Advertisement

Religion and the Right to (Dispose of) Life: A Study of the Attitude of Christian, Muslim and Hindu Students in India Concerning Death Penalty, Euthanasia and Abortion

  • Francis-Vincent AnthonyEmail author
  • Carl Sterkens
Chapter
Part of the Religion and Human Rights book series (REHU, volume 4)

Abstract

The debate over death penalty, euthanasia and abortion reached a climax during the second half of the twentieth century. It brings into focus the underlying contrasting currents of right to life and right to dispose of life. The pluralistic Indian context in its turn can add to the ambivalent relationship between religion and the (non-)disposability of life. Hence, the question that we address in this paper concerns the role religions play in soliciting and legitimizing the (non-)disposability of life. Our empirical research, among 1215 Christian, Muslim and Hindu college students in Tamil Nadu, focuses on the possible impact of personal religious attitude, contextual religious attitude, and the value of human dignity, on the perception of right to life in the face of death penalty, euthanasia, and abortion. Overall, we find that the three religious groups manifest opposition to disposal of life by death penalty, and an uncertain openness to disposal of life by euthanasia and abortion for victim’s sake. However, as regards euthanasia, while Christians and Hindus tend to be open to disposal of life, Muslims tend to be uncertain. As regards abortion for psycho-economic reasons, the tendency among Christians is non-disposal of life and the tendency among Hindus and Muslims is an uncertain openness to disposal of life. In dealing with the complex issue of (non-)disposal of life, our findings related to personal and contextual religious attitude suggest that religions can provide a meta-ethical basis for both ‘sacredness’ and ‘quality’ human life.

