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Celibacy is defined as the lifestyle of someone who is, and is striving to remain, unmarried all his/her life. It is also used to describe a state of life where one chooses to abstain from all sexual activities (also known as "continence"). Often, it is incorrectly used to refer to a mixed, an involuntary, or even temporary abstinence from sexual relations – celibacy is by definition a freely chosen state of being unmarried and practicing sexual abstinence.


The English word celibacy derives from the Latin caelebs, meaning "unmarried". This word derives from two Proto-Indo-European stems, * "alone" and * "living".

Some motivations

The term involuntary celibacy has recently appeared to describe a chronic, unwilling state of celibacy.

Vedic thought and practice

Celibacy termed as Brahmacharya in Vedic scripture is the fourth of the yamas and the word literally translated means "dedicated to the Divinity of Life". The word is often used in yogic practice to refer to celibacy or denying pleasure, but this is only a small part of what Brahmacharya represents. The purpose of practicing Brahmacharya is to keep you focused on your purpose in life, the things that instill a feeling of peace and contentment.In Hinduism, celibacy is usually associated with the sadhus ("holy men"), ascetics who withdraw from worldly ties.[2]

In Buddhism

The rule of celibacy in the Buddhist religion whether Mahayana or Theravada has a long history, it was advocated as an ideal rule of life for all monks and nuns by Gautama Buddha, however in Japan it is not strictly followed. Gautama Buddha is very well known for his abandonment of his wife and child because to be a holy man he must renounce the world one of the aspects of this impermanent world is his wife and child.


Celibacy is viewed differently by various Christian denominations.

The Bible teaches celibacy – remaining unmarried "for the Kingdom of God" – to be honorable. The Apostle Paul writes in , "Now concerning the things about which you wrote to me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But, because of sexual immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband." (verses 1-2); "I wish that all men were like me. However each man has his own gift from God, one of this kind, and another of that kind. But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am. But if they don’t have self-control, let them marry. For it’s better to marry than to burn with passion." (verses 7-9); "But I desire to have you to be free from cares. He who is unmarried is concerned for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife. There is also a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. This I say for your own profit; not that I may ensnare you, but for that which is appropriate, and that you may attend to the Lord without distraction." (verses 32-35)

Celibacy as a vocation may be independent from religious vows. Traditionally though, most celibate persons have been religious and monastics (brothers/monks and sisters/nuns). In all pre-Protestant - Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox - traditions, bishops are required to be celibate. In the Eastern Christian traditions, priests and deacons are allowed to be married, yet have to remain celibate if they are unmarried at the time of ordination.

The Protestant Reformation initially rejected celibate life as a whole, though especially from the 19th century on, Protestant celibate communities have emerged, especially from Anglican and Lutheran backgrounds.

A few minor Christian sects even advocated celibacy as a better way of life for everyone. These groups included the following: the Shakers, the Harmony Society, and the Ephrata Cloister.

Celibacy not only for religious and monastics (brothers/monks and sisters/nuns) but also for bishops is upheld by the Roman Catholic Church traditions. In late 16th-century Venicemarker, nearly 60% of all patrician women joined convents, and only a minority of these women did so voluntarily.

Catholic perspective

The view of the Roman Catholic Church is that celibacy is a reflection of life in Heaven, and a source of detachment from the material world, which aids in one's relationship with God. Catholic priests are called to be espoused to the Church itself, and espoused to God, without overwhelming, exclusive commitments interfering with the relationship. Catholics understand celibacy as the calling of some, but not of all. Celibacy was generally required of the bishop in the early church. A married man could be made bishop, but after his ordination, he was generally required to live apart from his wife. Celibacy was also practiced by many presbyters, especially in the West, but was not universally required. It became obligatory for all priests in the west in the 12th century.

Usually, only celibate men are ordained as priests in the Latin Rite. Married men may become deacons, and married clergy who have converted from other denominations may become Catholic priests without becoming celibate. Mandatory priestly celibacy is not a doctrine of the Church but a church rule or discipline. As such, it can change at any time. The Eastern Catholic Churches ordain both celibate and married men. All rites of the Catholic Church maintain the ancient tradition where marriage is not allowed after ordination. Men with transitory homosexual leanings may be ordained deacons following three years of prayer and chastity, but homosexual men who are sexually active, or those who have deeply rooted homosexual tendencies cannot be ordained.

The Catholic view on celibacy is based on the Christ's example, on his teaching as given in and on the writings of Paul, who wrote of the advantages celibacy allowed a man in serving the Lord, Celibacy was "held in high esteem" from the Church's beginnings. It is considered a kind of spiritual marriage with Christ, a concept further popularized by the early Christian theologian Origen. Clerical celibacy began to be demanded in the 4th century, including papal decretals beginning with Pope Siricius. Mandatory celibacy was typically expected of priests in the 11th century, as part of efforts to reform the medieval church, and became universal in the 12th.

Another possible explanation for obligatory celibacy revolves around more practical reason, "the need to avoid claims on church property by priests' offspring".

Universal celibacy

This characterization by Jesus Christ (in Matthew 22:30) of the future status of all persons (in heaven) is officially designated "universal celibacy" by the Roman Catholic Church : "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."

Islamic perspective

Islam does not promote celibacy; rather it promotes marriage. In fact, according to Islam, the purpose of marriage enables one to attain the highest form of righteousness within this sacred spirtual bond. It disagrees with the concept that marriage acts as a form of distraction in attaining nearness to God.

"They devised monasticism as a means of seeking Allah’s pleasure. We did not prescribe it for them" (Qur'an 57:27).

There have been people who have come to the prophet and explained how they love to be engaged in prayer and fasting for the sake of God. However, the Prophet Mohammed told them that despite this being good it is also a blessing to raise a family, to remain moderate and not to concentrate too much on one aspect as not only can this be unhealthy upon an individual as well as upon society, it may also take one away from God.

Note: The fact that there is no compulsion in Islam for one to live this way simply questions the practicality of employing this on a large scale. Through good deeds one can attain as high a righteousness as that of one who is celibate.

Abstinence and celibacy

The words abstinence and celibacy are often used interchangeably, but are different. Abstinence is the absence of intercourse (even for an individual who is married), but celibacy is the avoidance of all forms of sexual activity (including, but not limited to, the state of marriage itself).

In her book The New Celibacy, Gabrielle Brown states that "abstinence is a response on the outside to what's going on, and celibacy is a response from the inside." According to this definition, celibacy (even short-term celibacy that is pursued for non-religious reasons) is much more than not having sex. It is more intentional than abstinence, and its goal is personal growth and empowerment. This perspective on celibacy is echoed by several authors including Elizabeth Abbott, Wendy Keller, and Wendy Shalit.

Many evangelicals prefer the term "abstinence" to "celibacy." Assuming everyone will marry, they focus their discussion on refraining from premarital sex and focusing on the joys of a future marriage. But some evangelicals, particularly older singles, desire a positive message of celibacy that moves beyond the "wait until marriage" message of abstinence campaigns. They seek a new understanding of celibacy that is focused on God rather than a future marriage or a life-long vow to the Catholic Church.

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