Religious views on pornography
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Religious views on pornography are based on broader religious views on modesty, human dignity, sexuality and other virtues which may reflect negatively on pornography. Different religious groups view pornography and sexuality differently.
The Tanakh does not have any specific laws relating to pornography and Judaism has always had a positive attitude to sex. In fact, some commentators note, the Bible itself contains erotica, such as the Song of Songs.
However, Jewish traditions of modesty and humility (tzniut) require Jewish women to dress modestly. Accordingly, though not disapproving of pornography in itself, Jewish tradition frowns on Jewish women engaging in pornographic modelling or acting, besides other acts of immodesty. There are also halakhic discussions on the prohibitions of hirhur (lit. "thought") and histaklut (lit. "gazing"), which may impact on pornography. The issue, according to Chabad website, is one of personal control over one's urges, which pornography, it is asserted, takes away.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Roman Catholic Church
Many are opposed to pornography because of religious convictions and morals, as exemplified by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states:
- "Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials." Section 2354
United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church teaches that pornography is "about violence, degradation, exploitation, and coercion" and "deplore[s] all forms of commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex, and defines pornography as "sexually explicit material that portrays violence, abuse, coercion, domination, humiliation, or degradation for the purpose of arousal. In addition, any sexually explicit material that depicts children is pornographic"." The Sexual Ethics Task Force of The United Methodist Church states that "Research shows it [pornography] is not an 'innocent activity.' It is harmful and is generally addictive. Persons who are addicted to pornography are physiologically altered, as is their perspective, relationships with parishioners and family, and their perceptions of girls and women."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Gordon B. Hinckley, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1995 to 2008, was known within the faith for expounding his organization's sentiments against pornography. The LDS Church teaches that pornography is "any material depicting or describing the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings. It is as harmful to the spirit as tobacco, alcohol, and drugs are to the body. Members of the Church should avoid pornography in any form and should oppose its production, distribution, and use."
Other Christian views
Jerry Falwell has criticized pornography, saying sex is reserved for heterosexual married couples, to be used only in accordance with God's will (more specifically, to both solidify the emotional bonds between the man and his lawfully wedded wife, and to help propagate the human race ("Be fruitful, and multiply.").), and asserts that use of pornography involves indulgence in lust towards people other than one's spouse (which in Christianity is a sin) and leads to an overall increase in sexually immoral behavior (including, for example, adultery, rape, and/or even child molestation).
William M. Struthers in his book "Wired for Intimacy" has criticized pornography from a scientific viewpoint, suggesting that the viewing and use of pornography embeds abnormal neural pathways in the brain such that the desire for physical sexual relations may become subverted over time.
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Pornography is directly opposed to the very heart of Islamic teachings, which is highlighted by Taqwa to gain a better self-control, the Shariah and the ethical principles prohibit looking at the private parts of another person. This fundamentally applies equally to looking at private parts in pictures or films, it is so to increase spiritual awareness and taqwa and prepare the soul to accept Allah (God)..
That opposition between this "porn-use" attitude with the "fitra" (reverence instinct toward Allah, that all humans have, whether they are aware of it or not), creates a state of tension that leads to the destruction of the soul, leading to sadness and depression, and loss of self-esteem. That is why, in Islam, pornography is seen as a fundamentally destructive force to eradicate from one's life and from society.
The Qur'an 24:30 states "Tell the acknowledging men to lower their gaze and guard their private parts, for that is purer for them. God is fully aware of what you do."
The Qur'an 24:31 states "And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and keep covered their private parts, and that they should not show-off their beauty except what is apparent, and let them cast their shawls over their cleavage. And let them not show off their beauty except to their husbands... "
The Qur'an says what means "They are your garments and you are their garments." (2:187) "The sexual unison between husband and wife is more than seeking a relief from the urge of desire. Indeed the prophet taught that it is one of the charities in Islam. He said to his companions, enumerating examples of charitable deeds :
'And when the one of you makes love (has sex) it is a rewardable charity.' "
In Hindu philosophy both vaishnavism and saivism restricts promiscuity for men and woman. In Hinduism, the Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha are the four Purusharthas of a Hindu’s life and sex is an integral part of life, which is part of the four Purusharthas. The "Kama" means those activities, which give us pleasure and satisfaction.
Kamasutra is very ancient and sacred book about sex, written by the Hindu sage Vatsayana. This book has all those details and descriptions about sex types, sex positions, sex importance and compatibility of partners, eunuchs etc. The ancient Khajuraho Temple in Madhya Pradesh, India is well known for the sculptures on it. Here the statues of men and women are depicted as having sex in different positions. The builders of the Khajuraho temple were Rajputs and were followers of Waam-maarga or left-handed Tantra, an acceptable way of attaining Moksha.
As per upanishads, the sculptors created those pieces of arts is only outside the temple because it signifies that all those feelings must be left outside the temple, before entering the inner sanctum. There are no such sculptures inside the temple. The sculptures are also on Konark temple's exterior. It is a metaphysical symbolism. Hinduism recognizes the role of sexual desires in human lives. There is a difference between Nudity and expression of beauty and pornography. What appears in Hindu puranas and Itihasas are the expressions of genuine beauty and not pornography.
Appropriate, Ethical and Modern Hinduism
Most of the Hindus scholars accept that illicit sex and lust is a sin. The holy book of Hindus, Bhagavad Gita 2.62-2.63 also conveys that illicit sex and lust is a sin.
Bhagavad Gita 2.62-2.63:
dhyāyato viṣayān puḿsaḥ sańgas teṣūpajāyate sańgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ kāmāt krodho 'bhijāyate
While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.
krodhād bhavati sammohaḥ sammohāt smṛti-vibhramaḥ smṛti-bhraḿśād buddhi-nāśo buddhi-nāśāt praṇaśyati
From anger, complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool.
Sikhs argue that pornographic books and films, prostitution and lust leads to adultery. Pornography is said to encourage lust (Kaam), which is a concept described as an unhealthy obsession for sex and sexual activity. Kaam is classed as one of the 'Five Thieves', personality traits which are heavily discouraged for Sikhs, as they "can build barriers against God in their lives".
Pornography is not explicitly discouraged in Sikhism however; only lustfullness is. In Sikh belief pornography would only be tantamount to a sin if it becomes a flaw in one's spiritual nature.
- Sherkat and Ellison, 1997, "The Cognitive Structure of a Moral Crusade", Social Forces 75(3), p. 958.
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- Lisa Miller, What the Bible Really Says About Sex, Newsweek, 6 February 2011
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- See, e.g., Gordon B. Hinckley, "A Tragic Evil among Us", Ensign, November 2004.
- "Pornography", LDS.org.
- See Matthew 5:27–29
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- Author: Krsnanandini Devi Dasi and Tariq Saleem Ziyad. "Overcoming pornography: Hope for those who want it | Vaisnava Families Resources". Vaisnavafamilyresources.org. Retrieved 2013-10-04.
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