Religion

Belief in Hell Makes People Act Better: Heaven Not So Much

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How about neither?

A new study just published in the journal PLoS One by University of Oregon psychologist Azim F. Shariff and University of Kansas statistician Mijke Rhemtulla looks at the "Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates." They find that the fear of God works much better at keeping people on the straight-and-narrow than does belief in divine mercy. Laboratory studies had earlier found that having Christian undergraduates spend ten minutes writing either on God's forgiving nature or His retribution for sins primed them for a subsequent task in which they could cheat. The students who wrote about divine retribution cheated considerablly less than those who focused on divine foregiveness. As the researchers explain:

This pattern of results is consistent with theories highlighting the effectiveness of supernatural punishment–specifically–at regulating moral behavior and, as a result, group cooperation. These theories argue that human punishment is a highly effective deterrent to anti-social behavior within groups, but one that faces inevitable limitations of scale. Human monitors cannot see all transgressions, human judgers cannot adjudicate with perfect precision, and human punishers are neither able to apprehend every transgressor, nor escape the potential dangers of retribution. Divine punishment, on the other hand, has emerged as a cultural tool to overcome a number of those limitations. Unlike humans, divine punishers can be omniscient, omnipotent, infallible, and untouchable-and therefore able to effectively deter transgressors who may for whatever reason be undeterred by earthly policing systems.

Supernatural benevolence, however, is not theorized to be similarly effective at stabilizing cooperation within groups. Moreover, the evidence thus far suggests that though the more 'positive' religious attributes may provide their own benefits, such as better self-esteem or health coping, their role in encouraging moral behavior may be, at best, minimal and, at worst, negative.

Using these theoretical insights, the two researchers gathered up statistics on national rates of belief in Heaven and Hell and their national crime rates to see how (if) they correlated. They also took into account income inequality, GDP per capita, life expectancy, degree of urbanization, and so forth. Their analysis concludes:

The present analysis has uncovered two strong, unique, and reliable relations between religious belief and national crime rates. The degree to which a country's rate of belief in heaven outstrips its rate of belief in hell significantly predicts higher national crime rates. Statistically, this finding manifests in two independent effects: the strong negative effect of rates of belief in hell on crime, and the strong positive effect of rates of belief in heaven on crime….

…these findings coalesce with theoretical and empirical work suggesting that beliefs in punishing and omniscient supernatural agents spread across historical societies primarily because of their ability to foster cooperation and suppress anti-social behavior among anonymous strangers.

If believers actually are primarily motivated to moral behavior by fear of damnation, it's no wonder that they don't much like or trust atheists.

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    1. Although Kohlberg insisted that stage six exists, he found it difficult to identify individuals who consistently operated at that level.

      I guess he didn’t know many libertarians.

      1. If he had, he would have stopped at stage two.

        /liberal

        1. I would say stage 4 or 5.

          4 is the “we must obey authority and laws because they are necessary for a stable society” level.

          5 is the “laws are social compact and should be changed when they don’t meet an ideal of Bentham-like utilitarianism” level.

          6 is where you get into libertarian-esque “some abstract ideas are absolutely inviolable” kind of thinking.

          1. 7 (with the addition of spice) Kwisatz Haderach.

  1. /Opens bag of popcorn and pops one in his mouth Scruffy Style

  2. HA!!

    I was right bitches!!

  3. One only has to read the headlines to realize that many people are driven by fear.

    In any case, it’s still easier to get forgiveness than permission.

    1. One only has to read the headlines to realize that many people are driven by fear.

      I think you miss other aspects of the concept of hell.

      Not only is the motive one of fear but hell requires an individual is responsible for keeping himself/herself out of it. One may trust the government or community to get them into heaven…but no one would trust it to keep oneself out of hell. In general heaven is for all the good stuff you do. Go kill people with a suicide bomb, give money to church, conform. Hell on the other hand is achieved by doing bad stuff and it is the god in your head that tells you what bad stuff is. It forces you to constantly judge yourself and your actions.

      Furthermore hell does not discriminate between class. You can be rich or poor or powerful or powerless and still go to hell. Heaven on the other hand can be bought and therefor does not have the weight of keeping the powerful and rich moral.

      1. When you were a kid and you did something wrong, who would you want to deal with about it? Mom or dad?

        1. I don’t think that really ever came up. Hard for me to even judge in the hypothetical.

          Mostly when i did something bad i would deal with it my head.

          Pretty sure what went on in there was more punishing then what the parents could dish out.

