result from actually saying and doing them.
This, in a nutshell, is why God has created us with the ability to imagine and fantasize about all sorts of things, both good and bad.
For further reading:
This is very interesting because I have experienced it myself. As a kid I used to have power and domination fantasies, but I was afraid to act on those because somehow I knew it to be very wrong, so they remained in my head.
Fast forward a decade and my opinion on power and the abuse thereof has devolved into ‘Why would I ever want to do that? That is dumb and wholly unnecessary.’ and I had no such impulses in recent memory.
Thanks for the good read, Lee 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, and for telling your story. I’m glad this article helped to put it all in perspective for you! And thanks for your kind words.
“The other can have far-reaching and highly damaging consequences for the rest of our life, and even to eternity” so what highly damaging consequences does make it to eternity and not merely for the rest of our lives here on earth?
If a married man or woman fantasizes about committing adultery, but doesn’t act on it, the effects are limited. But if he or she actually does commit adultery, it’s likely to destroy his or her marriage. And if he or she does not repent of the adultery, it will put him or her in violation of God’s will and God’s commandments internally in the mind and heart. And that is what causes us to spend eternity in hell rather than in heaven.
Is 70 years or so really enough time for a human to determine his eternal destiny? What if a person was given infinite time to change and embrace the good, seeing its wisdom and how the good gives the greatest and lasting human satisfaction and happiness? Is there any justification for the average number of years allotted to a person as a measure of character?
My general response is that the particular time frame really doesn’t matter that much. Some species of insects go through their entire life cycle in a few hours or days. And if they were morally aware beings, presumably they’d be able to make their moral decisions within that time frame.
Sure, God could have stretched it out to millions of years. But what more would that really have gained us? We humans go through our natural life cycle in six, eight, or ten decades. And during that time we go through the various changes from infancy to childhood to adolescence to young adulthood to middle age to our elder years. Through those changes, and in those decades, we have plenty of time to gain knowledge and experience, evaluate ourselves and our situation in the larger scheme of things, and make choices about what sort of person we want to be. And that’s the important thing.
Personally, I would not want it to be stretched out to millions of years. It would only prolong the process unnecessarily without giving any particular advantage in the decision-making process.
God could have designed the time frame on any scale. The one God chose seems appropriate to our nature as human beings.
I’ve had this question myself and one thought I’ve had is that God knows every person so well and has such a detailed plan for each of us that he knows exactly how much time we need and that he doesn’t allow a person to die until he’s given them every possible chance at reformation in the ways unique to each person. Another thought I’ve had about it is that the aging process itself is a necessary part of reformation. The older we get, the more humbling life becomes, and the more the reality of our mortality sinks into our awareness, spurring us to reexamine our motivations. When we’re in our teens and our twenties, we feel like we’ll go on living young forever and so we treat ourselves and those around us recklessly, but as we get older and our life edges toward its end, we begin to reexamine ourselves more and more. Without this hard deadline looming on the horizon, we wouldn’t have a motivating force for change. If, in the end, that hard deadline and the associated pains of old age isn’t enough of a motivator for us to reexamine our lives, then nothing more can be done once we reach the next life, because in the spiritual world there is no more death, and therefore no longer the physical motivation for change. The illusion of mortality that God creates for us in our earthy life is one of the primary motivators of change. Without that illusion, change is more difficult or impossible, because the consequences of physical death no longer exist. So if we went on living in the physical world for more than 70 or so years, it may not do us any good, because it would simply minimize the motivating force of death.
Thanks for stopping by. Great thoughts! My mother, who is no longer with us on this earth, had similar, or perhaps complementary, thoughts about old age as a time provided by God for people to begin moving away from the cares and engrossment of this world, and begin moving toward a more spiritual life and perspective. Not that it always happens, of course, but the opportunity is there for those who will take advantage of it.
I think “choice” is overplayed. We’re born with a propensity to “sin”, in a world that is stuffed with sorrows of every kind. What kind of test is this? I think anyone who makes it through even a few years in this world with their sanity intact deserves everlasting bliss. The whole idea of “hell” is obscene; punishing people for their choices in the short span of their existence.
Yes, there is much pain, suffering, and sin in this world. But there is also much joy, camaraderie, and love in the world. Life can be a struggle. But there is also great beauty, if we look for it.
And hell is not a punishment. Rather, it is the best God can do for those who get their pleasure out of evil instead of out of good. They didn’t have to make that choice. And choosing evil over good does inevitably bring pain. But God allows hell not to punish these people, but so that they can get at least some of the kind of pleasure they enjoy, even if it is inevitably laced with pain. For more on this, see: Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?
No. Nobody deserves any pain or suffering after experiencing life on earth. If anything they deserve medals for making it through this life with their sanity intact. People deserve eternal bliss for the suffering in this world. If God was good he’d allow people to be annihilated. Instead he gives them eternal existence in hell. He loves suffering. God loves his creature’s suffering. Why else is there so much of it? Suffering is a sweet savor unto the Lord.
I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t agree at all. God takes no pleasure in our suffering. Nor does God give anyone an eternal existence in hell. People give that to themselves. If it were up to God, all of us would spend eternity in heaven. But God gives us humanity and freedom, and if some of us use that to choose evil over good, that is our choice, not God’s. God sends no one to hell. Anyone who is there is there because he or she insisted upon it, against God’s wishes.
“Hell is not a punishment”………
I dunno there, Lee. Not re-interpreting Rob’s thoughts for only he can subjectively do so, but if I would venture what he’s getting at here is the notion that hell is indeed a “punishment” anyway you slice it. Basically if one is forced to continue to exclusively exist in a certain crappy environment (hell) then in this context “choice” and “love” make about as much sense as “joy” and “pain”.
Perhaps another way to look at it is if God’s love (joy) even extends to allowing souls to “enjoy” their wallowing in the evil pleasures of hell for eternity then indirectly God thus (vicariously) also “enjoys” whatever “joys” they experience in hell. The painful part of hell we can probably agree is enjoyed by no one except maybe for Marquis de Sade type sadists.
Well, it’s sure one helluva a (damn) motivational mystery, eh? lol(?)
Hi Frankly Frank,
What I’m saying is that no one is forced “to exclusively exist in a certain crappy environment (hell).” Rather, it is a choice on the part of those who exist there. And they continue to choose that state of being after they die. This doesn’t mean they like everything about their existence. Rather, it means that of the available choices, that particular one is their preference. More on this in response to your second related comment.
And no, God’s joy does not extend to enjoying evil spirits’ wallowing in their evils. This is something God permits or tolerates for the sake of those evil spirits, not something God enjoys.
Oh, and don’t forget about masochists! They enjoy pain! So don’t impose your pain-averse bias on everyone else, thank you very much! 😛
“And hell is not a punishment”…….
