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Rape is committing a sexual act without consent. It usually involves penetration upon another person, through violence, threat of injury, or other duress, or in cases where the victim is unable to give consent due to physical or mental incapacity, possibly due to the effects of drugs or alcohol. (Statutory rape involves sex with a minor, whether or not the act was coercive.) Rape is considered one of the most serious sex crimes in almost all jurisdictions.

Both the Bible and Qur'an do not address rape directly but consider fornication and adultery as immoral. Since the latter are not criminal acts in many jurisdictions, rape is a distinct (and largely secular) concept. Neither holy books address the issue of marital rape but rather discourage celibacy in marriage. Their basic presumption is that people in marriage have a right to sex, rather than a right to not be raped. The issue of consent is generally not discussed. In the rare instances in which it is discussed they imply that an individual cannot unilaterally withhold sex. Consent is a core principle of social and legal standards for sex in many countries. It is quite telling that various holy books neglect to discuss it.

Because of the extremely black-and-white ethical nature of most cases of rape, it is frequently brought up in discussions about morality.



For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Bible article:

Rape is not addressed explicitly in the Bible. It instead discusses sexual immorality in terms of the immorality of adultery, incest and fornication.

Old Testament

The Old Testament of the Bible contains many stories and laws which appear to condone rape, particularly in war time. Frequently, the Israelites are said to have visited neighboring tribes and committed wholesale slaughter, leaving alive only young virgin women to take unwillingly as wives.

"Rape wasn't always a crime in the Middle East two thousand years ago. Is that why `do not rape’ is not part of the Ten Commandments? [1]"

This practice is explicitly endorsed in Deuteronomy 20:10-14 Bible-icon.png:

"When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies."

Numerous examples can be found where this law is followed. Numbers 31:15-18 Bible-icon.png says:

"'Have you allowed all the women to live?' he asked them. 'They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.'"

Judges 21:10-12 Bible-icon.png similarly says:

"So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children. 'This is what you are to do,' they said. 'Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.' They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan."

What did the Israelites intend to do with these women? Lest there be any doubt, we can go back a few verses to Judges 21:7 Bible-icon.png, where they asked

"How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath by the LORD not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?"

The entire purpose of the attack was to obtain women as wives. It's hard to argue that the women would have been willing spouses after seeing their village destroyed.

Apart from rape as spoils of war, sex outside of marriage is forbidden. While fornication usually carries the death penalty, circumstances that imply rape result in no direct punishment of the rape victim Deuteronomy 22:28-29 Bible-icon.png. However, the rape victim is not betrothed, the rape perpetrator may be obligated to marry his victim.

"If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days."

This is an obsolete law dating from a time in which marriage was largely an economic/reproductive arrangement. Perhaps what is more troubling is that the choice of the marriage going ahead was determined by the woman's father (being the effective owner, according to the traditions of the time), rather than the woman herself.[2] It is also an example of the selective use of Old Testament law. The Old Testament does not seem to address a woman raping a man.

Alleged rape of Mary by God

Some writers have accused God of raping Mary. However, Mary appears to know of God's plan before it occurs and agrees to it. [3] Luke 1:30-38 Bible-icon.png Since most skeptics do not accept that a virgin birth took place, the accusation of rape by God is not a relevant issue. Based on the same events, some writers have accused God of committing adultery.

An partner in marriage should not unilaterally withhold sex

Within marriage, a husband and wife may not refuse sex except by consent of both parties. In other words, the Bible says mutual consent is required not to have sex. Therefore, if either partner desires sex, their partner should comply. This "commandment from God" [4] is at odds with the modern concept of sex always requiring consent. This raises the possibility of marital rape.

"Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

1 Corinthians 7:5 Bible-icon.png
"Only if they do the bidding of their wife, will she give them “the goods”. [...] You must see this as God sees it, as an act of rebellion against your authority over her (and her body), and by extension as an act of rebellion against God himself, because he has given her to you. You need to rebuke your wife’s sinful behavior [...] The Bible places absolutely NO preconditions on sex between a husband and wife within the bounds of marriage [5]"

Contemporary views

The official teaching of all mainstream denominations and the view held by the vast majority of Christians is that rape is immoral.

"Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act."

— Catechism of the Catholic Church [6]

However, many denominations are slow to accept that idea that consent is the principal factor in deciding if sex is rape. Consent is not mentioned in the Catholic Catechism with respect to rape. There are sporadic debates as to if the Catholic Church should officially recognise and ban marital rape.

Religious belief prevents rape

"The priest reportedly held up a newspaper with the face of Meagher’s killer, Adrian Bayley, on it and told the congregation that had Meagher been “more faith-filled” she “would have been home in bed” and “not walking down Sydney Road at 3am”.[7]"

This is an example of religion shifting the blame on to the victim, which is not very productive.

