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Posted: 30 November 2007 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Here’s a topic that isn’t usually addressed on here (from observations):

Why is sex wrong (according to religions). It is said that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but why? Why is marriage necessary for sex to be acceptable?

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Posted: 30 November 2007 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Morality regarding sex should be like morality for any other subject, determined by whether an action leads to happiness or suffering for others.

By that standard, sex outside of marriage is wrong because it involves betrayal and deception. Obviously that’s not an issue for couples who have “open marriages.” Some people claim that such arrangements lead to reduced intimacy and fulfillment from the relationship, and I suspect there are valid arguments for and against that claim. However, that type of claim is a psychological one and not a moralistic one.

I strongly suspect that fundamentalist Christian teachings about sex are based in opposition to all non-procreative sex, although the teachings don’t state this explicitly. It would explain why fundamentalism so strongly opposes homosexuality, masturbation, and contraception, even though none of these harms others. It would explain why fundamentalism fails miserably in making a moral distinction between adult consensual homosexuality and truly harmful things like pedophilia and bestiality.

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Posted: 30 November 2007 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Carstonio - 30 November 2007 02:18 PM

Morality regarding sex should be like morality for any other subject, determined by whether an action leads to happiness or suffering for others.

By that standard, sex outside of marriage is wrong because it involves betrayal and deception. Obviously that’s not an issue for couples who have “open marriages.” Some people claim that such arrangements lead to reduced intimacy and fulfillment from the relationship, and I suspect there are valid arguments for and against that claim. However, that type of claim is a psychological one and not a moralistic one.

I strongly suspect that fundamentalist Christian teachings about sex are based in opposition to all non-procreative sex, although the teachings don’t state this explicitly. It would explain why fundamentalism so strongly opposes homosexuality, masturbation, and contraception, even though none of these harms others. It would explain why fundamentalism fails miserably in making a moral distinction between adult consensual homosexuality and truly harmful things like pedophilia and bestiality.

First off, there are people who would dispute your definition of morality.  Given that, however, the idea that sex outside of marriage involves betrayal and deception is based on the belief that marriage partners somehow own the others sexuality.  Psychologically, this is a result of the strong attachments that are formed around sex (a biological survival mechanism) and the general biological necessity of protecting children.  While communal responsibility for child raising does show up in some cultures, the general way this has developed is in terms of the nuclear, or extended family and in extended families there are still pair bondings.  (Robert A. Heinlein to the contrary.) 

All of this is predicated on the fact that people in general are not sufficiently self-aware to manage their sexuality in an awake way.  Robert Anton Wilson posits that a persons mind and level of maturity is fixated at the time of their first orgasm—an exaggeration, but having some truth behind it: when a person finds culturally indicated and approved channels for addictive pleasure the general tendency is to plunge into them with gusto, and what one fantasizes about or holds as a focus of attention leading up to and during an orgasm is imprinted with that energy and can become a source of fixation (what does the Jewish American Princess think about during sex?  Shopping—what does she think about while shopping…?).  (And I’ve just given away the basic secret of advertising wink .)

Of course, at a different level, there is the conscious use of sexual energy as a means of awakening higher levels of consciousness, but that can be rather dangerous and is frowned upon by all right thinking people.

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Posted: 30 November 2007 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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“Why is sex wrong (according to religions). It is said that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but why? Why is marriage necessary for sex to be acceptable?”

The problem is not sex, it’s marriage. Much as religion is deemed an ancient and obsolete institution, one could say the same about marriage. In modern times, the main reason given for marriage was to prevent the shame of a child being born outside of wedlock. Now, children are just commodities. As women have gained autonomy, children have become no more important then a dozen eggs you buy at the supermarket. Birth control; abortion; adoption—first by single parents, later by same-sex couples; testtube babies; all make conventional marriage obsolete. It’s like war—what is it good for? You don’t need to be married to have sex, and you don’t need to have sex to have offspring. In fact, why have kids at all? There are plenty of young people around; let the next generation deal with the matter. Cull the species by attrition.