Keywords

Abortion Euthanasia Death penalty Right to life Religion Bioethics Tamil Nadu 

References

  1. Abou Ed Fadl, K. (2004). The death penalty, mercy, and Islam: A call for retrospection. In E. C. Owens, J. D. Carlson, & E. P. Elshtain (Eds.), Religion and the death penalty. A call for reckoning (pp. 73–105). Grand Rapids/Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  2. Anthony, F.-V. (2013). Public significance of religion with regard to socioeconomic rights in the multireligious context of Tamil Nadu, India. In J. A. Van der Ven & H.-G. Ziebertz (Eds.), Human rights and the impact of religion (pp. 205–244). Leiden/Boston: Brill.Google Scholar
  3. Anthony, F.-V. (2017). Anthropological annotations on human dignity from an Asian perspective. In K. Krämer & K. Vellguth (Eds.), Human dignity. Discourses on universality and inalienability (One World Theology, Vol. 8, pp. 27–35). Quezon City: Claretian Communications Foundations Inc.Google Scholar
  4. Anthony, F.-V., & Sterkens, C. (2016). The impact of religion on civil human rights: An empirical-theological study. In C. F. Wolfteich & E. Dillen (Eds.), Catholic approaches in practical theology. International and interdisciplinary perspectives (Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 286, pp. 225–252). Leuven: Peeters Publishers.Google Scholar
  5. Anthony F.-V. & Sterkens C. (2018). Extending political rights to immigrants and refugees. Empirical study among Christian, Muslim and Hindu students in the context of Indian secularism and the politics of inclusion. In C. Sterkens & H.-G. Ziebertz (Eds.), Political and judicial rights through the prism of religious belief (Religion and Human Rights 3, pp. 145–183) Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  6. Aquinas, T. (1485). Summa Theologiae. (trans. by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 1947–48). New York: Benzinger Bros.Google Scholar
  7. Austriaco, N. P. G. (2007). Assisted suicide. In M. L. Coulter, S. M. Krason, et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Catholic social thought, social science, and social policy (pp. 58–59). Lanham/Toronto/Plymouth: The Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  8. Berkowitz, B. A. (2006). Execution and invention. Death penalty discourse in early rabbinic and Christian cultures. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bordignon, B. (2013). Persona è relazione. Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino.Google Scholar
  10. Brennan, W. C. (2007a). Culture of death. In M. L. Coulter, S. M. Krason, et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Catholic social thought, social science, and social policy (pp. 268–269). Lanham/Toronto/Plymouth: The Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  11. Brennan, W. C. (2007b). Culture of life. In M. L. Coulter, S. M. Krason, et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Catholic social thought, social science, and social policy (p. 269). Lanham/Toronto/Plymouth: The Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  12. Brown, A. (2007). Christianity. In P. Morgan & C. A. Lawton (Eds.), Ethical issues in six religious traditions (2nd ed., pp. 216–282). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Brugger, E. C. (2007). Evangelium Vitae. In M. L. Coulter, S. M. Krason, et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Catholic social thought, social science, and social policy (pp. 380–381). Lanham/Toronto/Plymouth: The Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  14. Brugger, E. C. (2014). Capital punishment and Roman Catholic moral tradition (2nd ed.). Notre Dame/Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  15. Catechism of the Catholic Church. (2003). Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.Google Scholar
  16. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (1974). Declaration on procured abortion Quaestio de abortu procurato. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 66(1974–12), 730–747.Google Scholar
  17. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (1980). Declaration on Euthanasia Iura et Bona. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 72(1980–4), 542–552.Google Scholar
  18. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (1988). Instruction on respect for human life in its origin and on the dignity of procreation Donum Vitae. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 80(1988–1), 70–102.Google Scholar
  19. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (2009). Clarification on procured abortion. L’Osservatore Romano, 149(11 July 2009–157), 7.Google Scholar
  20. Crawford, S. C. (1996). The Hindu perspective. In L. Steffen (Ed.), Abortion. A reader (pp. 226–242). Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press.Google Scholar
  21. Denzinger, H. (1995). Enchiridion Symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum. (Edizione bilingue a cura di Hünermann P.) Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane.Google Scholar
  22. Dowbiggin, I. (2005). A concise history of euthanasia. Life, death, God and medicine. Lanham/Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  23. Drutchas, G. (1998). Is life sacred? Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press.Google Scholar
  24. Engineer, A. A. (2012). Islam. Restructuring theology. New Delhi: Vitasta.Google Scholar
  25. Francis. (2013). Evangelii Gaudium. Apostolic exhortation. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 105(2013–12), 1019–1137.Google Scholar
  26. Francis. (2016). Misericordia et misera . Apostolic letter. Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.Google Scholar
  27. Fuchs, J. (1985). Christian faith and the disposing of human life. Theological Studies, 46(1985), 664–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. George, R. R., Devendraakhilesh, P., Iahmo, T. T., Varun, R. P., Moray, K. V., Cherian, A. G., & Prasad, J. H. (2017). Why are abortions the answer? Prevalence, knowledge and attitude towards induced abortions among women attending a secondary level health care facility in Tamil Nadu, Southern India. International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health, 4(2), 532–536.  https://doi.org/10.18203/2394-6040.ijcmph20170286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Guilmoto, C. Z. (2007). Characteristics of sex-ratio imbalance in India, and future scenarios. Fourth Asia Pacific Conference on reproductive and sexual health and rights. Paris: LPDED/IRD.Google Scholar