Marital rape

"Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as “marital rape” – HOWEVER, there is such a thing as physical abuse. While the Bible does not speak specifically to this case of a man forcing himself on his wife, I believe it is a case of physical abuse. [8]"

In other words, as long as a partner does not physically resist, it isn't rape according to this apologist. While emphasis is placed on avoiding physical abuse, it does not rule out using psychological abuse in non-consensual sex. In contrast, most legal systems have a higher moral standard than Christianity: affirmative consent must be given i.e. a "knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision". [9]

Honor codes

Some universities, such as the Mormon operated Brigham Young University, have an "honor code" that which states "As a matter of personal commitment, the faculty, administration, staff, and students of Brigham Young University, [...] seek to demonstrate in daily living on and off-campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will: [...] Live a chaste and virtuous life"[10]. This has been applied to rape victims when they have gone public because they have admitted having sex but they "can't prove the rape occurred". [11] This is strikingly similar to Sharia law which treats a rape accusation as a tacit admission of adultery or fornication which enables the rape victim to be punished.


The concept of rape is not explicitly expressed in the Qur'an. Therefore, it is not explicitly forbidden by the Qur'an. The Qur'an does instead ban fornication and adultery, which are not the same thing. [12] There are passages in the Qur'an in which rape is sanctioned in some circumstances.

Regarding sex within marriage, celibacy is discouraged in various hadiths:

"O 'Uthman! Allah did not send me [Muhammad] for monasticism, rather He sent me with a simple and straight [shari'ah]. I fast, pray and also have intimate relations with my wife. So whosoever likes my tradition, then he should follow it; and marriage is one of my traditions."

— Wasaelush Shia, Vol. 14, p. 10 [13]

"and your wife has a right over you."

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 127

According to the Qur'an, slaves are helpless before their masters Surah 16:77 Bible-icon.png, can be bought and sold, and masters can have sex with female slaves whenever they want Surah 4:3 Bible-icon.png, which would be considered as rape in many jurisdictions. [14] [15] However, slavery has generally been abolished worldwide which seems contrary to the Qur'an allowing slavery under certain circumstances.

Sharia law

Sharia law generally prosecutes rapes under Zināʾ laws, which cover fornication and adultery regulations (rape is not banned separately). They usually require 4 witnesses or a confession for a prosecution to succeed. Since this is generally not available, prosecutions rarely succeed. Some courts reject forensic evidence. In many cases, a failed prosecution will result in a prosecution of the accuser for "adultery". [16][17]

"When and if this happens [prosecution of rape victim], it does not represent Islam but represents cultural understanding and man made laws, not God's commands in the Quran. [12]"
"One is required to produce four witnesses when making an allegation of adultery against another person [18]"

Marital rape

Regarding marital rape, people are to treat each other with respect. However, celibacy within marriage is discouraged. Some Muslim leaders go as far as to deny that marital rape is a meaningful concept.

"Clearly there cannot be any rape within the marriage. Maybe aggression, maybe indecent activity... Because when they got married, the understanding was that sexual intercourse was part of the marriage, so there cannot be anything against sex in marriage. Of course, if it happened without her desire, that is no good, that is not desirable. [...] In Islamic sharia, rape is adultery by force. So long as the woman is his wife, it cannot be termed as rape. It is reprehensible, but we do not call it rape."

— Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, president of the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain [19]
"As for "marital rape", Islam teaches both husband and wife the understanding of having to minimize the times when they are reluctant to respond to their spouses' sexual demand. Unless there are really serious reasons concerning, for example, health or mental difficulties, they should not refuse such a demand. [...] Therefore, Islam urges both parties to be always welcoming to meet the other party's sexual demands and needs. Both parties are also obliged to make sure that this affair has ended with full satisfaction for ones' partner. [20]"

Rape and evolution

Responding to evolution, apologists say it leads to immoral outcomes:

"Two other Darwinists recently wrote a book asserting that rape is a natural consequence of evolution. According to authors Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer, rape is “a natural, biological phenomenon that is a product of the human evolutionary heritage,” just like “the leopard’s spots and the giraffe’s elongated neck.” Shocking as they are, these Darwinian conclusions about murder and rape should come as no surprise to anyone who understands the moral implications of Darwinism. [21]"

The apologist is committing both appeal to consequences and the naturalistic fallacy. It suffers from the is-ought problem. Just because something is "natural" does not make it "good".

See also


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. [4]
  5. Biblical Gender Roles, Christian Husbands – You don’t pay for the milk when you own the cow!, 28 April 2015
  6. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  7. [5]
  8. [6]
  9. [7]
  10. [8]
  11. [9]
  12. 12.0 12.1 [10]
  13. [11]
  14. Why Sharia is an Evil Abomination, October 30, 2007
  15. Slavery in Islam
  16. [12]
  17. [13]
  18. [14]
  19. [15]
  20. [16]
  21. I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist

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