If a Jewish sex joke is required from each participant:

A rabbi and priest were sitting next to each other on a flight from New York to Miami. (It’s always New York to Miami—don’t know why.) The priest says to the rabbi “So what’s all this I hear about kosher foods? Do you really abstain from eating pork? Seems a bit silly, frankly.”
The rabbi says “Oh, sure, Jews have a whole list of foods we don’t eat, and pork is certainly one of them.”
And the priest says “Have you ever eaten pork, even accidentally?”
The rabbi replies “Oh, sure, I once was served bacon and eggs for breakfast, and politely ate it. Actually, the bacon was very tasty. By the way, what’s all this I hear about celibacy? That seems silly to me.”
The priest says “It’s true. We take an oath, and abstain from sex thereafter.”
The rabbi asks “Have you ever broken that vow?”
The priest replies “Well, there was this one time, a woman in the parish was seeing me for counselling, and one afternoon, things went a little too far, and we ended up having sex.”
The rabbi says “Now, see? Wasn’t that better than pork?”

.

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Posted: 30 November 2007 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Religious preoccupation with sex start with issues of paternity. The reason that feminine sexuality is condemned is because men became worried about the eternal question of “who’s the daddy?” As we entered into a paternalistic society, and we gained the notion of inheritance, men became more concerned about their property be passed on to their children. Only by suppressing and controlling feminine sexuality could men be certain that they were the author of their progeny. (I don’t know about anybody else, but there seems to be a growing industry for paternity testing in my state. Everywhere I go, I see those billboards asking the above question) This is also why virginity was held at such a premium, because if a woman had never known a man, in the biblical sense, one would seem to be guaranteed that one offspring was ones own.

On the other side, many cultures believed that, as with women, that men would eventually run out of seed, and become sterile. Because large populations were a necessity in times where life expectancy low, and few children survived infancy, the idea of non-reproductive sex became a liability. It was felt that men should not be frivolous in the expenditure of their seed, but how does one get people to stop doing something which is so natural? Tell them that the Big Daddy in the sky cries every time you spill your seed.

Or, to put it another way:

There are Jews in the world.
There are Buddhists.
There are Hindus and Mormons, and then
There are those that follow Mohammed, but
I’ve never been one of them.

I’m a Roman Catholic,
And have been since before I was born,
And the one thing they say about Catholics is:
They’ll take you as soon as you’re warm.

You don’t have to be a six-footer.
You don’t have to have a great brain.
You don’t have to have any clothes on. You’re
A Catholic the moment Dad came,

Because

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

Let the heathen spill theirs
On the dusty ground.
God shall make them pay for
Each sperm that can’t be found.

Every sperm is wanted.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood.

Hindu, Taoist, Mormon,
Spill theirs just anywhere,
But God loves those who treat their
Semen with more care.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God get quite irate.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed…
In your neighbourhood!

Every sperm is useful.
Every sperm is fine.
God needs everybody’s.
Mine!
And mine!
And mine!

Let the Pagan spill theirs
O’er mountain, hill, and plain.
God shall strike them down for
Each sperm that’s spilt in vain.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite iraaaaaate!

[ Edited: 30 November 2007 06:15 PM by Celsus]
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Posted: 30 November 2007 06:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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mcalpine - 30 November 2007 05:59 PM

The problem is not sex, it’s marriage. Much as religion is deemed an ancient and obsolete institution, one could say the same about marriage.

Couldn’t you have stopped here? If I were ignorant enough, I might say that spouses have become no more important than a dozen eggs you buy at the supermarket.

mcalpine - 30 November 2007 05:59 PM

In modern times, the main reason given for marriage was to prevent the shame of a child being born outside of wedlock. Now, children are just commodities. As women have gained autonomy, children have become no more important then a dozen eggs you buy at the supermarket. Birth control; abortion; adoption—first by single parents, later by same-sex couples; testtube babies; all make conventional marriage obsolete. It’s like war—what is it good for? You don’t need to be married to have sex, and you don’t need to have sex to have offspring. In fact, why have kids at all? There are plenty of young people around; let the next generation deal with the matter. Cull the species by attrition.

Your anciently-derived morality is showing, mcalpine. Nowadays you need to show your work/evidence/source or risk being a fool.

[ Edited: 30 November 2007 08:12 PM by nv]
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Posted: 30 November 2007 06:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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burt - 30 November 2007 03:09 PM

First off, there are people who would dispute your definition of morality.

What criteria do they use for judging the morality of actions? 

burt - 30 November 2007 03:09 PM

Given that, however, the idea that sex outside of marriage involves betrayal and deception is based on the belief that marriage partners somehow own the others sexuality.