I dunno about that one, Lee.
There are vivid accounts from Swedenborg where in one example he describes IIRC two angels holding a hell detainee off the ground by the head and feet and then “twirling” them back and forth repeatedly in opposite directions so that their spine felt like it was being torn apart. Yeah, I think that could be called “punishment” but if it isn’t I’d hate to see what qualifies. (lol?).
I don’t see how a spade here isn’t a spade. And I don’t see how one honestly could interpret that it’s actually God’s love and not punishment in that particular scenario as an easy way out to explain it either. Bottomline hell is inherently a PRISON. Aren’t prisons defacto punishment?
Hi Frankly Frank,
I presume you’re referring to Spiritual Experiences #1696.
First, it’s necessary to understand that Spiritual Experiences is more of a journal of experiences than a finished work. It was not something Swedenborg planned to publish, though he did draw on the material in it for his published works. And the earlier parts of Spiritual Experiences were written while he was still getting his bearings in the spiritual world, and did not fully grasp and understand what he was seeing.
Spiritual Experiences has to be read with these things in mind, and with some caution about drawing hard-and-fast conclusions based on what is written there. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of fantastic material in Spiritual Experiences! It just needs to be read in light of his later, published works, where Swedenborg writes with more experience under his belt, and a better understanding of what it all means.
Now about that particular description in Spiritual Experiences #1696, though angels are mentioned in the previous section, they are not mentioned in connection with the punishment itself; and the following section makes it pretty clear that it is spirits, not angels, who are doing the monitoring and punishing. “Spirits” could mean relatively recent arrivals in the spiritual world who are still living in the “world of spirits” (the intermediate region between heaven and hell) and have not yet gone to their final homes in heaven or hell. Or it could mean evil spirits.
Once again, in the earlier parts of Spiritual Experiences, Swedenborg had not completely gotten his bearings in the spiritual world, so it’s not always clear exactly what he’s talking about. In his later works he usually (but not always) identifies punishing spirits as evil spirits. He does, however, sometimes mention good but strict spirits who punish wrongdoers in the world of spirits. The punishers in Spiritual Experiences #1696 could have been this sort of spirits, also.
Angels are capable of inflicting pain upon evil spirits who manage to venture up into heaven for less than noble purposes. But it is more to protect themselves and scare the evil spirits away than it is for punishment. Angels have no desire to punish or inflict pain on anyone. And in general, the pain is the result of the heavenly aura of love and truth that surrounds angels hitting and grating against the hellish aura of hatred and falsity that surrounds evil spirits, and inflicting pain due to the extreme dissonance of the collision of opposites. This is how angels protect themselves from the evil intentions and actions of evil spirits.
In hell itself, punishments are not meted out by angels, but rather by other evil spirits in hell, who enjoy inflicting pain on their fellow evil spirits, and are always looking for an opportunity to do so. They get that opportunity when someone does something evil, which opens them up to retribution and punishment. And since evil spirits in hell love doing evil, and are always doing it whenever they can, there are indeed many punishments in hell.
So yes, there are punishments in hell. It’s not that the evil spirits in hell like everything about their existence. What criminal wouldn’t love being able to continue in a life of crime without having to ever get arrested and imprisoned, or suffer any negative consequences whatsoever?
Unfortunately, that’s just not how life works. And even though criminals may not think of themselves as choosing to be in prison, when they get out of prison, re-commit the same crimes, and land themselves back in prison, what would you call it? In effect, they are choosing the punishment by choosing the crime.
There is no reality in which people could commit all sorts of evil actions with no consequences. When we choose the evil, we are by the very same choice also choosing the consequences of that evil.
Today, every time a smoker in the United States buys a pack of cigarettes, he or she sees the Surgeon General’s Warning on the side of the packet, warning of dire health risks and likely death from smoking.
Does it stop them from smoking?
They just ignore the warnings, and go ahead anyway, even though they know very well that smoking is likely to lead to a long and painful death.
The reality is that you cannot do damaging and destructive things without causing damage and destruction. Evil is evil precisely because it is damaging and destructive. So when we choose evil, we are choosing also the consequences of evil, which is pain, suffering, punishment, and misery. These consequences may come right away, or they may many years later. But they will come. And we know it—even if may try to fool ourselves and deny it.
So there’s really no excuse for the evil spirits in hell. You don’t get to hell unless you consciously, intentionally choose evil over good knowing full well that it is evil, and knowing very well that bad things will happen as a result of this sort of behavior.
No criminal is stupid enough not to realize that if he or she gets caught, there will be very unpleasant consequences such as prison, serious physical injury, or death. In fact, in countries with a humane justice system, getting caught by the police and imprisoned is generally preferable to getting caught and brutalized and/or killed by the wrong victim. Criminals make their choices knowing the risks. And the reality is, if you continue to act in an evil and criminal way, sooner or later those risks are going to become a reality. It’s just a matter of time.
So we can cry for the evil spirits in hell if we want to. But nobody goes to hell without having chosen that life. Unlike in the material world with its often faulty and corrupt governments and judicial systems, there are no miscarriages of justice in the spiritual world. No one goes to hell through a divine clerical error. The only people who go to hell are those who knowingly and intentionally choose an evil life, being well aware of the implications and consequences of their choices, and having the ability to make a better choice if they wished.
And the fact of the matter is that although there are some people who veer into a destructive and criminal life due to a completely screwed-up childhood, there are others who could very well have done something else, but who chose a life of crime because they liked that idea better than working for an honest living. There are some criminals who truly enjoy their life of crime, not due to some mental illness or shockingly bad childhood, but because . . . they truly enjoy wrecking other people’s lives in order to gain money, power, and pleasure for themselves at others’ expense.
Ever heard of a rapist who enjoys raping women (or men)?
Ever heard of a thief who enjoys stealing?
Ever heard of a murderer who enjoys killing people?
Ever heard of an embezzler who enjoys skimming off as much money as possible?
These are the people who end out in hell.
And once they have made those choices and hardened themselves into a life in which they enjoy gaining pleasure through inflicting pain and loss on others, there is no turning back. It’s not that they’re not allowed to leave hell. It’s that they have no desire whatsoever to do so. They laugh and sneer at good-hearted spirits and angels who try to remonstrate with them. And then, if they could, they would beat them to a bloody pulp and rob them blind. Because that’s what they enjoy doing.
So are there punishments in hell?
Yes there are.
But is punishment the purpose of hell?
No it isn’t.
The punishments in hell are simply an unavoidable consequence of the evil choices and actions of the people who live there. And those punishments are not inflicted upon them by angels, still less by God, but by their fellow evil spirits.
Could evil spirits get out of hell?
Theoretically, yes. No one is forcing them to be there. Not in an ultimate sense.
