Changing attitudes in the UK
Reasons for this change in attitude: The UK as a society has become multi-faith and multi-ethnic and its people are now a lot more tolerant to the views of others. The Church and its teachings are a lot less influential and aren't taken as seriously by many people. Reliable contraception has made sex safer and the decline in traditional values have also led to this change over the years. Women are also now a lot more independant and don't depend on husbands as much for money, helping aid this social change.
Marriage and divorce: In the UK today fewer people than ever are getting married. Young people in particular are prefering to live together without marriage (Cohabitation). The decline in Church attention means that only 33% of marriages are performed as religious ceremonies. The significant decline in the number of people getting married children are more often being born to unmarried parents. In 1980 this accounted for 12% of children whereas now it is like 42%.
Families: A nuclear family is one with two parents (man and woman) living together with their children, There are other types of family but the only other one you need to know is a reconstituted family where a man/woman with children (from previous marriage) gets remarried and joins two families together.
Christian attitudes to sex outside of marriage:
Christianity teaches that sex outside of marriage is wrong, as sex to them is an act of love and commitment and should only take place inside of marriage. This means not having pre-marital sex or having sex with someone when you are already married to someone else (called adultery). Christians are taught to avoid promiscuity (having sex with multiple partners without commitment) and believe that married partners should show absolute faith to each other.
Many Christians nowadays feel that sex before marriage is right as long as the intention for a long-term relationship and marriage in the future is still there. There is the belief that the teaching of the Bible and the Church are old fashioned and can no longer be fully used in regards to modern day life and society. Some Christians believe that cohabitation helps couples to find out whether they will be suited as marriage partners, and is an important step of a relationship that will last.
Different Christian views that exist:
The Bible only allows sex between marriage partners, although this view can be seen as old fashioned. There is a concern that children born outide marriage may have a less stable family life. There is also concern that promiscuity and adultery break marriage vows and should be avoided as they go against the Bible, which is the word of God.
Muslim attitudes to sex outside of marriage:
For muslims sex outside of marriage is wrong and is strictly forbidden in the Qur'an. To follow the teachings of the Qur'an; unmarried people must not engage in sex. In addition upon reaching puberty girls and boys are seperated and do not mix with the opposite sex. It is also forbidden for Muslims to behave in a sexual manner, for example men and women should dress modestly and not wear tight clothing.
For muslims the main purpose of having sex is for having children. Therefore having sex outside of marriage is wrong because you're bringing a child into a broken family.
All muslims are expected to get married because Muhammad was married and muslims use the prophet's Muhammads lifestyle choices to make decisions in their lifes. In addition marriage increases the value of a person's prayers bringing with them God's blessings and forgiveness. Sexual desire is a gift of new life from God therefore men and women are encouraged, through marriage, to fulfil that desire and to have children.
In some Islamic countries muslim men may take more than one marriage partner, and this is called polygamy though this is governed by relatively strict conditions.
Christian attitudes to divorce:
Divorce is a legal termination of a marriage. In the UK the law allows divorce if a marriage has "irretriievably broken down". Reasons for divorce include adultery, unreasonable behavoir (where one partner behaves very badly towards the other) and desertion (where one partner leaves the other). In the UK about a third of marriages end in divorce, with about 160,000 divorces each year.
Reasons for this: Divorce has become a lot easier to obtain than in the past, and with people being less willing to put up with bad treatment it has become a lot more common in society. In addition divorce doesn't carry the same social stigma and people are less religious nowadays and do not feel bound to their wedding vows.
The religious viewpoint:
-Roman Catholic: Jesus said that divorce was wrong ('Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her' Mark 10:11) Marriage is also a sacrament and a sacred agreement made before God which therefore shouldn't be broken.
Protestant Church: In Protestant Church divorce is allowed in certain cases because God is always ready to forgive sins and it is only human to make mistakes and have marriages break down. Jesus seemed to accept divorce in the case of unfaithfulness.
Muslim attitudes to divorce:
Islam imposes strict conditions on people considering divorce. For example divorce is automatically granted if one of the partners leave Islam. And although it is permitted it is not encouraged, and is among some of the things described as most disliked by Allah. The husband is still responsible for his ex-wife and their children unless she remarries. For any reason the husband must announce his intention to divorce his wife three times over three months. A man who divorces his wife must be; adult, sane and divorcing of his own free will. Reasons for a woman to be able to divorce her husband include if her husband is away for a long time, refusal to prove for her, inability to carry out sexual intercourse or any long imprisonment.
Islamic teachings on divorce are intended to discourage unpleasantness between families and to reduce unhappiness and hardship. They are not designed to keep people together unhappily. The waiting a divorce (called the iddah) is extremely important and if the wife were pregnant it would be the duration of the pregnancy. Muslim community leaders will try to help couples who face divorce and see if there is a chance for reconciliation. Although they are not designed to force unhappy couples to stay together.
