By Vexen Crabtree 2008
Different religions have different attitudes towards sexuality, but in general, the major monotheistic religions have had very negative attitudes towards sexuality, leading to a statistically high number of psychosexual disorders as a result of suppression and abnormal teachings on sexuality. The scholar of comparative religion, Moojan Momen, attempts a comparison between the major world religions, opening with the forward statement that Christianity is the most negative:
“Of the major religions, Christianity is perhaps the most negative towards human sexuality. [...] there are several statements in the New Testament that advocate celibacy (with monogamous marriage being a second-best option) and condemn homosexuality. Such passages have formed the basis of the view of most Christian churches up to modern times.
[In Buddhism:] During the whole of [The Buddha's] ministry, however, he embraced a world-renouncing life which excluded sexual contact. The rules for the Buddhist monks reflect this example of the Buddha. Such rules are still applied in Theravada Buddhism, but married monks are found among Mahayana Buddhists. Of the major Indian traditions, however, it is Jainism that has the strictest attitude against any expression of sexuality among its monks and nuns. In Islam, the attitude to sexuality is, again, set by the example of the founder, Muhammed, who married some fourteen wives and had a number of children. There is thus a much more positive approach towards marriage, sexuality and family life. Monasticism is prohibited and the number of wives is limited to four. Homosexuality is again prohibited. The attitude to sexuality in Judaism is much the same as in Islam, except that polygamy was prohibited in the Middle Ages.
In modern times, the more liberal elements in Western Christianity have responded to social realities by relaxing the strict sexual morality that has characterized most traditional religion.”
Nearly all fundamentalist religious organisations reject human rights, and in particular, reject women's rights and are also hostile to homosexuality, transvestitism and any other sexuality that is not traditional patriarchialism. They "typically exclude women from the senior ranks of religious leadership. All or almost all express concern about control of female sexuality"2. But in history, all these things were not the preserve of extremists: they were the mainstream positions of mainstream Christian churches. There have been periods in history when there existed a determined repression of all overt sexuality. Such times were always the result of religious idealism dictating negative sexual morality and forming culture from the top down. Secular grassroots movements have tended to be relatively libertarian and accepting of the realities of sexuality. Although there are exceptions, in general religious expression has been the arch enemy of sexual expression. The psychological problems that such repression or oppression causes can be severe and sometimes even pandemic.
In "Abnormal Psychology3", the psychologists Davison & Neale write that "therapists with a psychoanalytic bent point out that in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the incidence of [some disorders] was apparently high in France and Austria, repressive sexual attitudes may have contributed to the increased prevalence of the disorder"4. Sexual dysfunction may be caused by religious orthodoxy5 and that "pedophiles and perpetrators of incest are often rigidly religious and moralistic"6. The philosopher and academic Friedrich Nietzsche points out that frequently, sexual repression is religiously motivated:
Suppression and distortion of sexual drives is a leading, and dangerous, cause of psychological dysfunctions. British Government statistics in 2006 on the prison population revealed "a strong tendency for prisoners who declare a religious faith to be serving time for sexual offences"8. Irrational and superstitious beliefs concerning sexuality are two leading causes of socially destructive behaviour, in particular when it comes to the rejection of human rights.
Most religious traditions have subjugated womankind9,10,11,12. The religious restrictions and taboos on womankind have ranged from the openly oppressive and inhumane, to subtle limitations. Women have been barred from leadership, prevented from religious learning and even from secular education, forbidden to hold power, denied fair inheritance and land ownership, denigrated, physically dominated, and sometimes even forbidden to speak13. All in accordance with holy texts, religious laws and guidelines. The Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam have been the worse; but also Hinduism and Buddhism have played roles in the long-term subjugation of women. In Elizabeth Cady Stanton's "The Woman's Bible" (1898)14 she bemoans that "all the religions on the face of the earth degrade her, and so long as woman accepts the position that they assign her, her emancipation is impossible"15. The much more neutral scholar of comparative religion, Moojan Momen, normally writes positively on nearly all aspects of religion, but when it comes to women, even he is forced into a multiple-page criticism of the historical role of religion12. Although some of this stems from ancient cultural sources before it happened to be codified in world religions16, organized religion has clung on to patriarchalism long after secular society has liberalized. Feminist groups have frequently been anti-religion simply because it is religion that has presented itself as the most consistent oppressor of womankind. The problems from traditional religions are not just historical: even today, religious organisations and powerful international religious lobbies hold back gender equality across the world17.
There is good news. The most readily accepted cure for both intolerance, religion and superstition is widely shown to be education. The position of women improves as education improves and as traditional religions lose their grip on society. Modern society has come to either ignore their traditional texts (as most Christians do) or to abandon religion (as many Westerners have done). Also many new religious movements and alternative religions such as Paganism, Wicca, the New Age and even Satanism practice full gender equality. As long as traditional religions continue to decline and secular society and new religions both grow, the situation of women continues to improve.
