Human Sexuality > Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Religion and Sexuality

Religion plays an enormous role in the sexual growth and development and attitudes of many people. Whether that religion is founded in Christianity, Hinduism, or Islam, religious beliefs, concepts, and attitudes have a definitive role in the development of attitudes and perceptions within the field of human sexuality. This lesson will briefly describe various concepts involved in the world’s most popular religions. From Catholic and Unitarian attitudes and perceptions regarding sexual growth, relationships, and those espoused by Islam or Hinduism, it is easy to understand why traditions, culture, and heritage can have such a large impact on how any given individual views sexuality, gender roles, taboos, and more.

Human Sexuality And Christian Beliefs

Christianity incorporates a multitude of faiths and beliefs. From Catholicism to Lutheranism, Protestantism, Unitarianism, the Christian Fellowship in the United States and around the world offers blends of liberalism, conservatism, and everything in-between when it comes to ideas regarding sexual behaviors and faith.

The Bible commands reaches of the Earth's to "be fruitful and multiply". Indeed, throughout history, and in Biblical writings, God appears to approve regarding human sexuality and reproduction.

For example, Biblical verses encouraging reproduction are found throughout the Old Testament, most frequently in the book of Genesis:

Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both the fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creep up upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth (Genesis 8:17; 9:1).

I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be a fee, and kings shall come out of thy loins (Genesis 35:11).

It can be said that many passages found within the Holy Bible exude romance and the intimacy of human relationships, including the Song of Solomon. The Holy Bible is also one that makes its point regarding human sexuality and behavior clear to readers. Sexual terms, stories, and expectations when it comes to sex and sexual behaviors and relationships have made it clear that sexual interaction is part of the human condition.

Many passages within the Bible are commentaries on the hypocrisy of humanity through the ages. According to Christian belief, God created the earth and everything on it, including humans, and every aspect of human growth and development, including human sexuality.

Sexual attitudes and behavior have changed over the centuries, but one aspect of humanity cannot be denied, and that is that the world's oldest profession (prostitution) has been around since the dawn of man. During the Middle Ages and well into the Victorian era, sexual behavior was considered sinful for many Christians. As a matter of fact, by the eighth century, inhabitants throughout Europe were severely penalized and punished for anything that was considered immoral sexual behavior.

Martin Luther, a major force in the Reformation, attacked such beliefs and attitudes by proclaiming that God did not save by the works of man, but through grace. Martin Luther, a former monk, eventually married and had children. Luther, like others of his time, believed that human works and efforts such as fasting, good works, depriving the body, sexual abstinence, self-effort, and church donations (for the express purpose of gaining favors from God) did not contribute toward man's salvation, but that such salvation was gained from the grace of God. Not by works of righteousness which we had done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5).

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9). The mass of Christians today believe that man can be saved only through faith in Jesus Christ and that salvation is a free gift from God.

Today, beliefs within the Christian faith as well as Roman Catholic Church doctrine has ever so slowly begun to turn away from anti-sexual teachings. Many Christians today accept their human sexuality as a natural gift of God as well as one that has been God ordained. In 1981, Rachel Moss edited a documentary report created by the British Council of Churches, which says in part:

Sex is created and instituted by God in the very beginning! God is the author of genuine pleasure, genuine happiness, genuine fleshly satisfaction, even sex!" All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). Including your sexual organs, your body, and every part of you. If sex is a sin, then God is a sinner, because He made it and He created us to have it and enjoy it!

God is the God of the body, the God of sex - He made your flesh in His image! "God created man in His Own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them" (Genesis 1:27). Praise God for sex! He created it!

Over the centuries, church board members and policymakers have begun to either reject or accept sexual teachings and practices that have developed over centuries of tradition and beliefs. In many instances, it is believed that negative teachings regarding sex were to blame for literally driving many individuals away from Christian churches and fellowships because of the over-emphasis on guilt, shame, confusion and frustration.