But in order to get out, they would have to make a different choice. They would have to choose to live from love, truth, and goodness rather than from hatred, falsity, and evil. And they have exactly zero interest in making such a change in themselves.
Technically speaking, they don’t “choose” to be in “prison” in hell any more than technically speaking, criminals on earth “choose” to be in prison.
But practically speaking, both criminals on earth and evil spirits in the spiritual world do choose to be in prison, or hell. They choose to live in such a way that prison, or the prison of hell, is the only possible place they can live long-term.
Yes, prisons are de facto punishment. But the primary function of prisons actually isn’t punishment. That is a secondary purpose. Prisons exist primarily to protect the innocent from the guilty. We cannot let murderers, rapists, thieves, embezzlers, and so on wander around scot-free. If we do, they will kill, rape, steal, and embezzle away, and cause massive damage to many innocent people.
In some societies, people who engage in terribly damaging behavior receive the death penalty not only as punishment and as a deterrent to others, but to ensure that they never harm another innocent person again. Other societies have decided that the death penalty is not allowable. So how can they prevent hardened criminals from hurting more innocent people? Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is the only other foolproof option. Because as soon as you let a hardened criminal out of prison, he or she is going to start right away looking for opportunities to get back into the life of crime, and victimize innocent people. It’s what they do.
That’s how it is for the people in hell. If they were willing to live in such a way that they did not endanger and victimize innocent people, they could walk right out of hell. In fact, many of them are allowed to walk right out of hell, especially in the early stages. But as soon as they do, they start victimizing people. This brings the inevitable consequences of excruciating punishment and pain, as described in Spiritual Experiences #1696 and elsewhere in Swedenborg’s writings. And then they throw themselves back into hell to escape that pain and get back into an atmosphere where they can breathe freely.
So do evil spirits choose to be in prison?
In a word, yes.
They choose to be in prison by their actions, just as criminals on earth choose to be in prison by their actions. They know the law. They know that if they’re caught they’ll end out in prison, or worse. And they go ahead and do it anyway.
Isn’t that, in all practical reality, choosing to be punished, and choosing to be in prison?
Whew! Hell’s a lot more complex after you describe all the intricate nuances! Anyhow it sounds like real hell to me however one cuts it.
Hi Frankly Frank,
Yes, hell is very complex—just as complex as the whole complex of human evil.
Meanwhile, I’ve posted an edited and expanded version of that already long comment as a new post: Pain, Punishment, Prison, and Hell.
I’d say “Enjoy!” but somehow I don’t think that’s quite the right word!
Helllo Lee! I wasn’t sure where to ask this so im hoping this is the right place, if not apologies!
Im also very sorry this came out so long, but its mostly explinations for what im trying to say.
(Also sorry for bad english)
Im in a bit of a.. well confused mess i guess you could say and i was hoping i could find some answers here.
What is your opinion on the fantasy genre? Why is it that alot of Christians seem to dislike it/say its a sin? and.. is it!?
I’ve read articles where churches burn Harry Potter books (which even if they are bad seems.. a bit over the top for me, not to mention kinda bad for the environment) Now, i’ve never read the Harry Potter books so maybe they are that “bad”, but i’ve always found it strange that its so hated by christians. I suppose it’s because it deals with magic, but from what understand the magic described in the bible is reffering to connecting to spirits, dark magic and such. Which im pretty sure isn’t the magic that’s in Harry Potter. I’ve always thought that it’s just fantasy, if the story teaches a good message like friendship or something like that (Which i’ve heard Harry Potter is about) then the story is ok, and the magic aspect is just another form of expression.
Fantasy and imagination is a wonderfull thing (as you even said in this article) and is one of the things that makes us human.
Recently i’ve been getting back into a fantasy book series i’ve always liked, it’s about feral cats living in the forest. (It’s called Warrior cats)
Now, i’ve never seen anything bad in the series. (aside from some bad writing but that a whole other can of worms lol) The series teaches friendship, caring for elders and children, respect and courage, but has alot of spiritual undertones. Of course the book can also be quite grapic at times, the charecters battle often, because well,,, they are feral cats living in the woods.
But the series has alot of spiritual things in it. Basically theres a cat heaven that good cats go to when they die, they don’t have one God but follow their ancestors who die before them. Theres also cat hell where bad cats go when they die, charecters also.. essentialy train in cat hell for some of the books, but this is seen as a very, VERY bad thing by the other charecters. And in the later books there are also ghosts, reincarnation.. and they get possesed.. but i haven’t read that far. Some cats can talk to the ancestors and sometimes they send omens or phropecies, visit dreams ect. ect. (Theres also book where the cat heaven fights the cat hell alongside living cats but that is ALSO another can of worms i don’t want to open right now)
I’ve always seen the cat heaven as being symbolic of God. The charecters look to the ancestors for edvice and thank them for food and pray to them in hard times. And the series has a big theme of being faithfull.
But i recently stumbled apon christian reviews of the book and.. yikes. People had things to say. Of course, i respect other peoples opinions, they can think or say anything they want, it’s and opinion. But i say alot of christians saying the books are horrible, i was expecting them to like the books, since it has such a big emphasis on faith, but they really disliked it. They said the authors are trying to decive children, because 4 people use one pen name (even tho it states what autor wrote what book on the inside), that it premotes “The stepping stones” (im sorry i dont know what those are) and witchcraft, which it clearly doesn’t. Also they mentioned a transgender charecter being bad in the books, but in reality it was just an editing error where a male charecter was described as female.
Now im very confused, i really like these books and have for a long time. I personally see nothing wrong with them, in fact i see alot of good in them. Im also very confused on if fantasy is bad or not. I don’t think it is. I’ve been meaning to write a short story but everytime i write something that may bee seen as bad (for example a villian charecter being evil, magic elements, mad eup relegions) i get anxious. Like i said, i’ve always thought theres nothing wrong with such things, its all fiction in the end and as long as your not premoting anything horrible its alright. But recent event have made my mind… sway.
Im SO sorry this is so long, but i hope you’ll take a look at this comment.
Thank you in advanced if you do!
I actually did read through all of the Harry Potter books not long after they came out, when my children were still teenagers. They were reading them, so I decided to read them to see what they were all about. And I did enjoy the story, or I never would have made it all the way through seven fat volumes!
The key point is that they are fantasy, not reality. If Harry Potter and his friends and enemies were actually walking around in the real world casting spells on people, then I would be very concerned. But they’re not. They’re characters in a fictional story that uses good and bad magic as metaphors for human struggles and issues, including spiritual issues of the internal and societal battles we all must fight between good and evil.
