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Religious adherents vary widely in their views on birth control. This can be true even between different branches of one faith, as in the case of Judaism. Some religious believers find that their own opinions of the use of birth control to differ from the beliefs espoused by the leaders of their faith, and many grapple with the ethical dilemma of correct action versus personal circumstance and choice.


Among Christian denominations today there are a large variety of positions towards contraception. The Roman Catholic Church has disallowed artificial birth control for as far back as one can historically trace. Contraception was also officially disallowed by Non-Catholic Christians until 1930 when the Anglican Communion changed its policy. Soon after, most Protestant groups came to accept the use of modern contraceptives as a matter of Biblically allowable freedom of conscience.

Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church is morally opposed to contraception and orgasmic acts outside of the context of marital intercourse. This belief dates back to the first centuries of Christianity. Such acts are considered illicit mortal sins, with the belief that all licit sexual acts must be open to procreation. The only form of birth control permitted is abstinence. Modern scientific methods of "periodic abstinence" such as Natural Family Planning were counted as a form of abstinence by Pope Paul VI in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. The following is the condemnation of contraception:
Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children.
Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.

A number of other documents provide more insight into the Church's position on contraception. The commission appointed to study the question in the years leading up to Humanae Vitae issued two reports, a majority report explaining why the Church could change its teaching on contraception, and a minority report which explains the reasons for upholding the traditional Christian view on contraception. In 1997, the Vatican released a document entitled "Vademecum for Confessors" (2:4) which states "[t]he Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception." Furthermore, many Church Fathers condemned the use of contraception.

The 1987 document Donum Vitae opposes in-vitro fertilization on grounds that it is harmful to embryos. Later on, the 2008 instruction Dignitas Personae denounces embryonic manipulations and new methods of contraception.

Other Catholics have voiced significant disagreement with the Church's stance on contraception. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued probably the most heavily dissenting document, the Winnipeg Statement. In it, the bishops argued that many Catholics found it very difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to obey Humanae Vitae. Additionally, they reasserted the Catholic principle of primacy of conscience. Theologians such as Charles Curran have also criticized the stance of Humanae Vitae on artificial birth control. According to the American Enterprise Institute, 78% of Catholics say they believe the church should allow Catholics to use birth control.


Author and FamilyLife Today radio host Dennis Rainey suggests four categories as useful in understanding current Protestant attitudes concerning birth control. These are the "children in abundance" group, such as Quiverfull adherents who view all birth control as wrong; the "children in managed abundance" group, which accept only Natural Family Planning; the "children in moderation" group which accepts prudent use of a wide range of contraceptives; and, the "no children" group which sees itself as within their Biblical rights to define their lives around non-natal concerns.

Meanwhile, Protestant movements such as Focus on the Familymarker view contraception use outside of marriage as encouragement to promiscuity.

Sex is a powerful drive, and for most of human history it was firmly linked to marriage and childbearing. Only relatively recently has the act of sex commonly been divorced from marriage and procreation. Modern contraceptive inventions have given many an exaggerated sense of safety and prompted more people than ever before to move sexual expression outside the marriage boundary.


There is no ban on birth control in Hinduism.

Some Hindu scriptures include advice on what a couple should do to promote conception - thus providing contraceptive advice to those who want it. However most Hindus accept that there is a duty to have a family during the householder stage of life, and so are unlikely to use contraception to avoid having children altogether. The Dharma (doctrine of the religious and moral codes of Hindus) emphasizes the need to act for the sake of the good of the world. Some Hindus, therefore, believe that producing more children than the environment can support goes against this Hindu code. Although fertility is important, conceiving more children than can be supported is treated as violating the Ahimsa (nonviolent rule of conduct).

Because India has such a large and dense population, much of the discussion of birth control has focused on the environmental issue of overpopulation rather than more personal ethics, and birth control is not a major ethical issue.


The Qur'an does not make any explicit statements about the morality of contraception, but contains statements encouraging procreation. Various interpretations have been set forth. Early Sunni Muslim literature discusses various contraceptive methods, and a study sponsored by the (Sunni) Egyptian governmentmarker concluded that not only was azl (coitus interruptus) acceptable from a moral standpoint, but any similar method that did not produce sterility was also acceptable.

It is permissible to use condoms so long as this does not cause any harm and so long as both husband and wife consent to their use, because this is similar to ‘azl (coitus interruptus or “withdrawal”). But it reduces the sensation of pleasure, which is the right of both partners, and reduces the chance of conception, which is also the right of both partners. Neither one of them is allowed to deprive the other of these rights. And Allah is the course of strength.Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid. Question #1219. Islam Q&A. Accessed April 2006.

However, there are several schools of thought on this, as well as other issues concerning Islamic morality. In Iranmarker, a Shia Islamic country, contraceptive methods are not only taught to married couples, but also encouraged to youngsters through posters and advertisements. In Turkeymarker, despite many religious controversies, birth control is not a discussion topic. Strong majority of public supports birth control. Sunni and Shii jurists, employing the legal principle of reasoning by analogy (qiyas), have argued that since birth control in the form of coitus interruptus has been accepted for so long in Islam, then by analogy other, more modern forms of birth control such as use of the diaphragm, contraceptive pill, and IUD are acceptable.


The Jewish view on birth control currently varies between the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform branches of Judaism. Among Orthodox Judaism, use of birth control has been considered only acceptable for use in certain circumstances, for example, when the couple already has two children. Conservative Judaism, while generally encouraging its members to follow the traditional Jewish views on birth control has been more willing to allow greater exceptions regarding its use to fit better within modern society. Reform Judaism has generally been the most liberal with regard to birth control allowing individual followers to use their own judgment in what, if any, birth control methods they might wish to employ.

When Orthodox Jewish couples contemplate the use of contraceptives, they generally consult a rabbi who evaluates the need for the intervention and which method is preferable from a halachic point of view.


Sikhs have no objection to birth control.Whether or not Sikhs use contraception, and the form of contraception used, is a matter for the couple concerned.

See also


  2. Minority Report
  3. Vademecum
  4. This Rock Magazine: The Fathers Know Best
  5. Fr. Haydon
  6. A summary and restatement of the debate is available in Roderick Hindery. "The Evolution of Freedom as Catholicity in Catholic Ethics." Anxiety, Guilt, and Freedom. Eds. Benjamin Hubbard and Brad Starr, UPA, 1990.
  7. AEI - Short Publications - In Today's Environment, Contraception Could Become a Big Issue
  8. [1] "BBC - Hindu beliefs about contraception"

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