One particularly outspoken individual, Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest, believed that the Catholic church’s obsession and focus on sin, sex, and celibacy was an early driving force behind the attitudes of early traditional church teachings that generated and stoked many of today's attitudes regarding women and sex. Indeed, in early Catholic teachings, women and sex were often the focal point of blame for immorality, diseases, and unfaithful or unclean leanings, as well as leading individuals away from God.

Today, attitudes continue to change. Indeed, concepts of intimacy, love and affection are often used in therapeutic psychological and physical treatments for many. Christine E. Gudorf, author of Body, Sex, and Pleasure: Reconstructing Christian Sexual Ethics writes, "Sex is pleasurable in many different ways. Mere body touch is pleasurable. Another person's touch on our skin normally releases chemical compounds called endorphins,which function as painkilling anesthetics. We actually seem to need the pleasure of touch. Infants denied physical touch do not thrive. They do not grow, do not eat or sleep well. They do not develop normally intellectually and emotionally... elderly persons who are touched affectionately often retain their health and their alertness much longer, and complained of pain less than those deprived of touch. The therapeutic aspect of touch is one reason for the popularity of massage."

[QN.No.#42.According to Christine E. Gudorf, another person's touch on our skin normally releases chemical compounds called :]

Religious concepts involving sexual behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs, as well as what is generally considered acceptable or unacceptable is defined by religious doctrine, tradition, and each individual's personal faith. For example, in many religions, extramarital sex is frowned upon. So to are same-sex relationships, bestiality, and prostitution, just to name a few. Concepts of adultery and promiscuity are often at the base of morality lessons found both in the Holy Bible as well as in many church doctrines.

As with many other religions and faiths, the concept of human sexuality doesn't often coincide with religious teachings and expectations. However, according to David Brent Berg:

"The measure of a sexuality that accords with the New Testament is simply this: the degree to which he rejoices in the whole creation, in what is given to others as well is to each of us, while enabling us always to be the final word to God, who is the beginning and end of all things.

Sex is created and commanded by God for your enjoyment, unity, fellowship, procreation, and a type of his own relationship with us in the spirit. God uses sex as a tool to keep men and women together in beautiful harmony and having children and families and a happy, loving home. He wants you to have sex not only for your own physical enjoyment and satisfaction, but also to produce human beings, immortal souls for the kingdom of God!"

Morality and Sexuality

In the 1950s, Unitarian Universalism was born, a religion that focuses less on scriptures as well as Christian traditions in order to adopt beliefs that people should have the freedom to choose which sexual behaviors are permissible or moral according to their own sexual orientation and beliefs.

The Reverend Meg Riley, of the Unitarian Universalist Association of congregations is a religious educator in many Unitarian Universalist congregations. In her faith, congregations take a different approach to sexuality and religion. This approach basically focuses on the fact that sexuality is "not about having sex." On the contrary, sexuality is how humans are meant to understand their relational existence in the world.

According to Reverend Riley:

"Human sexuality is an aspect of life which can allow us to experience God's love for our bodies and our souls. The sacred is known in radical mutuality, interdependence, and the sheer knowing that our own joy and fulfillment are so inseparable from that of others. We experienced something akin to God’s universal love when we experience the drenching recognition of love for other as being inseparable from love of self. Such recognition may take place in the lover’s arms or at the homeless shelter, walking in the woods or giving a presentation at work.

At its most profane, of course, sexuality can induce shame, a sense of brokenness, and disregard for ourselves, for others, and for God. We know God through our relationship with one another. But we lose track of right relationship with the holy when we objectify another, when we irresponsibly use power to betray someone else's vulnerability, when we lack self-respect or comfortable boundaries to protect our or their health and safety Sexuality is not simple, and this culture offers far too many messages that say it is a commodity to be bought or sold rather than a mighty cosmic force to be aligned with...

