Thursday, June 04, 2009

A theory of religion and morality

Liberals love to post studies about how religious people are more likely to get divorced, have kids out of wedlock, etc. Well, a new study now shows that girls who attended a religious school are more likely to have abortions than girls who did not.

But statistics have little meaning if you can't figure out the "why". Why do religous people tend to be less moral, assuming the statistics are correct?

First, you have to distinguish between different types of religion. I'm not talking about Christianity vs. Islam, or Judaism vs. Buddhism, but levels of religious devoutness. Lots of people go to church. Different churches have different levels of devoutness among the congregations. A mainstream Baptist church is going to have a different congregation than a born again church like Cavalry Chapel.

Here's my theory: it's all about the commitment in your beliefs, not necessarily what you believe. Atheists tend to be the least likely to be criminal, tend to be the most educated, yada yada. But although I can't back it up with statistics because no one has ever asked the right question, so are those Christians who are born again, who have freely chosen the faith and are motivated to live by it. You just can't compare someone who has a belief system based on what they were told to believe by their parents, and someone who considered the matter themselves and came to a certain conclusion.

So, to put this in the most offensive, non-PC way possible, those individuals who are nominally Christian or Jewish or whatever, who occasionally go to church and have a passing familiarity with the Bible, are the ones most likely to fall into moral decay. They don't have a set of morals because they probably don't really think about morals much. Spending time thinking about what you believe is inextricably linked to thinking about what constitutes moral behavior. If you've never given your religion any thought, you probably haven't given your morals much thought either. Very few people are born atheist. They arrive at atheism through a lot of soul-searching and thinking. Neither are people born into some of the less mainstream churches. They freely choose to abandon the sect of their parents and go to the new church, which they feel is more true to Scripture. A person who was born a Baptist or a Catholic and remains one without thinking much about what it all means or even whether it's valid given what they know about Scripture probably also hasn't thought about right and wrong much.

Atheists tend to have a very humanist perspective. They tend to have a firm moral grounding based on not doing harm to others, accepting differences, and recognizing that this life is all you get, so don't screw it up for yourself or other people.

Devout religious followers tend to have a firm moral grounding based on God's law(or whatever applies to their religion). As long as their beliefs about what God requires aren't nuts, which can happen with some religious fanatics, they will lead a moral life. Because they love and fear God.

But people who are not devout, who just practice churchianity or go to the synagogue primarily for social networking, what is their moral basis? They sorta believe in God, but it's not reflected in their actions because the belief isn't firm. They just fall into narcissism.

Now of course this doesn't mean that all soft religious believers are immoral. I think it just explains why members of mainstream denominations are more likely to fall into immorality than atheists or devout believers.

Everyone should subject their beliefs to rigorous analysis. that doesn't mean abandoning faith. You can't prove certain things, such as the existence of God. But if your pastor says one thing, and the Bible says another, you might be in the wrong church. And if you've never given it any thought, but just accept wrong teachings, then you probably also allow yourself to be convinced that lying, stealing, cheating, fornication, etc. are okay. After all, if your pastor says divorce is a-okay despite Jesus saying the exact opposite, then it doesn't take much at all for a friend to convince you that it's okay to snort cocaine.