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Celibacy has existed in one form or another throughout history, in virtually all the major religions of the world, and views on it have varied. Judaism strongly opposes celibacy. However, the priests of the Essenes, a Jewish sect during the Second Temple period, practised celibacy. The ancient Romans viewed celibacy as an aberration and legislated fiscal penalties against it, with the sole exception granted to the Vestal Virgins. The Islamic attitudes toward celibacy have been complex as well. Several Hadiths indicate that Prophet Muhammad denounced celibacy, but some Sufi orders embrace it.
Classical Hindu culture encouraged asceticism and celibacy in the later stages of life, after one has met one's societal obligations. Jainism, on the other hand, preached complete celibacy even for young monks and considered celibacy to be an essential behavior to attain moksha. Buddhism is similar to Jainism in this respect. There were, however, significant cultural differences in the various areas where Buddhism spread, which affected the local attitudes toward celibacy. It was not well received in China, for example, where other religions movements such as Daoism were opposed to it. A somewhat similar situation existed in Japan, where the Shinto tradition also opposed celibacy. In most native African and American Indian religious traditions, celibacy has been viewed negatively as well, although there were exceptions like periodic celibacy practiced by some Mesoamerican warriors.
Catholic Church, before 12th century.
- Berachot 10a; Kiddushin 29b; Maimonides, Ishut 15:2; Shulchan Aruch, Even Hae'ezer 1:3