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Thread: Does Religion Make You Nice? Does Atheism Make You Mean?

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    Does Religion Make You Nice? Does Atheism Make You Mean?

    Does Religion Make You Nice?

    Does atheism make you mean?

    Many Americans doubt the morality of atheists. According to a 2007 Gallup poll, a majority of Americans say that they would not vote for an otherwise qualified atheist as president, meaning a nonbeliever would have a harder time getting elected than a Muslim, a homosexual, or a Jew. Many would go further and agree with conservative commentator Laura Schlessinger that morality requires a belief in God—otherwise, all we have is our selfish desires. In The Ten Commandments, she approvingly quotes Dostoyevsky: "Where there is no God, all is permitted." The opposing view, held by a small minority of secularists, such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, is that belief in God makes us worse. As Hitchens puts it, "Religion poisons everything."

    Arguments about the merits of religions are often battled out with reference to history, by comparing the sins of theists and atheists. (I see your Crusades and raise you Stalin!) But a more promising approach is to look at empirical research that directly addresses the effects of religion on how people behave.
    In a review published in Science last month, psychologists Ara Norenzayan and Azim Shariff discuss several experiments that lean pro-Schlessinger. In one of their own studies, they primed half the participants with a spirituality-themed word jumble (including the words divine and God) and gave the other half the same task with nonspiritual words. Then, they gave all the participants $10 each and told them that they could either keep it or share their cash reward with another (anonymous) subject. Ultimately, the spiritual-jumble group parted with more than twice as much money as the control. Norenzayan and Shariff suggest that this lopsided outcome is the result of an evolutionary imperative to care about one's reputation. If you think about God, you believe someone is watching. This argument is bolstered by other research that they review showing that people are more generous and less likely to cheat when others are around. More surprisingly, people also behave better when exposed to posters with eyes on them.....

    http://www.slate.com/id/2203614/pagenum/all


    Die Sonne scheint noch.

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    Well it goes way back to Adam and Eve.
    Jeg er over gjennomsnittet bitter, og liker stort sett ingen andre enn meg selv


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    I would be more willing to vote for an atheist simply because he would not allow religion to interfere with his policy. Just look at what happens when hee-haw Jesus jumping intolerant know-nothing neocons push "faith-based initiatives", meanwhile, many prisons get skiddish about allowing meditation as part of rehabilitation... When you mix religion and politics you are courting Taliban-esque government.

    Millions of dollars and missionaries are flooded into India every year, where poor people are coerced to convert through dishonest methods, because Christians and other Abrahamites think it's their duty to save souls.

    Holding to dogmas, and strict laws based on un-natural asceticism does not make you nice.
    SVMDEVSSVMCAESARSVMCAELVMETINFERNVM

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    It SHOULD

    Here's a little blurb I often read, from an atheist no less. It's a perfect normative description of why somebody might believe in a religion, and the perfect circumstances of doing so, and the ultimate meaning of that religion in a social context. Wow, yeah, all of that in one paragraph. Enjoy.

    from Sidney Hook, in Quest for Being, 1961, p. 100:

    "So long as religion is freed from authoritarian institutional forms, and conceived in personal terms, so long as overbeliefs are a source of innocent joy, a way of overcoming cosmic loneliness, a discipline of living with pain and evil, otherwise unendurable and irremediable, so long as what functions as a vital illusion or poetic myth is not represented as public truth to whose existence the once-born are blind, so long as religion does not paralyze the desire and the will to struggle against unnecessary cruelties of experience, it seems to me to fall in an area of choice in which rational criticism may be suspended. In this sense, a man's personal religion justifies itself to him in the way his love does. Why should he want to make a public cult of it? And why should we want him to prove that the object of his love is the most lovely creature in the world? Nonetheless it still remains true that as a set of cognitive beliefs, religious doctrines constitute a speculative hypothesis of an extremely low order of probability."

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    Religion does not make people "nice", it makes them adhere to a set of norms the religion delineates or, at least, increases the social pressure to conform or pretend to conform to them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidney Hook, in [U]Quest for Being[/U], 1961, p. 100
    In this sense, a man's personal religion justifies itself to him in the way his love does. Why should he want to make a public cult of it?
    Because it strengthens the group consciousness of the tribe. Whether it is chanting and singing in a football stadium or chanting and singing at a cult site, it makes people feel the community around them and sychronises them as parts of a functional unit, which should be the tribe.

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    Hook means state-sponsored

    I agree with your last point. I'd like to live in a place where we can sing the folk anthems at a good footie match. But Hook is specifically thinking about state-sponsored religions, such as the former Catholic church, which was in fact state-sponsoring, wasn't it?

    Still. I'm all dreamy thinking about actually living in a world where my community is really mine.

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    Does Religion Make You Nice?
    One might ask: Does state worship make you nice?

    Does atheism make you mean?
    Or: Does modern education/science give one the illusion of intelligence?


    The aim of religion is not "to make man nice"; it does ask of one to love man as such, but not insofar as he is bad. According to a hadith, "the most excellent faith is to love him who loves God, to hate him who hates God." This is to say, since God is Truth, to hate error and love truth, for sin is not just immorality but also all falsehoods.

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    I've had people come up to me numerous times just to tell me what a nice Christian girl I am, ask me numerous times if I attend the local Christian college, deliberately avoid doing anything "sinful" in my presence because they assumed me to be very Christian, and I've also had people not even think about giving me some sort of church pamplet (yet give them to the person next to me) because just by looking at me they already gathered that I had found God. I'm not offended by it because I know they mean well, but it is a little funny since I'm an atheist and that being kind and well-mannered is automatically associated with religious behavior.

    I'm not a big fan of Richard Dawkins because of some of his political views, but here's what he has to say on the matter of religion and morality:
    IF THERE IS NO GOD, WHY BE GOOD?

    Posed like that, the question sounds positively ignoble. When a religious person puts it to me in this way (and many of them do), my immediate temptation is to issue the following challenge: 'Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God's approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That's not morality, that's just sucking up, apple-polishing, looking over your shoulder at the great surveillance camera in the sky, or the still small wiretap inside your head, monitoring your every move, even your every base thought.' As Einstein said, 'If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.' Michael Shermer, in The Science of Good and Evil, calls it a debate stopper. If you agree that, in the absense of God, you would 'commit robbery, rape, and murder', you reveal yourself as an immoral person, 'and we would be well advised to steer a wide course around you'. If, on the other hand, you admit that you would continue to be a good person even when not under divine surveillance, you have fatally undermined your claim thar God is necessary for us to be good. I suspect that quite a lot of religious people do think religion is what motivates them to be good, especially if they belong to one of those faiths that systematically exploits personal guilt.
    It seems to me that to require quite a low self-regard to think that, should belief in God suddenly vanish from the world, we would all become callous and selfish hedonists, with no kindness, no charity, no generosity, nothing that would deserve the name of goodness.

    -The God Delusion

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    Being good and being law-abiding are two different things, in the sense that a good person and a law-abiding person are two different things. You can obey the law and still be an asshole. Is it a coincidence that Ned Flanders in the Simpsons is portrayed as the nicest neighbor you can imagine? Christians today are stereotyped as being nicer, more polite, friendlier, more generous and more helpful than the average person, and to a large extent this is probably true. I do think that being religious makes you see the world and your fellow man in a less cynical way, you could call it a form of naivity, following the golden rule, Do onto others as you would have them do onto you, believing that all people are basically good, turning the other cheek when people wrong you etc.

    With that said I don't think that this outlook on life is very helpful or useful in our modern society of today, overly nice and uncynical people become victims of those who don't play by their imaginary rules. But in a better society perhaps...

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