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This report is brought to you by Jim Dodge.


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This article originally appeared in 'N' (Nude & Natural) 
Magazine, Issue 16.1, page 17. 'N' magazine is published by The 
Naturists, Inc. of P.O. Box 132, Oshkosh, WI 54902. 
 
Jim Dodge kindly granted permission to reproduce it here. 
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		Where Are We From? 
		Why Are We Here? 
		Where Are We Going? 
 
	THE INDIVIDUAL & NATURISM 
 
			By 
 
		James G. Dodge 
 
 
 
These three questions are as old as the philosophical 
thinking of human beings and have to be asked today also in the 
entire context of Naturism.  By these questions we may also 
improve our understanding of what Naturism means. 
 
Some of us also want to explore why we are Naturists in the 
Christian context of intellectual convictions and moral 
standards. 
 
I have been involved in one way or another with Naturism 
for more than 65 years. During that time, I have observed with 
great interest the evolution and spread of the ideas and 
practices of nudism and Naturism.  Some of the practices I have 
welcomed and responded to in a positive way; others, I rejected.  
But perhaps we should concentrate on the positive and mention the 
negative only in passing. 
 
In the Long View 
 
For generations we have been seeking to cover up the so-
called primitive peoples of the world with our Western styles of 
clothing, whether they were appropriate to the climate and 
conditions of those peoples or not.  Today, we have this change 
in thinking on the part of some of us that perhaps those 
"primitive peoples" were wiser than we. 
 
Let's be honest.  The "movement" of nudism/Naturism 
involves a truly minuscule number of people in our society 
(albeit a growing number, across virtually all segments of the 
population).  Worse, we are considered by some to be some sort of 
"cult."  But in this regard it is highly revealing in many 
meaning of the term that whereas less than 30 years ago there 
were officially 25,000 nudists in the United States and 50,000 in 
Germany, the number of the officially and unofficially involved 
today, if we include the occasional skinny-dippers, runs well 
into the millions. 
 
Mere nudity begins to cease to be either a matter of 
exaggerated concern or abnormal interest to the majority of the 
public. And while the number of "official" members of organized 
nudism remains small, the effect has been like the leaven in the 
loaf; for the workings are far greater and vastly more extensive 
than the small numbers would warrant. 
 
Small as our numbers may be in relation to the entire 
population, each one of us has to reflect and develop some clear 
ideas about what nudism and Naturism means in our individual live 
and in our relationship with others.  What are the values 
available to me from being nude, naked, bare of all clothing in 
the company of others of all ages and both sexes -- and what 
benefit might derive from these practices?  Are there negative 
aspects, too? 
 
I read with interest the various proposals for changing the 
name of the American Sunbathing Association --doing away with 
"sunbathing" and stating the nudist purpose directly.  Sunbathing 
seems to me, as it clearly did to others, a bit of a misnomer; 
yes, we enjoy the sun on our total bodies, we enjoy the fluidity 
and motion of the human body in the light of the sun; yet we know 
nudism and Naturism are more than that. 
 
Let's look for a moment at terminology.  Naked, nude, 
nudism and Naturism.  According to my dictionary, naked and nude 
are largely interchangeable.  On the other hand, I believe a 
distinction can be made between the nudist -- one who joins with 
others on occasion in mixed company in a state of nakedness -- 
and the Naturist, who is seeking to live in a state of nudity at 
all appropriate times and as much as possible in a close 
relationship with the natural surroundings, alone or with others 
of all ages and both sexes.  These descriptions are certainly 
subject to correction and revision. 
 
It is Naturism that I seek to practice in my own life.  In 
neither description have I said anything about "values", but I 
like to think that the Naturist is more positive-value oriented, 
whereas among nudists there is considerably greater latitude in 
the values tolerated.  I shall use these terms interchangeably, 
though with the above definitions understood. 
 
In virtually all the literature, in many of the letters one 
reads from new "converts" to nudism or from those who have been 
active in the lifestyle for a long time, one often finds the 
comment that practitioners enjoy being nude "because it feels 
good."  Quite aside from all the other physical and psychological 
reactions, I suppose that this feeling of freedom from the 
confinement of restrictive clothing is one of the first things 
many of us experience. 
 
At the same time, however, among the beneficial and 
enjoyable effects or feeling of freedom is the ability of our 
bodies to function as intended:  These bodies can breathe, adjust 
to variations in temperature, cleanse themselves through the 
pores, lungs and the whole circulatory system. 
 
One very negative commentator writes:  "The alleged 
improvement in health, physical or mental, is founded on no 
evident fact but is simply a gratuitous supposition, or at most 
is based on far fetched analogies with life among certain 
primitive people."  Fortunately there is ample evidence based not 
on suppositions but on valid empirical studies confirming that 
under proper conditions nudity is a desirable aid to good mental 
and physical health.  In contrast, here in the U.S., body image 
confusion, sexual overstimulation and commercialization of nudity 
has reached an absolute height. 
		 
For years, the health insurance organization of Sweden has 
sent patients to Dalmatia, prescribing nude sunbathing and 
relaxation in the mild waters of the Adriatic for skin and other 
illnesses.  We are often aware of the effort of practicing 
nudists to care for their bodily health.  We know that we find 
every possible body type and form and we are no longer under the 
dangerous illusion that everyone can conform to the nude examples 
of 'Playboy' and 'Playgirl'.  Seeing the great variety of bodily 
characteristics, we no longer worry so much about "positive" or 
"negative" attributes of our bodies, and we learn to accept both 
our own image and the images others present.  We see those with 
scars of injuries and surgeries and other disabilities and 
"imperfections" who participate in nudist activities without any 
self-consciousness. 
 
I might also add here what I profoundly believe to be one 
of the greatest benefits of Naturism:  The positive effect it has 
on the mental and physical health of our children.  For almost 20 
years I took groups of children to a beautiful nudist center in 
Istria, Croatia, on the Adriatic.  These children, even the so-
called "difficult" ones, were a joy to be with.  Despite an 
occasional sunburn, the general health of these children and, 
especially, their later attitudes toward the bodies of both men 
and women were markedly improved.  Today many go to the camp with 
their own children. 
 		 
Freeing the Spirit 
 
Certainly there are a number of physical benefits, and each 
of us can make his or her own list when considering the personal 
benefits.  For me, the psychic benefits are really far more 
important.  For too long in the western world, we have suffered 
from infancy with a perverse kind of aversion to and rejection of 
the human body, while at the same time exploiting it with every 
kind of revealing and exaggerated dress, especially in our 
advertising, media and entertainment industries. 
 
Children especially are continually bombarded with material 
that serves to exploit human sexuality in every form.  While not 
the focus of my present comments, it is an area in which the 
prudent use of and exposure to nudism or Naturism can be of very 
considerable benefit in reducing the natural curiosity of young 
children and adolescents so they can develop into well-balanced 
adults.  We read often of the difficulties that teens have as 
they reach puberty.  Girls seem somehow ashamed of their 
developing breasts -- an incredible fetish in this country,
unfortunately -- and boys seem terrified of getting an erection,
and both sexes are anxious about their general growth and
development. 
 
The moralist whom I mentioned earlier stated: "The 
desirability and fittingness of clothing are recognized by the 
overwhelming majority of mankind.  From a moral point of view, 
nudism disregards the problem of concupiscence [sexual appetite], 
and therefore rests on unrealistic premises." 
 
On the contrary.  It is precisely here that nudism rests 
its defense on very realistic premises and on considerable 
experiential knowledge.  Anyone who has had a minimal experience 
of nudism is aware that with very few abnormal exceptions nudism 
has virtually nothing to do with sexual desire or lust.  I know 
of nothing that has a more beneficial effect on tempering 
curiosity and desire than a protracted experience of nudism.  
This does not mean nudists are devoid of lust and sexual desire, 
nor that in practice of nudism there are not those who grossly 
misuse it for their own sexual practices, to the scandal of and 
very great harm to the whole. 
 
In our arrogance we have assimilated cultural nudity to 
"primitive" peoples.  In that same arrogance we fail to notice 
that these naked peoples are very often far more modest, 
considerate of others, and respectful toward their own and 
others' bodies than many in our overheated, oversexed, 
scandalously clothed western society. 
 
It seems quite clear that the accusations of some religious 
groups to the effect that nudity per se and the practice of 
nudism in particular is in its essence degenerated and causes all 
kinds of aberration can in no way be substantiated.  If I am not 
seriously mistaken, the predominant objections of this type come 
not so much from the mainline churches in this country, but from 
the fundamentalist groups on the far right, who seem to feel that 
they have a special mandate from on high to save the country and 
the world. 
 
