The A-Z of Believing: S is for Sex


Ed Kessler, head of the Woolf Institute, presents the 19th part in a series on belief and skepticism


Sometimes it seems the church is obsessed with sexuality ( Shutterstock/agsandrew )

S is for… Sex

May the wine go straight to my beloved, flowing gently over lips and teeth.
I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.
Song of Songs 7: 9-10

If you’ve ever read the Song of Songs or the Kama sutra, you won’t be wholly surprised that religion has been accused of being obsessed with sex and sexuality. Sacred writings focus on heterosexual activity, and identify and assume that a “normal” man-woman relationship should culminate in marriage. All other sexual activity is contrary to nature, as intended by God.

The biblical account of Adam and Eve, indeed of all creation, models monogamy, though the Bible also contains examples of sanctioned polygamy. Jacob, for example, had two wives, Rachel and Leah. Polygamy remains a common practice in Islam, where a husband can have up to four wives. By contrast, Christianity has always insisted on monogamy, a custom later adopted by Judaism in the 11th century.


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