As part of your Religious Studies GCSE, you’ll need to have a strong understanding about religion and relationships. These topics include:
- Sex and Sexuality;
- Marriage and Divorce.
Here, let’s take a look at what Christianity, Islam, and Judaism teach about contraception.
Religion and Contraception – Religion and Relationships
Contraception is the act of preventing a pregnancy from occurring. There are two kinds of contraception:
- Natural contraception – This occurs when the couple use methods which do not involve man-made products such as condoms or contraceptive pills. An example of contraception would be to only have sex during times of the menstrual cycle when the woman is least likely to become pregnant.
- Artificial contraception – This is the use of artificial or man-made products to prevent pregnancy, such as the contraceptive pill, contraceptive implant, or a condom.
On top of this, there are temporary and permanent forms of contraception. For example, a condom is a form of temporary contraception, whilst sterilisation (a procedure which prevents someone from being able to have children) is permanent contraception.
Different religions and denominations have varying attitudes towards contraception.
Christianity and Contraception – Religion and Relationships
Since the Catholic Church primarily views sex as a means of procreation, it teaches that practices which unnaturally prevent pregnancy (or terminate it, in the case of abortion) are immoral. The Catholic Church has historically taught against artificial contraception such as condoms and the contraceptive pill.
The Catholic Church states that any method of ‘deliberate’ contraception is morally wrong. This means that there is room in the Catholic Church’s teaching to allow for means of natural contraception.
While the Catholic Church as an institution teaches that artificial contraception is wrong, this is a controversial issue among many Catholics. Many argue that the Catholic Church’s stance towards condoms means that some Catholic countries in the world are not able to combat sexually transmitted infections. For example, the rejection of condoms in some African countries has arguably led to an increase in HIV.
The Catholic Church believes that the liberal use of contraception promotes sexual promiscuity and fornication. In turn, this makes sex less meaningful between two married people.
Other Christian churches are divided on contraception. Many Protestant Churches are in favour of contraception because the Bible does not directly teach on the matter, and because artificial contraception can be used for the purpose of family planning.
Some Christians might even argue that, if people are allowed to use artificial contraception, they are less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy and resort to abortion.
Islam and Contraception – Religion and Relationships
Unlike Catholicism, Islam does not have a singular teaching when it comes to contraception. Some Muslims believe that contraception, both natural and artificial, are a force for good because they allow families to plan effectively. This can result in circumstances such as where additional children would be a burden on the family.
Some Muslims believe that contraception is wrong because, if a woman becomes pregnant, this is Allah’s will. This means that some Muslims accept natural contraception, but not artificial contraception. Other Muslims who accept both forms of contraception see them as a temporary measure. For this reason, permanent forms of contraception like sterilisation are not permitted.
Judaism and Contraception – Religion and Relationships
Jewish teaching on contraception stems from the same passages of the Old Testament as it does for Catholicism and Christianity. In Genesis, we are told to be fruitful and multiply. Since contraception prevents children from being conceived, most Orthodox Jews do not accept contraception in most circumstances.
Similar to Islam, some Jews find contraception to be acceptable so long as it is used for family planning. So, if a married couple use it in order to plan when they want to have children, this is acceptable. However, this married couple is expected to have children, and therefore some Jews would find it unacceptable to use temporary measures with no intention of having children in the future.
Other Jews think that it is up to each individual to decide on whether they want to use contraception.