They don't exactly teach this in Sunday School
March 12, 2006 11:45 PM   Subscribe

Do Christians (specifically Baptists) believe that masturbation is a sin?

I'm more looking for certain denominations' official stances on masturbation and less of personal beliefs on the morality of mastubation.

I know that there is a biblical passage that some point to that references the "spilling of the seed" and it not being a good thing, but I believe that was Old Testament and I'm wondering if women are held to the same standard, seeing as there is no, ahem, "seed" to be spilled.
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (15 answers total)

Well you're thinking of Onan of Genesis 38:9 fame:

"But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother."

The big trick of interp is whether or not the sin of Onan was masturbation or his refusal to perform his brotherly duty under levirate marriage rules.

In Catholicism, my religion of birth, masturbation was most definately a sin. As with most things with regards to sin since V2, I think it's less emphasized.

But what do I know? I'm a poorly lapsed Catholic turned wavering deist.
posted by drewbage1847 at 12:54 AM on March 13, 2006

Was raised fundie evangelical - not quite as strict as Baptists, but more fervent if that's even possible. Generally speaking - no, masturbation is not regarded as a sin per se amongst the stricter mainstream Protestant denominations, just as use of birth control is not. While Onan is the primary example in the Bible, understand that with the creation of a new covenant in the New Testament, significant portions of the Old Testament are believed to have been invalidated - Christ's death and resurrection were essentially the means for a contract renegotiation between God and man.

Also, Protestants have no centralized church heirarchy hell-bent on expanding their powerbase through reproduction.

In any case, what most fundie pastors will tell you is that the question isn't whether or not you masturbate - the question is whether you entertain lustful thoughts about a particular person in your heart while doing so - Paul specifically categorizes this as a sin in the New Testament. Failure to do so is pretty generally an accepted fact, though. Much in the way that it's accepted that you will lie at various points, you will be jealous at others, etc. The important point is to request forgiveness for your sin afterwards.
posted by Ryvar at 1:34 AM on March 13, 2006

Ryvar is correct from a doctrinal standpoint. However, In my years as a junior Fundie (Southern Baptist), I rarely heard it discussed, and even then in the vaguest of terms.

After all, most Sunday School teachers are human, and not many humans relish the thought of trying to keep a straight (and pious) face when discussing "polishing the lil' preacher" with a group a giggling 14 year olds?
posted by Optamystic at 3:07 AM on March 13, 2006

In Catholic school they told us it was a sin.
posted by thirteenkiller at 3:59 AM on March 13, 2006

James Dobson says it isn't, but many evangelical churches put it under the category of lust.
posted by konolia at 4:21 AM on March 13, 2006

The Nazarene Church I attended was curiously silent on this, probably for the reason Optamystic mentions. That said, I do remember fairly frequent but generalized discussions of the dangers of lust.
posted by Tuwa at 5:17 AM on March 13, 2006

drewbage and Ryvar are both correct on this one:

The question of whether masturbation is a sin depends on the answer to three more basic questions:

1. Was the sin of Onan that he spilled it, or that he spilled it when he had somewhere he should have been putting it?

2. If the sin was simply spilling it, was that portion of the law subsequently invalidated by Jesus' New Covenant?

3. Is it actually *bloody* possible to wank off without eventually reflecting lustfully on a real individual (which is unquestionably sinful.)?

An old pastor of mine (back when I went to church) came back to that third question when the subject somehow (I'm not sure how) came up: even if masturbation was not intrinsically sinful, it opened the door to possible sin. Why should one chance it?

Like most preachers, however, he was married to one of the most *fap*-worthy women in existence. I recall thinking even at the time, "that's easy for you to say!"
posted by The Confessor at 5:39 AM on March 13, 2006

My Episcopal Priest father once found my brother's porn stash hidden in a crawl space. He left it there.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:46 AM on March 13, 2006

A friend who was raised in one of the stricter Protestant denominations, and she was taught that playing with yourself is a sin. By the age of eight she'd rationalized that if God didn't want her to be doing it, He'd have made it stop working a long time ago.

The word on it from Rome:

"'Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.' [CDF, Persona humana 9] [...] To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability."

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶2352
posted by S.C. at 7:46 AM on March 13, 2006

Urk. I have a friend.
posted by S.C. at 7:47 AM on March 13, 2006

I grew up Mormon. Under Mormonism, masturbation is a sin. (I was probably taught why, but I no longer remember.) Teenage boys become members of the Aaronic priesthood in the Mormon church. In order to become a member of the priesthood, each boy must be interviewed by the bishop. One of the questions he asks is, "Do you masturbate?" (He also asks about sex, of course.) I believe that if you answer "yes", you're not allowed to partake in the priesthood. There were several boys in my ward who weren't allowed to join. When it came time for my interview, I lied. Of course I masturbated. Everyone masturbates. The bishop knows this. The fathers and mothers know this. The boys suspect this. I was never challenged on my lie, and was confirmed into the priesthood, but then we left the church and started going to a Mennonite church, and nobody there gave a damn whether I masturbated or not.
posted by jdroth at 7:53 AM on March 13, 2006

S.C., I'm glad the Vatican finally dropped the part about exposure to natural light and a healthy diet being a sin.
posted by jon_kill at 8:45 AM on March 13, 2006

TPS is right on the money. Girls don't have sexual appetites, let alone masturbate. The boys are assumed to be constantly tempted by it; the girls, never. When I was in bible college oh so long ago (evangelical), I knew girls who couldn't even say 'masturbation,' it was so shameful. The boys all confessed that they struggled with it and were very skeptical about boys who said they didn't. (Ye olde "98% of men masturbate, 2% are liars".) Girls, on the other hand, were absolutely shocked at the mere thought that some females might 'struggle' with this.

As other people were saying, it was either never discussed in church, or the conclusion was that Masturbation Might Be Okay, But Lust Is Totally Wrong, So Good Luck With That, You Perverts.

I don't think you'll find much in the way of official denominational stances. In my experience, the official stances are limited to basic doctrines, and masturbation is a taboo subject, discussed in gender-segregated youth group meetings.
posted by heatherann at 9:11 AM on March 13, 2006

I dont know anything about christianity but in judaism masturbation, or any ejaculation outside of the vagina, is expressly forbidden. ha-sh'cha'tat zerah (destruction of the seed) is said to be both spiritually destructive and mentally draining. the talmud is very clear and strict on this. just thought you might want to know how some jews (not phillip roth, of course) view this issue
posted by petsounds at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2006

Well... that depends on what you are masturbating to.

If you are masterbating to a woman/man who is not your husband/wife... yes, it is a sin because you are lusting after someone who is not your counterpart, because we know that, "...anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

If you are masterbating to a woman/man who is your husband/wife... I personally don't think it is based on what I see in scripture pertaining to marriage/sex.

Also check out these additional verses.

Job 31:1
Proverbs 6:25
Romans 1:25-27
posted by bamassippi at 2:39 PM on May 13, 2006

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