And we don't look for one-size-fits-all answers. God did not create a universe of cookie-cutter homogeny but rather a thriving web of complex and diverse ecosystems. This is true in the natural world and the human world as well. A radically loving God does not expect people to fit into narrow cultural norms of body size, sexual orientation, physical ability, marital status, or other modes of life. Rather are Universalist faith tells us that being created in God's image means being part of a vast, complex, in perfect inter-dependent system.

As can be determined from the above passages and beliefs, it is understood and recognize that each individual within the Christian faith, regardless of denomination, reaches his or her own conclusions and beliefs regarding not only the teachers of the holy Bible, but the teachings and doctrines of various denominations found within Christianity.

Buddhism and Sex

Buddhism is a religious belief practiced around the world, with originations in the Orient. Buddhism is a faith that doesn't advocate extreme permissiveness or Puritanism, but teachings within this faith believe that Buddha understood human nature and knew that humans were sexual in nature. Therefore, the Buddhist attitude and outlook generally encourages the following behavior pattern for young men:

He avoids unlawful sexual intercourse, and abstains from it. He has no intercourse with girls still under the protection of father or mother, brother, sister, or relative; nor with married women, nor female convicts; nor lastly with betrothed girls.

For many Buddhists, sexual feelings or offenses aren't necessarily considered wicked, and that failures to live up to expectations regarding sexual behavior are no more or less serious than failures to live up to other guidelines and expectations of the Buddhist concepts of existence.

Unlike Christianity, Buddhism does not create commandments for men to follow. On the contrary, "it is an undertaking by you to yourself, to do your best to observe a certain type of restraint, because you understand that it is a good thing to do. This must be clearly understood. If you don't think it is a good thing to do, you should not undertake it. If you do think it is a good thing to do, but doubt your ability to keep it, you should do your best, and probably, you can get some help and instruction to make it easier. If you feel it is a good thing to attempt to tread the Buddhist path, you may undertake this and other precepts, with sincerity, in this period.”

For example, there is a similarity between Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism when it comes to adultery. Traditional Christian attitudes regarding sexual intercourse are that it is permissible within a marital bond and relationship. Other than that, sexual behavior for other means than procreation grows complicated in regard to homosexual behavior and the desire for contraception.

Buddhist attitudes regarding sexual pleasure as sinful are not as clear as those found in other faiths. The concept of sin is not particularly applicable in Buddhism, which believes and relies on the Five Precepts rather than say, the structure of the Ten Commandments. On the contrary, Buddhist attitudes rely more on concepts that "sexual indulgence is not wicked, but it may be in some degree inadvisable." In all things, moderation is advised.

The Buddhist religion, like others found throughout the world, has developed basic ideas regarding marriage. However, while Christianity considers marriage as a "sacrament", Buddhism generally "blesses" a couple after a civil wedding ceremony. Basically, Buddhists believe that a couple's desire to practice contraception is their own business, but there is no Buddhist teaching that either bans or approves it. However, abortion is not condoned, as it is contrary to the First Precept. Only in cases of serious health hazards is abortion condoned.

Like Christianity, adultery is frowned upon in the Buddhist religion. While some Buddhists do not consider adultery to be specifically wicked, Buddhists are encouraged to "behave themselves sexually" as in other respects and aspects of their environment and to display and exercise charity when it comes to the faults or lapses of others.

In many cultures around the world, it has been acceptable for boys, but not girls, to engage in sexual behavior before marriage. Buddhism teaches that most human beings make mistakes. Self-restraint is advised!

Sex and religion within the Buddhist, Christian and Roman Catholic Church, as well as Islam, Judaism and other religions around the world are often different, although at times, attitudes and religious laws regarding sexual behaviors are quite similar.

In the Buddhist faith, sex is an expression, though sexual restraint is encouraged to avoid cravings and lustful thoughts. Irresponsible sexual behavior, in the Buddhist religion, may cause harm to others, bring unwanted children into the world, and affect other people's emotional and psychological peace and security.

