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Book Review: Faith and Fertility - Attitudes Towards Reproductive Practices in Different Religions from Ancient to Modern Times

12 April 2010
Appeared in BioNews 553

Faith and Fertility: Attitudes Towards Reproductive Practices in Different Religions from Ancient to Modern Times

Edited by Professor Eric Blyth and Professor Ruth Landau

Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers

ISBN-10: 1843105357, ISBN-13: 978-1843105350

Buy this book from Amazon UK

'Faith and Fertility: Attitudes Towards Reproductive Practices in Different Religions from Ancient to Modern Times' edited by Professor Eric Blyth and Professor Ruth Landau


First as a reviewer of this book I have a declaration of interest (or lack thereof): I have no faith. I did, however, attend a school where half my class were Jewish and where for non-Jews attendance at daily Christian assemblies was compulsory. I dimly recollect that we had an assembly a year explaining the five pillars of Islam and several others explaining the major Jewish holidays. Our religious studies lessons were confined to the Old Testament.

Perhaps it is the lack of formal education I received about other religions which explains why I found this book so fascinating. I read it over the Christmas holidays and found that I couldn't put it down. Faith and Fertility is a collection of essays by academics and faith leaders from around the world. The book covers the 'Big Five' religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. It also looks at those with which BioNews readers may be less familiar such as the Yoruba Traditional faith of south-western Nigeria and Chinese traditional belief systems.

I think it was the combination of basic facts such as the numbers of adherents to the different religions and how the religion is organised and administered, with the little details such as the avoidance of ''cold' (ying) food or drinks (for example crab and watermelon juice)' in Chinese traditional religion which kept me engaged.

Religious attitudes to IVF, the use of donor gametes, surrogacy, cloning, embryo research, gender selection and PGD are all considered, as well as attitudes to childlessness. The authors clearly point out that even within a faith there are often different divisions, each with its own views as to what is and what is not sanctioned, for example in Orthodox and Reform Judaism.

The book succeeds in enlightening the reader and providing a nuanced understanding of the different attitudes of the different faiths to assisted conception, while simultaneously showing the patriarchal nature of all the religions discussed. It would be of great interest to anyone who attended the Progress Educational Trust's conference 'Is the Embryo Sacrosanct? Multi-faith Perspectives' in 2008 and is essential reading for those dealing with patients with diverse religious beliefs.


Buy Faith and Fertility: Attitudes Towards Reproductive Practices in Different Religions from Ancient to Modern Times from Amazon UK.

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