new internationalist
issue 224 - October 1991

...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

Which of the world’s religions is the most anti-sex? And which is most in favour?

Embracing erotic delight: the Hindu deity Shiva. • The Manichean Christians probably win hands down on the anti-sex stakes. They regarded all sex as polluting, sinful and inferior. Augustine of Hippo, a Manichean theologian of the fifth century AD, was famous for his proclamations of the evil of the flesh. He might more appropriately be remembered as ‘Augustine of the Hypocrites’ for his preachings did not get in the way of his 15-year-long sexual liaison with a woman.

Buddhism also has a strong ascetic and anti-sexual streak. So sickened was Gautama, the Buddha, by the immodest postures of his female and male servants that one night he abandoned his wife and family home and became a wandering ascetic.

Most religions do have a place for sex – some more than others. Muslims, for example, are unperturbed by the image of Muhammad as a sensual man with 14 wives. Hinduism has perhaps the widest range of views – from ascetic denial to a full, sensuous appreciation of erotic delight as something vital, sacred even. The most positive view of less conventional sexuality is probably held by Confucianism. Both female and male homosexuality flourished in Confucian China during the Middle Ages and was common and tolerated well into the nineteenth century.

On the other hand the Christian tradition is rather embarrassed about the whole sexual thing. It makes much of the virginity of Mary and the celibacy of Christ, with the Roman Catholics insisting on celibacy for their religious officials too.

Dick Johnson,
Reading, UK.

What is a dong bang?

• The dong is the currency of Vietnam. As to dong bang I can only assume that is it some form of economic measure. An austerity package, perhaps? Or perhaps not… Do any other readers have suggestions?

P Miles,
Bristol, UK

Which Third World countries have dollars as their unit of currency – and why?

• The dollar is used in Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Fiji, Guyana, Jamaica, Liberia, Malaysia, Brunei, Zimbabwe, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago. The word dollar originates from the Dutch thaler which went to New Amsterdam (New York) and other colonies via settlers from the Netherlands. It became widely used due to the power of first Dutch – and then US – imperialism.

Bruce Winter,
Glasgow, UK

How did the ‘Shining Path’ get its name?

Armchair revolutionary: Jose Carlos Mariategui. • The full name of the Shining Path – Sendero Luminoso in Spanish – is a bit of mouthful. It’s the ‘Communist Party of Peru for the Shining Path of José Carlos Mariategui’. It was first coined by the guerrilla organisation’s founder and leader, a philosophy teacher called Abimael Guzman who drew inspiration from Mao Zedong and the 1920s Peruvian political theorist José Carlos Mariategui. It was Mariategui who identified Peru as a semi-feudal and semi-colonial society – and Guzman who dogmatically applied this analysis to the Peru of the 1970s and 1980s. The Andean Maoism of the Shining Path holds that the peasantry is the primary motive force of revolutionary change.

Sue Simmonds,
Oxford, UK

Awaiting your answers...

What are the origins of the Intifada?

What is the only type of fruit you are not allowed to carry on public transport in Thailand – and why?

Does anyone know what the ‘Football War’ was all about?

Why has Ougadougou become the film centre of Africa?

Can anyone explain why the British National Front promotes Colonel Gadafy’s Little Green Book?

Why do they wear bowler hats in Bolivia?

Cartoon by P J POLYP

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).

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New Internationalist issue 224 magazine cover This article is from the October 1991 issue of New Internationalist.
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