  4. Oh good. A religion thread to send us into the weekend. Why not shoot for the trifecta and post articles about pizza and Star Trek?

    1. Circumcision anyone? Anyone?

      1. It is the religion, circumcision, pizza dronapolooza!!

        1. I think we should toss something in about open borders and the Confederacy, to top things off.

          1. You mean a discussion of the War of Northern Aggression?

            1. NEEDS MOAR MOSQUE POST.

            2. Those Canadians are just so damn pushy!

          2. If the Confederates has believed in hell they wouldn’t have owned slaved and started the war.

            There I said it.

            1. Your spelling sucked in that sentence. There, I said that.

              /Dale Gribble

              1. That was terrible. I wasn’t paying attention. I was laughing too hard while typing it.

            2. If the Confederates has believed in hell they wouldn’t have owned slaved and started the war.

              Do you realize what have you unleashed?

              Damn you! Damn you to Hell!

              1. Bless You! Bless You to Heaven!

            3. If the Confederates has believed in hell they wouldn’t have owned slaved and started the war.

              That is getting very close to the Singularity of Reason posts.

            4. You know who else effectively ownded slave and started a way?

              1. ownded? FUCK!

                1. What way did they start?

              2. You know who else … ownded slave and started a way?

                Appius Claudius Caecus?

                1. The Emperor is pleased, + one laurel wreath.

                  1. Just a laurel? What about a hardy handshake?

      2. Or chili?

    2. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is greatly misunderstood. It is flawed and has deficiencies like bad special effects and a weak ending, but I think it was one re-write away from being the one of the best in the series.

      1. I like the way you think.

      2. The Voyage Home is clearly the best Star Trek movie.

        1. Don’t be a fool. It’s Star Trek: Nemesis.

          1. Nemesis was another Trek movie that was a re-write away from being very good. I think if Frakes had directed it would have been much better.

            The point being that The Final Frontier and Nemesis both had original, intriguing concepts that could have been good if they hadn’t screwed up the execution.

            1. I like the Abrams one.

      3. Star Trek V’s greatest deficiency was a complete lack of monologues on the virtues of deep dish pizza.

        1. Why did Kirk look so shocked when he drank the beer in STIV? Surely they still have beer in the 23rd century. Pretty much every civilization ever has had beer.

          1. I thought those Federation pansies were only allowed to drink some synthohol.

            1. Romulan Ale, dude. But it’s illegal. But McCoy smuggled some for Kirk anyway.

              The Federation makes absolutely no sense at all.

              1. What would stop you from just replicating some fucking Romulan Ale, anyway?

                1. The Womens Vulcan Temperance Union?

                2. There’s a blackbox in the replicator to prevent it from making alcohol molecules, IIRC.

                  1. Shit, can’t they bypass that with a simple phase inducing charge-coupler?

                    1. You can override anything just by saying, “Override.” Actually, I exaggerate slightly. Sometimes you have to speak your password, which no one else in the room ever thinks to record or write down.

                    2. Make grape juice. Be patient. Drink.

                    3. Shit, can’t they bypass that with a simple phase inducing charge-coupler?

                      …and a sonic screwdriver.

              2. The Federation makes absolutely no sense at all.

                Funny how utopias tend to do that.

            2. I recall in that TNG episode with Scotty, Scotty gets pissed that alcohol is no longer served on Federation vessals, which makes you wonder why they have a bar.

              1. Oh, that’s obvious. The bar was there so that everyone could bask in the wise glow of Whoopi Goldberg.

              2. Moloko Vellocet

                1. “…with phasers in it, as we used to say.”

            3. The Enterprise visited non-Federation planets all the fucking time (its primary mission was to visit NEW worlds). I bet one of them had beer, or something close to it.

      4. I think you’re a banishment away from making Hit+Run commenting the best of the internet.

        1. I’m intrigued by your assertion that Captain Janeway is the finest Star Trek captain, FoE.

          1. Finest as in, most fuckable? Because I think it’s a toss-up between her and Adam West’s brief but memorable appearance as Capt. Nedlander in TOS episode, “Reap What You Sow”.

          2. Actually, her bi-polar condition aside, she wasn’t the worst. In fact, there’s a school of thought that puts her as the second coming of James Kirk.

