Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Religion influencing abortion views

LifeNews.com reports on a recent Pew poll that gives the shocking revelation that religion has some influence on American opinions about abortion.
A new Pew poll released on Friday shows Americans continue to say their religious beliefs have been highly influential in shaping their views about social issues, including abortion. The way in which religious beliefs play a role in shaping abortion views is more strong [sic] than for other political issues.

On the issue of abortion, 26% overall say religion is the most important influence on their opinion, including 45% among abortion opponents.

Just 9 percent of those who support legalized abortion say religion affected their conclusion about it.
Unless I am simply being uncharitable (and I confess I have been a bit grumpy in the past few days) LifeNews.com may be too nearsighted to realize the flip-side of the statistic they just quoted. That is, 55% of abortion opponents said religion isn't the most important influence on their opinion.

Let's think about this. Is it really good for the pro-life cause to place itself more and more firmly in the conservative religious camp? Do we really need to cloud the arguments of plain reason with a storm of religious vocabulary that is foreign and unnatural to many American minds?

But then, the questions that polls ask are so ill-defined. What does it mean when someone responds that religion is the most important factor in determining her views on abortion? Does that mean that person accepts whatever the Church teaches on the subject? Does it mean that person reads the Bible critically and accepts whatever she comes up with herself? Does it mean that her religion causes her to believe in certain principles that lead her logically to accept the pro-life stance on abortion?

Sometimes, I think the only hope for democracy is to ban all polls.

More pertinently, I think it's dangerous for the pro-life cause to draw its primary support from the teachings of religion. My issue is not with Christians having Christian ways of looking at the world; rather, my issue is finding a common language to talk about abortion. For most of the world, the language of evangelical Christianity is foreign, and it does not help so much as hinder dialog. We cannot afford to remove ourselves from critical conversations going on in the world at large.

Most disturbing to me is the way activist sites like LifeNews seem to pander to the religious right for the sake of winning elections. This seems like sacrificing the long run for a few short gains. Religious sentiment may be very useful at getting a certain constituency to the polls, but this does not change cultural beliefs or practices on the issue of abortion.

So what about that 55%? Are there any pro-life activist groups willing to listen to them?

I mean, besides the obvious.

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