Celibacy (from Latin caelibatus) is the state of voluntarily being unmarried, sexually abstinent, or both, usually for religious reasons. It is often in association with the role of a religious official or devotee. In its narrow sense, the term celibacy is applied only to those for whom the unmarried state is the result of a sacred vow, act of renunciation, or religious conviction. In a wider sense, it is commonly understood to only mean abstinence from sexual activity.
Celibacy has existed in one form or another throughout history, in virtually all the major religions of the world, and views on it have varied.
Classical Hindu culture encouraged asceticism and celibacy in the later stages of life, after one has met one's societal obligations. Jainism, on the other hand, preached complete celibacy even for young monks and considered celibacy to be an essential behavior to attain moksha. Buddhism is similar to Jainism in this respect. There were, however, significant cultural differences in the various areas where Buddhism spread, which affected the local attitudes toward celibacy. A somewhat similar situation existed in Japan, where the Shinto tradition also opposed celibacy. In most native African and Native American religious traditions, celibacy has been viewed negatively as well, although there were exceptions like periodic celibacy practiced by some Mesoamerican warriors.
The Romans viewed celibacy as an aberration and legislated fiscal penalties against it, with the exception of the Vestal Virgins, who took a 30-year vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals.
In Christianity, celibacy means the promise to live either virginal or celibate in the future. In addition to the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and some Protestant churches or communities such as the Shakers also know a promise or vow of celibacy for example for members of religious orders, hermits, consecrated virgins and deaconesses.
Judaism and Islam have denounced celibacy, as both religions emphasize marriage and family life. However, the priests of the Essenes, a Jewish sect during the Second Temple period, practised celibacy. Several hadiths indicate that the Islamic prophet Muhammad denounced celibacy.