Sex and Religion: Teachings and Taboos in the History of World Faiths

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9781861898159: Sex and Religion: Teachings and Taboos in the History of World Faiths
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Sex and religion are inevitably and intricately linked. There are few realms of human experience other than sex in which religion has greater reach and influence. The role of religion, of any faith, to prohibit, regulate, condemn, and reward, is unavoidably prominent in questions of sex—namely with whom, when, how, and why.  In Sex and Religion, Dag Øistein Endsjø examines the myriad and complex religious attitudes towards sex in cultures throughout the world.

Endsjø reflects on some of the most significantly problematic areas in the relationship between sex and religion—from sex before or outside of marriage to homosexuality. Through many examples from world religions, he outlines what people mean by sex in a religious context, with whom it’s permissible to have sex, how sex can be a directly religious experience, and what consequences there are for deviance, for both the individual and society. As Endsjø explains, while Buddhist monks call attention to gay sex as a holy mystery, the Christian church questions a homosexual’s place in the church. Some religions may believe that promiscuity leads to hurricanes and nuclear war, and in others God condemns interracial marriage. Sex and Religion reveals there is nothing natural or self-evident about the ways in which various religions prescribe or proscribe and bless or condemn different types of sexuality. Whether sex becomes sacred or abhorrent depends entirely on how a religion defines it.

 

Sex and Religion is a fascinating investigation of mores, meanings, rituals, and rules in many faiths around the globe, and will be of interest to anyone curious about the intersection of these fundamental aspects of human history and experience.

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About the Author:

Dag Øistein Endsjø is professor of religious studies, specializing in gender, human rights, and death studies, at the University of Bergen. He is also the author ofPrimordial Landscapes, Incorruptible Bodies, and Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity.Peter Graves is head of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh and has translated many books, includingRunning: A Global History, also published by Reaktion Books.

Review:

“The writing is so shrewd, the observation so keen and the background so rich that one can only be—yes, the only word is impressed. And that doesn’t happen often . . . It is remarkable . . .  nothing short of a great academic achievement . . . Sex and Religion will be just as useful in our daily lives as in academic seminars.”—Morgenbladet, on the Norwegian edition

(Morgenbladet)

Sex and Religion does not pause at any point, does not stop to take a breather. The book provides us with an enormous database of knowledge, all recounted in a cool, laconic tone. This is scholarship at its best, presented in a manner that will reach far beyond the lecture halls of our universities.”—Adresseavisen, on the Norwegian edition

(Adresseavisen)

“What Endsjø’s book is a powerful and political reminder of is that religious texts and traditions are most frequently used as arguments against the rituals of a religion that is strange or unfamiliar to us. They are used far less often as explanations of what we do ourselves. This is a paradox Norwegian society needs to take on board, particular in view of the ever growing ‘fear of Islam.’”—Forskerforum, on the Norwegian edition

(Forskerforum)

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