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Conservative Protestantism and Attitudes toward Family Planning in a Sample of Seminarians

Christopher G. Ellison and Patricia Goodson
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 36, No. 4 (Dec., 1997), pp. 512-529
DOI: 10.2307/1387687
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1387687
Page Count: 18
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Conservative Protestantism and Attitudes toward Family Planning in a Sample of Seminarians
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Abstract

We begin by developing arguments linking aspects of Conservative Protestant theology with attitudes toward family planning. We then develop a theoretical model, and test hypotheses distilled from this model using data on a sample of Protestant seminary students (base N = 635) drawn in 1995-96. As expected, seminarians from Conservative Protestant denominations are less supportive of family planning than their mainline counterparts, although respondents in both groups express broadly favorable views of family planning. This observed denominational pattern is accounted for by the disproportionate tendency of fundamentalist and evangelical students to view the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. In turn, the strong relationship between inerrancy and family planning attitudes seems to reflect the inclination of inerrantists: (a) to interpret a key fertility-related passage, Gen. 1:28a, as a command and/or a blessing from God directed at individuals and couples; and (b) to harbor more conservative attitudes regarding human sexuality. Several alternative explanations for the denominational variations in family planning attitudes are also explored. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for future research on Conservative Protestant attitudinal distinctiveness, and on the links between religion and health issues.

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