This article accompanies the fable
Ask it another way: are religious believers more tempted to bring on the Apocalypse with their sexual behavior, like Joseph Smith did, because they come to disregard earthly values? On the other hand, are agnostics more likely to lapse into celibacy and eunuchhood, like some say Herman Melville did, because they don't believe in Heaven at all? Is there a middle way for the married?
I have dealt with sexual fables generally (here) and with celibacy and eunuchhood specifically (here), but Melville touches on this in his enormous (unreadable) poem Clarel (published 1876). It has four main sections: Jerusalem, The Wilderness, Mar Saba and Bethlehem. In Mar Saba, he is asking why rush to Heaven if there's no sex to be had:
Can we pretend with a perfumed rose? That is about all Clarel finds at the austere monastery of Mar Saba, near Bethlehem. Here it is in a striking photo from 1900.
I wouldn't be the first person to say the poem is about the failure of religious thinking as much as it is about sexual failure, but it doesn't strike me as autobiographical so much as a complex Romantic meditation on human existence and the need for love. I agree with those who say it anticipates Eliot's The Waste Land and Four Quartets, but what I like about it is what I like about all Melville's works: diving into them is like diving into a library. I cannot say that about Joseph Smith.
The painting at top is Moon Nymph by Luis Ricardo Falero, a Spanish painter, from 1883. For more details, see the bottom of this page here.