Christian teachings on family life:
Christians believe that children are a gift from God and that parents have a responsibility to care for them, teach them how to live, teach them abou God and to take their children to be baptised. In return children are expected to respect their parents and to obey them until they are adults themselves. The bible teaches that children should 'Honour your father and your mother' (Exodus 20:12)
Social environment of the Church:
Christian Churches try to help parents to raise their children in a stable, Christian environment and taking pressure off them when necessary. It starts at the beginning of life with baptism and the parents promise to bring them up in a loving Christian home. Older children can re-affirm these vows for themselves in a confirmation. As children grow up they may attend Sunday schools and young groups where they learn about God in a social environment.
Muslim teachings on family life:
Within Islam the family is at the heart of the Muslim community, it is the most important way of ensuring that children grow up as good faithful Muslims. In a traditional family the mother is responsible for teaching the children about halal (permitted) and haram (forbidden) whilst the father is responsible for taking the boys to the mosque.
Family life is the most secure protection against troubles in society and within the individual. Family life also encourages the individual to see themselves as part of a wider community and discourages anti-social behavoir. Muslims believe that these values are not just for the benefit of individual families but also for the worldwide family (ummah) of Islam.
The traditional Muslim family is an extended one and includes grandparents and elderly relatives. The eldery are treated with dignity and it's a blessing to be able to look after elderly family members. For Muslims looking after family members is a sacred action
Christian attitudes to homosexuality:
Opposition: God created man and woman to be in a marriage relationship together and to have children together, which cannot be achieved by a same-sex couple. Homosexuality is not good for society and to some Christians it undermines the family. In the New Testament Paul writes 'Neither the sexually immoral...nor homosexual offenders... will inherit the Kingdom of God' and serves as further evidence to some people that homosexuality is wrong. Most evangelical, coservative Christians are strongly opposed to homosexuality and won't allow known homosexuals into their Churches. Others believe people are created this way, by God, and they therefore should be accepted.
In other cases. like the Church of England or more liberal Protestant Churches the approach is more sympathetic and partnerships are judged on the strenght of the love and commitment rather than simply rejecting them as wrong.
Range of Christian views:
The most conservative Christian attitude is that homosexuality is a disorder that Christians can seek God's help to overcome. Some Christians are less conservative and accept it's a natural state however think they should remain celibate (do not have active sexual relationships) and it should not be practised.
Muslim attitudes to homosexuality:
Islam takes a very strong position regarding homosexuality and it is seen as a grave sin. Under Shari'ah law it is punishable by death.In Iran, on estimate, that more than 4,000 homosexuals have been executed since 1979. Homosexuality is seen as a serious challenge to the Muslim laws against the effeminacy in men and masculine characteristics in women. In the Qur'an the story of the "people of Lot", who are also known as the Sodomites, tells how they were destroyed by Allah because they practised homosexuality.
Islam sees homosexuality as a threat to the stability of Islamic society which is based around the family, and naturally reduces the number of children born into Islam. The Al'-Fatiha Foundation accepts homosexuality and suggests that the teachings of the Qur'an are not wholly relevant to the modern world. It also draws attention to the fact that the Qur'an condemns homosexual lust but not love (much as the New Testament does)
Traditionally, however, Islam teaches that homosexuality is chosen, not natural, and that any homosexuals can become heterosexual if they are educated towards it.
Christian attitudes to contraception:
Contraception is the deliberate prevention of pregnancy by natural or artificial methods. People who used contraception usually do so because they feel it would be inappropriate for them to have children (maybe because of age, monetary reasons, or others).
Religious opposition to use:
Roman Catholics and some conservative evangelicals believe that every act of sexual intercourse should be open to the possibility of conception. They believe the use of contraception is wrong because; they prevent people fulfilling God's command to "be fruitful and multiple" (Genesis 1:28). Sex was given to humans by God for procreation and should always have the possibility of conception and contraception has allowed promiscuity and this spreads sexually transmitted diseases.
Other Christian views:
Other Christians believe that within a marriage relationship contraception can be used properly to plan and manage a family. Although children are seen as a blessing from God, Christians should still have a responsible attitude to conception. For many Christians the coil, or the morning after pill, are considered to be the equivalent to an abortion and are therefore unacceptable.
Muslim attitudes to contraception:
There are a variety of viewpoints within Islam regarding contraception:
- Completely opposed to contraception, despite there being no reference to it in the Qur'an.
- If the mother's life is at risk, or if it would make the existing family suffer (materially or physically) then the use of contraception can be justifiable.
- Contraception shouldn't be considered as serious as abortion and therefore isn't open to the same critisisms.
Islam's teachings on the family are particularly strong, and children are seen as a gift from God and should not be avoided. One of the most important aspects of marriage is procreation and this was a gift from Allah that we should take advantage of and it is seen as a religious duty to procreate.
In reality most Muslim authorities allow contraception to preserve the health of the mother or the well-being of the family. There are several Hadith which suggest that the Prophet knew of the withdrawal method and approved of it in certain circumstances. Because this method is very unreliable any method that has the same purpose and doesn't have a permanent effect (like a vasectomy or sterilisation) are argued by some as acceptable.