For more, see: Religion Versus Womankind.
Few people doubt the severity of the problem that overpopulation presents for this planet. Its consequences are poverty, famine, disease and death, sometimes on very large scales. Minor problems include overcrowding, strained infrastructure and social instability. By facilitating contraception and women's medical services we enable family planning. "Allowing women to plan their pregnancies also leads to healthier outcomes for children. A recent study showed that if all births were spaced at least two years apart, the number of deaths among children younger than five would decline by 13%. The number would decline by 25% if there were a three-year gap between births"18. Making birth control accessible to all is a moral requirement for anyone who has the power to help. It is inconsistent, for example, to say that contraception and abortion is "murder" whilst ignoring the fact that poverty and overpopulation are far bigger killers.
Aside from population control, "the health benefits of contraceptive use are substantial. Contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the number of abortions, and lower the incidence of death and disability related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth"18. The numbers of abortions that are prevented by contraception is staggering. A Guttmacher Institute report on the developing world predicts that "in 2012, use of modern contraceptives in the developing world will prevent 218 million unintended pregnancies, which, in turn, will avert 55 million unplanned births, 138 million abortions (40 million of them unsafe), 25 million miscarriages and 118,000 maternal deaths. It will also prevent an estimated 1.1 million neonatal deaths (those within 28 days of birth) and 700,000 postneonatal infant deaths (those from 28 days to one year of age)"18. Condoms help prevent the spread of disease - their effect is strong enough that long-term use by a community can gradually eradicate strains of sexually transmitted diseases from the community. Venereal disease causes unimaginable suffering and can affect the purely innocent. Babies are frequently infected with the diseases of the parents; in this way, the prevention of disease with contraception is vital because once women in a local area are infected with a disease, children will also be directly infected. In the case of incurable diseases, such an event can lead to unsurmountable suffering. Such a terrible state of affairs is prevented by the correct use of contraceptives such as condoms. The number of women with unmet needs for contraception in the developing world is still increasing - between 2008 and 2012 the figure rose from 153 million to 162 million18. Those 69 countries are the ones that are least able to support growing populations.
“Some of the religious traditions have presented recurring obstacles to open discussion of certain kinds of birth control at UN population conferences. These religious groups are associated largely with Islam, Roman Catholicism, and evangelical Christianity.”
Religious opposition to abortion, birth control and contraception: Despite the practical necessity of birth control, the benefits of disease prevention, the moral responsibility we have towards the future of our children and the responsibility we have with regards to the stewardship of our planet, many religions have opposed birth control for various superstitious reasons. On the other side of the fence, it is worth knowing that all of the pioneers of contraception were freethinkers20,21 (that is, people who are opposed to the influence of organized religion on people´s opinions and beliefs). Why have religions determined to prevent family planning? The answer is in a kind of survival of the fittest amongst religions themselves. As most religious people simply abide by the religion of their parents22, religions that encourage parents to have more children will attain a stronger and longer-lasting base of adherents. Barber (2011) notes that religions promote fertility by encouraging marriage at a much earlier age than amongst the non-religious23.
Bearing this out is Catholicism, which has an infamously strict suite of dogmas that forbid all kinds of birth control. The Roman Catholic Church is the most notable, powerful and active organisation that lobbies against birth-control wherever it can, internationally. Thankfully Most Catholics routinely ignore the Church on this issue, especially in educated and developed countries, but there are still plenty of fast-growing countries where the Catholic Church is still prospering the old-fashioned way. It took the government of the Philippines 13 years to force through legislation to allow government-funded contraception and for sex education in schools because of the strength of the opposition of the Catholic Church there - in a country where 11 women die of pregnancy-related problems every day. The Catholic Church "ferociously" opposed it, warning of moral and social collapse, the destruction of family life, and divine wrath, if it was passed. The bill is considered "a major step toward reducing maternal deaths and promoting family planning in the impoverished country, which has one of Asia's fastest-growing populations. [...] The United Nations said early this year that the bill would help reduce an alarming number of pregnancy-related deaths, prevent life-threatening abortions and slow the spread of AIDS"24.
For more, see: Abortion, Birth Control and Contraception.
Abrahamic religions have contributed to the most negative and destructive attitudes towards sexual issues, especially homosexuality. Christian and Islamic communities and organisations are the most vocal assailants on any legal or societal moves towards tolerance and equality. The liberal wings of some of these religions have adapted to the wide (European) acceptance of homosexuality. Many traditional religions reject the scientific, medical and psychological knowledge that we have gained about sexuality and regard homosexuality as "unnatural", a "choice" or a "moral evil". These religions are themselves immoral and evil in their attitude, causing hatred, bigotry, violence and oppression in the name of God. Homosexual communities have become accustomed to the ranting of religious fundamentalists and traditionalists, and this causes a strong anti-religious resentment amongst them.
