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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Religious Views on the Use of Torture

Is the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information ever justified? That's the question a recent survey by the Pew Research Center asked people from different religious traditions.
More than 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants say the use of torture against suspected terrorists can be often or sometimes justified, while 46 percent of white mainline Protestants and 40 percent of those who are religiously unaffiliated say the same.
Obvious differences. But as the analysts note in their write-up, the reason for the discrepancy is less clear:

In the case of an issue such as evolution, one can point to clear doctrinal reasons for some religious groups to reject the idea of evolution by natural selection. But there may be no such theological differences when it comes to torture or other political issues, such as environmentalism or views of government's role in the economy. Instead, differences among religious groups may reflect other social and political differences among the members of those groups.
It turns out "party and ideology are much better predictors of views on torture than are religion and most other demographic factors," they say. "Of course, religion itself is known to be a strong factor shaping individuals' partisanship and political ideology. Attitudes about torture are likely to reflect both moral judgments and political considerations—both of which may be formed in part by religious convictions—about circumstances under which torture may be justified." —Heather Wax