Abstinence Isn’t A Christian Idea

January 9, 2009 at 3:07 pm (Uncategorized)

Because Christians are the ones who are most visibly promoting abstinence in the HIV/AIDs epidemic, there seems to be this idea that abstinence is a “Christian” invention and belongs in the realm of Christian morality. I have a feeling that this is the reason some people are so adamant against it.

HOWEVER, don’t fear. You can promote abstinence without having to give into “close minded” Christian morality. This is the secret – Abstinence does not have its roots in Christianity, Islam, or any other terrible religion. It has it’s roots in society.

“Free-love”  has only really gained hold in the last 50 years since the “sexual revolution”. Don’t get me wrong… people have been having sex outside of marriage for thousands of years. However it is only a recent phenomena that it has become so openly practiced and accepted. It surprises me that we are so adamant about something so new and unproven – The people have to have their sex!

At the time of Chaka, the Zulus killed the man and woman if the woman was found pregnant. In the Arab world,  the man who ‘”defiled” a woman was killed or castrated. In America we have the concept of “shotgun weddings” – which were literally at the point of a shotgun. Still today in several African cultures, if you are found sleeping with someone’s daughter it is like stealing and you are forced to pay the bride price. Even polygamist cultures have recognized the importance of sex belonging in the marriage. These are just recent examples or society rejecting sex outside of marriage. An honest look at history will show the same trend.

I am not saying that punishment is good.

I am saying that abstinence has been around for a lot longer than the concept of multiple partners has and might be worth looking at.

Let’s not have the ad hominem reaction of rejecting abstinence just because we think of it as a moral issue. Whether you like what you think it stands for or not, the truth is that abstinence is a fail proof way of keeping ones self safe from STD and avoiding pregnancy*.

*Of course someone may be raped, or coerced into sex, but in that situation condoms and “choice” offer no help either.

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11 Comments

  1. Owen Swart said,

    “However it is only a recent phenomena that it has become so openly practiced and accepted.”

    That’s not strictly accurate. Some societies have been practicing premarital abstinence for centuries, but for others it’s a fairly recent development. Other cultures don’t practice it at all.

    It’s well known that, at least among the upper classes of ancient Rome, sexual promiscuity was the norm, not the exception. Only some time after their adoption of Christianity as the Imperial Religion did that turn around.

    I don’t disagree that Christianity is not the only religion that regulates the sexual behaviour of its adherents – most do. I think it was Christopher Hitchens who argued that regulation of sexual behaviour is one of the hallmarks of religion.

    Again, I don’t disagree that premarital abstinence has its benefits. If someone thinks that that’s the best strategy to follow, then they should follow it absolutely.

  2. atheisticreligion said,

    You have to admit that the majority of societies traditionally do not condone pre-marital sex – even though there have been the exceptions. Even those cultures which have allowed for sexual encounters, have had a strict code regulating them.

    I feel like you missed my point a bit though with you statement “I don’t disagree that Christianity is not the only religion that regulates the sexual behaviour of its adherents” …

    I was not trying to look at abstinence through a lens of religion, but through a lens of world history. Secular, religious, whatever… In fact, my point was that abstinence is NOT necessarily a religious issue.

    The issue I’m addressing is the seemingly illogical rejection of abstinence as a valid course of action. Of course not all people think this way, but there are definitely those for whom as soon as you mention abstinence, it is equated to morality, and thus is rejected. Is that proper skeptical method?

    Thank y

  3. Owen Swart said,

    Who does that?

  4. atheisticreligion said,

    There a lots of people who would be happy to be open minded about things, up until they think it is somehow related to religion – and then they close down.

    I see this all the time – and it is especially prevalent with people who work in NGO’s and UN programs having to do with HIV/AIDS and sexuality.

  5. Owen Swart said,

    Oh I see. We’re not talking about abstinence as a personal choice, we’re talking about it as a public health measure – a very different animal.

    I’ve never heard of an anti AIDS education campaign excluding abstinence from it’s message at all, let alone because it’s a “Christian Idea”.

    Although I have heard of Christian-funded anti-AIDS campaigns excluding everything but abstinence from their messages, despite the evidence showing that that strategy doesn’t work.

  6. atheisticreligion said,

    Unfortunately, you are correct in that many Christian-funded campaigns have focused on abstinence as the only thing.