I am assuming that many nudists and Naturists consider 
themselves descendants of one of the Abrahamic faiths; that is, 
Christian, Jewish or Muslim.  But there is a phenomenon here in 
this country that is practically unique in the world -- the 
growth of the televangelist, the radio evangelist, the revival 
preacher.  Nowhere in Christendom have there been so many and 
varied groups seeking to proclaim the one and only way to eternal 
salvation.  The Bible has been used as a weapon, as a final and 
irrefutable source of all truth and authority, arbiter of every 
imaginable question or problem in matters of faith, art, science, 
history and even geography! 
 
Christianity & Naturism 
 
I personally am a convinced Christian who accepts the Bible 
as the "Word of God."  But I cannot bring myself to use the 
scriptures to beat others over the head, nor to seek to misuse 
them to demonstrate things for which they were never intended.  
Furthermore, I have never heard of any definitive decisions on 
the part of any of the so-called established churches with regard 
to the active practice of nudism. 
 
Thus, in the spirit of charity and love spoken of by St. 
Paul, I find that it is increasingly possible for us as 
believing, practicing Christians of all denominations, to join 
together in the practice of nudism for the physical, 
psychological, moral and 
spiritual benefit of us all. 
 
The discussion of the Bible and nudism is especially 
interesting today, with the cleaning and renovation work being 
completed at the Sistine Chapel.  After centuries of 
shamefulness, in which the papacy ordered Michelangelo's nudes to 
be covered with 
garments and robes, Pope John Paul II has given permission to the 
restorers to return all of the 40 or so figures to their original 
state of nudity.  Thus we shall have before long the greatest 
display of full frontal nudity in one of the great churches of 
the world! 
	 
If you are a believer in eternal life, how do you think you 
are going to appear in that physical state?  How are you going to 
meet Jesus Christ, his Mother, and all the saints?  Obviously you 
are going to be nude, in the glory of your first creation, and so 
shall all the others about you be bare of any adornment, no 
longer needed for any reason.  Jesus, his Mother, the saints all 
nude!  Shocking, scandalous, blasphemy! 
 
I mention this to make the point that nudity and the human 
body are not to be rejected as something evil and disorderly.  We 
have made of clothing an absolute fetish, not merely a need of 
covering and protection of the body under certain circumstances.  
No one can reasonably object to the necessity for body covering 
at certain times and places.  Even clothing as decoration perhaps 
has a place, for it does appear in all social structures that 
humans wish to decorate their bodies, whether clothed or naked. 
 
Unfortunately, we are today faced with serious and 
dangerous excesses on the right and the left.  It often seems 
that the excesses of the one tend to animate and foster the 
excesses of the other.  But there is, to my knowledge, no 
organized libertarian group that is a true threat to the valid 
rights and honest liberties of the broad middle. 
		 
On the right, however, are a number of organizations -- 
powerful, influential, and financially strong -- that for 
whatever motivation, seek to impose their beliefs, convictions, 
and objectively erroneous interpretations on all others. 
 
This is not to say we should be tolerant of every 
conceivable conduct, especially those harmful to us, our 
children, and our honestly acquired property. 
 
But we have seen, in the very recent past, how some of 
these self-proclaimed authorities have fallen far from the state 
of perfection in which they had placed themselves, and in their 
preaching they have duped many good people into contributing to 
their personal and very questionable way of life. 
 
Does it not seem strange that here in the United States, a 
nation to which millions have fled to escape all kinds of 
tyrannies, we have now apparently come full circle, and we find a 
tyranny that threatens us, a group seeking to dominate the vast 
majority who only 
wish to be left in peace to practice ways of life that do not 
harm others? 
 
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JAMES G. DODGE, a Catholic priest for over 45 years, was once an 
associate of Thomas Merton at the Trappist monastery in Golgotha, 
Kentucky.  Devoting many years to the development of SOS 
Childrens Villages in Austria, Dodge brought disadvantaged youth 
to the naturist summer camps on the Istria Croatian coast and 
found it worked wonders. 
 
Dodge is now based in Pennsylvania, whence he travels in his 
beloved Airstream to naturist occasions.  His last appearance In 
'N' magazine  was a review of H.P. Duerr's study of shame and 
nudity (N 9.4 p. 114).  Keynoting the '94 Heartland Gathering (N 
14.3 p.81), he returned to these concerns at the '96 Winter 
Naturist Gathering.	 
 
Note:  During a discussion Jim stated that "there is no 
"Golgotha, KY" but there is a Gethsemani--same city, different 
locations and connotations!" 
 
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