            1. I’m intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. Please elaborate, I’m all ears.

              1. The internet has apparently already settled the science of it.

            2. Surely you mean Janet Lester.

  5. So what they’re saying is that Denmark has the world’s highest crime rate?

    1. Only if you assume doing something bad or wrong necessarily involves committing a crime.

      1. The study purports to prove that countries where people don’t believe in hell have high crime rates.

        That should mean that Denmark, with its extremely low church participation rates, and Japan, which has a non-Judeo-Christian concept of the afterlife, should have the world’s highest crime rates.

        Unless the study is nonsense, of course.

        1. Ye of little faith–when have you ever known a scientific inquiry into religion to be nonsensical?

    2. And I would assume the study controlled for other factors that can affect the crime rate like poverty and such.

      1. No, social pressure causes crime, not poverty. What’s wrong with you?

        1. Stupidity more than anything causes crime. Most criminals are just stupid.

          1. “Most criminals are just stupid.”

            You are aimed in the right direction, but you need a bigger gun. Stupid doesnt really cover it.

            I used to be given a crew of trustees on occasion to accomplish some particularly nasty tasks. I was stunned at how mind numbingly moronic they were, to a man. On several occasions, if I had not stopped them and given specific instructions, some of them would have killed themselves accidentally.

            Ex. – One crawled under a tractor that had one rear wheel off for changing and attempted to let the jack down so that he could use it to jack up another vehicle.

            1. Some people just don’t understand cause and effect. I am not kidding. They are incapable of understanding that if they do one thing another thing will inevitably result.

  6. Laboratory studies had earlier found that having Christian undergraduates spend ten minutes writing either on God’s forgiving nature or His retribution for sins primed them for a subsequent task in which they could cheat. The students who wrote about divine retribution cheated considerablly less than those who focused on divine foregiveness.

    So another basically science-free retarded study. Oh well, at least it can spawn a 200 post religion thread.

    1. It is a sociology study. Do we really have to be told that it is science free and bullshit?

    2. E: So judgmental! One suspects that you may think that most of psychology is “science-free.” In any case, take a look at that earlier study. Who knows? You might change your mind.

      1. Ron, there’s psychology, and then there’s this study. It sure as fuck isn’t psychology. It’s making shit up.

      2. Who knows? You might change your mind.

        I am fairly certain no one in the comment section (reason staff included) has ever convinced Epi of anything.

        Episiarch is a rock.

        1. Are you saying Gibraltar feels inadequate next to Epi?

          1. Epi is Prudential Insurance’s official mascot.

          2. I am saying after 4 billion years the moon still wobbles in it gravitational lock with the earth.

            Epi does not.

            1. Epi is in orbit? Is he commenting from the Satellite of Love in between being forced to watch shitty movies with his 2 robot pals?

  7. It has always saddened me that fear is the primary motivation for good behavior.

    It has also been endlessly entertaining watching christian heads explode when they find out I am a solid atheist. They simply cannot grasp the concept of a moral man without the threat of stern divine punishment. I have had people call me a liar, refusing to believe I am an atheist, because they know me to be honest. Endless stammering ensues when I point out that prisons are chock full of christians, and almost completely bereft of atheists.

    I think Stormy sums it up nicely with the firstest comment.

    Funny stuff.

    1. Clearly you’re going to hell for this comment.

      1. On a slip-n-slide coated with K-Y! The company is good though.

        1. Go to Heaven for the weather, go to Hell for the company.

        2. Just save me a seat at the bar.

          1. I will have a cold one waiting for you.

    2. Of course fear is a motivation. It goes back to the Ring of Gyges. If you had the ability to get away with anything you wanted, you would probably end up pretty corrupt before too long.

      1. I’m scratching my head to think of some way to apply that comment to politicians and cops…

        1. Start with the “corrupt” part, and work your way backwards.

        2. Absolute power corrupts absolutely perhaps? Even if you start out as a nice well meaning person, once you are given that kind of power, you will eventually be a corrupt fuck no matter how hard you try not to be.

          1. Now is not the time for your moral absolutism.

            1. Is there such a thing as immoral absolutism? If so, then I vote it’s time for that.

          2. I am uncertain how much of it is absolute power and how much is lacking human decency.

            Eg: Both Augustus and Caligula had absolute power, but Augustus managed to do a fairly decent job of running the Empire. After the initial proscriptions, his kill rate went way down.

      2. You know, John, if I had that ring, I would have SO DAMN MANY righteous-but-not-currently-permitted things to do that I would never get around to the corrupt things.

        I would probably lose a year or two just following Michael Bloomberg around pissing in his food and laughing maniacally.

        I would be having so much fun I’d forget to steal.

        1. Everyone has their vices.

    3. We’re just slightly more evolved primates, and you don’t have to study animals in nature for too long to know that fear is one of the most natural, primitive, and powerful motivational emotions of them all.

      Some people may be more fearful than others, but anyone who claims to not be afraid of anything is of course completely full of shit.

      1. He didn’t claim to not be afraid of anything; where the fuck did you pull that out of? He said he’s not afraid of a Sky Daddy punishing him yet acts morally anyway.

        1. Yes, but every right thinking person knows that kind of bullshit is impossible. If you don’t believe in divine retribution then you have no morals.

          1. Exactly. In fact, I just raped my coworker and beat an old lady to death just because I could. I mean, why wouldn’t I?

            1. Well, we can fix that problem right now. Here, post this list of ten commandments on your wall and recite them out loud every morning. This will surely fix your wicked ways.

            2. Is the old lady still warm? I’m feeling a little frisky and if you have no further use for her…

            3. Did you shoot a man in Reno, just to watch him die?

              1. Well, it was in Syracuse, but yeah.

                1. Eh – if he was a Syracusian, he probably deserved it for …something.

        2. I’m an athiest and an absoluate a-moral cunt, to boot (apologies to Ken Shultz).

          My lack of faith has allowed me to cheat on my wife, rob banks, and skin puppies alive with nary a backward glance.

          1. The abyss may be forgiving. But the state of wherever you live and your wife are a little more hard nosed. I think the threat of prison and your wife suing you into poverty probably have a little something to do with you refraining from those activities.

            But if you could get away with anything, why wouldn’t you do some of those things, provided you enjoyed them?

            1. My wife suing me is not what I’m afraid of. Her murdering me on the other hand…

              1. Just look through her purse for muratic acid and chainsaw sales receipts.

            2. I think the, “provided you enjoyed them” part is key.

              Why don’t I enjoy doing those things, even though I don’t believe in a diety, and being a white, middle class male, I can basically get away with almost anything if I plan it well enough?

              1. There is always the risk you won’t. That guy out in California who offed his wife was a nice middle class white guy. And he didn’t get away with it.

                So you are saying you wouldn’t enjoy anything that you consider immoral? Just what are these morals then other than just preferences?

                It is not that I don’t think you have morals. I just think you made them up and yours are no better than anyone else’s.

                1. You are presuming that there aren’t a shitload of people out there who did whack their spouses and did get away with it.

                  *sob* “Officer, my husband hasn’t come home for three days. He said he had to go away on business for a couple of days, but I haven’t heard a word. He usually calls to speak to the kids.” *sob* *sob*

                  1. Arsen. Back in the days before anti-biotics and toxicology, you could totally whack your spouse and get away with it. People routinely died of the flu. And there was no way to test for poison. The 19th century was the golden age of domestic murder.

                    1. And there are still a lot of places, even those which mandate autopsies, where the main cause of death is “cardiac arrest” (= “his heart stopped”) and the real cause of death is unknown due to sloppy coroners.

            3. But if you could get away with anything, why wouldn’t you do some of those things, provided you enjoyed them?

              Because, believe it or not, some people STILL have morals.

              1. So power doesn’t corrupt? If we could just put a moral person in power, the power wouldn’t corrupt them sparky?

                And just what are these morals you are talking about?

                1. Tell us about the corruption of Ron Paul. And Condi Rice.

                  1. Neither of those have ever had absolute power. I like them both Pip, but I wouldn’t trust either as God emperors.

                    1. I only trust Leto Atreides in that job.

                2. Rather than rehash this entire argument for the umpteenth time, I’ll just say that my morals are better than your morals because they’re mine. Whatever invisible, all-powerful being you choose to believe in did not bestow them upon me.

                  1. Good for you Sparky. I am sure they are fabulous. Just don’t pretend that they are anything but bunch of made up rules that suit your tastes.

            4. “But if you could get away with anything, why wouldn’t you do some of those things, provided you enjoyed them?”

              A. I dont enjoy them.

              B. I am not trying to ‘get away’ with anything. I do as I see fit in broad daylight in full view of everyone.

              C. I, and I alone, am responsible for what kind of man I am. I have to live with my conscience. No one can make me a better man by bestowing forgiveness or acceptance on me or by threatening me. Besides, I dont give a flying shit what others think of me, including any deity.

              I sleep pretty well at night.

