Panelists discuss religion, sexuality at Valentine's Day discussion


Philosophy and religion faculty member Laurel Zwissler acts as moderator for a Valentine's Day-themed religion panel Feb. 7, 2018.

Speakers discussed and cleared up widespread misconceptions about religion and sexuality at the religion department's Valentine’s Day panel and discussion on Feb. 7 in the Park Library auditorium.

The event was the fifth annual panel and discussion, held to celebrate Valentine’s Day and give students a sense of the religion classes Central Michigan University offers. 

Panelists included:

· Talat Halman, religion faculty member

· Sara Moslener, assistant religion faulty member and author of Virgin Nation 

· Kelly Murphy, religion faculty member

· Guy Newland, chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion

Newland and Halman both spoke about tantra, an ancient Hindu and Buddhist practice. Halman began the discussion by focusing on the Hindu experience of tantra and explaining that America’s perception of tantra is inaccurate. He said while many people think tantra is mainly a sexual practice, in reality it focuses mainly on meditation and chakra alignment.

“Of course, there are times (in tantra) when sex does actually happen, but I’m not going to tell you about that — you have to take my class, then I’ll tell you about it,” Halman said.

Newland focused on the Buddhist practice of tantra and how it ties into “orgasms and awakening” not just sexually, but spiritually too. 

He also discussed Americans' misunderstanding of the practice when they were first introduced to it. 

“They thought it was gross, because they didn’t understand the other elements of it," Newland said.

Moslener spoke about asexuality, which she introduced as “one of the most underdiscussed and misunderstood topics." She said many people wrongly believe that “asexual people are uninterested in intimate relationships,” when in reality they just don’t necessarily associate sex with intimacy. She said the majority of the population has a hard time understanding asexuality because sexuality is so ingrained in society.

“We’ve come to believe that sex is tied to who we are, we look at these people as outliers when they aren’t,” Moslener said. “It’s simply another way of thinking about human attraction.” 

Murphy spoke about the little known theory that in very ancient versions of religions, there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that the God (or main god, as there were many) may have had a wife. 

Murphy showed the audience several ancient religious texts that all seem to provide evidence that ancient people did once worship and believe in, and said that later religions have made attempts to “cover it up."

“It’s potentially the Bible’s lost love story,” she said.

There was a brief discussion with the audience at the end of the panel, in which the professors emphasized the importance of not forgetting the things history and religious texts tend to leave out, such as homosexuality and asexuality.

“It’s important to remember that all of these (religions) take place in a patriarchal society,” Newland said, when asked about how homosexuality ties into tantra, “so we don’t really have any information about that.”

Murphy suggested it was possible that two men in the Bible could have been “more that friends,” but there is no way of knowing for certain because of that time period’s mindset.

“We can always read texts with another eye,” Murphy said.