Divinely ordained death? Exploring religious determinants of support for capital punishment, abortion, and euthanasia

Date

2/3/2021

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Abstract

Whether individuals may decide to end other people or their own life has always been a matter of ethical and social debate. The current research explores attitudes toward three cases of unnatural death: capital punishment, abortion, and euthanasia. One considerable factor which shapes individuals’ attitudes toward human intervention in death is religion. Another salient determinant is the effect of racial differences. This dissertation argues that religion and race cause significant changes in individuals’ mindsets toward human intervention in the death process. Therefore, the present research examines how religion affects attitudes toward the death penalty, abortion, and euthanasia and how those effects may be moderated by race. This study proposes differentiating religion into four dimensions: religiosity, spirituality, afterlife beliefs, and religious affiliation. Using data from the 2018 wave of the General Social Survey (GSS), the present research found that religion’s various dimensions have distinct effects on attitudes toward the death penalty, abortion, and euthanasia. However, religion is often influenced by racialized emotions, leading to divergent effects based on race. Results from Logistic regression analysis showed that, without the interaction effect of race, support for the death penalty was significantly influenced by religiosity, spirituality, afterlife beliefs, being Catholic, being female, being Republican, being Liberal, and being Black. For Blacks, the effect of religiosity on support for the death penalty was higher than Whites. Also, the effect of spirituality on support for the death penalty was greatest for Blacks, followed by other races, and smallest for Whites. With regard to abortion, results from OLS Regression demonstrated that, without the interaction of race, support for abortion was significantly influenced by religiosity, spirituality, being Catholic, and being Republican, being Liberal, and education. For Blacks the effect of spirituality on support for abortion was higher than Whites. Finally, results from Logistic regression analysis showed that support for euthanasia was significantly influenced by religiosity, spirituality, being Liberal, and education. For Blacks the effect of religiosity on support for euthanasia is lower than Whites. The effect of spirituality on support for euthanasia is greatest for other races, followed by Black, and smallest for Whites.

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Keywords

Religion, Capital punishment, Abortion, Euthanasia, Race

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