Freedom to choose one’s lifestyle

In relatively recent times, another path to material security and comfort has opened up for many. There is less reliance on prayer and ritual. Contraception, for many, brought a less harsh life, especially to those beasts of burden, the female of the human species. To many of those denied contraception by their religious masters, the attraction of the en suite overrode the pronouncements from the pulpit, as said to me by a young colleague in the Fifties.

My friend told me how he and his wife had no intention of producing the minimum of four children required of them. They also hoped to build the house they wanted before they commenced a family. They were not going down the path of their parents, with all its hardships and sacrifice. In this, my friend felt that he and his wife were no different from their peer group, for they could see how those not constrained by the priesthood could aspire to a more comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle but without any reduction in their regard for fellow humans.

So my friend and his wife went to seek advice from their priest. This man was described to me as young, Australian born, and not preoccupied with the wars and the prejudices of the past, unlike the priests of their parents’ generation. This priest sympathised with the young couple and referred them to a particular medical practitioner of the same faith. When they told the medico that their priest had recommended the consultation, he said (apparently), without any further ado, that he could help the young girl with her menstrual problem. She did not have one.

He would prescribe “the pill” in order to settle the problem, which would take about two years. They could safely commence a family after that. This was exactly what they had hoped for. Although it is patently ridiculous for theology to so limit the freedom of a couple, the priest and medico showed an understanding of living in a multicultural society wherein the majority were freer to decide their lives. It is also patently pathetic for two young, intelligent and educated people to fear the power of their church as they did then.

Christian priests, by and large, seemed to have an inordinately powerful position in Australia in my early days, intruding into all aspects of living in an authoritarian way. My understanding of the priestly class is that of a group dedicated to serving God and assisting the rest of us in our efforts to reach God. The idea of a class of humans telling the man in the street what he can and cannot do, when, where and how – beyond the requirements of the law and any community-sanctioned rules about good conduct – were not only strange and unacceptably intrusive, but also anathema to me.

I grant that there are certain traditions and practices which one must tolerate for a while. The Christians have a road to God like all the other faiths but claim that it is the only road for mankind (how preposterous). Every Christian sect and cult has its own track on this road, and each claims that its rut is the only path to God for all mankind (even more ridiculous, but this claim helps to keep the faithful from straying on to other tracks and paths). Characteristically, cult leaders keep their members well away from others, decrying the impurities of these others, through persuasion and as much power as needs to be applied. … …

Mercifully, the control exercised by religious and cult leaders is waning. Australians are now free to read, see, hear, and touch as they will, with some discretion in the last. Gay relationships and prostitution prevail publicly … What goes on in the privacy of the bedroom is no one’s business.

(As the above extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out’ will suggest, control of the thoughts and actions of their flock by some priests was being eroded in relatively recent times, even from within. From about the 1960s, progressively, Australians obtained personal and social freedoms taken as normal today.

Societally, however, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural nation continues to be denied a statute of freedom, free speech, and compassion for those in serious and uncontrollable pain, for whom palliative care is inadequate. Even an advanced health care directive, which can limit unwarranted surgery or an extension of life through a misguided reading of the Hippocratic Oath, is either challenged or denied. The reason? Theological control!

In this arena of social control, democracy seems somewhat dented.)