In the beginning there was…masturbation? Well, probably. But things get touchy when it comes to talking about God and masturbation. Most major religions consider it to be a sin, while those that don’t, warn of the dangers of masturbation on the soul. So why aren’t people talking more about it?
Even agnostics and atheists could benefit from a better understanding of how Judeo Christian beliefs influence the education of future generations. This is especially true in the United States where Abstinence-only education has effected what is taught in classes around the country. So without further adieu, what would Jesus do?
Christianity: What would Jesus do?
Most Christians believe masturbation is a sin. This was confirmed in an interview I did with the late Father John F. Harvey, a Catholic priest known for founding Courage, a support group for homosexuals. Father Harvey told me in what might have been his last on camera interview that masturbation is hands down a sin. Ok, well I added the hands down part. No disrespect to this brave priest, God rest his soul. Father Harvey was the only priest willing to represent the Church stance on masturbation. The dozen or so others refused to get back to me.
Further research led me to a modern interpretation of masturbation from varies Christians. Dale Kaufman, a youth pastor of over 20 years, and a member of The Marriage Bed’s board of directors, said that the bible goes into a vast number of what it calls sinful sexual perversions but somehow manages to avoid masturbation. He suggests for young people struggling with hormones, “that the best way to masturbate is to focus the mind on God.” Not sure if that would work for me. Christ nailed to the cross, is certainly a mood killer. Maybe, that’s the point. As for what Jesus would do? Well, he did say, if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. However, when it comes to the “sin” of masturbation, I prefer to turn the other cheek.
My interview with Rabbi Ron Levine several years back yielded comic results. He quoted George Carlin saying, “if God didn’t want us to masturbate, He would have made our arms shorter.” Despite the fact that masturbation is not explicitly prohibited in the Torah, the Halakha and the Oral Torah view masturbation as a great sin. Sperm is seen as a potential future living human being, and masturbation, as waste of potential life.
So, what’s the final word on Jews and jacking and jilling off? I guess, if you’re Jewish, you’ll have to decide for yourself. I can’t help but think of the Jewish Comedian Woody Allen here and his famous line, “Don’t knock masturbation, it’s sex with someone I love.”
Islam: Would Mohamed Ali approve?
My interview with a Muslim by the name of Muhammad Ali was interesting to say the least. I’m not talking about Muhammad Ali the boxer, but Muhammad Ali the father of a very dear friend, and the only imam brave enough to grace me with an interview. Considering what happened to Salmon Rushdie (Author of The Satanic Verses), I don’t blame them.
Mr. Ali explained that if one is to choose between masturbation and rape, masturbation is the sin of choice. When he puts it this way, I agree with him. However, the alternatives, marriage and or fasting are much preferred amongst Muslims, and even suggested in hadith. If Masturbation is forbidden in the Qur’an and in the Sunni Sahih hadith, it’s no wonder the Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years.
What do the Buddhists have to say about rubbing the Buddha? The answer is simple (kind of), like describing the sound of one hand clapping. When it comes to laypeople, there appears to be no sins in Buddhism. The act of self-stimulation (likely) causes no harm to others. Provided you’re not harming yourself (30% of suicides by males 12-20 are do to Auto-erotic asphyxiation).
However, the ability to control desire is definitely encouraged in Buddhism. This is in part why for Buddhist monks, masturbation is forbidden. My interview with Eugene Cash, a Buddhist living up in San Francisco, confirmed that though masturbation may not be a sin (given the fact that there are no sins in Buddhism), he had his doubts that it will lead to enlightenment.
Conclusion: Is masturbation a sin?
As to whether God would want us masturbating or not, the question remains a mystery. If masturbation is a sin, I can’t help but think of that Curtis Mayfield line: “if there’s a hell below, we’re all gonna go.”
The following exclusive excerpt from Sticky shows a mock porn style Biblical reenactment of the Old Testament and explains why masturbation was once referred to as Onanism.
Written by Nicholas Tana.