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Sex is "Simply too Massive" Not to Have Rules

Question: Why are religions so concerned with sex?

Lionel Tiger: I don’t know about you, but sex is always potentially extremely troubling.  It can cause all sorts of ruckus in all sorts of lives on an endless basis, just look at the latest politician or golfer and the fact is that because of its power, which Darwin understood when he saw that sexual selection was the engine of natural selection, which is what creates species you have to have some sort of rules about it, otherwise it is simply too massive.  For one thing men and women have different reproductive strategies as we call them in my trade because the costs of sex, unprotected sex for females are infinitely different than for males and so there always has to be in any community the basic mammalian contract, which is somebody has to take care of the mother child bond and so if you look at kinship systems basically what they do is try to insure that the mother and child are cared for by the community.  This is after all, the story of Christmas basically.  It’s the great mammalian fable or story and it works.  It is perhaps the most popular holiday in the world because it gets right to the bedrock of what religion is about, which is you’ve got to take care of the mother and the child.  [00:13:00.07]

Question: Is it counter-intuitive, evolutionarily, for religions to require chastity in their leaders?

Lionel Tiger: Chastity has a purpose if you’re setting up a church in which you don’t want to interfere… you don’t want sex to interfere with church activity, so for example, if you’re a cardinal you don’t want to have a bunch of mistresses around or if you’re a chief nun you don’t want to have a bunch of guys who are your lovers because that interferes with your work.  It’s very simple.  Now chastity is usually respected only to the point of marriage and so with marriage suddenly it all changes.  You’re supposed to be chased and then at marriage suddenly you have sexual obligations, so a woman has sexual obligations to their husband and a husband has sexual obligations to his wife and so the system is very aware of the relationship between sexuality license and responsibility.

Sex can cause "all sorts of ruckus in all sorts of lives on an endless basis." That's why religions make a point of regulating it.

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