Where is he gay today? Rila Mountains, Bulgaria
It reads: I'm a Virgin, But This is an Old Fresco.
A belated Happy Blasphemy Day, everyone. Hope you all managed to score a zinger on September 30th. Alas, you couldn't have burned me at the stake this year. No chance to flip the bird at God. Unless my ongoing contentment as an apostate Catholic homosexual affronts the Almighty in principle. Surely that counts.
Note that being an atheist does not automatically make me a heretic. Heresy is defined as telling untruths about God. I merely point out the fact that religions contradict each other, and with very few exceptions, demand belief to the exclusion of all others. Therefore, not believing in any one or more of them is the functional equivalent of not believing in any of them. Absolutely true, Ninth-Commandment-wise. But hardly a rousing hurrah for the Lord above.
I didn't directly insult God—which, by the way, is the defínition of blasphemy—so I'll need to tell you about another time I landed a pie in His face.
Opportunities to insult God ain't a dime a dozen, let me tell you. The last time I sneered at the Almighty—in public earshot, so it makes a difference—was over a year ago, in early summer 2010, on a visit to Bulgaria.
We climbed into the mountains south of Sofia, to the Rila Monastery. St. Ivan of Rila (876-946 AD) lived in a cavern, and his followers built the complex. They wanted to bask in his holiness, and perhaps pick up the odd miracle or two, but found the caveman thing a bit too hard-core.
The Dupnitsa Eparchic Hilton.
You can stay in the monastery, and for many, it makes the perfect spiritual retreat. The building contrasts monastic simplicity with rich ornament; everywhere one turns, one sees a detail which provokes a moment of contemplative pleasure.
Nice and peaceful, until you enter the chapel, or catholicon.
The door bitch, an angry brown-robed Rassaphore with a Rasputin beard, hassles you on the dress-code. Uncovered heads, uncovered shoulders, or short pants earn you a puke-green hospital gown, which you must use to cover your immodest flesh. They forced a burqua-style robe on the woman in the picture below, since God had never seen female legs before, it seems. The Almighty thinks you're just overgrown ribs, ladies.
Master Right and I marvelled at the lush ornament inside the church, and approached the altar. Thinking that we might contribute to the maintenance of this UNESCO World Heritage site, we lit a votive candle, and made a donation far in excess of that recommended. And in Euro, too, which at the time still seemed like a jolly nice currency.
As we turned to leave, the mad monk tried to pull a swifty. He took our candle from the candelabra, blew it out, and pocketed it.
Now, he may have had a reason. Perhaps he wanted to make room for other worshippers to sacrifice—except, there was plenty of room left. Maybe church authorities wanted to keep soot off the murals behind the altar—but then, they might easily move the candelabra to another position. Perhaps he noticed that Master Right looked Asian, and doubted that someone of another faith could offer a sincere votive prayer.
Or, he was just an asshole.
I favour the asshole theory. Every member of the uniformed clergy in this joint was scowling. My childhood church in Pittsburgh, which followed the Roman canon in Carpatho-Rusyn, hailed from this part of the world. They were grouches, too; our monsignor was a turd of the highest order. Bile and resentment—or at the very least, grumpiness—oozed from ever pore.
A friendly CSR asking "How may I help you today, pilgrims?"
Whassup with that? Hadn't the Holy Spirit filled them with the milk of human kindness?
Of course, there's a good reason for being a grumpy cleric. Sexual frustration.
Celibacy must wear them down. People get grumpy as hell without sex. If I adopted a contemplative life like these guys, I can tell you what I'd be contemplating before long.
Now the way I see it, forcing healthy human beings to eschew their biology insults His creation. It disrespects God's grand design. Surely as much an affront to the Creator as any of the other inventive sexual uses to which God's creatures put their bodies.
So I blasphemed. I took a photo.
"No photo inside!" scowled the monk, followed by some other complaint in Bulgarian.
"How does it feel to be a virgin?" I asked. "It must be awfully miserable."
"No photo inside!"
"I've had a lot of sex, and it's fantastic. Would you like me to tell you what sex is like?"
He looked at me, fuming, as I added, "...sex with an adult, that is."
"No photo inside!"
So I took another photo, and we left. Here it is. Taking and sharing this photo, so that it may help you wonder at the glory of your God and the miracle that is mankind, may be a blasphemy. If so, may we always blaspheme so beautifully.
On the way back to Sofia, we stopped for lunch. We dined on a terrace, under a tree, next to a mountain stream. Trout, caught that morning in the very same stream. Another moment that caused us to marvel at what believers call Creation, and to enjoy it, gratefully.
I asked the waitress if she had any spare fish to slap on the back of Christian cars, since they like that sort of thing. She said no. What? According to the New Testament, you can't run out of fish!
See? A joke at God's expense. Rather a nice blasphemy, to round off a (mostly) pleasant day. Click on the quote from Salman Rushdie below, to join next year's Blasphemy Day on facebook.
This little tale reminds me of many half-written posts in my outbox about last year's fascinating trip to Bulgaria. Stay tuned for more of them.