Sunday, 14 February 2010

Ethics and Religion



Have you been to church today? No need to answer. It's none of my business.

A study published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences found that people who had no religion know right from wrong just as well as regular worshippers.

Dr Marc Hauser, from Harvard University and one of the co-authors of the research, said that he and his colleagues were interested in the roots of religion and morality. The team behind the research found that most religions were similar and had a moral code which helped to organise society.

"For some, there is no morality without religion, while others see religion as merely one way of expressing one's moral intuitions." he said.

"The research suggests that intuitive judgements of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.

"However, although it appears as if co-operation is made possible by mental mechanisms that are not specific to religion, religion can play a role in facilitating and stabilising co-operation between groups."

There we have it - atheists are just as ethical as churchgoers. Right or wrong is intuitive and my years of perfect attendance at Sunday school were a waste of time. I know others in my family said that 50 odd years ago!


18 comments:

Joe Public said...

Priests regularly attend church, yet some of them fail to distinguish between right & wrong.

subrosa said...

I think that was one of the points of the survey Joe. Our morals are our own choice.

Jeanne Tomlin said...

Subrosa, I would like to share something I came across over at Brian Taylor's blog. It pretty well says it all:

We Will Hold You to Account

Jeanne Tomlin said...

apologies, subrosa. I had missed that you posted a link to that earlier. I hope EVERY SCOT who is considering voting Labour will watch it and THINK.

INCOMING!!!!!!! said...

SR I'd be really careful with any "research" on any topic coming out of Harvard. Anything "societal" should be held in extremely long tongs, it is usually toxic covered in chocolate.

tris said...

I'm always somewhat irritated by people who think that Christians have a monopoly on morality or goodness.

I ecpect in some other countries it will be other religions insiead of Christianity.

But there, now we know what we all knew before.

subrosa said...

That's ok Jeanne. The author sent me it earlier today.

subrosa said...

Incoming, it tends to gel with other research I've read over the years.

subrosa said...

I'm always sceptical of any religion having a monopoly on morality Tris.

Stewart Cowan said...

From the Telegraph article:

"Dr Hauser added: "The research suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.""

I have just read the first two chapters of Romans and it seems clear that the Almighty has put this sense of morality into people's hearts. Even the Gentiles without the Law...

"...shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another." (Rom 2:15)

Being a Christian is not just about doing good: "faith without works is dead". It is about the saving faith in Christ that leads to redemption.

I notice lately that Richard Dawkins has been promoting atheist groups who are sending money to Haiti. Why not promote every group, we might ask? Because he is proud that atheists don't need a religion to tell them to be good.

That's because God put the law in his heart and gave him a conscience!

It is human nature to care about others, even those we haven't met - because we are not animals.

If Dawkins' godless worldview were true, we shouldn't care about people thousands of miles away who are starving or sick. We shouldn't even care about our own disabled people, because they are holding the rest of us back.

Survival of the fittest is all that should matter, were we just animals. If it wouldn't be so politically incorrect, Dawkins might even admit that the Nazis had it right when they tried to create a master race.

If we hadn't stopped them, maybe by now they would have finely-tuned mankind: billions of years of evolution just requiring a little bit of intelligent input at the end to make everything perfect.

I can see this becoming another post in my Dawkins Exposed series!

subrosa said...

Many thanks for your comment Stewart. Dawkins doesn't convince me.

The basics is what a child learns before they are around 6 I think regardless of religious teaching.

Our churches have to take some of the responsibility. When I was young the church leaned out to the people but nowadays they expect the people to find them. It doesn't work that way with human nature most of the time.

Then of course churches complain they're only used for christenings, weddings and funerals.

Stewart Cowan said...

Hi Rosie,

Churches need to do more. In one sense, it's not so easy nowadays due to dwindling numbers (fewer of us to reach out), but I don't think the will is there either. I think most people are lethargic and not keen to stick their heads above the PC parapet.

Many churches have been so neutered that they don't even preach the gospel anymore for fear of 'offending' someone.

subrosa said...

It's too late for the churches Stewart. At least around here it is. There used to be three and now there's one which doesn't even do a service over Christmas or New Year unless they fall on a Sunday.

The CoS is wealthy, very wealthy and could do a great deal more in communities, but decided they were 'above such things' a while ago.

I don't think any CoS minister I've heard preaching (and that's quite some years now) ever felt the need to be PC, but I see things may have changed.

They should be getting to the Righteous and telling them to live and let live instead of trying to turn the poor souls, who live a decent life, into guilt-ridden recluses.

Stewart Cowan said...

It depends on the minister I think. I try to avoid the CoS myself nowadays, but I know a very strict minister round here (still youngish).

I fully agree with your last paragraph.

Martyman said...

“If Dawkins' godless worldview were true, we shouldn't care about people thousands of miles away who are starving or sick. We shouldn't even care about our own disabled people, because they are holding the rest of us back.”

Dawkins tackled this aspect of ‘altruism’ in the Selfish Gene. Central to the question was the puzzle of how self-sacrificing individuals could ever have been successful in the merciless struggle for existence. In short, how could Darwinian evolution produce altruism? Dawkins's straightforward answer was that it could not. He believes that evolution occurs at the genetic level.

From Science Enclopedia:
According to Dawkins, human beings and other animals are blind robots programmed by their "selfish genes," and any actions that on the surface seem to be examples of "altruism" are in fact driven by the interests of the genes. The existence of apparently altruistic impulses could thus be explained by the fact that an individual who acts in the interests of close relatives (who have many of the same genes) is increasing the chances of copies of the individual's genes persisting into the next generation. Since there is no genuine altruism in nature, Dawkins concluded, the most we can do is to try to teach our children altruism in the hope that they can succeed in rebelling against their genetic inheritance.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Altruism is an offshoot of conscience , imagination and intelligence.

It's why we don't kill the old couple at the end of the street so we can get a home for our family; simple as that.

Religion may at one time have had a role but its own hypocricy stalled it, while science and education cast it in the dustbin of superstitious puff.

subrosa said...

Thanks for your comment Marty. I certainly disagree with Dawkins' view on this point.

subrosa said...

Yes RA, it's quite amazing how the church has destroyed itself in the past 50 years.

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