Religious authority and public opinion on the right to die
Over the past fifty years, numerous public opinion surveys have indicated growing support for physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, and right-to-die legislation. This pro-euthanasia trend, however, goes against fundamental Judeo-Christian principles that have traditionally been the bulwark against the acceptance of euthanasia. Using Chaves's (1994) definition of secularization as the declining scope of religious authority, we examine to what extent people are likely to reject traditional sanctions against euthanasia and approve physician-assisted suicide. We find that the odds of the nonreligious approving physician-assisted suicide are three times greater than the religious; yet, only self-identified evangelical and liberal Protestants are significantly different from the nonreligious in attitudes towards physician-assisted suicide. We suggest that secularization does not uniformly affect all religious groups. Although in some traditions, people's euthanasia attitudes are not congruent with the positions of their religious authorities, in other traditions, most notably evangelicalism, religious authority appears to remain strong.
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