Have you ever wondered why there is such a wide divergence of attitudes towards nudity in religion?
Isn’t it strange how some religions, including the world’s largest, positively loath nudity, yet other, equally ancient and valid religions such as Wicca have no problem with it or indeed actively embrace it? Certainly nothing in the Christian Scriptures specifically condemns the naked body: quite the opposite in fact.
I have a simple theory, and at the risk of outraging scholars and theologians who have far more knowledge than me, I‘m going to share it with you.
And it’s all to do with the differences between men and women and the control of the masses.
Here then is the Gospel according to Liz
The world’s four main religions evolved from ancient communities which were hierarchical and patriarchal in character, and traditionally deprecated women to some degree. Women were considered to be second class citizens, unfitted to make important decisions and totally subservient to the menfolk.
Being hierarchical meant that the tribe or community was ruled from the top down, with the king or chief at the very top, his family and advisers on the next rung down, the priesthood next, then everyone else. Everyone else, of course, being the ones who toiled in the fields and quarried the stone and did all the work that kept the place going—and allowed the upper classes to live in the style to which they had become accustomed.
Of course a hierarchical society only functions if you’ve got some way of keeping the plebs under your control, and it soon became apparent that the easiest way to keep a superstitious and unsophisticated peasantry in order was through religion. Promise them exclusion from heaven and eternal damnation if they ignore the preachings of the priesthood and they’ll walk through fire if you tell them that God desires it—and some Gods did.
And so in patriarchal, hierarchical communities religion was used to order society according to the will of the ruling classes.
Now, the ruling classes didn’t approve of sex, other than for reproduction. Or, rather, they did approve of sex, and lots of it, for procreation and pleasure, but only for themselves.
If the commoners indulged in too much hanky-panky they might be distractedfrom their duties and then who would do all the hard work? Certainly not the king and his cronies, and so it was written that sex for breeding was just about OK as long as you didn’t enjoy it, but carnality was a sin for which you would be condemned to hell-fire and everlasting torment, unless you were one of the nibs in which case you could go at it like rabbits and still go to heaven.
But if sex for pleasure was to be properly discouraged you had to go after its companion—lust.
And what was the main cause of lust? The naked body, especially the voluptuous, bewitching, beguiling wicked female body which could ignite uncontrollable passions in the poor simple menfolk and encourage unbridled lust and licentiousness, which would keep them from their work, ruin the economy, depress the stock market and generally bring about the end of the world.
And so it came to pass that nudity too became a sin.
These misogynistic, anti-sex and anti-nudity teachings became firmly rooted in all of the male dominated religions, (an acquaintance of mine calls them ‘Sky–God faiths‘) where they live on as part of the accepted dogma to this day. Nothing to do with divine revelation. Just good old fashioned control of the masses.
The religions which allow or encourage nudity on the other hand have either evolved from the much older, (possibly neolithic) matriarchal beliefs (which my friend calls ‘Earth mother‘.religions) or are more modern faiths which are less influenced by historical prejudices and ancient attitudes.
Neo Paganism generally emphasizes the sanctity of the Earth and Nature and usually incorporates the concept of both a male and female deity, with the female principle often deemed to be the more important. Fertility therefore is central to the belief system, and sex—including sex for pleasure—is seen as natural and desirable and is revered as part of the life cycle.
Similarly nakedness is considered to be wholesome and natural, and often forms part of the sacred ritual as it is considered to bring you closer to the divine; indeed, the Goddess herself is often represented in the nude. The body is sacred and extraordinary and is something to be celebrated and respected, and quite rightly so, in my humble opinion.
So now you know why some religions let you get your kit off, and some don’t.
Here endeth the lesson.