Even in your “Warrior Cats” series (which I haven’t read and hadn’t even heard of before), the various characters are really just feline versions of different types of human beings, and different aspects of the human mind. Making the characters be cats instead of people allows the authors to explore various facets of the human mind and human experience without banging people over the head with it. Children and adults can read these stories and imbibe lessons about life while simply enjoying a good story.
About all those “Christians” who say fantasy is evil, evil, evil, I wouldn’t pay too much attention to them. They live in their own weird fantasy world of biblical literalism and complete misunderstanding of the Bible, in which they are the only people who are saved, and everyone who believes anything else is going straight to hell. I could point you to all sorts of articles here showing that their beliefs are wrong and contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible. But here is the short version: They are wrong. Their teachings are contrary to what Jesus and his Apostles taught. The best thing to do is just to ignore their opinions about the fantasy genre—and about everything else, for that matter.
But yes, as you suggest, some fantasy is better than others. And no fantasy series is going to be perfect, just as no human being is perfect. As long as the overall message of the book or movie is to promote love, kindness, and integrity in the battle against hatred, bigotry, and deception, then it is good stuff even if there may be some mistaken views in it, such as reincarnation. You can just ignore those parts, and read or watch it for what is good in it.
Hello Lee! Thanky uo for the replay (and sorry for the delay on mine)
Since we’re talking about entertainment, i was wondering about your opinion on reality tv and diffrent shows?
I have always been a big fan of cooking/baking show, book, video, you name it! But recently i saw an article on gluttony that got me thinking, is it a sin to watch shows where people criticise food when there are people starving in the world? Im not saying all cooking shows are like that, some are about resturants and some donate money to diffrent charities, but msot are just about diffrent cooks competing and judges judging.
(Also, while on the topic, could you please define gluttony and how its used/ment to be interpreted? To me gluttonies always been taking so much theres nothing left for others or little left for others, but the article also mentioned that eating before dinner is gluttony or even enjoying food alot.)
Also on tv shows, what about those where people get hurt/embarrased? (Not seriously of course) Im not realy a fan of these but still would like to hear what you think. To me they aren’t that bad, since the people signing up for them consent to whatever the show is wilingly. (Well.. alteast i hope it’s willingly lol)
Thank you in advance if you answer this!
Some people, many of them so-called “Christians,” are no fun at all! They seem to delight in destroying other people’s enjoyment.
That’s not what the Bible and Christianity are all about. In fact, Jesus himself was accused by his enemies of being “a glutton and a drunkard” because he “came eating and drinking” (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). So don’t pay any attention to those killjoys. They do not have the true spirit of Jesus Christ within them.
Gluttony is regularly eating way too much. It really doesn’t have anything to do with depriving the poor of food. It’s not as though if you didn’t eat something in your fridge, some poor person would eat it instead. Or even that if you buy a bunch of food in the grocery store, that means some poor person won’t have enough food. That’s just not how the economy works.
Further, even though gluttony is traditionally considered one of the “seven deadly sins,” it hardly gets a mention in the Bible. There are those two mentions in the Gospels, and only two or three others, in the Old Testament (in Deuteronomy 21:20; Proverbs 23:1–3, 20–21). So yes, the Bible takes a dim view of gluttony. But the idea that it is a terrible, terrible, deadly sin is rather overwrought compared to the scant treatment it gets in the Bible. The Ten Commandments do not include the commandment, “Thou shalt not eat too much.”
Basically, gluttony is a matter of physical health and disease. Eating too much is bad for you. It isn’t a good idea to do it.
But as for enjoying food and drink, there is nothing wrong with that at all. Why would one of the central rituals of Christianity be the Holy Supper if eating is bad and sinful? The whole idea is ridiculous. God gave us pleasure in eating for a reason. Eating is part of maintaining a healthy body, which is necessary to have a healthy mind. It is no accident that one of Jesus’ last actions on earth was to share a meal with the people who were closest to him.
Yes, if we get carried away by eating, and our whole life revolves around eating, then that is not a good thing. Our life is meant to be focused on loving God and loving other people. But as long as we do put our main emphasis on loving and serving God and our fellow human beings, eating and drinking is a good and healthy part of our life. Especially if we have shared meals with family and friends, it is not only physically healthful, but emotionally and spiritually healthful as well. Why would people say grace before meals, thanking God for their food, if God thought that eating is borderline sinful?
It is true that the life of cooks and chefs revolves around food. But their life does not revolve around eating food, but around preparing food for other people to eat. And if they cook tasty and healthful food for people, then they are providing a good and valuable service. There’s nothing wrong with that.
In short, as long as we keep food in proper perspective, and don’t let it take over our life, then it is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with watching cooking shows that focus on food and food preparation. Food is an essential part of human life. And if we’re going to eat, we might as well eat good food, and enjoy it!
As for shows that embarrass people, as you say, as long as that’s what they signed up for, I don’t see anything hugely wrong with it. Maybe it’s not the highest level of entertainment in the world, but people get a laugh out of it. Even for the people who are getting embarrassed, it can have the salutary effect of knocking down their ego a bit so that they don’t get all puffed up and egotistical. It all depends upon the spirit in which it is done.
Of course, teasing, insulting, and bullying people just to put them down and jack oneself up is evil and wrong. But, for example, friends who rib and insult each other in a good-natured way are just being affectionate in their own way, even if it’s not the highest level of human interaction. Guys, in particular, often don’t feel they can be affectionate with one another, so they insult each other instead, and everyone laughs, including the one being insulted.
Don’t let the “Christian” killjoys ruin your enjoyment of life. If God hadn’t wanted us to enjoy life, then God wouldn’t have given us so many physical senses, and so many things in this world to enjoy.
I didn’t really know where to write this, so im hoping we can continue out conseration here if thats alright as the topic is similar.
Recently i saw something that got me thinking, could writing fanfiction be considered a sin?
(Fanfiction emaning – a non cannon story written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, film, etc)
Of course i don’t really think it is, as most fanfiction is usually a compliment to the orginial creator of a story. Because you like their story so much you create your own from theirs (sometimes but not always using the same charecter, themes ect. Just writing in that stories world)
But could it be considered a sin, because your ”stealing” that persons work? I don’t mean actually stealing as most good fanfiction is credited as a fan work and the original creator is also credtied, and almost always isn’t made for profit.
So my question is this, could writing fan works of already existing universes be considered as sinful? Because you are taking someone elses story and making it your own? (Personaly i don’t really think so, as writing fanfiction can be a good tool to help write but i would like to know your opinion on it)
Also, side note here, since every book/story ever written is also in heaven would fanfictions/fan works of existing stories also be readable in heaven?
Thank you in edvance if you respond to this!
Well . . . that’s a complicated and hotly debated question. Some authors, and most companies (such as Walt Disney) really do not like people using their characters in stories they didn’t write or produce. Others, as you say, consider it a compliment. Basically, I think people should respect the wishes of the people or groups of people (companies, etc.) that originated the characters. It’s rude to steal people’s creations and use them for your own purposes when they don’t want you to do so.
