Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday Science Blog

Interesting.  Admittedly, this is a small study, but it helps to dispel the stereotypical notion that nonbelievers are without compassion toward others.

Nonreligious children are more generous

"Religious doctrines typically urge the faithful to treat others with compassion and to put the greater good before selfish interests. But when it comes to generosity, nonreligious kids seem to be more giving, according to a new study of 1170 children from around the world.

Children from religious homes—particularly Muslims—also showed a greater inclination to judge someone’s misdeeds as wrong and punish the perpetrators. The study, the first large-scale analysis of its kind, suggests that religion and moral behavior don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand for children. “Our findings support the notion that the secularization of moral discourse does not reduce human kindness. In fact it does just the opposite,” says Jean Decety, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, in Illinois, and the study’s lead author.

 Past research has already called into doubt the common stereotype that religious people are more moral than their nonreligious brethren. In surveys, religious people report higher levels of charitable activity. But it’s not clear whether this is accurate or an exaggeration. It’s also unclear whether the altruistic spirit is mostly confined to other members of their religion. In actual tests of generosity, there are also mixed results.

One study found both religious and nonreligious people shared more money with a stranger after reading sentences containing religious words such as “spirit” and “God.” But people were also more generous after reading words associated with secular authorities such as “police.” Another study found that more religious people were just as likely as less religious people to bypass a stranger in distress."

Rosa Rubicondior blog reported on this as well.

Also, an interesting discussion from a 2007 article posted on Patheos:

" the dilemma of choosing between good and evil, theism gives us reason to “cultivate the better angels of our nature.” However, any honest assessment of history would conclude that religion makes people bad at least as often as it makes them good. Religion has inspired great acts of charity and selflessness, beautiful music, art and architecture, and countless examples of human kindness and compassion. It has also inspired horrific, bloody wars, brutal inquisitions, tyrannical theocracies, fanatical campaigns of terror, and countless incidents of discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry. Far from being a force that pulls ceaselessly toward the moral apex of the universe, religion is more like a megaphone, amplifying both the good and the bad of human nature in equal measure. 

This is not surprising to an atheist, because there is no objectively verifiable evidence of any god who wants people to behave in any particular way. As a result, people can without fear of contradiction invent a god who speaks for them, who confirms all their opinions and prejudices – and this is exactly what all religious people do, the liberal as well as the conservative. 

You worried that atheists have no compelling answer to a person who says, “I’m going to do whatever I please.” But religion does not solve that problem. If anything, the problem is far worse when the malcontent is a theist who claims that his desires are not just some idiosyncratic expression of individual preference, but the very will of God. An atheist, at least, has no warrant to claim holy sanction or divine infallibility for his opinions, and in theory can be persuaded by reason. On the other hand, a person who sincerely believes that they are acting in accordance with the will of the creator is immune to evidence, diplomacy, and compromise – as the many religious wars still smoldering after millennia should make abundantly clear."

And finally another discussion from LiveScience on morality, religion, and atheism:

Religion Doesn't Make People More Moral, Study Finds


Infidel753 said...

"Religions are not sources of objective morals, they are sources of excuses for behaving immorally" -- Rosa Rubicondior

How often have we seen this? The religious can indulge in the most vicious and cruel behavior towards other people and still claim to be self-righteous because they're expressing God's will and not their own. In particular, they can harass, lie, and do anything else imaginable to push their religion on others and claim it's "loving" since they're trying to save the person from going to Hell.

Religion helps people feel smug about being nasty. That's probably why it appeals so much to nasty people.

Ahab said...

Regarding Infidel's comment, the atrocities of ISIS come to mind. By attributing their darkest impulses to God's will, ISIS fighters can soothe their consciences.

Rational Nation USA said...



Flying Junior said...

It is very much correct that neither Christianity nor any other religion has a monopoly on morality. I think I discussed this once with a new pastor, young and a little bit hip, at our Baptist church a good twelve years ago. (I bailed on this church in the very nick of time, but that is another story in and of itself.) I guess we were trying to ascertain just what exactly was the difference between people of faith and more or less just about everybody else. Yes. Morality is a basic human instinct. I think that we are all born with it. Just as the contemporary Christian dogma levels that we are all born to original sin.

I have also taken note of the fact that this blog has never directly impugned people of faith in any way, nor has it shown the slightest disrespect. I'm okay with saying that Christianity is not the only route to benevolence. Clearly it is not.

Another time I let this issue get the best of me when I actually lashed out at Infidel753. I was not respecting his right to free speech. Still, we had a rapprochement. I felt that he did not hold it as a grudge. I am still proud to consider him a friend today.

Shaw Kenawe said...

F.J. I was raised a Catholic, but in my twenties I left the church and since then have considered myself a nontheist -- someone who has no belief in a god. However there are people in my extended family who belong to a variety of religions: Buddhist, Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Jehovah Witnesses, Unitarian Universalist, and of course, several, like me, who have no religious beliefs at all.

None of my religious extended family members are fanatics, in fact, my niece belongs to one of Massachusetts' oldest congregations and when her sister, passed away suddenly several years ago, it was her pastor who came to see my niece's shocked and grieving parents, my older sister and her husband (both nonbelievers), twice to comfort them. Respecting their position as nonbelievers, this pastor spoke with my sister and her husband both times without mentioning God or that their daughter was with God or saying "she's in a better place." Instead he let them remember her and talk about her in the way that comforted them. I respected him for that sensitivity and for his wisdom in understanding that everyone deals with tragedies in their own way and that was not the time to try to bring my sister and her husband back to God. I'll never forget that pastor's humanity and humility. He did the right thing.

I've been through some really difficult medical situations since then, and though I've wished at times I could prevail on some supernatural being to lift these ordeals from me, I dealt with them knowing that I have the strength to face whatever the outcome will be. I believe this life is all there is, and we need to make it the best life we can. Afterwards, I believe is oblivion, and I'm okay with that. Afterall, that's where I was before I was born, and I have no fear of returning to it.

I'm glad you and Infidel753 are friends again. I've learned a great deal through reading his blog.

As a side note: My daughter, who like her parents has no religious beliefs nor do her children, received a note from her 9-year-old son's teacher a few years ago in which the teacher wrote that my grandson was "the kindest student in her class," who always reached out to help and to be friendly to other students and new students.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Definition of the word ‘nun:’ “A creature of habit

Bonnie McFarlane: “My biggest issue with my husband is how do we raise the baby … because he’s Jewish, I’m Protestant, and the baby’s father is Catholic

Jimmy Carr: “If we’re all God’s children, what’s so special about Jesus?

Ambrose Bierce: “A Christian is a person who feels repentance on Sunday for what he did on Saturday and will do again on Monday

Hal Roach: “My wife converted me to religion. I never believed in hell until I married her

Fred Allen: “The first time I sang in the church choir, two hundred people changed their religion

Stephen Colbert: “Isn’t an agnostic just an atheist without balls?

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

One more ...

"Religious war is is basically killing people over who has the better imaginary friend"