Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions

Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions

Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions

Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions

Synopsis

This book presents the work of the "Sacred Choices Initiative" of the Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health, and Ethics. The purpose of this Packard and Ford Foundation supported initiative is to attempt to change international discourse on family planning and to rescue this debate from superficial sloganeering by drawing on the moral stores of the world's major and indigenous religions. In many of the world's religions there is a restrictive and pro-natalist view on family planning, and this is one legitimate reading of those religious traditions. As the essays in this volume demonstrate, however, this is not the only legitimate or orthodox view. These authors show that the paramaters of orthodoxy are wider and gentler than that, and that the great religious traditions are wiser and more variegated and nuanced than a simple repetition of the most conservative views would suggest. This theme is carried out in essays on each of the world's major religious traditions, written by scholar practitioners of those faiths.

Excerpt

This book is written in the conviction that religion is a if not the shaper of culture. Religion is a response to the sacred. However we define that sacred—theistically or nontheistically—we can't avoid the word or the experience. Life is not just good. In some of its manifestations it is sacred—our code word for the peaking of preciousness. There is no one who finds nothing sacred, and there is nothing that adds power to human motivation like the tincture of the sacred. As John Henry Newman once observed, people will die for a dogma who will not stir for a conclusion. So if we would mobilize cures for the ills of earth, religion will be a player, for good or for ill. Mysteries like birth and death stimulate the emotion of the religio-sacred, making religion an inevitable presence—again, for good or for ill—in the ethics and policies of family planning.

It is notoriously difficult to say with certainty how much religion has to do with fertility decisions since education, affluence, the status of women, and so many other factors are involved in fertility motivation. Also positions held by religious leaders are not necessarily shared by the body of the faithful. The Catholic hierarchy stands virtually alone among religions in its opposition to contraception (although there are defections even there: see chapter 3), and yet France was the first country to experience a fertility transition and Italy (which hosts the Vatican) and Spain have two of the three lowest fertility rates in the world. Only Hong Kong is lower. However, realistic fertility analysis must deal with the widespread . . .

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