According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, individuals “whose karmic predispositions destined them for rebirth in human form see couples in sexual union and experience desire for an attractive member of the opposite sex among those couples. By this desire they thereupon find themselves drawn into the womb and reborn - which was not at all what they wanted!”

According to Buddhist teachings, four stages are involved in the path to Full Enlightenment. Within Buddhism, control of any temptation is gained by concentrative meditation practices that still the mind. The true Buddhist way helps believers achieve their goals, and there is no forcing involved.

In the Buddhist religion, sex in and of itself is neither good nor bad but can create difficulties. Within ideals of sex in many faiths, from Christianity to Buddhism monogamous marriage and positive and beneficial behaviors regarding human sexuality are encouraged.

Hinduism and Sexuality

Hinduism is an ancient religion that offers different views regarding sexual morality that differs according to geographic regions and sects. Sexual imagery in Hinduism is prominent, although sexual self-restraint is encouraged in order for an individual to spiritually advance him or herself toward developing their karma (positive earthly action), dharma (social duties and obligations), and kama (physical pleasure) and artha (material prosperity or achievement).

In many geographic locations, Hindus view premarital as well as extramarital sex to be immoral. Similar to the Buddhist view of enlightenment, such behaviors outside of marriage are damaging to the life stages that Hindus are compelled to follow in order to attain Moksha, which is similar to the Nirvana of Buddhist beliefs.

Among Hindus, heterosexual monogamy as well as live-in relationships are considered legal, though the state of India continues to fail to recognize same-sex unions. However, even though there are no specific restrictions regarding sexual behaviors, sexuality is considered to be intensely private among Hindus.

One of the most popular and well-known documents regarding Hinduism is the Kama Sutra, by Vatsayana, which many believe to be a mere sexual "how-to", but actually is a study of society, ethical, and sexual morals they were practiced at the time the book was written.

Judaism And Human Sexuality

Judaism is an ancient and respected religion that is based on the teachings of the Torah. The Jewish Hebrew Bible not only sanctions monogamous relationships, but also prohibits adultery as well as certain behaviors within the Jewish faith. Judaism offers traditional views against homosexuality, incest, and adultery. The differences between Orthodox and Conservative Judaism also offer different views regarding sexual relationships, sexual activities within a marriage unit, as well as those that guide divorce.

Traditional beliefs according to Judaism understand that reproduction and sex are among holy acts that follow and maintain biblical teachings regarding relationships within marriage.

Orthodox Judaism prohibits immoral thoughts, as well as an individual from staring at someone of the opposite sex. Orthodox Judaism also requires that the body be clothed respectably, and generally require everyone to avoid pictures or images that may be potentially sexually arousing. Orthodox Judaism prohibits an individual from wearing the clothing of members of the opposite sex, as well as hugging or kissing a spouse in public.

On the contrary, conservative Judaism has eased prohibitions observed by their more Orthodox brothers, in particular restrictions regarding lesbian and gay relationships and marriages. Conservative Judaism can be considered to be literally sitting on the fence between liberal as well as traditional views regarding many sexual behavior and matters.

Indeed, Reconstructionist and Reformed Judaism followers don't necessarily observe traditional sexuality expectations and have been known to welcome homosexual couples as well as non-married couples into their congregations, even endorsing homosexual commitment ceremonies and marriages.

Sex and Islam

Like other religions around the world, concepts of sexuality within Islam are quite different than those perceived by Christians, or Buddhists. In many cultures, it's important for everyone to understand the variety of beliefs and teachings of any faith in order to understand their own. Muslims are different than non-Muslims in their way of life as well as their belief and value systems. Like many other cultures around the world, Muslim children are told to avoid alcohol, not to eat pork, not to take drugs, and not to engage in premarital sex.

Islam basically discourages the concept of celibacy as a religious practice because it believes that marriage regulates sexual temptations, desires, and relationships of the human race.

