Sex and Religion

Attitudes towards sex seem rather different between atheists and mainstream religions. Mainstream religions have developed strong moral messages regarding human sexuality. Engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage and for reasons other than procreation are regarded as sinful.

I am not going to debate the religious perspectives. I merely ask: why does the abandonment of religion lead to radically different views on sexuality?

The same cannot be said for other behaviors where morality plays a role. Both atheists and theists reject murder, stealing and lying. Why such disagreement in scxual matters?

I don’t know why religious attitudes are as they are, although I am aware of various theories about it. Religious attitudes were developed before contraception was a widespread practice. So, intact families and care for children may have had something to do with the development of these attitudes.

The “modern” atheistic view is that contraception frees us from the need to regulate or restrict sexuality. Out-of-wedlock children are no longer a central issue (unless the contraception fails, which is relatively rare). Therefore, why place any moral restrictions on human sexuality? Sex can be viewed as a kind of “sport”, or just another activity that brings us pleasure. Use contraception and enjoy the pleasures of sex, no strings attached. Why is sex a sin if it does not lead to unwanted pregnancy?

To me, this divergence of attitudes towards human sexuality is a mystery. Can atheists defend the perspective that sex is a sport? Human sexuality involves our deepest emotions and connections with others. Should it be engaged in lightly? A deep belief in human dignity and worth is a common bond at the core of both religion and atheistic humanism. Human dignity and worth should inform our sexual activities, and prevent us from using others as sexual entertainment machines. This is at the core of attitudes towards sexuality: how we view other people. Are people of sacred value, or just objects we use to gratify ourselves? That is a central question.

Those who are religious will follow the dictates of their religion, few questions asked (usually). Those who do not follow a religion ought to consider how their views on human sexuality fit into their overall world view. Perhaps religion has some useful perspectives to offer as regards human sexuality, derived from a base of belief in human self-worth. Atheists ought to consider whether certain forms of sexual restraint lead to greater joy, because of the positive philosophy underlying such restraint. Pleasure is nice, but there are other gifts to our souls that restraint may bring.


About Anthony Mannucci

A physicist (yours truly) turns his attention to many subjects...

Posted on November 30, 2014, in Culture, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Religious views on sexuality and family are consistent with human nature and the natural world.

    Sexual reproduction is a product of evolution.

    Promiscuous sexuality, that is sexuality outside of wedlock, is contrary to human nature because, like overeating, it is the use of appetite, not for survival but for pleasure only.

    There are activities that that can be engaged in for pleasure only, but our appetites evolved for survival only.

    Consequently, promiscuous sex is an assault on our human nature.

  2. Atheism is not a world view. It says nothing about contraception or sex. In this you have totally misharacterized atheism and atheists. I accept your apology.

    Being atheist, contraception is not about freedom to have sex, it is about freedom to act responsibly and choosing when to have children rather than let them spring up left right and center. The theist attitude seems to indicate that all people should be prepared at all times to raise children because that is the purpose in life. This leaves no room for anything else. This idea says that a family with 4 children who barely have enough to eat can have more children because god wants that where non-religion says let’s not do that. The god-man jesus says he’ll look after the little children but there is a child starving to death every 6 seconds or so on this planet. If you ask me he’s doing a shitty job.

    Your post in favor of the Jesus guy is just promoting bad behaviors because you think your book gives you the right to mess up the system as long as you think you’re doing what your god wants. I think you’re deluded.

    That is unless you are Thomist and think that sex is ONLY for procreation. If that’s true, I have some bad news for you. The hormones in our bodies that you think your god gave us don’t give a flying fsck. They tell us to mate often and make babies without regard to responsibiliities like raising them, feeding them, or nurturing them. Over all, it is theists who propose the least effective procreation scheme, whether you like it or not.

  3. I did not state atheism is a world view. I stated that atheists have a world view.

    I am not suggesting that religious views should be adhered to by atheists. Are certain religious views outdated? Yet, do they hold the seeds of something valuable? Not all religions are against contraception, although some are.

    You have spent time criticizing religion. As an atheist, what is your view of human sexuality? Now that you have the choice of avoiding procreation, do you view sex as a sport? Is there any reason to abstain from sex? Is not engaging in sex a sign that one is “inhibited” in some unnatural way, or are there reasons for sexual restraint?

  4. Religion suppresses sex and teaches abstinence, for several reasons. Going back to the fact that Church is a man-made institution, it is ideal for them to teach that sex is bad, unless between a husband and wife, and for procreation. Church and religion are by their very nature designed to regulate, and control people’s lives.

    Your quote, “ Atheists ought to consider whether certain forms of sexual restraint lead to greater joy, because of the positive philosophy underlying such restraint.”….I agree, as when one doesn’t have sex “all the time”, doesn’t it make it more intense and exciting when one finally does have it? But I wonder, do you assume that all atheists believe in no restraint or self-discipline? So, you believe they are like “A wild beast loosed upon this world”?

    I do not agree with “Silenceofmind’s” view that religious views on sexuality and family are consistent with human nature and the natural world. I believe that science has shown that men naturally, and may not realize that they try to “spread their seed” to as many women as possible. That seems more like nature to me. It may not be “right” to some people, but it is reality.

    I believe the French have absolutely nailed the act of sex as they call it, “La Petit Mort”, meaning, “the little death”, referring to the spiritual release that comes with orgasm or to a short period of melancholy or transcendence, the feeling after the occurrence of orgasm.

    I also believe that we need to have dignity and respect towards ourselves and others. The Internet is full of debauchery, hedonism is alive and prevalent today.

    I do not believe sex is a sin, there are few things in life we can truly enjoy, such as good food, good company, and good sex.

    • Thanks for a great comment!

      I do not assume that atheists have no sexual restraint. I am wondering about how atheism leads to sexual restraint. Is there an aspect of human dignity involved?

      Promiscuous sexuality may not violate the survival instinct. Neither do I trust research about what men want to do “naturally”. It is hard for me to believe that such research can really get at what people want, apart from the society they find themselves in.

      I am in no position to say that sex is a sin. I don’t quite see it, however, as “just another pleasure”.

  5. So what is your view on “sex”? In case you didn’t know, we are not the only animal that has sex for “pleasure”. It has been shown that chimpanzees also have sex just for fun. Interesting huh?

    • My view on “sex” (why are we quoting it?) is that we are better served if it is not viewed as just another pleasure. Does it need to be “protected” as an activity to the degree that religions do that? Not sure. For example, Islam is obsessed with gender and sexuality. Look at how differently women and men are expected to dress.

      I believe that giving sex a status other than “just another pleasure” is a good thing, from a spiritual perspective.

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