As for whether it is a sin, that all depends upon the intent behind it. Words and actions are sinful only if they are said and done with selfish, greedy, and generally evil intent. People who don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing fan fiction, and who aren’t doing it for a profit motive, aren’t sinning even if the originators of the characters and universes they are “borrowing” don’t like it. But people who know very well that the originators of the characters and universes don’t want them to use them, and who go ahead and do so anyway, especially if they are looking for profit and fame, are engaging in sinful behavior. Sin is doing something that we know very well is wrong in order to benefit ourselves in some way.
Thank you for the quick response!
And, yes, ok i agree! Most people are alright with thier stories being used for fan-works, and its always important to respect the original creators.
What about autors/creators who haven’t specifically stated if they want their wors used or not? (But seem to be alright with it) Would it (morally) be alright to use them? (If theres no ill-intent behind it of course)
I guess that’s a judgment call. Life is complicated. But in general, if people have the skills to write fiction, in my opinion, it would be better for them to create their own characters and situations anyway. That is, unless they are using another author’s or company’s characters and situations with the blessing of that author or company.
Oh, and yes, everything ever written and published here on earth is available in the spiritual world.
I don’t think i really understand your previous comment, are you suggesting people write their own stories in general or that people create their own charecter and situations in the set world of the story? (if its the latter then most people already do that to my knowlage)
Well, I’m not an expert on fan fiction. I don’t really read or watch it much myself. Mostly, I think that the world is a richer place if people create their own original worlds and characters. But I do understand that many people find particular already created worlds very meaningful, and want to set their stories in those worlds. Once again, really, it’s a judgment call. That was just my personal opinion.
Just one example: I’m a fan of the various Star Trek series. What I like about it is that it’s not all about wars and battles. Though wars and battles do occur in the Star Trek universe, even they are more about character and character conflicts than about exciting action scenes. Star Trek is about exploring the human mind and human culture.
However, the little bit of fan fiction Star Trek stuff I’ve seen is almost always about wars and battles. It doesn’t have the characteristic that makes the Star Trek universe interesting to me, which is that exploration of human character and interaction in various settings and situations. It’s all just “Zap! Zap! Zap!” The same is true of the Star Trek video games I’ve seen advertised here and there. (I’ve never actually played any of them.) They take a series that is about exploring the human psyche and the human condition, and turn it into big dumb action movies and games. Nothing wrong with those. But that’s not what Star Trek is about.
In this instance, I’d rather the fans just left it alone. Most of them seem not to have the approach and inspiration that Gene Roddenberry built into the Star Trek universe.
Alright, thank you for your input!
Hi Lee hope your all ok, i just wanted to ask a question regarding fantasy and spirits.
With channeled messages swedenborg says to avoid them as it is more than guranteed to be decieving spirits.
Why is it people who channel these spirits fall in to a trap and believe them over other peoples channeling?
I understand the supposed teachings are all different but i dont understand how people can fall in to the trap of believing that one supposed true source and dispell every other supposed source as it dosent agree with that they say
I also suppose because spirits are former people and as NDEs, Swedenborg and the bible show these spirits are a 1000 times more smarter than we care to realise they can induce their channeler to belive there messages perhaps ?
The basic reason is that the spirits who are with us are ones that correspond to our own mind. In the spiritual world, closeness of mind and heart draw people together, whereas dissimilarity of mind and heart pushes people apart.
In accordance with this law, people who do channeling are receiving their messages from spirits of a mindset similar to their own. These are the same spirits from which their ongoing thoughts and feelings flow. Therefore their associated spirits are feeding them everything that agrees with the channelers’ own mind and heart. This is why they accept what their own spirits tell them, while rejecting anything that other channelers’ spirits tell them if it does not agree with what their own spirits tell them.
Let’s say you want to fantasize about murdering someone, but you wouldn’t actually do it in real life, even if there were no earthly consequences. But we already know murder is wrong, so what purpose is there in mulling over it in our minds via fantasy. We might as well suppress the fantasy. Though I suppose the fact it needs to be suppressed means that some part of us desires or enjoys murder, and by suppressing the fantasy, we are not aware of that part of ourselves or even trying to pretend that part of ourselves doesn’t exist. Thoughts?
Right. That’s the whole point of the above article. Our fantasies allow us to see what is in our heart and mind without actually acting upon them. Of course we should suppress acting upon them if they are evil. But if we suppress even thinking about them because we are unwilling to see and admit that they are within us, then we are denying and covering over our own sinful nature. This means we will be unable to repent from those sins while they are still lying hidden within us.
In this case, sooner or later they will burst out into action. Whether or not we literally murder someone, we will attack them verbally or physically with murderous anger. And then the sin of murder that is latent within us will become actual, even if we don’t carry it all the way to actual physical murder.
This is why, instead of immediately suppressing all of our fantasies of engaging in evil actions, it is better to observe them. By observing them, we can see, recognize, and admit the evil thoughts and desires that are inside of us. This is the first step toward repenting from them and removing them from our will and desire. For a related article, please see:
What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
Thanks for the reply Lee.
So I can see the value in fantasizing to see what is within us and repent, but once we have identified something sinful, should we stop fantasizing about it from then on? Because if we have already identified the sinful part of ourselves, continuing to fantasize about that sin would not be productive and would only be done for pleasure. I suppose at some point you have to check the fantasy again to see if it still gives you pleasure, but fantasizing about it every other day wouldn’t be necessary. But then again, trying to limit how much you fantasize about something and not fantasizing freely would still be a form of suppression.
There are also fantasies that won’t go away even if we repent. Like most sexual fetishes/kinks are unremovable, at least according to psychology, so should we abstain from such fantasies if they are abhorrent?
Practically speaking, even after we’ve identified that something we fantasize about is sinful, we probably won’t be able to go cold turkey on it because it expresses something embedded in our psyche. If it didn’t, we would find no pleasure in it. Until we’ve dealt with the underlying source of the fantasy and our pleasure in it, it will keep coming back. It’s like trying to stop the flow of a river by putting a dam across it. No matter how big the dam is, eventually the river will fill up all the space behind it and break out again over the top of the dam.
That’s why evangelical ministers are so often caught living a secret life of doing the same sinful things that they preach against in their sermons. They know it’s wrong. But their theology says that it’s only our faith that saves us, not our life. As a result, they don’t put any importance on identifying their sins and repenting from them. So their sins keep building up in their heart until they burst the dam.
In my previous reply I said that rather than suppressing our fantasies, it is better to observe them. But that is only the first step. Once we observe them, we must analyze them and consider why we find pleasure in them. Until we identify their source in our heart and our experience, and come to an understanding of why we love them and take pleasure in them, we cannot repent from them and push them to the side.
