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Faith-based reasons

Chastity is a virtue expected of the faithful of many religions. It includes abstinence from sex for the unmarried, and fidelity, holiness and purity within marriage.

In many religions, some are expected to practice celibacy, live a chaste life and abstain from sex completely. This includes most Christian nuns and monks, and Roman Catholic priests.

In Christianity, sexual intercourse is reserved for marriage when it is then described as two becoming ‘one flesh’. See Biblical Reasons for more on Christianity and celibacy.

From the Roman Catholic perspective, everyone is called to a life of chastity be they married, single or in a religious order. Once married, sex with one’s spouse is not frowned upon as long as both remain open to the gift of children, since contraceptives violate true chastity. .

Hinduism considers celibacy (brahmacharya) as a very important virtue and an essential part of spiritual life. In ancient India, students who were engaged in the study of the Vedas and Brahman were exhorted to observe strict celibacy. Control of desires is considered essential for self-realisation and, since sexual desire is considered the ultimate of all desires, observation of celibacy became an important aspect of Hindu spiritualism. The idea that a student of Brahman should be a strict celibate became so ingrained that, over a period of time, the word Brahmacharya became more synonymous with the idea of celibacy than with the study of Brahman. In ancient India, apart form students, even the seers and sages observed strict celibacy most of their lives even though they were married. On important occasions and prior to performing religious ceremonies, the householders also abstained from sex and observed vows of celibacy. Sexual activity was completely prohibited for all women during menstruation. Orthodox Hindus believed that abstinence from sex was essential for converting sexual energy (retas) into spiritual energy (tejas). They also believe that when a person controls his sexual impulse, instead of going out and dissipating, his sexual energy would change its direction and goes up through the back of his spine and activates his higher chakras, or centers of spiritual energy. Ancient Hindus firmly believed that observation of celibacy was very essential to reach the world of Brahman.

Buddhism views sex as a natural part of human life, but also something that is associated with craving and, since the Buddhist path involves overcoming craving this also means becoming less oriented towards sex. In most Buddhist traditions full-time practitioners have been celibate monks and nuns. Indeed, abstinence from sexual activity of any kind is a prerequisite for monks and nuns and they are expected to live celibate lives. The moral guidelines for lay people, however, are far less strict. The third precept of five basic rules requires followers to undertake to abstain from sexual misconduct. Misconduct in Buddhism is often defined as that which brings harm to oneself, to others or to both oneself and others. Any sexual activity that does this should therefore to be avoided.

Judaism forbids intercourse outside of marriage (which is termed zenuth, or promiscuity), but unlike Roman Catholicism, it has no ideal for particular clerical groups. On the contrary, it is expected of rabbis (men in religious functions) to be married.  Akin to Islam, Judaism does not encourage celibacy post-childhood.