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Summary of World Views on Sexuality

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BIG QUESTIONS:    

Can you have sex for fun?
Is our society obsessed with sex?
Is contraception right?
Is it ok to be gay?
Is sex outside marriage acceptable?
Why is sex difficult?    
Why can’t we just enjoy sex with whoever we want?


COMMON THEMES:
All worldviews represented in the team share some important views, but also some clear differences:
•    Humanists (predictably?) were clearest and had least to say on this topic which was recognised by all as posing problems for modern societies – though perhaps not always for ancient societies and religions. Running through all contributions was a concern for the moral dilemmas surrounding sexual relations and a number of other common themes:
•    Sex is for mutual pleasure as well as procreation
•    There is a great variety of views and traditions within most religions/worldviews, individuals and societies about whether certain things are always right or wrong: masturbation, contraception, abortion, same-sex relationships
•    Sex can be dangerous - one can harm oneself and other people through thoughtless obsession or certain aggressive behaviour
•    Treating others as you wish to be treated means that unfaithfulness, adultery and promiscuity are usually wrong as well as causing common social problems such as sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies


DISTINCTIVE WORLDVIEWS:


The Humanist contribution emphasises:
•    Sex is a natural instinct and also highly enjoyable
•    Humanists do not automatically condemn certain behaviour such as premarital or gay sex
•    Sexual behaviour is moral if a) it doesn’t harm anyone else, b) if it makes you happy
•    Carelessness about one’s partner’s feelings (unfaithfulness) or sexual health (promiscuity/ HIV) is wrong


The Jewish contribution emphasises:
•    Marriage, sex and having babies is a fundamental commandment of God
•    Sex in marriage should be regular and enjoyable for both partners
•    Traditional weddings emphasise male predominance; liberal Jews emphasise equality and there is now a format for same-sex ceremonies in parts of Judaism (not Orthodox!)
•    The bride and groom are celebrated equally as King and Queen
•    Contraception using condoms and masturbation are seen as wasting God’s gift of seed; adultery is forbidden; celibacy is not favoured


The Muslim contribution emphasises:
•    Sex is an essential human need which is fulfilled only through marriage (celibacy not favoured)
•    Any sexual or physical contact outside marriage is unlawful; premarital sex or contact, adultery, homosexual relations - even ‘lewd glances’
•    Mutual enjoyment of the body is as important as having children
•    Love, companionship and care for women are essentials of a good marriage


The Sikh contribution emphasises:
•    Marriage and regular sexual fulfilment is a natural and positive condition for humans - celibacy and renunciation of sex is specifically denounced by the Gurus
•    Sex before marriage, adultery, promiscuity and forced or excessive sex within marriage are all forbidden
•    Sex is for mutual enjoyment as well as procreation
•    Contraception is acceptable: abortion is not (except after rape)
•    Same-sex relationships were not specifically mentioned by the Gurus and so are tolerated by some groups, but not favoured
•    A healthy, positive attitude to the body and sex is encouraged


The Buddhist contribution offers quite a contrast:
•    Buddhism sees sex and sexuality as a natural function based on mutual consent
•    Training your mind and spirit to handle your earthly desires is seen as more important
•    Celibacy is seen as a virtuous way of life - for monks and others seeking spiritual growth
•    On issues like same-sex relations, masturbation, sexual practice outside traditional norms Buddhism encourages you to explore and understand your behaviour
•    Suppressing/repressing your sexual energy is not recommended - rather you should seek to understand and move beyond physical desires and their satisfaction


The Christian contribution emphasises:
•    Most Christians today reject the view that our bodies are sinful - we should enjoy sex as a gift from God
•    Marriage and children have been seen as the proper context for sex - between men and women
•    Adultery, same-sex physical relationships, promiscuity, prostitution, masturbation have been condemned
•    But in some Bible stories - such as Adam and Eve – sex is recommended to be enjoyed
•    Celibacy - i.e., no relationship apart from with God - has been a Christian tradition
•    Currently there is great debate and controversy in the Christian Churches on sex and sexuality and Christians have to make their own decisions


The Hindu contribution emphasises:
•    Sexuality as part of the fulfilment of sensual desires is one of the four goals
•    However, unrestrained indulgence is not recommended: a balance should be maintained with higher goals, and excessive attachment to sex is harmful.  Celibacy can be a good thing
•    Moral principals (dharma) support marriage – restraint before and fidelity after
•    British rule and puritan values imparted unhealthy and repressive attitudes, as did American misunderstandings of tantric sex
•    Modern values – on divorce, remarriage, homosexuality – are compatible with Hinduism