Since the dawn of civilization, people have been trying to control fertility through different means. For example, in ancient Greece and Rome, women drank juices made from the Silphium plant to prevent pregnancy.
Luckily for everyone, women in the modern era have access to safer, more effective, affordable, and better contraceptives. Birth control has been around for a while. What is the religion’s take on it?
Religion is in the heart of the debate around contraceptives. And beliefs can vary in different branches within the same faith.
Why is birth control important?
Birth control has been in existence for thousands of years. The effective birth control means we use today have been around since the 1960s.
Healthcare coverage remains tied to a person’s employer, making the debate even more controversial.
Religious view of children
To understand how religion treats the subject of contraceptives and birth control, you have to take a look at the view of children.
Each religion in the world puts focus on the family. Views may vary, but one of the most important idea in religion is children and their lives are a gift from God. Therefore, the perception is that the act of sexual intercourse is mostly for procreation.
Some religions even require it as a moral obligation.
Now, let’s take a look at how different religions view contraception and birth control.
Christianity is the largest monotheistic religion in the world, with five major denominations and more within them. Catholicism is a branch of Christianity. Yet, in the 1500s, when the Catholic Church was divided, Protestantism and Anglicanism formed within the umbrella religion of Christianity.
There is a large variety of views on contraception within Christianity, ranging from acceptance of birth control to only allowing natural family planning, and the Queverfull doctrine. The last one says that Christians should have large families. Let’s take a look at the different views.
The Catholic Church is opposed to artificial contraception, yet, supports the use of natural cycles to regulate births. This belief dates back to the first centuries of Christianity.
According to the Roman Catholic Church, artificial contraception is taught to not fulfil the ideal of married love. Methods such as natural family planning are in full acceptance.
In July, 1968, the Vatican released an encyclical by Pope Paul VI, entitled Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life). This article included an outline of the Catholic view on birth control.
According to the Humanae Vitae, the Catholic Church officially believes that birth control is a violation of natural law, and that sexual intercourse if for the purpose of procreation. Any pleasure derived from sexual intercourse is a by-product of procreation and is intended to strengthen the loving bond between husband and wife.
While Pope Paul VI condemned birth control, there is no objection to natural family planning. Popularly known as the rhythm methods, calls for engaging in intercourse with the woman’s reproductive cycle in mind. In other days, do not have sex on days when the woman is ovulating.
Protestants have groups within the faith. There are four categories. The first one is children in abundance group, or better known as the Quiverfull adherents. They view all birth control and natural family planning as wrong.
The second group is children in managed abundance group, accepting only natural family planning. The third one is the children in moderation group. This one accepts prudent use of a wide range of contraceptives.
And then the last group, no children group, which sees itself as within their Biblical rights to define their lives around non-natal concerns.
Anglican and Episcopalian views
The Anglican Church in 1930 said that contraception is acceptable in certain cases. This Western Christian Tradition developed from the practices of the Church of England following the England Reformation.
They are part of the Protestant Reformation in Europe with more than 110 million adherents worldwide.
The official stance is that birth control is permissible because it is not expressly forbidden within scripture. Yet, they also preach that it is critical for followers to use birth control within a mindset that is biblically aligned.
They state that children are a gift from the Lord, and using birth control while having an attitude opposed to what scripture states is wrong.
The Orthodox Church does permit use of contraceptives. According to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, “the use of certain contraceptive practices within marriage for the purpose of spacing children, enhancing the expression of marital love, and protecting health, is acceptable”.
The Russian Orthodox Church allows the use of birth control as long as it does not fall under the class of abortifacients.
Islam and Birth Control
The Quran does not prohibit birth control. In Islam, the view of birth control is focused within the context of mirage and family. Both play a large role in the religion.
In Islam, procreation is part of marriage, Islam contends that procreation is not the only reason for sexual intercourse. Yet, when a couple does decide to procreate, it should be when they are ready for children.
At the same time, contraception allows for a Muslim family to have children when they want and are prepared. You also have to understand, in Islam, if the husband does not consent to the wife’s use of birth control, she is not permitted to use it.
Here is one fun fact found in the Quran. It says that women should breastfeed children for two years because it has been proven that during that time, the woman is provided with a measure of contraceptive protection. According to Quran, the body stops ovulating when you are exclusively breast-feeding and you cannot get pregnant.
In the US, studies show that women who identify themselves as Sunni Muslim are less likely to use forms of contraception compared to Shia Muslims.
There are two major Jewish principles when you talk about children and birth control. The first one is “Mitzvah: to marry, procreate, and have children”, and the second is “it is forbidden to waste seed”.
Therefore, rabbinic authorities believe and teach followers that women may use contraception, but only certain forms of it. In this religion, contraceptive methods must enable sexual intercourse to occur and happen without a barrier naturally.
This way, there is no seed wasted. That means condoms are not accepted.
In Buddhism, the idea of contraception is strongly based on the idea that it is wrong to kill for any reason.
Yet, Buddhist view on birth control is that you can use contraception as long as it prevents conception. Yet, contraceptives that work by stopping the development of a fertilized egg are wrong and should not be used.
In Buddhism, followers believe that life begins when the egg is fertilized.
In Hinduism, mainly because it is a religion in India, the debate is linked with environmental issues and overpopulation rather than religious ethics. Hindus believe that producing more children than the environment can support goes against the Hindu code.
Is there a loophole?
Here is a fun fact. In three religions, Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam, there is a loophole for the use of birth control. It states contraceptives are accepted to support the mother’s health. But it is the only exception.
Family planning and contraceptives for reasons like saving money are not accepted.