Abstinence means restraining yourself from indulging in something. From a religious perspective, abstinence means refraining from having sexual relations before marriage. Although many religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism and Islam, have different beliefs, abstinence is a fundamental belief of most religions that is closely tied to purity and holiness. Sexual promiscuity is closely tied to immorality in many religions and committing yourself to a life of celibacy or to one partner that God provides is a foundational belief.
According to Christian beliefs, abstinence is decreed in the Bible. Christians believe that sex is a beneficial gift from God in the context of marriage, and all other sexual relations are immoral. In 1 Corinthians 7:2, Paul writes to the Corinthian church about the commands concerning marriage and abstinence: "But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband." Earlier in the book, Paul describes how sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. In 1 Corinthians 6:18, he writes: "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body."
Abstinence is not a very divisive issue in the Jewish faith, partially because of the traditional ambiguity of the subject even among the most Orthodox Jews. They do believe that sex outside marriage does not help to strengthen one's faith and that sex belongs inside marriage to strengthen the relationship, but because premarital sex has been condoned, at least partially in Biblical and historical record, many Jews do not fall on their sword over this topic. The type of sex is more important, with heterosexual, non-incestuous and monogamous relationships being the most acceptable.
The Mormon faith is largely based on Judeo-Christian ethics and does not stray from the traditional teaching about abstinence. Only second to the sin of murder is the sin of sexuality, according to the Mormon religion. Unmarried Mormons are expected to be completely chaste, abstaining from all sexual relations. Mormons believe that sex is a sacred gift from God to a married man and woman and that acting outside of this covenant is grounds for excommunication from the church.
In Islam, marriage is prescribed soon after puberty, which is 15 years old for males and 9 for females. However, if a young person does not marry at this time, according to the Islamic faith, all premarital sex is strictly forbidden. It is considered to be an immoral act against Allah and against one's own sexual organs. Fornication or premarital sex is punishable by the Islamic court as stated in the Quran 24:2: "The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse -- lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment."
- Bible Gateway: 1 Corinthians 7 (New International Version)
- Good Morals: The Christian View of Sex
- Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project: The Islamic Sexual Morality
- Patheos Library: Principles of Moral Thought and Action
- Brandeis University: The Feminist Sexual Ethics Project: Jewish Views of Premarital Sex
- Brandeis University: The Feminist Sexual Ethics Project; Jewish Views of Premarital Sex
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