Not necessarily. I’m talking about something much more basic. When you make a promise to someone and then break it, you cause harm to that person. That promise doesn’t have to involve the ownership you are talking about.

burt - 30 November 2007 03:09 PM

All of this is predicated on the fact that people in general are not sufficiently self-aware to manage their sexuality in an awake way.

That notion implies that people don’t know what is best for themselves, sexually or otherwise, and that people need “rules” for sex for their own good. Yuck.

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Posted: 30 November 2007 07:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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homunculus - 30 November 2007 11:38 PM

Your anciently-derived morality is showing, mcalpine. Nowadays you need to show your work/evidence/source or risking being a fool.

It sounded to me like McAlpine was calling for reduced autonomy for women in marriages and in society “for the sake of the children.”

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Posted: 30 November 2007 07:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Celsus, I hear that song in my head every time I read a discussion about sex and religion.

Celsus - 30 November 2007 11:13 PM

The reason that feminine sexuality is condemned is because men became worried about the eternal question of “who’s the daddy?”

I’m tempted to dismiss those men as small-minded and selfish, but that seems too simplistic. My question is, why did ancient societies become paternalistic in the first place?

Celsus - 30 November 2007 11:13 PM

Because large populations were a necessity in times where life expectancy low, and few children survived infancy, the idea of non-reproductive sex became a liability. It was felt that men should not be frivolous in the expenditure of their seed, but how does one get people to stop doing something which is so natural? Tell them that the Big Daddy in the sky cries every time you spill your seed.

Your point about non-reproductive sex is a good one. However, I doubt that the religious doctrine you mention was a conscious creation. That sounds too much like a conspiracy theory.

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Posted: 30 November 2007 07:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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“It sounded to me like McAlpine was calling for reduced autonomy for women in marriages and in society “for the sake of the children.””

Of course it did. That’s what you wanted to hear. I don’t really know any statistics on how many “My Two Dads” there are out there, but it makes you wonder—if a couple of gay dudes can find a kid to adopt, maybe Christians need to rethink their stance on abortion. Or at least let the guys get married, so the kid isn’t a bastard.

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Posted: 30 November 2007 07:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Carstonio - 30 November 2007 11:59 PM
burt - 30 November 2007 03:09 PM

First off, there are people who would dispute your definition of morality.

What criteria do they use for judging the morality of actions?

 

I’m not pointing to any “better criteria,” or “other criteria,” just recalling many of the debates that have gone on here trying to define morality, objective or otherwise. 

Carstonio - 30 November 2007 11:59 PM
burt - 30 November 2007 03:09 PM

Given that, however, the idea that sex outside of marriage involves betrayal and deception is based on the belief that marriage partners somehow own the others sexuality.

Not necessarily. I’m talking about something much more basic. When you make a promise to someone and then break it, you cause harm to that person. That promise doesn’t have to involve the ownership you are talking about.

As I see it, the very fact that promise is included in the marriage vows implicitly suggests ownership.  When I got married I made sure that it wasn’t in the vows—not because I intended to violate it, but to eliminate the implication of ownership. 

Carstonio - 30 November 2007 11:59 PM
burt - 30 November 2007 03:09 PM

All of this is predicated on the fact that people in general are not sufficiently self-aware to manage their sexuality in an awake way.

That notion implies that people don’t know what is best for themselves, sexually or otherwise, and that people need “rules” for sex for their own good. Yuck.

Isn’t that the way that the world operates right now?  The Catholic church certainly has enough rules governing sexual behavior, and there certainly are social rules that one violates at ones risk (no sex outside of marriage being a big one).  Just look around at the world as it is.  In Saudi Arabia a woman gets 200 lashes for “improper mingling” (sitting in a car with a man who is not a close male relative) and the judge who passed the sentence says that it was necessary to protect her husbands honor because who knows what she would do meeting alone with this man.  In many parts of the US through the 50s and 60s, and in some parts even today it is considered improper for a wife to have male friends other than her husband.  We may have come a long way, baby, but there is still a long way to go.

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Posted: 01 December 2007 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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mcalpine - 01 December 2007 12:58 AM

Of course it did. That’s what you wanted to hear. I don’t really know any statistics on how many “My Two Dads” there are out there, but it makes you wonder—if a couple of gay dudes can find a kid to adopt, maybe Christians need to rethink their stance on abortion. Or at least let the guys get married, so the kid isn’t a bastard.

