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Nudity in religion

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Attitudes to nudity differ among world religions.

Dharmic traditionsEdit

Digambara (Sanskrit; 'sky-clad')

South Asian religionsEdit

Naga baba

Naga mystics

In ancient South Asian cultures, there was a tradition of extreme ascetism (obviously minoritarian) that included full nudity. This tradition continued from the gymnosophists (philosophers in Antiquity) to certain holy men (who may however cover themselves with ashes) in present day Hindu devotion and in Jainism.

Abrahamic religionsEdit

The Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all recount the legend of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden found in the Hebrew Bible, who are not aware that they are naked until they eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When they discover their nudity, they are ashamed and cover themselves with fig leaves.[1][2] Each of these religions have their own unique understanding of what is meant to be taught with the recounting of the story of Adam and Eve and the use of nudity in the Hebrew Bible. In Christianity, nudity is associated with original sin, an integral aspect to their doctrine of redemption and salvation. In Islam, it is to show that women and men should be covered in clothing, for nudity has the stigma of shame attached it.[3] In Judaism, nudity in and of itself is not sinful, being that it is a natural part of God's divine creation. And, many of the references to nudity or "nakedness" in the Hebrew Bible is understood as a polite euphemism for intimate behavior.[4] For example, in the legend of Noah we experience the hesistancy of two of Noah's sons when they have to cover their father's nakedness, averting their eyes, after Noah's youngest son "saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside" what he had done to his father.[5] [6]

JudaismEdit

In general, Judaism has a rather clothes-on attitude towards nudity in most social and familial situations, except when it is impractical to do so (for example, when taking a shower) or when it's necessary to be naked for ritual purposes (for example, while performing ritual tevilah in a mikveh[7]) or while engaged in sexual intimacy. Within Jewish cultural and religious tradition, the determination on how much one can appropriately show of one's body privately and publicly is made by a community's interpretation of Halakha, Jewish law. And, these interpretations vary noticeably between the different movements within Judaism. In the more strict (orthodox) communities, nudity is very carefully regulated in an effort to limit viewing by others, to include even one's spouse. In more liberal Jewish communities, viewing the body in its nude state is not socially condoned, but is left more up to the view, beliefs, and personal lifestyles of the individual.

The Jewish requirement that one be clothed for Tzniut (sake of modesty) "is not a result of any of the prohibitions in the Torah. Rather, it is ... dependent upon what it is that makes one ashamed when standing before people."[8] With the exception of the Haredi community, Jewish communities generally tend to dress and, likewise, undress according to the standards of the society that is around them.

See also Tzniut for the Jewish rules on modesty, especially regarding female clothing.

ChristianityEdit

Baptism - Marcellinus and Peter

Representation of baptism in early Christian art

The early Christian Church reflected contemporary attitudes towards nudity, where it was considered acceptable in some contexts such as working outdoors. For example Gospel of John 21:7 describes that Simon Peter is naked while fishing from a boat, but then gets dressed in order to meet Christ.

The first recorded liturgy of baptism, written down by Saint Hippolytus of Rome in his 'Apostolic Tradition' insists on complete nudity for both men and women, including the removal of all jewellery and hair fastenings (chapter 21)[1]. This is also reflected in early Christian art depicting baptism.

Later Christian attitudes to nudity became less tolerant, and baptisms were segregated by sex and then later were usually performed with clothed participants. Some of the Eastern Orthodox churches today maintain the early church's liturgical use of baptismal nudity, particularly for infants but also for adults.

One may also note the comments of Pope John Paul II in this matter: "The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty... Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness... Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person...The human body is not in itself shameful... Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person."[9]

Christian tradition does not usually teach that nudity is inherently wrong, but many Christians believe that it is only acceptable between marriage partners, and between children, or children and their parents.[citation needed]

However, there have been movements within Christianity from time to time that view nudity in a more positive light. Historically, certain sects have accepted and practiced social nudity, such as the Adamites and the Doukhobor sect. Then, there is the Christian naturism of today, that maintains that social nudity is acceptable and a normal part of Christianity.[10] A common thread that runs through these groups is the belief the human body is God's greatest creation, and that Christ's death replaced the blood sacrifice in making animal skins after Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, it had been Adam and Eve's own decision to cover up what they had done by using fig leaves, which proved to be inadequate.

IslamEdit

In Islam the area of the body not meant to be exposed in public is called the awrah, and while referred to in the Qur'an, is addressed in more detail in hadith.[11]

  • For men, the awrah is from the navel to knees, which means that Muslim men have to cover themselves at least from the navel down to the knees in front of other men or women. However, in most Islamic cultures (if not all), a man is frowned upon should he walk around in public without covering the upper half of his body.
  • For women, the awrah is from navel to knees in front of other women. In front of men, it is the whole body, apart from the hands and the face. Salafi Muslims who wear the niqab, believe that a woman’s awrah in front of unrelated men is her entire body including her face and hands[12] A woman's clothing is required to be loose and opaque, and she is encouraged to wear trousers under her loose garment.

New religious movementsEdit

Raëlian Women at the Seoul, Korea Love Hug Festival

Raelians in South Korea

WiccaEdit

In many modern NeoPagan religions, such as Wicca, social and ritual nudity are (relatively) commonplace. In Wicca, the term skyclad is used to denote ritual nudity as opposed to social nudity.

RaelismEdit

In Raelism, there is nothing problematic with nudity.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Genesis 3:7 "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons"
  2. Koran7:20 "when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies."
  3. Koran7:26 "O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down to you clothing to cover your shame, and (clothing) for beauty and clothing that guards (against evil), that is the best."
  4. "as a euphemism for sexual relations," pg 17-18, Biblical Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1977
  5. Genesis 9:21-25 "[Noah] drank the wine [of his vineyard] and became drunk. He uncovered himself inside his tent. Ham saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid [it] upon both their backs, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces [were] backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And when Noah awoke and learned what [Ham] had done to him, he said "Cursed be Canaan [Ham's son], the lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers"
  6. Note: it has been suggested (D. L. Edwards (1989) A Key to the Old Testament, Fount Paperbacks ISBN 0 00 6251927, page 113) that this episode involved Ham doing more than just viewing his father's nakedness
  7. Mishnah, Mikvaos 9:3; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 198:1
  8. Ig’ro’t Moshe, Yorah Dey’ah, Vol. 3, No. 68:4
  9. Karol Cardinal Woytyla (John Paul II), Love and Responsibility, translation by H. T. Willetts, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 1981.
  10. http://www.christiannc.com
  11. Bukhari:6:60:282}, Sunnan Abu Dawud 32:4091
  12. Mohammad Nasir (March 23, 2007). "In Defense of The Obligation of Niqab". Seeking Ilm. http://seekingilm.com/archives/44. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 

See alsoEdit

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