While Islam recognizes sexual needs, and the power of such needs, and the subject of sexuality is discussed in the Quran as well as in the sayings of Prophet Mohammed, such discussions are limited to marital and family life experiences. The Islam faith doesn't consider either men or women as objects of sexual pleasure. Sex outside of marriage in the Islamic faith is punishable, while sex with a spouse is considered to be an act of worship. In the Islamic world, virginity is a virtue.

The Quran, the Holy writings of the Islamic faith, mentions aspects regarding reproduction, sex, and creation. For example:

  • “Did We not create you from a sticky fluid?, Which We laid up in a safe abode, for a known term. Thus We arranged, how excellent is Our arrangement".
  • “So let men consider from what he has created. From a gushing fluid the issues between the lion and the ribs.”
  • “Verily We created man from a product of wet earth, then placed him in a drop in a safe lodging, then We fashioned the clot into a little lump, then We fashioned the lump into bonds, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it as another creation. So blessed to be Allah, the best of creators".
  • “Your women are a tilth for you, so enjoy your tilth the way you wish, and make an introduction to yourself.”

The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said:

  • When one of you have sex with your wife it is a reward will act of charity". The companions were surprised and asked, "but we do it out of our desire, how can it be counted as a charity?". The Prophet replied "if you had done with the forbidden woman, it would have been counted as a sin, but if you do it in legitimacy it is counted as a charity?".
  • "Let not the one of you fall upon his wife like a beast falls. It is more appropriate to send a message before the act".
  • "Do not do both secrets of your sex with your wife to another person, nor describe her physical feature to anyone".

When it comes to adultery, Allah states in the Quran:

  • "Do not come near to adultery. Surely it is a shameful deed and Evil, opening roads to an other evils".
  • "Say: Verily, my Lord has prohibited the shameful deeds, be it open or secret, sins and trespasses against the truth and reasons".
  • "Women impure are for men impure, and men impure are for women impure and women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity".

In the Islamic world, adultery is a crime against society. Illegal sex is prohibited, as is anything that leads to illegal sex.
These concepts include provocative clothing, dating, nudity, pornography, obscenity, and free mixing of the sexes. Dress codes in Islamic societies are designed to protect men and women from temptation and to prevent them from losing self-control and engaging in sinful behavior.

Islam encourages marriage and considers it a contract witnessed by Allah. Says the Prophet Mohammed:

  • "Marriage is my tradition. He who rejects my tradition is not of me".
  • "Marriage is half of the religion, the other half is being God-fearing".

Homosexuality is forbidden in the Islamic faith, while acts of sodomy are punishable by death.


It can be seen that views regarding human sexuality, sexual conduct, and standards of morality between religions and religious faiths differ widely. Psychologists, counselors, psychiatrist, and teachers as well as laypeople should be familiar with the different aspects of the attitudes and behaviors that are based on religious teachings and beliefs.

This lesson has not intended to offer an in-depth study of various religious beliefs regarding human sexuality or sexual behavior, but merely as a starting point for individuals to understand the differences in concept, morals, virtues, and guidelines of different religions when it comes to relationships, viewpoints, concepts of sexuality, as well as sexual behavior and attitudes.

Every individual perceives his or her sexual behavior within the concept of religion in a different light, and as such, should be discussed and understood by individuals entering relationships, as well as communications between individuals in and of different social environments and psychosocial environments.

Since the birth of television and cinema, attitudes and behaviors regarding sex, human sexuality, and sexual behavior has changed. Sexual behaviors in the workplace as well as concepts of beauty have become prevalent and prominent in social media, which plays a powerful role in the development of attitudes and behaviors. Such influences will be explored in the next lesson and will help individuals to understand as well as recognize such concepts as sexual harassment, expectations and morals within the workplace.

Human Sexuality > Chapter 8
Page Last Modified On: February 16, 2015, 07:45 PM