The Questionnable Legitimacy of Non-practitionners of Religion in Regards to Sexuality
The topic of this paper is “The questionable legitimacy of non-practitioners of religion in regard to sexuality.” The purpose of this research was to provide information to demonstrate that religion and sexuality are generally two divergent concepts. The difficulties presented supported this purpose. Nonetheless, the conclusion of this paper clearly intended to convey that this problem is more complex than it initially appears. We cannot have a straightforward opinion due to the myriad of interpretations and factors that intervene.
Our society has experienced significant changes within the last few decades.
This has been demonstrated by the rise of new mentalities and ways of thinking. Some of these ideas, which were not mainstream in the past, have become more accepted by society, particularly those centering around sexuality. The debates that emerge from this topic are numerous and problematic.
As one can imagine, the direct obstacle these new views confront is religion. The purpose here is not to be judgmental but to provide an understanding of the contentious relationship between religion and sexuality. Being aware of this, the central issue of this paper is to present the problems associated with conforming sexuality to religious norms, whether it be regarding sexual behaviors or sexual orientations.
Ethics and customs lie at the heart of most world religions. Some religions consider sexual intercourse to be a sacred act between a man and a woman that should only occur within the confines of marriage. Other religions state that particular forms of sexual intercourse are immoral or sinful or that sex is exclusively for reproduction. Attitudes towards birth control, polyamory, or abortion, or whether or not people should engage in sexual activity before marriage, are often religious beliefs, and these are the primary proscribed behaviors.
According to the Interfaith Working Group, “In some religions, sexual behavior is regarded as primarily spiritual. In others, it is treated as primarily physical. Some hold that sexual behavior is only spiritual within certain kinds of relationships, when used for specific purposes, or when incorporated into religious ritual. In some religions, there are no distinctions between the physical and the spiritual, while others view human sexuality as a way of bridging the gap that exists between the spiritual and the physical.”
In addition, sex has become increasingly commodified nowadays due to the hypersexualization of society. This phenomenon is prevalent in social media, TV programs, etc. People, including religious practitioners, are less likely to follow the codes and rules of religion. As a direct consequence, most religions have lost power and influence. This trend will likely worsen with time.
One of the religions whose practitioners remain strict on adhering to its principles is Islam. According to Adamczyk, “Some cross-national and attitudinal studies find that Muslims and Hindus tend to have more conservative sex-related attitudes than do Christians (Finke and Adamczyk 2008). In the few studies that survey people of different religions within the same nation, Muslims appear less likely than Christians to engage in premarital sex (Addai 2000)” (Adamczyk, 2012, p.5).
Conflict between sexual orientation and religion has always existed. These two concepts appear to be divergent. Sexual orientation has been defined in many domains such as sociology, psychology, etc. Its acceptance has increased through politics, particularly in western countries, and via media and TV programs. The common argument is usually about freedom of expression and activity. However, religion is one of society’s pillars. Therefore, this concept of freedom is limited when one seeks to conform to religious codes. Christianity is a clear example of this.
According to Hunt, “The biblical texts directly condemning homosexuality are, in fact, few and far between. Other texts inferring condemnation are often quoted to support them. These include references to the ‘normality’ of two-gender divine creation and the ideal of the heterosexual monogamous marriage. The more explicit texts generally referred to are in the Old Testament book of Leviticus which declares same-sex sexual relations between men as sinful and, in the eyes of God, an ‘abomination’.”
Such differences are explained by sexual morality, which can be defined as the beliefs and practices by which a culture or group regulates its members regarding sexual behaviors. Regarding sexual activity, many religions have guidelines. Some of them perceive sex as a means of reproduction only — a sacred thing — while others view it as a pursuit of pleasure. The rules in one culture, therefore, define whether someone is immoral or correct about sexuality. In fact, it is crucial to understand that the expectations and standards of one culture may not necessarily align with others and that generalizing the situation could lead to misinterpretation. Mentalities are changing, and religion is becoming less and less revered in terms of its sexual codes than in the past.
According to Burke, “When it comes to stereotypical attitudes against sex, the Religious Right appears to be fighting a losing battle. Recent survey data suggest that religious conservatives who support abstinence-only sex education, restrictions on marriage for gay couples, and bans on women’s access to abortion are outnumbered by a majority of Americans who oppose these views. Today, conservative religion seems to be losing cultural relevance as Americans are less strictly devout and are increasingly progressive when it comes to sexual attitudes and practices” (Burke, 2016, p.5).
Regarding sexual orientation, it differs from sexual behavior and reflects feelings and self-esteem. People express their sexual orientation or behavior in their attitudes, often suffering discrimination and injustice. Unfortunately, acceptance seems nearly impossible from a religious perspective.
According to Hunt, “Despite sophisticated hermeneutics and apologetics and irrespective of the fact that liberal Christians may have current civil rights legislation supporting their views of homosexuality, the reality is that they do not have the weight of Church history on their side. The early Christian Church, and traditionally the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and later the Protestant churches, have explicitly condemned same-sex sexual relations” (Hunt, 2009, p.13).
We recognize that some liberal churches have begun to form a different opinion on this topic. In fact, one might argue that these groups are not doing anything wrong because they aren’t offending anyone; while technically true, the issue is far more complex.
The question of legitimacy is challenging to address given that even if most religions have a firm stance on sexuality in general, there are still ongoing debates and contradictions on the topic. As a result, fully embracing one perspective necessitates forgoing the other.