Notice that I said “push them to the side.” It is true that not only sexual fetishes/kinks, but every sinful desire is unremovable, in the sense that it will never be completely washed away and gone so that it is no longer any part of us at all. What happens instead is that as we cease from engaging in that sin, it is gradually pushed more and more to the side, and the new heart that God gives us takes its place in the center of our life.
Even then, it is only our willingness to continue to look to the Lord for love, wisdom, and strength that keeps those old sins from rushing right back into the center of our life. An alcoholic who has been sober for ten or twenty years can quickly become a raging alcoholic once again. Only by continually pushing our sinful desires further and further to the side, and replacing them with a better life, can we gradually overcome those sinful desires, and mute the pleasure we take in them. For the tougher and more deep-rooted sins, we will need God’s help to accomplish this.
Even the highest angels in heaven are entirely evil on their own. They are good only because they have opened themselves to the Lord’s love, wisdom, and power, which continually keeps their own evil nature at bay. If they were to turn away from God and reject God’s presence, they would fall right back into the same evil thoughts, desires, and actions that they battled against during their lifetime on earth. Knowing this gives them great humility in the presence of their Savior.
This is also why secular psychology can only carry a person so far. While it is true that sexual fetishes/kinks are unremovable, that doesn’t mean that we are forever doomed to a cycle of engaging in them and taking pleasure in them. It is possible to gradually weaken their hold on us so that they become more of a shadow behind us than a consuming presence that’s in our face every day. However, accomplishing this will take a lot of work. That work will involve reorienting our heart to better loves and motives.
Let’s take a practical example so that you can see more clearly what I’m talking about.
In the world of fetishes, there are people who are into spanking, BDSM, and that sort of thing. Some are “tops” who like to play the dominant role, some are “bottoms” who like to play the submissive role, and some are “switches” who can go either way.
The first thing to recognize is that for most if not all people who are into this type of fetish, it comes from having been spanked or otherwise physically or emotionally abused as children and/or teens. This became internalized in them, and turned into a fetish. The experience of being spanked during their growing-up years got all mixed in with their sexuality, such that as adults some of them experience sexual arousal only when they are spanking someone or being spanked, or engaging in some other type of BDSM.
Even if their parents and teachers did not intend it, spanking can easily twist people’s sexual experience and identity. Consider the experience of a child or teen who is spanked. It has all the basic elements of adult spanking and BDSM fetishes. And if the adult is either a pedophile who takes pleasure in extended sexualized spanking rituals, or one who simply takes pleasure in dominating and humiliating other people, it is all the more likely to warp the minds of the children who endure it. Why children? Because they are the most vulnerable and available targets. And these scenes often happen repeatedly throughout childhood, and sometimes into and beyond puberty.
For people who have developed a spanking fetish as a result, the process of unraveling that fetish will not be easy. It starts with recognizing that the fetish is not something original or intrinsic in themselves. Rather, it was the result of what other people did to them. Recognizing this and continually reminding themselves of this can begin the process of driving a wedge between their own identity and the fetish. “This isn’t me. This is something that was done to me.”
That is a start. But it will not be sufficient to break the hold of the fetish on the person’s life. It will also be necessary to consider the quality of what is going on in the fetishized activity, and the quality of the loves and desires it expresses.
In the act of spanking, one person dominates and restrains another person and causes them pain in a humiliating way. Further, that pain is inflicted upon an erogenous zone of the body. Regardless of the intentions of the adults who mete out this kind of punishment, the act itself represents dominance and submission that can get all tangled up with the victim’s sexual desires and identity.
People who are confronting this fetish in themselves, and who recognize its nature, must ask themselves the question, “Do I want my sexual and marital life to be one that involves inequality, dominance, submission, and pain?”
Some may be satisfied to say “yes.” They will look for one or more partners that share their fetish, and who complement their own position of “top,” “bottom,” or “switch,” so that they can have consensual relationships in which they can engage in their fetish. Unfortunately, these are bound to be low-level relationships. The very act of engaging in dominance and submission cuts a person out from the highest form of human marital and sexual relationship, which is one of full equality between two partners. (See: What Do Women Really Want?)
For people who do not want to be stuck in that sort of low-level and quasi-abusive relationship, but who want a spiritual marriage relationship, the answer to that question will be “no.” This won’t magically end the desire and impulse to get pleasure from a relationship of dominance, submission, and punishment. But it will put such people on the steep and rocky pathway that they can follow to climb out of it.
The key to successfully climbing that path is to have a vision and an ideal of the sort of mutually loving, equal, and tender relationship that one wants to have. Once that ideal is in place, it becomes a daily grind, especially at first, of making oneself think, speak, and act toward one’s partner, or toward people of the gender that one would partner with, in a way that fully recognizes their humanity, their value, and their equality with oneself.
For people who are “tops,” and get pleasure from dominating another person, this will mean recognizing that they themselves are no better than potential or actual partners, and that such partners have every bit as much to contribute to the relationship as they themselves do, even if it may be different from what they themselves will contribute to the relationship. It involves gaining an appreciation and respect for the character, abilities, and adult self-responsibility of someone who is different from oneself.
This can be hard work. Dominant personalities tend to think that they are a superior type of human being, and that others are inferior to them. They must train themselves to know and understand that this is not true. And they must do this by looking for specific good qualities, talents, and skills in others that are not in themselves, or that are not as strong in themselves. It will also involve recognizing that the way their parents disciplined them was not good, even if they meant no harm by it. They should certainly not practice corporal punishment on their own children.
For people who are “bottoms,” it will be the reverse. They must recognize that they are just as good, valid, valuable, and self-responsible a person as anyone else. They must realize that they do not need to submit themselves to another person for correction and punishment in order to make up for their own defects and weaknesses (which they tend to exaggerate). They, too, will have to recognize that the way their parents disciplined them was not good, and that it damaged them. Such people must begin to see themselves as strong and valid people. It will help such people to continually tell themselves, or have others tell them, that God loves and values them just as much as God loves and values anyone else.
None of this will be easy. It will take years of hard personal and emotional work. However, if a person is willing to engage in this type of self-examination and this type of analysis of their particular fetish, it is possible to gradually push their fetish to the side, and develop the ability to engage in a mutually healthy marital and sexual relationship with another person. The fetish will still be buried in their character somewhere. But it will cease to be a central and dominating force in their life.
The same is true of other kinks and fetishes. They can never be completely extirpated. But they can be overcome so that they are not a major part of the person’s life anymore. Doing this will require knowledge, self-examination, hard work, and an extended period time.