My page "Homosexuality in Animals and Humans" by Vexen Crabtree (2013) opens with the discussion of homosexuality as found in the animal kingdom in order to highlight its natural, universal nature. If God created sexuality, then it created homosexuality as a natural and normal part of sexuality, just like it created all the other sexualities and genders found in nature. Monotheists should either police the entire animal kingdom, or give up their irrational aggressions against homosexuality in humans.
The founder of Scientology wrote in his book Dianetics (1950) that homosexuals and lesbians are all "perverts", with mental and physical disorders, and are "dangerous to society", although he does believe that they're not completely to blame for their disease. Other official books published by the Church of Scientology have bolstered this position. The Church uses its invented science, Dianetics, to try to cure homosexuals of this, and many other, mental problems.25
“One of the first major incidents of open dissent against Hubbard's activities came when, in 1959, his eldest son, Ron Junior, or 'Nibs', turned against him and made a very public declaration that his father was insane. [...] Tragedy struck in 1976 when Hubbard's second son, Quentin, committed suicide because he realized that his homosexuality would not be tolerated in the Church of Scientology.”
In recent years (as of 2011), some gay Scientologists have argued that Scientology has changed (although others disagree) Some suspect that the seeming tolerance touted by some Scientologists is an attempt to trick homosexuals into joining the Church of Scientology hoping that they can thereafter 'cure' them. But Scientology has proven itself to be continuing in its stance against homosexuality politically.
In the book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright & Alfred A. Knopf, a story is told about Hollywood screenwriter Paul Haggis, who joined Scientology in 1975. "He didn't begin asking questions until 2008, when the Church's name appeared on a list of organizations supporting Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. When Haggis, two of whose daughters are gay, failed to get satisfactory answers about the issue, he began researching the Church he thought he knew. What he learned led to his resignation. He tells Wright: 'I was in a cult for thirty-four years. Everyone else could see it. I don't know why I couldn't' "27.
Wicca is one example amongst many New Religious Movements that have rejected the loathing of homosexuality found in traditional monotheistic religions. But in its foundation Wicca could not cope with homosexuality. The Gardnerian Book of Shadows was strictly a heterosexual affair, and, one of the earliest and most successful Pagan periodicals throughout the 1970s was called The Wiccan, and showed outright hostility towards homosexuality28. But all of this changed. Alex Sanders' version of Wicca removed this bias28, and, the entire Wiccan community (alongside Pagans in general) now proclaim their distaste of prejudice based on sexuality.
Another religion that has reached this pinnacle is Satanism. What they have in common is modernity and non-monotheism.
Satanism is pro-sexuality. We should all shed the weird and stifling sexual inhibitions preached by the world's traditional religions; Sexuality is a pure form of pleasure, something that satisfies our deepest purpose in life. Modern life allows us to enjoy sex without the risks of unplanned pregnancies and sexual diseases assuming that sense is taken. Satanism supports any fetish, kink or flavor of sexual encounter as long as all parties involved are consenting. We are informed by modern and learned psychological, medical and scientific opinions on sex; there are no dogmatic principles or religious intolerance of sexualities within Satanism. It is very optimistic, positive and healthy: This can only be expected of such a carnal religion of the flesh such as Satanism! Some people like quality, some people like quantity: Just be responsible, take emotions and consequences into account, and above all, enjoy your life!”
Throughout its history, institutional Christian rules on sex, sexuality and gender roles have been weirdly obsessive30. Doctrine has been clearly written from a male-only point of view, with a suite of specific demands for female clothing31 and prohibitions against anything other than overtly heterosexual male behaviour. From the second century onwards, a range of Christian movements emerged which hated sex and all things sexual32. A stream of writings from the Church Fathers and other senior Christians denounced sex in every way possible; it was evil and Satanic, and must only be indulged in when resistance was impossible, and only with your wife for the purpose of procreation. Alongside those of St Paul, these writings appear from the very beginning of Christianity, and can still be found in many modern Christian churches, highlighted by the doctrine of the celibacy of Catholic clergy. Some key verses from the Bible include Galatians 5:17, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and Revelation 14:4. This Christian abhorrence of sexual human nature became very influential throughout the West33 from before the lead-up to the dark ages until the modern era in which Christian power has waned.