              1. So I guess you are perfect then Suthenboy? No sin for you? My compliments.

                1. I don’t think he’s saying he’s perfect.

                  1. There’s no such thing as a “sin”. Keep your religion to yourself.

                    1. Without God, there is absolutely no such as sin or right and wrong. I totally agree with you Epi.

                      And that is why atheists who run around an congratulate themselves on how moral they are are buffoons. By what standard other than their own are they moral? None really. Is it “moral” is a totally meaningless question. All that matters is “do you enjoy it” or “is it what you want to be”.

                    2. And that is why atheists who run around an congratulate themselves on how moral they are are buffoons. By what standard other than their own are they moral? None really.

                      This is almost limitlessly stupid.

                      You’re basically arguing that once you can convince me of the value of a moral proposition, it’s no longer a moral proposition – because the only way it can be moral is if I’m obeying it precisely because it’s arbitrary.

                      So you’re defining the moral as “that set of rules you conform to even though they’re arbitrary and stupid and there’s no reason to conform to them”. Nice.

                      If there actually is a God, he should be a pretty smart guy and should be able to explain to me exactly why the morality he’s promulgating is valid. If he can’t do that, fuck him. He can compel my obedience, but not my loyalty or respect. Just like an arbitrary government, as a matter of fact.

                    3. Fluffy

                      If morals are not “that set of rules you conform to even though they’re arbitrary and stupid and there’s no reason to conform to them”, what are they?

                      Where are these universal morals? Why can’t man ever discover them and agree on them. Tell me why the Hindus who burn their widows with them at death are so wrong? Because they kill? Really, we kill a lot. There is no universal rule against murder. What they do is wrong by our standards. But why the hell are our standards any better than theirs other than we say they are? And if they are so much better, why hasn’t there ever been a consistent and universally accepted set of ethics? I am not talking about people not living up to ethics. I mean we can’t agree on what ethics are.

                      You guys sit around here and pretend you know right from wrong. You don’t know shit. You know a bunch of preferences and assumptions that make you happy and let you get around in the world. And that is it. Thinking otherwise is just laughably stupid.

                  2. That is exactly what he is saying RBS. He doesn’t enjoy doing the wrong thing, therefore he sleeps well knowing how wonderful he is.

                    Since he is for himself the ultimate judge of right and wrong, I suppose he is right.

                2. Hey look everybody, John is playing the moral scold again. I think you need some new material John, maybe Tulpa could give you some pointers.

                  1. Sparky I am being anything but a moral scold. I am saying there are no morals. You and Suthenboy are the scolds. You are the ones running around saying how moral you are. Not me. You are moral? Says who?

                    All you really are saying is “I think I am wonderful”. That is good. You and Stewart Smally should be proud. In the mean time spare your bullshit morality and your delusions that such a thing exists.

                    1. John, the reason you don’t understand is because you are outside the group. You are stuck in your own groupthink and don’t have the imagination to think outside of that. Because you ascribe morals to God you believe that God, and only God, can dictate morals. This causes you to go on a rage fueled intellectual bender than honestly makes you look like a monkey flinging shit around his cage.

                      I’m sorry you don’t believe like I do but I never asked you to. If you don’t trust me because I don’t think like you, have a ball. My beliefs don’t require that everyone else follow them.

                    2. Then enlighten me sparky. What are these morals you speak of? Where do they come from? Reason? If they come from reason why can’t anyone agree on what they are? We can figure out the laws of gravity, why can’t we figure out the laws of right and wrong the same way? Humans haven’t been too successful at that have they?

                      Why should I believe in your morals? Because you say so? And if your morals can be different than mine, why should I believe any such thing exists? All I see is preferences.

                    3. Why should I believe in your morals? Because you say so?

                      Why should I believe you know what morals God wants? Because you say so?

                      This is once again John’s stupid and tiresome playacting. It’s supposed to show us that you need God for morality to mean anything. That’s because God periodically forgets that it’s absolutely impossible to demonstrate what God wants or even that he wants anything, so trying to use God to support morality accomplishes exactly nothing. I can just say God wants me to rape and pillage and kill. You’ve got no more evidence to the contrary than I have.

                    4. Whoops, that should say “John periodically forgets…et seq”.

                      I accidentally gave John a hell of a promotion.

                    5. That is right fluffy. We don’t know what God wants. And it gets worse. We can’t figure out what right from wrong is. We do horrible things without even knowing it. That is called the human condition.

                      Since when did anyone ever promise you a happy sunny answer? Where is it written that morality has to be knowable or that man can perfect himself?

