Some say that there is no such thing as bad press, particularly for minority religions or the gods revered in them, but I’m not entirely sure that’s always the case…
Many readers of my blog know that I’m not necessarily a fan of Dan Savage or of the It Gets Better Project. So, it was a big surprise to me to read (via a tip-off from a friend) that in his column today, Dan Savage discusses Antinous as a religious option.
Before rejoicing that this is the case, however, I advise you to take Savage’s caveat on his column seriously:
So a warning to everyone whose letter appears in this week’s column: My reliably sucky advice is probably going to be suckier than usual.
That having been said, let’s see what he says about Antinous:
But if I was gonna pick a faith based on gayness alone, I would go with Antinous. He was the big gay lover of the big gay second-century Roman emperor Hadrian, the dude who built the wall that kept Mary Queen of Scots from sneaking into Roman Britain and stealing the scones of stones or something. Hadrian, a bearish guy in his 40s, was hopelessly in love with Antinous, a Bithynian teenager. Hadrian’s Bithynian, like the NWATB’s Dominican, must have given amazing head, because after Antinous died—he drowned while swimming in the Nile—Hadrian had him declared a god. Take it away, Wikipedia:
“The grief of the emperor knew no bounds, causing the most extravagant veneration to be paid to Antinous’ memory. Cities were founded in his name, medals struck with his likeness, and cities throughout the east commissioned godlike images of the dead youth for their shrines and sanctuaries… As a result, Antinous is one of the best-preserved faces from the ancient world.”
My husband Terry looks like Antinous—it’s true—so, yeah, I’d hit and/or worship that.
So, there’s a lot to unpack there; but, I’ll say first that though Dan Savage’s husband is rather attractive, he’s no Antinous. But, as I’ve said over and over again, worship of Antinous is not about being gay, or having one’s understanding of gayness undergo apotheosis through Antinous as a symbol. It never has been until rather recently (and even then, only for some people), and never was in the ancient world. It was not just Hadrian’s grief over his deceased boyfriend that earned him apotheosis, it was long-standing Egyptian tradition, which would have applied had he been the Emperor’s boyfriend or the Emperor’s chamber pot cleaner.
But, Savage is also missing a larger point about religion when he prefaced his remarks above with the following:
The Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality gave me a big sad when I was an adolescent, it’s true, but I didn’t come to the conclusion that there is no God based solely on that big sad. My sexuality prompted me to question not just the faith in which I was raised, BAAA, but all faiths. And none, in my semi-informed opinion, stood up to scrutiny. I simply don’t know how any reasonable person can look at all world religions, living and dead, and come to the conclusion that one particular tribe or prophet or science-fiction writer got it right and every other tribe, prophet, and science-fiction writer got it wrong.
Seriously?!? Only the most simple-minded person, particularly in the modern world, would think that one’s choice of religion has to do with being “right,” or at very least “more right than anyone else.” The likelihood that any one religion is “right” about the nature of every aspect of reality–particularly metaphysical reality–is slim to none; what is most important, therefore, is that one’s choice of religion proves to be life-enhancing for oneself.
And, if that’s the case, then Dan Savage really ought to be doing the cultus of Antinous as his religion, as there’s no reason not to; he may not end up doing it via the Ekklesía Antínoou, though, because I suspect our general demeanor and methodology isn’t shallow enough for his tastes. (Which is a pity, because despite the research and effective spiritual technologies that we use, we have our shallow matters as well!)
I don’t know…what do you reckon?