This is why, to return to your original question, it won’t work to go right back to suppressing our fantasies once we recognize that they are sinful. It’s just not that simple. Breaking out of the cycle of suppressing fantasies and then having them come roaring back will require a long-term process, and committed dedication to it. It will require that we go through fundamental change as a person.
See also: What if I Love Debating and Bullying People Online? A Strategy for Change
Sorry for the late reply Lee. For some reason I can’t reply to your previous message, so I’ll reply to your comment (https://leewoof.org/2016/08/30/how-imagination-and-fantasy-help-our-spiritual-growth/#comment-140871) at the top level.
I can definitely see the value in observing one’s fantasies and understanding their origins and repenting from them, and gradually putting them aside in the long-term like you said. But does this mean it’s okay to fantasize about something as much as one wants and derive maximal pleasure from those fantasies? I tried the whole repentance and observation/analysis thing, but I felt like I was using repentance as a permit to go wild when I would normally hold back. The only value I can think of in going all in is that I have been able to identify some obscene things that I enjoy that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Also, I can’t imagine having a certain fantasy all the time and constantly getting pleasure from it and repentance somehow making the fantasy less appealing in the future. Maybe the repentance worked though because there are certain fantasies I had that seem less enjoyable now and more repulsive than previously.
Another question is if desire/affection, intention, and action can all be sinful, why is fantasy/thought free of that? It seems inconsistent because it’s part of the same chain: desire/affection –> fantasy/thought –> intention –> action. Breaking the chain seems questionable.
Also an issue I see with getting pleasure from the fantasies on a consistent basis is that it makes you attached to the fantasies and underlying desires. Like if I have a spanking fetish and I fantasize about it a lot and it gives me more sexual pleasure than anything else, and let’s say hypothetically God would let me get rid of the fetish, I may be resistant to getting rid of it because losing the fetish means losing something that gives me a lot of sexual pleasure. If I had been abstaining from fantasizing about spanking and minimized how much pleasure I got from it, then it wouldn’t be a major source of pleasure for me and I’d have an easier time letting it go.
When I try to analyze my own sexual fetishes/kinks, there’s some where I can identify the origins, but there are others where I have no where they come from and I doubt even psychologists would be able to explain it. In that case there’s nothing to analyze, so all I can do is repent in that case?
By dominance and submission are you referring specifically to BSDM and any type of objectification, degradation, and physical pain? Because I think it makes sense for one person to decide what positions to do generally (dominance) and for the other person to go along with it (submission). If every transition was discussed, it could be interruptive. Or are you supposed to always ask your partner what they want to do next? I think it’s common and encouraged by society for men to either give commands, e.g., “go into position x” or or “let’s do x next” and physically maneuver their partners into positions or rearrange their limbs and such. Or is that not holy?
About replying, I have the comment areas here limited to four levels of nesting so that the comments don’t keep getting skinnier and skinnier the longer the conversation goes on. What WordPress should do is allow web-based users to reply anyway, and just keep it at the same level of nesting.
Buuuut, WordPress.com hosting is on a long-term campaign to make its platform more cumbersome to use and less capable. Just recently it removed its original comment editor. The replacement is badly broken. Half of its functionality simply doesn’t work. This is making it rather unpleasant to reply to comments using anything other than straight text.
It is not a joy to maintain this website anymore. Several years ago I tried to port it to more capable hosting setup, but ran into major problems. So I’m stuck here as this platform steadily deteriorates. And the people running it are simply not listening to their long-term users. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Enough grumping! On to the substance of your comment, which I’ll reply to separately.
In response to this whole line of questioning, to start off I will mention and emphasize a couple of general principles:
First, contrary to present-day popular belief, we do not start out in life pure and good. We do start out with a rudimentary kind of innocence that prevents us from being held spiritually liable for our natural state. But our natural state from the moment we come out of the womb is one of being self-absorbed and thinking of our own wants and needs first. This means that on our own, we are quite evil. Evil is a function of putting ourselves ahead of everyone else, and especially ahead of God. It takes a lifetime to grow out of this, and this happens in our inner (and eternal) self only if we consciously and intentionally devote ourselves to repenting from our evil and selfish desires and actions, and living a good life instead.
This leads to the second general principle, which is that our process of spiritual rebirth is not complete, nor is it stable, until we have not only repented from the evil, but put something good in its place. See the eighth and final step in the process of rebirth outlined in this article:
What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
Here is the short version of how these relate to your questions about sexual fantasies:
First, it is a fantasy to think that if only we don’t fantasize about sexual things, we will be sexually pure and holy. The reality is that since our sexual and marital life is an expression of our entire self, including the deepest parts of ourselves, we are sexually impure from the inside out before we even begin having sexual thoughts. It’s just that the impurity is hidden away within us where it is not visible. Fantasies don’t create impurity in us. Rather, they reflect the impurities that are already resident in our spirit. Trying to pretend that the impurity is not there will not remove it from us. It will only keep it hidden, where over time it will vitiate and destroy any relationship we enter into.
Second, the stubborn reality is that we will never be able to solidly push aside and marginalize the sexual and marital impurity within ourselves until we are involved in a healthy, monogamous marriage or marriage-type relationship. Such a relationship is the only real-life forum in which we can see, recognize, and repent from the evil desires in us that specifically lead to sexual impurity and replace them with good, healthy, and loving thoughts, desires, and sexual life.
This leaves single people in a quandary. That is exactly why, in earlier articles in this series, I recommend using masturbation as the least harmful and most healthy sexual outlet for people who are not in a position to be in a healthy marital or marriage-like relationship.
Our sexual drives are very strong. We cannot will them away, nor can we repent them away. They will persist in spite of all of our efforts to suppress them. The only “cure” is to find a healthy outlet for them to replace the unhealthy ones that persistently kick around in our mind, and that will sooner or later lead us to act upon them. If we don’t act upon them here on earth for various external reasons such as a fear of punishment, loss of reputation, loss of employment, and so on, then we will act upon them in the spiritual world after we die. There, very soon those external considerations will no longer have the power to hold us back, and we will rush into acting out all of the fantasies that we had been suppressing all those years.
This, of course, is if we don’t do the work of repentance.
I’ll respond to your specific questions in another comment.
But before doing that, I’ll throw in a third general principle:
As part of our process of regeneration, it is critical that we devote ourselves to some sort of useful service to others. For most people, this will be in their job or employment. For many, it will be in some unpaid career such as raising children or engaging in volunteer work after retirement. If we are not engaged in some sort of useful service to our fellow human beings (assuming we are capable of it), then we might as well throw in the towel on our spiritual rebirth process. As the old saying goes, “Idle hands are the Devil’s plaything.”
With the generalities in my previous response under our belt, we can move on to more specific responses to your particular questions.
