Abortion & religion – an international view

By Razib Khan | June 6, 2009 10:46 am

There are particular correlations about attitudes toward abortion rights within nations. For example, in the United States thereis no sex difference but more educated people tend to be pro-choice. But what are the international trends? In this post I look at attitudes toward abortion by Catholics and non-Catholics within various nations. Though Catholics tend to be slightly more pro-life, it turns out that the vast majority of the variance is between nations, not between religions. In other words, a Catholic in Germany tends to have the same attitudes as a Protestant in Germany, while a Catholic in Ghana has the same attitudes as a Protestant in Ghana. What about for religion or irreligion? Again, the same. Religiosity seems correlated with pro-life attitudes in most nations, but an atheist in a pro-life nation is far more likely to be pro-life than a very religious person in a pro-choice nation.
What significance does this have? People tend to assume that their beliefs are driven by specific and distinctive individual abstract principles and beliefs, but these data suggest that cultural Zeitgeist matters much more Within a given society a group X may have a particular disposition, but the general outlook of the society shapes their ultimate mean viewpoint far more than their distinctive group identity.


Comments (5)

  1. travc

    Interesting… and probably even useful info there.
    I imagine creationism follows the same trend. The cross tab may be interesting.

  2. I noticed something similar in the World Values Survey in attitudes towards polygny by country and religion. I think there were still big differences by religion though, though I’d have to rerun the question to check that.

  3. Lassi Hippeläinen

    Please be careful with those marketing labels. The “pro-lifers” would be happy to see a mother die at childbirth.

  4. That result is actually quite shocking. It seems then that religious and political labels can have markedly different meanings depending on the context (time and geographic region). Well maybe this was obvious anyway, but this clearly illustrates it.
    I think this speaks to the fact that we have both social and individual impulses. The social arena sets the categories, boundaries, and limits of the discourse and our individual decision making chooses a view acceptable within those bounds or categories. For example, in a more liberal culture than America, it’s possible almost no one thinks abortion should be outlawed in incest cases. But in America, where the bounds are farther to the right, this view is supported by some persons.

  5. What’s more, in poor countries at least, there is an effect of macro-level religiosity on fertility. The more religious your country is, the more children you are likely to have, independent of your own religiosity (Kaufmann 2008: Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion).
    Interesting post on Psyblog on why group norms kill creativity: http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/06/why-group-norms-kill-creativity.php


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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