Is there anything in existence that so captivates and intoxicates the imagination and the passions as love and war? War, the taker of life and love, the giver – both in their way requiring sacrifice and the obliteration of self. And in this we see the greatest difference between one generation and the next. For Eros as the child of both war and love was interested in only one thing – the obliteration of all things in service of the self.
It was time for the mother of the CEO to report. It was time for Aphrodite to report.
If you had completely forgotten about the pantheon of gods and goddesses, you remembered them when you saw Aphrodite. And you became positively convinced of them when she spoke. She was of course breathtakingly beautiful. She was the type of beautiful that demanded respect and even fear. She wasn’t the type of beautiful that would invite catcalls from slow-witted men. She was the type of beautiful that would convince even modern men who had never learned proper manners to remove their hats in her presence. But it was her voice that made you love her. Her voice was like a song you could listen to for hours without every growing tired. She was seductive in a way that didn’t make a person feel guilty. To not be seduced by her would be regarded as a scandal. In other words, she was dangerous and confident – like a person who knows she owns every room she walks into. Including this one.
Scanning the room, briefly pausing at Ares, she began. “Religion. The last fifty years have taught us that religion is the answer.”
Ares couldn’t help but scoff. His former lover had always been a sucker for religion. While she had embraced the trappings of temples, and priestesses, and rituals, he mostly saw them as a waste of time or worse. Yes, he had experimented with religion through the years. Any number of forces can motivate men to fight and to kill, and religion was at times one of the very best motivators. People loved killing for their gods. And they still do. But too much religion can be a dangerous thing to a soldier or an army. Too much religion might lead to compassion, virtue, even pacifism. He shuddered. Best for a soldier to see the field of battle as his Temple, his squad as his congregation, and the destruction of his enemy as his act of worship.
She shot him a dangerous look and continued. “The religions of the world have always had an interest in love and in sex. Sensing the great power of love, they made it sacred. Love and sex are to be enjoyed…with restraint. Like a wild animal, the full force of love was kept in chains by religion. But friends,” she smiled seductively, “the chains have been removed. And we have removed the chains with a new religion!”
Spontaneous applause filled the room.
“We have brought love from the shadows and have made it the object of our new religion. Unfettered from the constraints of the sacred, love is our new religion.”
Ares interrupted abruptly. “Love is a virtue. Virtue saves civilizations. I fail to see how a religion of love (he said the word with mocking disdain) helps us accomplish any of our goals.” Eros squirmed a bit in his seat.
She looked at him with a smirk of condescension. “Yes. Thank you, darling. You always were good at mansplaining everything to me.”
“As the Minister of War has so thoughtfully reminded us, Love does indeed make the world go round. Love conquers all – even war. For every poem written about war there are whole libraries dedicated to love. Love is a cohesive force in a civilization. Loves flows from the self to the other binding them together. But desire…Desire reverses that flow. It flows from the other to the self creating a bond only until that desire is exhausted. And the genius of Eros is how easily it can be mistaken for Love. Both can result in fulfillment and ecstasy. But the cost is not the same. The Love at the center of our religion is Desire and Sex is the act of worship.”
Eros interjected. “And religious people are quite passionate about defending their freedom to worship.”
“Yes, dear. We have also had great success in convincing them of this religion’s natural, and thus better, nature compared to the old religions which were marked by superstition and magic. What is more natural than Desire? Desire might be the only truly natural thing. What could be more evil than denying a person his natural Desires? To deny Desire is the true heresy. One man’s Desire is not the business of anyone else. There is nothing ‘sacred’ about sex as in the old way of thinking. Sex is an innocent, natural thing much like any other innocent, natural thing employed to satisfy our Desire.
But of course, this was a lie – a convincing lie – but still a lie. Sex cannot be admitted alongside of other natural desires without soaking everything with sex. Sex is no benign force. Once it ceases to be a servant, it becomes a tyrant. Sex is now a religious duty, and Desire is an insatiable god. There is no joy in this kind of sex. There is no fellowship in this sex. There is only orgasm followed by doubt, loneliness, and anxiety.
All religions have a centering effect on the faithful. Place Desire at the center of their world, and soon enough their world is populated not with people but with objects of Desire. The partner in ‘making love’ is inconsequential or interchangeable or, increasingly, optional. Pornography is the health-wealth gospel of our new religion and pornographers are its late night television evangelists. ‘Easy, sexual fulfillment without the cost or the messiness of other people. Just send our ministry $9.99 and have all of your Desires met.'”
There was an unmistakable tinge of regret in her voice. “A whole generation is learning that love equals orgasm. Once the lesson is fully learned, they will have forgotten how to love at all.”
“This is all very good, Aphrodite. But what about children?” Eros asked. “Children remain one of the biggest obstacles in replacing love with Desire.”
“Yes, children can be a problem,” she said looking at Eros, now a look of positive sadness had crept across her face. “I must admit that I miss the old days when young couples would come to me seeking fertility and life. But those days are a distant memory. The Free Love Revolution – like most revolutions – was dangerous and deadly for children. We have managed to almost completely separate sex from procreation. Children now come into being by an action of the mind and not the loins. These are the first generations who have been able to ask with stunning efficiency, ‘Do I want to have children?’ Sex is about fulfilling Desire, not about filling the earth.” She had gotten darker in her mood. “Children, in this new religion, are a way of accessorizing a life. And it is easier to fill your life with more compliant accessories than a screaming child. Every parent learns that children require a submission of Desire, but Desire,” she said looking at Eros, “is a jealous god.”