The misguided anti-carnality message has been responsible for more sexual dysfunction in adult males than any other force of history. Statistically, Christians divorce more frequently than atheists and non-religious folk34. Christian clergy and institutions have been under scrutiny after two decades of horrible scandals involving child abuse. The cases have been shocking and numerous, with no end in sight to their uncovering35. The effect of organized Christianity battle against birth control has had a deleterious impact on the control of sexually transmitted diseases and has been instrumental on speeding us all towards an increasingly overpopulated planet36. Intolerance against homosexuality has harmed the wider community, but also forced many Christians into needlessly secretive and guilt-ridden lives. Thankfully, the majority of modern Christians live in a secular manner and don't observe traditional teachings.
The high child abuse and sexual abuse rates within the Christian priesthood highlight a problem that many religions face: We should not attempt to mould human sexuality around otherworldly religious ideals. Sexual dysfunction always results. Psychologists and sociologists have noted the association between extreme religious fervour and psycho-sexual problems (the former causing the latter), and the highly negative stance that many monotheistic religions take towards sexuality in general have contributed to a general malaise amongst their lay adherents, and a serious pandemic of abuse amongst professional religionists. The religious attitude towards religion is to behave like an ostrich and stick its head in the sand, hoping that theology can override biological truth, but merely making its victims unable to cope with adult sexuality. Witness the hateful and confusing statements that Christians and Muslims make about homosexuals, the anti-contraception stance that the Catholic church has in an over-crowded world ridden with disease, the harmful and simplistic rejection of abortion and the patriarchal dominance over women that has gone hand-in-hand with traditional religion on every continent.
Many religious practices are somewhat more positive towards sexuality than Christianity. The scholar Veronique Mottier gives the example of Judaism, which disapproves of abstinence37. Karen Armstrong reminds us that "Certain sects in Buddhism and Hinduism have used sex as a mystical activity. Everybody has heard of the Karma Sutra but not everybody is aware that this is not just a sex manual, but a method of achieving transcendence and spiritual enlightenment. Christianity is unique in having hated and outlawed sex and in making people feel guilty because they are sexual beings"38. But it is not just the subject of sex which is important to a discussion on sexuality - it still must be remembered that all traditional religions have normalized the dominance of men over women, and often obsessed over matters such as female dress.
In the modern world, many modern popular movements provide an alternative to traditional religions, and have enshrined normal sexuality. The secular world merely lets sexuality remain natural, and the New Age movement amongst many others, actively engage sexuality. The results have been much more positive and healthy than those of the classical monotheistic religions. This is one reason why countries that have liberal laws on abortion also have much lower rates of abortion than highly religious countries that restrict abortion heavily. An atmosphere of taboo and restriction serves limits responsible sexual behaviour. Rather than an ostrich, be a peacock!
“Implicit and explicit sexual symbolism is found in many aspects of Wicca.”
Much of the symbolism surrounding the cycle of the year, the festivals, and the idea of divinity, is sexual in nature. Wicca is a pro-sexuality religion, and you will find none of the superstitious, dogmatic or ascetic restraints that you find in other religions. Representations of the sexual, from phallic symbols to mythological stories involving procreation, are not hidden away from sight. Christian evangelicals tend to obsess over belief systems that are open about sexuality, and thusly they criticize Wicca on that basis. But Wicca is not licentious - it simply has a mature and adult approach to sexuality.”
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
#atheism #birth_control #buddhism #christianity #christianity_sex #disease #dogma #gender #health #hinduism #homosexuality #islam #judaism #monotheism #morals #new_age #paedophilia #paganism #philippines #politics #population #priests #religion #religion_sex #satanism #scientology #sex #sexuality #wicca #women
The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.
Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Published by Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, NY, USA. Pro-science magazine published bimonthly.
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Clarke, Peter B.. Peter B. Clarke: Professor Emeritus of the History and Sociology of Religion, King's College, University of London, and currently Professor in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford, UK.
(2011) The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion. Originally published 2009. Current version published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. A paperback book.
(1987, Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Religion. Published by Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, USA. 16 huge volumes. Eliade is editor-in-chief. Entries are alphabetical, so, no page numbers are given in references, just article titles. A hardback book.
Hawthorne, Sîan. Hawthorn is Lecturer in Critical Theory and the Study of Religions and Chair of the Centre of Gender and Religions Research at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK.
(2011) Religion and Gender. This is chapter 7 of "The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion" by Peter B. Clarke (2011)2.
(1999) The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. 2001 edition. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. A paperback book.
(2007) Fundamentalism. Originally published 2005. Current version published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. New edition now published as part of the “Very Short Introduction” series.
Tucker, Mary Evelyn. Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University, New Haven, USA, and, Director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology.
(2011) Religion and Ecology. This is chapter 45 of "The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion" by Peter B. Clarke (2011)4 (pages p819-835).