Friday, January 04, 2008

Religion does not equal morality. USA as the perfect example

I'm reading a spectacular book, which I will not name yet, because I know some of you will instantly stop reading this because of what you think you know about the book and it's author.

About 3/5ths of the way through the book is an extensive, well researched and very interesting analysis of morality and whether religion is necessary for morality. The short, provable answer is categorically no!

The book's author, who has a long career as both a researcher and author, cites several standardised studies where questions about moral actions are presented to subjects from a variety of cultures and societies and who may or may not be religious or who may be full on free of religion (atheist or completely un-introduced to religion). These results are on pages 222 - 226 of the book, which I will name shortly and NO, don't scroll down or your grandma will crack her back....

The results are clear: regardless of culture, language, religion or not, morality is a deeply ingrained human trait. With VERY high correlation, there was little difference in responses across the range of subjects.

Now about the US, where the country is described as being made of up red and blue states, with red states being the conservative/right-wing/religious states and the blue states being liberal and more inclined to humanism. Two things are notable; educational levels are much higher in the blue states although there is a larger population in the red states (and this supports my argument that some political structures prefer their constituents uneducated in order that they don't have enough understanding of processes to ask questions. In short, they like constituents who follow with little or no protest).

The second and significant detail is that in these religious states (and Christianity is the weapon of choice by a large margin), crime rates run anywhere from 35 % to 80% above those in blue states. Oh, and according to someone's research, the most 'religious' states have the highest rates of teen pregnancy. See what happens when you leave out sex ed?

So, according to my book, in a quote from another book, Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris, here's the scoop on crime in these 'religious' states - and oh, by the way, these are the guys and gals who claim that, without religion, one cannot be moral....

"While political party affiliation in the United States is not a perfect indicator of religiosity, it is no secret that the 'red (Republican) states' are primarily red due the overwhelming political influence of conservative Christians. If there were a strong correlation between Christian conservatism and societal health, we might expect to see some sign of it in red-state America.

We don't.
  • Of the twenty five cities with the lowest rates of violent crime, 62 percent are in 'blue' (Democrat) states, and 38 percent are in 'red' (Republican) states.
  • Of the twenty-five most dangerous cities, 76 percent are in red states, and 24 percent are in blue states.
  • In fact, three of the five most dangerous cities in the U.S. are in the pious state of Texas.
  • The twelve states with the highest rates of burglary are red. Twenty-four of the twenty-nine states with the highest rates of theft are red.
  • Of the twenty-two states with the highest rates of murder, seventeen are red."
Einstein said "If people are good only because they fear punishment and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed."

In His book The Science of Good and Evil, Michael Shermer has a great 'debate stopper,' as he calls it, for those who claim there's no morality without god. Ask such a person whether, if (as is probable) there were no god, would they begin a life of robbery, rape and murder. Very likely, they'll say of course they wouldn't, to which you reply, "so you would continue to be a good person, even without the influence of god?? to which they'd likely say yes, thus allowing them to disprove, all by themselves, that morality does not come from religious motivation, but from human's ingrained sense of morality.

I am frightfully tired of the stupid, unresearched, knee-jerk, I-know-I'm-right-and-I-have-god-on-my-side arguments that I am bombarded with any time there's a sniff that I'm not on the 'right' page. If I could force these 'believers' to actually sit down, read and assimilate the myriad, well-written books they have full, unlimited access to, perhaps I could have a short debate with them.

But the defining characteristic of religious people and specifically those who presume themselves to be christians (as I live in a city that is rife with them) is that they are, firstly, completely blind to the realities of their religion and secondly, they prefer it that way. To quote my Ex, "don't confuse me with the facts."

As for facts, here's an interesting quote from the many that letter Letter to a Christian Nation: "Despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of the earth, more than half of our neighbours (assuming you're from the U.S) believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians created glue."

Last fact: some of you are about to utter, either out loud or in your head, a little curse over the writer and the book from whence I've taken my point of view for post. The book is The God Delusion and the very educated writer is Richard Dawkins, who holds two doctorates (philosophy and science) but doesn't use the title of doctor in his writing so as to not alienate any reader.

Some potential readers are quite happy to alienate themselves in order to avoid the truth they claim they so diligently pursue....

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