  30. Hostetler, J., & Coulter, M. L. (2007). Abortion. In M. L. Coulter, S. M. Krason, et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Catholic social thought, social science, and social policy (pp. 1–2). Lanham/Toronto/Plymouth: The Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  31. Hvistendahl, M. (2011). Unnatural selection. Choosing boys over girls, and the consequences of a world full of men. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  32. Joas, H. (2013). The sacredness of the person. A new genealogy of human rights. Washington: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  33. John Paul, II. (1993). Veritatis Splendor. Encyclical letter. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 85(1993–12), 1133–1228.Google Scholar
  34. John Paul, II. (1995). Evangelium Vitae. Encyclical letter. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 87(1995–5), 401–522.Google Scholar
  35. Kelly, D. F. (1979). The emergence of Roman Catholic medical ethics in North America: An historical, methodological, bibliographical study. New York: Mellen.Google Scholar
  36. Kelly, D. F. (1994). Social implications of euthanasia. In J. A. Dwyer (Ed.), The new dictionary of Catholic social thought (pp. 348–353). Collegeville: Liturgical Press.Google Scholar
  37. Leaman, O. (2002). An introduction to classical Islamic philosophy (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Magni, S. F. (2011). Bioetica. Roma: Carocci editore.Google Scholar
  39. Mauceri, J. M. (2007). Euthanasia. In M. L. Coulter, S. M. Krason, et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Catholic social thought, social science, and social policy (pp. 377–378). Lanham/Toronto/Plymouth: The Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  40. McCarthy, J. J. (1994). Capital punishment. In J. A. Dwyer (Ed.), The new dictionary of Catholic social thought (pp. 109–111). Collegeville: Liturgical Press.Google Scholar
  41. McCartney, J. J. (1994). Social implications of abortion. In J. A. Dwyer (Ed.), The new dictionary of Catholic social thought (pp. 5–9). Collegeville: Liturgical Press.Google Scholar
  42. Menski, W. (2007). Hinduism. In P. Morgan & C. A. Lawton (Eds.), Ethical issues in six religious traditions (2nd ed., pp. 1–60). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Merlo, P. (2009). Fondamenti & temi di bioetica. Roma: LAS.Google Scholar
  44. Mill, J. S. (1859;1998). On liberty and other essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Nanji, A. (2007). Islam. In P. Morgan & C. A. Lawton (Eds.), Ethical issues in six religious traditions (2nd ed., pp. 283–342). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Panikkar, R. (1993). The cosmotheandric experience. Emerging religious consciousness. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.Google Scholar
  47. Pius, XI. (1930). Casti connubii. Encyclical letter. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 22(1930–13), 539–595.Google Scholar
  48. Pius, XII. (1952). Discours aux participants au Congrès International d’Histopathologie du Système Nerveux. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 44(1952–15), 779–789.Google Scholar
  49. Pius, XII. (1957). Address to anaesthesiologists and intensive care specialists. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 49(1957–16), 1027–1033.Google Scholar
  50. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. (2004). Compendium of the social doctrine of the church. Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.Google Scholar
  51. Rahman, F. (1996). Birth and abortion in Islam. In L. Steffen (Ed.), Abortion. A reader (pp. 202–209). Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press.Google Scholar
  52. Sammak, M. (2017). Human dignity – An Islamic perspective. In K. Krämer & K. Vellguth (Eds.), Human dignity. Discourses on universality and inalienability (One World Theology, Vol. 8, pp. 233–247). Quezon City: Claretian Communications Foundations Inc.Google Scholar
  53. Schotsmans, P. (2008). Sanctity of autonomy in contemporary bioethics: A matter of concern for theological bioethics. In P. Gnanapragasam & S. Fiorenza (Eds.), Negotiating borders. Theological explorations in the global era. Essays in honour of Prof. Felix Wilfred. Delhi: ISPCK. pp. 259–280.Google Scholar
  54. Second Vatican Council. (1966). Gaudium et Spes. Pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 58(1966–15), 1025–1120.Google Scholar
  55. Sedgh, G., [World Health Organization], et al. (2016). Abortion incidence between 1990 and 2014: Global, regional, and subregional levels and trends. Lancet, 388, 258–267.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30380-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sontheimer, G. (1993). Etica: Induismo. In H. Waldenfels (Ed.), Nuovo Dizionario delle Religioni (pp. 326–328). Cinisello Balsamo: Edizioni San Paolo.Google Scholar
  57. Tamanti, R. (2004). La pena di morte. Tra etica della vita e autorità dello stato. Assisi: Cittadella Editrice.Google Scholar
  58. Van der Ven, J., & Anthony, F.-V. (2008). Impact of religion on social integration from an empirical civil rights perspective. Salesianum, 70(2008–2, 3), 317–338, 463–489.Google Scholar
  59. Van der Ven, J., Dreyer, J. S., & Pieterse, H. J. C. (2004). Is there a God of human rights? The complex relationship between human rights and religion: A South African case. Brill: Leiden/Boston.Google Scholar
  60. World Health Organization [WHO]. (2011). Unsafe abortion: global and regional estimates of the incidence of unsafe abortion and associated mortality in 2008 (6th ed.). Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  61. Wujastyk, D. (2012). Bioethics. In K. A. Jacobsen et al. (Eds.), Brill’s encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol. IV. Historical perspectives. Poets, teachers, and saints. Relation to other religions and traditions. Hinduism and contemporary issues (pp. 633–640). Leiden/Boston: Brill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Practical TheologySalesian Pontifical UniversityRomeItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious StudiesRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations