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Volume 10, No.1 Fall1991 57 RELIGION AND VIEWS ON REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIES: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF JEWS AND NON-JEWS1 Harriet L. Parmet and Judith N. Lasker Harriet L. Parmet is Lecturer in Hebrew in the modern foreign languages department at Lehigh University. She has a particular interest in modern Israeli literature, especially the work of women writers. She is currently conducting research on the life of freedom fighter Haviva Reik, who was killed after returning from Israel to her native Czechoslovakia during World War II to fight the Nazis. Judith N. Lasker is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Social Relations at Lehigh University. Her research has been primarily in medical sociology and women's health issues, in particular on the impact of pregnancy loss and infertility. She is co-author of Mzen Pregnancy Fails: Families Coping with Miscamage, Ectopic Pregnancy, Stillbirth and Infant Death and of In Search of Parenthood: Coping with Infertility and High-Tech Conception. New developments in reproductive technology have proliferated throughout the last decade and received enormous attention from the public. In vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogate motherhood have all been the subject of controversy at the same time as they are becoming more widely used by infertile people seeking a solution to their desire for children. A few public opinion polls have been conducted in an attempt to assess attitudes toward these methods of conception.2 None have considered the possible impact of religious affiliation or of religious commitment on these 1Acknowledgments are due to Alice Mesaros and Aileen Wells for assisting with the data analysis and to the Lehigh University Unsponsored Research Fund for financial support. Thanks to Marshall Sklare, Daniel Lasker, Steven M. Cohen, Larry Greil, and Jonathan Parmet for their suggestions on earlier drafts and to Renee Cohen at the American Jewish Committee for supplying data on college freshmen . An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Association for Jewish Studies meetings, December 1986. 58 SHOFAR attitudes, although religious leaders have often taken strong positions (both for and against) on the new technologies, and religious affiliation and religiosity are often important predictors of beliefs and attitudes. In this paper we report the results of a study of college students' attitudes to a variety of reproductive technologies, comparing the results for Jews, Protestants, and Catholics in order to assess whether there is a significant difference in attitudes among the three groups. We are also interested in whether variations in self-reported religiosity in the sample as a whole are associated with differences in opinions on these new methods of conception. Background Research on the relationship of religious affiliation to attitudes has consistently uncovered distinctions among Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. This has been true in the American political arena, where Protestants have been more likely to vote Republican, while Jews and Catholics have traditionally been more inclined to the Democrats. There are also differences in attitudes toward issues such as civil rights, with Jews consistently taking what has been cOnsidered a more liberal position.3 Protestants have regularly been found to be more conservative than non-Protestants on a variety of attitudes.4 Gerhard Lenski, in his classic study of American religious groups. The Religious Factor,5 found that only Jews were consistently liberal on each of four socio-political issues (freedom of speech, foreign aid, welfare state, and racial integration). Everett Ladd, in reviewing studies of the relative liberalism of Jews, Protestants, and Catholics,6 concluded that Jews continue to be appreciably more liberal in their views and continue to describe themselves as more liberal than the other two groups. The differences were particularly 2Judith N. Lasker and Susan Borg, In Search ofParenthood: Coping with Infertility and High Tech Conception (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987). 3Michael Argyle and Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion (London: Routledge, 1975). 4Adrian Furnham, Christopher Johnson, and Richard Rawles, "The Determinants of Beliefs in Human Nature," Personality and Individual Differences 6 (1985): 675-684; Adrian Furnham and B. Gunter, "Just World.Beliefs and Attitudes Toward the Poor," British Joumal ofSocial Psychology 23 (1984): 265-269. 5Gerhard E. Lenski, The Religious Factor: A Sociological Study ofReligion's Impact on Politics, Economics, and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 57-71
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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