Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Religious views on pornography

Religious views on pornography are based on broader religious views on modesty, human dignity, sexuality and other virtues which may reflect negatively on pornography.[1] Different religious groups view pornography and sexuality differently.

People who identify themselves as very religious and consume porn are more likely to consider themselves as addicted to porn (an addiction that is not recognized in the psychiatric handbook DSM-V) than a non-religious reference group according to a 2013 study, but no connection between level of religious devotion and amount of porn consumed was shown in that study.[2]



Michael Coogan stated that the Tanakh does not have any specific laws relating to pornography and Judaism has always had a positive attitude to sex.[3] In fact, some commentators note, the Bible itself contains erotica,[4][5] such as the Song of Songs.

Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah, writes, based on the Talmud[6] that "A person who stares at even a small finger of a woman with the intent of deriving pleasure is considered as if he looked at her genitalia. It is even forbidden to hear the voice of a woman with whom sexual relations are prohibited, or to look at her hair."[7] This is further codified in the Code of Jewish Law,[8] which includes further prohibitions (based on the Talmud) such as "watching women as they do the laundry." Accordingly, pornography would be forbidden a fortiori.

Additionally, Jewish laws of modesty and humility (tzniut) require Jewish women to dress modestly.[9] Jewish law thus precludes Jewish women from engaging in pornographic modelling or acting, besides other acts of immodesty.

The issue is also, according to, one of personal control over one's urges, which pornography, it is asserted, takes away.[10]



There is no direct prohibition of pornography in the Bible. However, many Christians base their views on pornography on Matthew 5:27–28 (part of the Expounding of the Law):

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.[11][12][13][14]

It contains one of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:14 or Deuteronomy 5:18, which is also used often as a supporting verse to condemn pornography.[11][13][14][15]

Michael Coogan reports that, based on his past experience, the campaign against lustful thoughts had the consequence of razoring the Song of Songs from the Bibles available for seminarians.[3]

Ken Stone cites Origen's words to say that reading the Song of Songs may stimulate lust to 'fleshly' readers: "But if any man who lives only after the flesh shall approach [the Song of Songs], to such a one the reading of this Scripture will be the occasion of no small hazard and danger. For he, not knowing how to hear love's language in purity and with chaste ears, will twist the whole manner of his hearing of it away from the inner spiritual man and on to the outward and carnal; and he will be turned away from the spirit to the flesh, and will foster carnal desires in himself, and it will seem to be the Divine Scriptures that are thus urging and egging him on to fleshly lust!" Stone adds that "the heavy use of food imagery in the book is no barrier to a positive 'pornographic' interpretation."[16]

Richard Hess explains Carey E. Walsh's view as: "Walsh has determined that the emphasis of the Song lies in the expression of desire between two lovers. It is not sexual consummation that is most important, but the desire itself that drives the lovers together. In this she distinguishes erotica from pornography. The latter is concerned only with sex, and in this it is qualitatively different from the Song. Here sex plays a secondary role to desire. Whether there is any sexual activity at all in the poem—and as a fantasy there may be no such reality here—the key to the Song remains with the desire that drives the reader to appreciate the time of waiting. Hebrew experience placed the greatest value on passion."[17] Saying that the Song of Songs is "erotica", not pornography, she argues that both are different in at least three ways: (1) Erotica inclines toward "emotions and internal worlds" of a subject to seek empathy, while pornography's "emotional flatness" aims at sexual gratification; (2) Erotica focuses on yearning to reach "consummation", which may occur in "tortuous delay", while pornography is only about the "acts" to reach it as soon as possible and "a frenzy of repetition"; (3) Erotica uses imagination as the "invisible and ever-active participant" without revealing the "mystery of love", while pornography is no more than an explicit story of sexual intercourse.[18]

Catholic ChurchEdit

The magisterium of the Catholic Church interprets Matthew 5:27–28 to mean that since the purpose of pornography is to create lust, it is sinful, because lusting is equivalent to adultery. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

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.[19]

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, before he became Pope John Paul II, wrote in Love and Responsibility: "Pornography is a marked tendency to accentuate the sexual element when reproducing the human body or human love in a work of art, with the object of inducing the reader or viewer to believe that sexual values are the only real values of the person, and that love is nothing more than the experience, individual or shared, of those values alone." Edward Sri explains about the topic of art and pornography, which is discussed in the book by contrasting Michelangelo's works with Playboy, by saying that "good art leads us to a peaceful contemplation of the true, the good and the beautiful, including the truth, goodness and beauty of the human body", while pornography "stirs in us a sensuous craving for the body of another person as an object to be exploited for our own pleasure" and, if it is left uncontrolled, "we will become enslaved to everything that stimulates our sensual desire".[20] When one constantly views pornography, which is focused merely on "the visible and the erotic", and reduces the human person to what is visible with the eyes, he or she will have difficulties relating to people of different gender in real life, since he or she would have become accustomed to seeing them as "objects to be used".[21]

In a series of lectures called the Theology of the Body, Pope John Paul II argues that some works of art depict naked individuals without evoking lust, but "makes it possible to concentrate, in a way, on the whole truth of man, and the dignity and beauty—also the 'suprasensual' beauty—of his masculinity and feminity", and that such works "bear within them, almost hidden, an element of sublimation". He insists that pornography is problematic since "it fails to portray everything that is human".[22]

United Methodist ChurchEdit

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"."[23] 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."[24]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsEdit

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.[25] 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."[26]

Other Christian viewsEdit

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)[27] 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.[28][29]


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 basic Islamic ethical principles emphasize the guarding of one's private parts, instructs lowering of gazes & recommends maintaining of modesty. These teachings fundamentally apply equally to looking at private parts in pictures or films, it is so to increase spiritual awareness and taqwa and prepare the soul to taste the sweetness of Imaan (Utter Belief in the commandments of Allah).[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

In the famous 151st verse of the chapter named An'am, among the five chief commandments, in the fourth one Allah says, "and do not even draw to things shameful - be they open or secret."

