Sanctity of life

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In religion and ethics, inviolability or sanctity of life is a principle of implied protection regarding aspects of sentient life which are said to be holy, sacred, or otherwise of such value that they are not to be violated. This applies to both animals and humans because they are holy and worthy of life.

The concept of inviolability is an important tie between the ethics of religion and the ethics of law, as each seeks justification for its principles as based on both purity and natural concept, as well as in universality of application.

In Christianity[edit]

The phrase sanctity of life refers to the idea that human life is sacred and holy and precious, argued mainly by the pro-life side in political and moral debates over such controversial issues as abortion, contraception, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and the "right to die" in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries. (Comparable phrases are also used in other languages.) Although the phrase was used primarily in the 19th century in Protestant discourse, after World War II the phrase has been used in Catholic moral theology and, following Roe v. Wade, Evangelical Christian moral rhetoric.[1]

In Eastern religions[edit]

In Western thought, sanctity of life is usually applied solely to the human species (anthropocentrism, sometimes called dominionism), in marked contrast to many schools of Eastern philosophy, which often hold that all animal life is sacred―in some cases to such a degree that, for example, practitioners of Jainism carry brushes with which to sweep insects from their path, lest they inadvertently tread upon them.[citation needed] George Carlin, deceased American social critic and author, challenged this viewpoint in his album and HBO special Back in Town.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Drutchas, Geoffrey Gilbert (1996). Is Life Sacred? The Incoherence of the Sanctity of Life as a Moral Principle within the Christian Churches. Lancaster Theological Seminary. 
  2. ^ "George Carlin: Pro Life, Abortion, And The Sanctity Of Life". 

Further reading[edit]

  • Barry, Robert Laurence (2002). The Sanctity of Human Life and Its Protection. Lanham: University Press of America. 
  • Bayertz, Kurt (ed.) (1996). Sanctity of Life and Human Dignity. Philosophy and Medicine; v. 52. Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic. 
  • Bernardin, Joseph Louis; et al. (1988). Consistent Ethic of Life. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward. 
  • Kass, Leon R. (March 1990). "Death with Dignity and the Sanctity of Life". Commentary. New York: American Jewish Committee. 89 (3): 33–43. ISSN 0010-2601. 
  • Keyserlingk, Edward W. (1979). Sanctity of Life: or, Quality of Life in the Context of Ethics, Medicine, and Law: A Study. Protection of Life Series. Ottawa: Law Reform Commission of Canada. 
  • Kohl, Marvin (1974). The Morality of Killing; Sanctity of Life, Abortion, and Euthanasia. New York: Humanities Press. 
  • Kuhse, Helga (1987). The Sanctity-of-Life Doctrine in Medicine: A Critique. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  • McCormick, Richard A. (1981). "The Quality of Life and the Sanctity of Life". How Brave a New World?: Dilemmas in bioethics. New York: Doubleday: 383–402. 
  • Singer, Peter (2002). Unsanctifying Human Life: essays on ethics. Oxford: Blackwell. 
  • Wildes, Kevin Wm.; Francesc Abel; John C. Harvey (1992). Birth, Suffering, and Death: Catholic Perspectives at the Edges of Life. Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic.