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Sexual health and religion

Religion and culture

Although the two are inextricably linked, the distinction between culture and religion needs to be recognised.

Religion is a powerful influence on attitudes and behaviour in many individuals and it often forms a society’s orientation towards human sexuality.

When a particular religion is practised by many people in a society, it helps create culture, which  then influences even those that don’t accept the religion.

Personal interpretations of any faith may vary from the liberal to strictly traditional, depending on the individual. Influences such as ethnicity, age, sex, and social class as well as culture can all have an effect on how someone views a religious faith. Religious doctrines can be viewed as a means to a spiritual goal, rather than merely a restriction on what is and is not acceptable.

Throughout history religion has provided society with a great deal of information about sexuality. Many of these societies subsequently used this information to create laws regulating sex.

However, it is important that these laws are seen in their historical context. Whilst a basic understanding of religious and cultural beliefs is useful, generalisations should be avoided.

Useful websites

BBC religion homepage

Education for Choice

National Children’s Bureau

Religious Coalition for reproductive Choice

'Revealed Online' Catholic resources

This information has been edited from the fpa factsheet number 15: Religion, contraception and abortion.