I admit I don’t know what point you are making. Legal marriage provides for certain rights and responsibilities for the partners, as well as certain protection for the children. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that the stigma of out-of-wedlock births is going away, partly because the stigma was unjustly attached to the children. Still, there should be a way for society to value the protections that marriage offers for offspring without using shame.

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Posted: 01 December 2007 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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burt - 01 December 2007 12:58 AM

As I see it, the very fact that promise is included in the marriage vows implicitly suggests ownership.

I disagree. “Promise to love, honor, and cherish” doesn’t imply ownership. You have a point regarding the older vows where the bride said “love, honor, and obey” and the groom didn’t.

burt - 01 December 2007 12:58 AM

We may have come a long way, baby, but there is still a long way to go.

I agree. It sounded as if you were approving of those institutions deciding what is best for people, or worse, that you yourself were making those decisions. You said, “people in general are not sufficiently self-aware to manage their sexuality in an awake way.” The logical and unavoidable conclusion of your claim would be that people need rules and institutions to manage that sexuality for them.

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Posted: 01 December 2007 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Why should there be any privileges at all to the marriage institution in relation to the care of children?

Child carers, whether or not they are married, or the numbers of them, should be recognized for the crucial societal function they have “burdened” themselves with.

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Posted: 01 December 2007 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Carstonio - 01 December 2007 11:44 AM

I disagree. “Promise to love, honor, and cherish” doesn’t imply ownership. You have a point regarding the older vows where the bride said “love, honor, and obey” and the groom didn’t.

This is where I agree with (was it?) Jesus, and say that lusting in your heart is adultery enough. Where I disagree with (was it?) Jesus is as to just what can be done about that.

We can indeed control what we do, to some extent, but cannot control what we desire. The distortion of a relationship from being tempted by another is enough to send many marriages into a tailspin. They recover mainly through dogged determination, if they recover at all. All this rather than by “loving” and “cherishing” and “honoring”, which I term “woolly abstractions”.

I, for one, do not really see much difference, ownership-wise, between trying to control another’s actions and trying to control their thoughts. This is precisely analogous to the problem religions have with homosexuality. Distortion of affect.

burt - 01 December 2007 12:58 AM

We may have come a long way, baby, but there is still a long way to go.

One thing that will never go out of style is hand-wringing. The way I wring my hands is to ask plaintively what the prize is at the bottom of the crackerjack box. Hope for the best, with my blessings, but be ready for disappointment, folks. Placing some implied limits on the imagined degree of perfectibility of mankind would, I think be one place to start. Game theory is fascinating. I wish I knew more about it, and thus have set up my reading program for 2008.

[ Edited: 01 December 2007 07:20 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 01 December 2007 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Carstonio - 01 December 2007 11:44 AM
burt - 01 December 2007 12:58 AM

As I see it, the very fact that promise is included in the marriage vows implicitly suggests ownership.

I disagree. “Promise to love, honor, and cherish” doesn’t imply ownership. You have a point regarding the older vows where the bride said “love, honor, and obey” and the groom didn’t.

burt - 01 December 2007 12:58 AM

We may have come a long way, baby, but there is still a long way to go.

I agree. It sounded as if you were approving of those institutions deciding what is best for people, or worse, that you yourself were making those decisions. You said, “people in general are not sufficiently self-aware to manage their sexuality in an awake way.” The logical and unavoidable conclusion of your claim would be that people need rules and institutions to manage that sexuality for them.

But, does “love, honor, and cherish” imply sexual fidelity?  (And what about those vows that have terms about “no others”?)  The two aspects here, as I see them, are the abstract (they do not), and the pragmatic (they promise no action that could damage the other person, so what is important is how partner feelings about extra martial sex, not ones own abstractions). 

On the other hand, I’ve been trying for years to convince my wife about the “obey” part with zero success LOL

Regarding institutions that seek to control peoples sexual expression, no, I don’t approve of them but recognize that the only cure is education, which is not happening all that much in the world today.  Perhaps my idealism is showing.  grin

One question I occasionally ask myself, when projecting ideals for the future: would I, with my personal beliefs and cultural conditioning, be comfortable living it such societies?  It is an interesting exercise.

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