On the first one, no, it’s not okay to indulge in dirty fantasies and gain maximal pleasure from them. But remember, we start out in a state of evil, not in a state of good. The pleasure we feel in those fantasies is already in us. Failing to suppress the fantasies does not produce that evil. It only shows us that it is there. For example, you mentioned that through your fantasies you discovered particular obscene desires within yourself that you hadn’t previously known were there.
All of this is the “discovery” phase of regeneration. It is opening our eyes to what is there so that we can face it, and do the work of overcoming it. There comes a time when we pretty well have our own number when it comes to our sexual fantasies. If we then just keep on indulging in them, and make no effort whatsoever to face them and deal with them, then we are not regenerating. We are stagnating and sliding down that ol’ slippery slope to you-know-where.
This also responds to your second paragraph of questioning. Yes, obscene fantasies are evil. They don’t get a pass in the grander scheme of things. But they are the result, not the source, of our evil. If we are having obscene fantasies, then the evil is already in us. If it weren’t, those fantasies would hold no pleasure for us at all.
And yes, if you now find some of your old fantasies less enjoyable and more repulsive than before, then you are making some progress on the path of regeneration. It is a long-term process. And sorry to say, our faulty sexual desires and their perversions are some of the hardest evils to wrestle to the ground.
On your third paragraph, yes, continuing to indulge in the fantasies without doing anything about them will cause those desires to get stronger and stronger in you, until, even if you don’t act upon them due to the fear of various repercussions, your spirit will still long for them. In the spiritual world you will soon throw off those external shackles and rush into acting upon those fantasies.
About not knowing where some of your fantasies come from, here is another, more practical way to determine their quality and the type of love they express. For this example, I will speak in terms of the sexual fantasies of a heterosexual male:
Think to yourself, “If I were to engage in this with an emotionally healthy woman, how would she react? How would it make her feel? Would I be gaining pleasure for myself while giving her distress or pain?”
The reason this works is that evil is a function of putting ourselves and our own pleasures ahead of other people. If engaging in our fantasies would give us pleasure while giving others distress and even pain, and this would be pleasurable to us, then this tells us that those fantasies come from evil desires, not good ones.
(Another somewhat broader way of asking the same question is to ask ourselves whether engaging in our fantasy would reduce the other person to less than their full self. The whole “sex object” thing.)
I specified an emotionally healthy woman because there are plenty of women (and men) walking this earth who are not emotionally healthy. To use the example of a spanking fetish, there are a certain number women, and some men as well, who get sexual pleasure out of being spanked. I tend to agree with mainstream psychologists that this is probably a function of being spanked or subjected to other forms of humiliating corporal punishment in their growing-up years, such that spanking becomes all tangled up with their sexuality. That is not an emotionally healthy state to be in.
Now consider a woman who was not subjected to these sorts of sexually humiliating punishments as a girl, or who was not heavily affected by them if she was, and who is generally an emotionally healthy and self-respecting woman. How would it make her feel, and how would she react, if her husband or boyfriend suddenly bent her over and started slapping her buttocks so hard that it hurt?
I can tell you right now that she will not stand for such a thing. Most likely she will bring that relationship to an abrupt end.
Now think about the psyche of her husband or boyfriend, who would engage in such behavior toward her. Where does it come from? It comes from a desire to dominate and humiliate another person. It comes from a desire that feels pleasure in giving another person pain. Such a desire is diametrically opposed to genuine marital love, which cannot exist where people are trying to dominate and control one another.
We can ask these questions about any sexual fantasy we may have, and gain some understanding of what sort of loves and desires they express.
Mind you, not all sexual fantasies are dirty and obscene. Some of them are perfectly fine and healthy if expressed within a healthy and loving relationship. It’s important to actually ask these questions in relation to our specific fantasies, and be honest about the answers. This will tell us whether it is a fantasy we need to overcome because it comes from evil desires, or one that is not evil, and we simply must wait until we can express it as part of a mutually loving relationship.
There are also sexual fantasies that aren’t necessarily evil in themselves, but that become evil if they are the main focus of our attention and energy. For example, it is not wrong to enjoy a woman’s feet. It’s not even wrong to find a woman’s feet very sexy. But if all of our sexual energy and desire are focused on a woman’s feet, that is not going to be a healthy relationship. It reduces a woman to a pair of feet, when that is very far from the sum total of who she is. See:
What if the Right Woman has the Wrong Feet?
Once we have recognized that particular fantasies are dirty, obscene, humiliating, and so on, and that they come from a desire to pump ourselves up by putting other people down, then we can begin the work of changing the self-centered desires from which those fantasies spring.
Conceptually, this involves coming to an understanding and appreciation of who and what women are, such that we value them as human beings and as partners, and would never want to do anything to hurt them.
Practically, this involves entering into a relationship with an actual woman, and growing more and more in love and appreciation for her as a person and as a partner.
The conceptual part will enable us to make some progress. It is something we should be engaged in as single people who want to be part of a good, healthy, and loving marriage. But there is only so far we can go without an actual partner.
For people who are persistently single, all hope is not lost, though. Even if we are not in the closest of relationships possible with another human being, we can still be involved in good and growing relationships with friends, family members, and so on. We can practice all of those principles of mutual respect and appreciation in these relationships—especially in our relationships with women, or with men, if our partner in marriage will be a man. This will provide us with a path toward a healthy relationship with a wife or husband in the other life if we are not able to engage in such a relationship here on earth.
Rather than digging into your final round of questions in detail right now, I will first refer you to this article:
What Do Women Really Want?
It deals with three general types of marriage and sexual relationships that exist among human beings. A couple’s sexual life will reflect which type of relationship they have.
For now, I will simply suggest that lovemaking does not necessarily have to involve one person giving directions and the other person following them. It can be fully mutual.
Thanks for the reply Lee. I’ll have to think about it more, but I think as long as I repent and analyze my fantasies and try to indulge in them only when the desire is somewhat overwhelming, then my approach should be at least somewhat optimal. It seems there is a balance between discovery and abstaining and yet not repressing.
You’re welcome. Sounds like you have a pretty good handle on the situation. Balance is good.
I take it that unlike what strict “traditional” Christians may say, enjoying works with magic in them isn’t necessarily sinful?
(I remember when Pokemon was condemned as demonic back in the days of the Pokemon craze of the late ’90s or so.)
No, it’s not necessarily sinful to enjoy works with magic in them. It is ironic that fundamentalist “Christians” have taken this stance. It marks them as being in a materialistic pre-Christian state similar to that of the ancient Israelites.
As for works with magic in them, it’s really about the symbolism of the magic, not about the magic itself. Just as Jesus’ miracles of healing are really about the healing of the soul, so Pokemon, Harry Potter, and so on are really about spiritual “magic” that involves the battle of good against evil in our soul, and in the collective soul of humanity.