    Unfortunately as well, it is all too common to see government ran campaigns that focus on condoms, and circumcision (circumcision?!) as 98% of their message. Abstinence is hardly mentioned — Honestly, how many “abstinence” billboards have you seen? How many “Trust Condoms” billboards have you seen?

    i suspect it’s because of the superstition that people physically cannot live without daily sex (i have heard this over and over again from common people – “you will turn blue”, “you will explode”, “would you deny food to the body?”, etc…).

    In balance however, I would like to point out Uganda which is the only country in Africa, who’s HIV rate has actually dropped as a result of their government funded abstinence program. Too balance out my balance 😉 it is reported that numbers are actually climbing again… however, it cannot be denied that the numbers did go down. However, the power of infidelity seems to be winning for the time being –

    This is where the balance comes in… you teach abstinence and faithfulness and condoms. If you’re a Chrisitian, you’ve got to get in touch with the realities of the world. If you are not, you need to look at things from a logical point of view as well, and not throw something out because of who might be the one teaching it.

  7. Owen Swart said,

    “Unfortunately as well, it is all too common to see government ran campaigns that focus on condoms, and circumcision (circumcision?!) as 98% of their message. Abstinence is hardly mentioned — Honestly, how many “abstinence” billboards have you seen? How many “Trust Condoms” billboards have you seen?”

    There is some evidence to suggest that circumcision can offer a non-trivial level of protection against certain kinds of transmission, so that’s not as crazy as it sounds, although it does tend to be overstated. (http://gateway.nlm.nih.gov/MeetingAbstracts/ma?f=102249650.html)

    I haven’t seen any statistics that show the 49:1 ratio in the messages that you mention here. Would you mind providing some links so I can see that?

    The only ads I’ve seen saying “Trust Condoms” were advertising the brand of condoms called “Trust” – corporate marketing. I’ve never seen any anti-AIDS campaign billboards pushing either condoms or abstinence.

    “This is where the balance comes in… you teach abstinence and faithfulness and condoms. If you’re a Chrisitian, you’ve got to get in touch with the realities of the world. If you are not, you need to look at things from a logical point of view as well, and not throw something out because of who might be the one teaching it.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Use what works, discard the rest.

  8. atheisticreligion said,

    You should look at the number of condoms that have pushed into Africa. I was reading a paper the other day that stated over 10,000,000 condoms had been disperssed into one country alone (and that a very small one). This is a ration of near 10:1 (condoms – person). That shows me a very strong trend towards “condoms as a solution”.

    The article then went on to say that the reason HIV was still rising, in this country, was because “people dont like the brand of condoms”. Wow…

    As for Trust condoms, yes… it is a brand. A cleverly named brand (it is actully the de-facto free brand) which implies that you can put your faith in condoms.

    To be fair, I have seen billboards which say “Don’t share your partners” – which is great. I’ve just seen many many more that say “Use a condom everytime”.

  9. Owen Swart said,

    “You should look at the number of condoms that have pushed into Africa. I was reading a paper the other day that stated over 10,000,000 condoms had been disperssed into one country alone (and that a very small one). This is a ration of near 10:1 (condoms – person). That shows me a very strong trend towards “condoms as a solution”.”

    Well, yes. You’ve already conceded that condoms should be pushed alongside abstinence as complimentary strategies, haven’t you?

    “The article then went on to say that the reason HIV was still rising, in this country, was because “people dont like the brand of condoms”. Wow…”

    Wow, what? People are fickle that way.

    “As for Trust condoms, yes… it is a brand. A cleverly named brand (it is actully the de-facto free brand) which implies that you can put your faith in condoms.”

    That was probably exactly the intent of the manufacturer.

    “To be fair, I have seen billboards which say “Don’t share your partners” – which is great. I’ve just seen many many more that say “Use a condom everytime”.”

    Both of which are good advice, wouldn’t you agree?

  10. atheisticreligion said,

    Yes.. good advice. The point was that condoms are pushed as the main solution by government and NGO to the extreme and abstinence is neglected. The point of the blog was to encourage to look at abstinence as much as you look at condoms and dont throw it out because Christians are the main ones who advocate for it.

    I think we are agreeing, and at this point are just picking at nits.

    😀

  11. Rolled I said,

    I hope you don’t mind, I appropriated this post as a starting point for a rather long blog article only tangentially related to yours, but seeing as it’s the inspiration, I thought I’d give you a hat tip via a link.

    http://neurosly.blogspot.com/2009/01/abstinence-and-atheistic-religion.html

    looking forward to some commentary, hopefully.

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