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."[30]

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... "[31] Therefore, it is stated by Islamic scholars that one can only look lustfully at the nakedness or the body of someone who is one's spouse, and if a Muslim sees someone or something that arouses them, including pornography, they should avoid looking at it. Hence, the justification for declaring pornography haram in Islam.[32][33]

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 with wife/husband) it is a rewardable charity.'"[34]


Although there is no direct prohibition of pornography in Sikhism, Sikhs argue that pornographic books and films, prostitution and lust leads to adultery.[35] Pornography is said to encourage lust (Kaam),[36] 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".[37]

Pornography is not explicitly discouraged in Sikhism however; only lustfulness is. In Sikh belief pornography would only be tantamount to a sin if it becomes a flaw in one's spiritual nature.


  1. ^ Sherkat and Ellison (1997). "The Cognitive Structure of a Moral Crusade". Social Forces. p. 958. JSTOR 2580526. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Silver, Alexandra (2010-10-31). "Q&A: 'God and Sex' Author Michael Coogan on the Bible". TIME. Retrieved 2015-02-21. In many passages it's a highly erotic text, and it was a text that rabbinic literature tells us used to be sung in taverns. Yet when I was in seminary many decades ago, it was razored out of many of the Bibles that we had. 
  4. ^ Miller, Lisa (2011-02-06). "What the Bible Really Says About Sex". Retrieved 2015-02-21. 
  5. ^ Rachael Kohn "The World's Sexiest Book". The Spirit of Things. ABC Radio National, 15 January 2012.
  6. ^ Shabbat 64b
  7. ^ Mishneh Torah. p. 21:2. Retrieved 21 December 2016. 
  8. ^ Shulchan Arukh. p. 21:1. Retrieved 21 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Janowski, Malkie. "Who Decides What Is Modest?". Retrieved 21 December 2016. 
  10. ^ Freeman, Tzvi. "What's Wrong With Pornography?". Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  11. ^ a b J. Gordon Melton (1989), The Churches Speak on Pornography: Official Statements from Religious Bodies and Ecumenical Organizations, Gale Research, p. xxi-xxii
  12. ^ Arthur J. Mielke (1995), Christians, Feminists, and the Culture of Pornography, University Press of America, p. 57-58,62
  13. ^ a b Ronald David Lawler, Joseph M. Boyle, William E. May (1998), Catholic Sexual Ethics: A Summary, Explanation & Defense, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, p. 30
  14. ^ a b Larry J. Nelson, Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Jason S. Carroll (2010). Ralph L. Piedmont, ed. ""I Believe It Is Wrong But I Still Do It": A Comparison of Religious Young Men Who Do Versus Do Not Use Pornography". Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. American Psychological Association. Vol 2 (3), p. 137. DOI 10.1037/a0019127
  15. ^ Susan Cebulko (2007), The Impact of Internet Pornography on Married Women: A Psychodynamic Perspective, Cambria Press, p. 43, ISBN 1-9340-4317-6
  16. ^ Ken Stone (2005), Practicing Safer Texts: Food, Sex and Bible in Queer Perspective, A&C Black, p. 107, ISBN 0-567-08172-9
  17. ^ Richard S. Hess (2005), Song of Songs, Baker Academic, p. 32, ISBN 0-8010-2712-8
  18. ^ Carey Ellen Walsh (2000), Exquisite Desire: Religion, the Erotic, and the Song of Songs, Fortress Press, p. 42-45, ISBN 0-8006-3249-4
  19. ^ CCC 2354.
  20. ^ Edward Sri (2007), Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II's Love and Responsibility, St. Anthony Messenger Press, ISBN 9780867168402, p. 29,119
  21. ^ Anthony Percy (2005), Theology of the Body Made Simple, Gracewing Publishing, ISBN 0852446683, p. 63
  22. ^ Christopher West (2003), Theology of the Body Explained: A Commentary on John Paul II's "Gospel of the Body", Gracewing Publishing, ISBN 0852446004, p. 234-235
  23. ^ "2081. Pornography and Sexual Violence". United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  24. ^ "What's Wrong with Pornography?". United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  25. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. (October 2, 2004). "A Tragic Evil among Us". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Overcoming Pornography | How to Stop a Porn Addiction and Get Help". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Matthew 5:27-29 NIV - Adultery - "You have heard that it". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2015-02-21. 
  28. ^ "Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain - Kindle edition by William M. Struthers. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @". Retrieved 2015-02-21. 
  29. ^ Smith, Neil. "The Science Behind Negative Effects of Masturbation (and Pornography)". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  30. ^ Edip-Layth (Quran: A Reformist Translation)
  31. ^ "Quran (Progressive Muslims Organization)/24 - Wikisource". 2007-11-18. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  32. ^ "Islam Question & Answer". Retrieved 2015-04-29. 
  33. ^ "Ahlul Bayt Islamic Mission". Retrieved 2015-04-29. 
  34. ^ "Sexual Ethics". Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  35. ^ Moral issues in six religions - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  36. ^ "Guru Granth Sahib Quotes on Sex, Lust, Promicuity, Attachement (Sikhism)". 2006-02-03. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  37. ^ "Religions - Sikhism: Sikh Beliefs". BBC. Retrieved 2013-11-26.