Thursday, April 30, 2009

No, religion does not make you a better person

It's commonly claimed that religious belief is associated with good behavior.

That may be so, depending on how you define "good" ...
Survey: Support for terror suspect torture differs among the faithful -
More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did...
In many allegedly Christian religions the chief deity tortures sinners not for an hour, nor for a month, but for all eternity. So if "good" is as "God does", then torture is good, indeed, godly.

Given the astounding amount of evangelical Protestant support for torture, I'm impressed that McCain came out against torture (though he later retreated into ambiguity).

I wonder what the comparable numbers are for Buddhists.

If I'm ever a prisoner of war, I'll take the secular humanist guard please.


Matt S. said...

Since nobody really appears to read your blog, I thought I'd honor you with a comment.

First of all...I'm a Christian. I also don't have a huge problem with the harsh interrogation techniques done towards terrorists. This, I think, has more to do with my patriotic bent than it does with my Christianity. Perhaps it is inconsistent.

I guess when the terrorist's main goal is to kill me and my family, I don't really care if the CIA pours water on somebody's face to find out what nefarious scheme they are planning. I also wouldn't care if they were smacking the terrorists around. It seems idiotic to care about that.

At what point are you going to wake up and realize that these terrorists would look into your eyes and then saw off your head to make an religious point. And in their religion, it would get them bonus points in the afterlife.

Now if the CIA was drilling holes in people's hands, burning iron's into people's eyes, electrocuting people...then I would call it torture and I would say that that is un-American and barbaric. I would be against it because their would be a sadism in it not intended to get information.

You are naive in every sense of the word. Christianity is the ONLY reason why we have principles against abusing the weak and captive.

I'm pretty sure the Vietnamese were Buddhist, or at least social humanists, yet they were legendary in their torture. Ask John McCain what real torture was like...torture designed just to...well...torture.

So do a little study into humanists that had ultimate power...see how good they were.

(Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Hugo Chavez, Pol Pot...)

JGF said...

Actually my wife reads the blog, but she's never written a comment.

You're right that I have a very "select" readership, so I do wonder how you found it.

As a Christian, what do you think your God does with sinners? If He tortures them, then your support for torture is consistent with your religious beliefs.

If your God doesn't torture sinners, then I think you have some significant theological issues.

I won't bother with your thesis that torture is drilling holes rather than simulating drowning. Sorry, but that's silly.

My post isn't really a complete picture of what I think, I left quite a bit out. I suspect cultural influences are a bigger factor than church influences. American popular culture seems to be going through a pro-torture phase, twenty years from now we might be quite different.

If church attendance is a marker for strong group cohesion, then church attenders will track the cultural trends. The relative support among Buddhists, Christians and secularists may then shift or even invert.

AC said...

I read you blog.
I like your blog.
And I'm firmly in the camp that doesn't support the use of torture.

Also I'm not surprised by the suggestions in the study.

It seems that Matt S. has little concept of the bigger geographic-economic-political picture that leads to extremist - "Terrorist" - behaviour. But people who choose Us vs Them mentalities rarely have the full picture.

AC said...

"I read you blog"? Man I gotta learn to spell. I meant "I read your blog". In fact I, yesterday, linked to a book review you did a last year.
You'll find the link at the bottom of this post.

JGF said...

Hi AC.

I read the post actually, it turned up in a google query I run for folks who link to my pages. Mostly I get splogs, so it was neat to read your post!