A curious article published by Knight Ridder Newspapers examines various religious beliefs about the future of sex on the other side of the River of Death:
Mark Twain thought about this. In “Letters from Earth,” he writes of humankind: “He has imagined a heaven and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights–the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the hearts of every individual of his race–sexual intercourse!”
For any sane person, he wrote, heaven would be an intolerable bore.
Not so in Islam. The Quran describes a lush garden-like heaven in which each man can be married to a bevy of beautiful dark-eyed females called houri. The passage is open to interpretation, but scholars say these are not earthly girls who died but heavenly creatures and, it would appear, they can be deflowered and then automatically reflower…
Plato and Aristotle taught that the body dies, but a conscious soul lives forever. There would be no sex for the Greek philosophers, but they could continue to do what they really loved – to learn, to teach and to think.
Segal said while modern Judaism focuses more on this life than the next, early Jews introduced the notion that martyrs would be bodily resurrected in the hereafter.
Early Christians believed that after the end of the world they’d all get their bodies back in heaven, and this led inevitably to questions about sex and marriage. On pondering resurrection of the flesh, St. Augustine decided we’d keep our sex organs for aesthetic reasons, but we wouldn’t use them.
In the New Testament, a man asks Jesus what happens if you’ve been widowed and married several times. Which of your spouses will you be reunited with in heaven? Jesus says no one will marry or be given in marriage, but we will be as angels.
So do angels do it? Milton asked the question in “Paradise Lost,” and the angel Raphael told him when angels embrace, it is “easier than air with air” – not exactly a clear answer.
Still, heavenly sex is problematic in Christianity, he said, since intercourse for pleasure was considered “depravity.” That changed somewhat for Protestants after the Renaissance. They loosened some of the sexual prohibitions, and some started to lobby for it in the afterlife, said Segal.
In Islam and Judaism, sexual pleasure is not considered filthy, he said, making its possible appearance in heaven less shocking.
Columbia University professor of religion Alan Segal’s book Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion …
Have a nice weekend and see you on Monday!