“I sincerely think that consider chastity as a simple abstinence from sex means to reduce and even change a bit its significance. Within a couple relationship the choice to abstain from sex for religious reasons made by only one of the two guys can be not really shared and therefore, in this case, is substantially imposed to the another. It would be like trying to fast for religious reasons by imposing fasting also to other people. Add that there are situations where shared sexuality has a so large affective value in determining the well-being of the other that refraining from sex for religious reasons ends to be identified with a lack of love towards those who really need it. I mean that sexuality is far from being just selfish and avoid it, sometimes, may be more a gesture of pride than an act of love. I will try to publish a post today about the meaning of the prohibitions on religious grounds, given according to a secular perspective and I’ll try to consider two concepts:
I shall now deal with concrete matters as always starting from the facts.
It is a fact that religions propose to believers rules to follow, some rules are moral codes that are shared by the majority of non-believers (such as “do not kill”, “Do not bear false witness”, etc..) and don’t need any justification because are considered pillars of civil life, while others doesn’t find any objective justification, so that precepts as monogamy that are considered essential by some religions are not at all by others. Some of these precepts derive from traditions and may have some historical very remote justifications that have been lost over the centuries, although despite this, the observance of the precepts remains mandatory. It is the assumed absolute and not historical dimension of religions which makes for them at least theoretically impossible to adequate to present historical situation.
Many rules about food and sex, seen from a secular point of view, are quite formal and apparently unmotivated. The prohibition of eating certain types of meat or fish that are food commonly used by other people does not find any reason except the fact that “it is mandatory”, and is accepted on the basis of a principle of authority and therefore its violation constitutes “formally” a fault. Let’s talk about faults in the sense that they are considered to be such by those who follow that religion, because for the others are facts entirely indifferent.
Certain requirements such as “not eating meat on Friday”, who were only formal, created, in times not very distant, considerable guilt. But I would deal mainly with prohibitions related to sexuality, that even today, and presumably for very long periods, will continue to affect human behavior and create suffering.
The moral, as well as historical religions conceive it, does not look at the “moral” substance of the facts but stops to assumptions and categories only formal and this happens especially in sexual matters. The prejudice becomes precept and shows the power of the authority in the name of which some behavior (or some omission), by itself completely meaningless or even harmful, is required. No one tries to explain the meaning of these precepts, because their sense comes only by the principle of authority. Rational analysis could weaken these precepts showing that are not needed and sometimes are inappropriate and even harmful. Obedience is usually presented to children as the highest virtue. The good child does what parents want, if he acts like this, he will be gratified, if he doesn’t he has to face a more or less serious guilt. Guilt creates psychological subjection and dependence and thus confirms the principle of authority by the need to be forgiven.
We go down in the concrete. Chastity, seen as abstaining from sex is considered a virtue and the exercise of sexuality is considered a vice, which is transformed into a virtue only when sexuality is exercised in order to procreate. These statements, which are theoretically shared by many people, are pure prejudice.
Psychology teaches that sexuality lived in a peaceful, spontaneous and uninhibited climate and then in a non transgressive way, is a key condition of well-being, despite this, chastity is considered a virtue and sexuality, if not for procreation, a vice . Why does this happen? The “rational” explanation (for those who believe of course it’s a nonsense) lies in the mechanism prohibition / transgression / guilt / need for forgiveness that strengthens the authority of those who support the prohibition and administer the forgiveness. If the prohibition is easy to comply with the guilt is quite rare and the authority cannot realy be reinforced, but if the prohibition or condemnation is about sexuality and it is an absolute prohibition, virtually and sometimes substantially “against nature” (e.g. the prohibition of masturbation), the transgression is unavoidable and through the mechanism of forgiveness the strengthening of the authority which imposes and manages the prohibition is very clear.
It is said by many that all religions lead to the repression of sexuality and the discourse seems realistic and could be summed up like this: a guy who would have a free sexuality if he comes within the orbit of a religion is conditioned and begins to repress his sexuality. Religion is the cause and the repression of sexuality would be the effect. But why if so many guys come to religion and only some of them end up sexually repressed remaining in that religion while others who approached religion then turn away? The answer is easily found if, instead of saying that the adherence to a religion is the cause of sexual repression, we invert the reasoning and realize that are the guys who are sexually repressed who eventually adhere to certain religions because within those religions their sexual self-repression is considered a merit if not a form of holiness.
It’s surprising that Christianity, that at the level of Gospel, is the religion of love of neighbor, that is the religion of “doing” good actions for the neighbor (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, etc..) is rather widely understood as the religion of “do not”, of “stay away” of “not be defiled”. In essence, unfortunately, instead of feel guilty when you omit to “do” the good that you can do, you end up feeling guilty when you “do” something that is prohibited only because it is prohibited, even if the prohibition has no other motivation beyond the strengthening of the authority who manages it.
If religion was lived within the personal conscience considered the supreme judge of the morality of the actions instead of being consecrated only by the subordination to an external authority, how many prohibitions would continue to exist? The level of morality would decrease? Frankly I do not think so. Why delegate the choices of our conscience to an external authority? Why are we so afraid of just being men? Why give up the freedom to think?