                    6. I like you John, I do. You are insightful about a lot of issues, but morally you are blind.

                      I distinctly remember you saying once that in some ‘end of the world’ scenario where civil society and all of it’s checks had broken down, you would set yourself up as some kind of warlord.

                      I presume from that that fear of punishment is the only thing that keeps you from doing bad things. You want to, but you cant ‘get away with it’, so you dont. You behave well only as long as the checks are there.

                      I really dont understand that mentality.

                    7. I distinctly remember you saying once that in some ‘end of the world’ scenario where civil society and all of it’s checks had broken down, you would set yourself up as some kind of warlord.

                      You don’t understand what I am saying. It is not that I personally would do that. It is that someone would. And that is all that matters. That is just the way the world works.

                      And it is not that I don’t personally have morals. I do. It is that without some kind of reference point and guidance for what those morals are and should be, I don’t see those morals as anything but preferences. Why is the guy raping slaves and buggering children in ancient Rome any worse than me? I am sure he thought he was plenty moral by the system he had. I find existence repulsive, but who gave me the authority to judge him?

                      I am theist, so I get around these problems. But all the atheists on here don’t have that luxury. And I laugh at them when they get all up tight and moral.

                    8. I am theist, so I get around these problems.

                      No, you don’t.

                      You have no grounds whatsoever for thinking you know the first little thing about what “God” wants.

                      All you can do is guess.

                      If I used a magic 8 ball to write a set of new commandments, it would have every bit as much grounding as your notions about what you think God wants.

                    9. All you can do is guess.

                      You are absolutely right. Any person that claims that Christians are somehow less sinful than anyone else is lying. I never claimed to be more moral. I only claim to have some clues to go on.

                    10. I am sorry if I am coming off as uptight, cuz I aint. I am laughing my ass off here. I like when everyone gets cranked up.

                      I believe you did say that YOU would do just that, mad max style. I distincly remember saying dont come around here with that cuz, like you or not, I would drill a hole in you.

                      I was a bit surprised that you said that, because you never come off that way.

                    11. I meant the more general “You”. I was making an argument. I didn’t mean I planned to start my own organized crime wring.

                    12. And it is not that I don’t personally have morals. I do. It is that without some kind of reference point and guidance for what those morals are and should be, I don’t see those morals as anything but preferences. Why is the guy raping slaves and buggering children in ancient Rome any worse than me? I am sure he thought he was plenty moral by the system he had. I find existence repulsive, but who gave me the authority to judge him?

                      I am theist, so I get around these problems.

                      No, you don’t.

                      That some guy with a lot of power says so doesn’t make them anything more than preferences.

                      A “reference point”? A “guide”? Someone “gave you authority” to judge others? I’ll sum up your moral philosophy for you: “Might makes Right”. That’s completely arbitrary. It’s not a moral code at all, it’s just fear of being punished by someone with more power than you. That someone with power says you should act a certain way doesn’t make it moral. Those decisions about the right way to behave or no less arbitrary than any other. BY YOUR OWN STANDARDS, THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION FOR THE RULES GOD MAKES. It’s just arbitrary “preferences”.

                3. heh. Thank you. * Bows *

                  1. I think people have innate ideas of what’s right and wrong, they simply don’t always act on their knowledge.

                    The Roman slave-whipper knows that slavery is wrong for himself and his family – he knows that robbery and rape are bad for him. Not only that, but he would express his opposition to such things in moral terms. And when enslaving, robbing and raping others, he’d feel the need to come up with justifications (or borrow justifications from the surrounding society).

                    It’s not a complete lack of knowledge as such which is the problem, but the lack of will and insight to apply moral knowledge even if it means giving up something you want. This is where religion has traditionally played a role.

        3. My post was in no way intended to imply that he made that claim, and it wasn’t intended to be any kind of personal attack. Sorry if it came off that way.

      2. That describes everyone here….but I am not sure about the fearless claims.

      3. As my father likes to say “we’re three steps out of the cave with some fancy toys”.

      4. We’re just slightly more evolved primates,

        If you believe that then you do not understand evolution.

        It is funny if someone came here and said they were a creationist the board would explode in fury…

        But your comment which is equally if not more ignorant then a creationist is let off the hook.

  8. Lincoln freed the slaves for god, or at least he said he did.

    Did he do it to buy his way into heaven? Or did he do it because he judged he would go to hell if he didn’t?

    1. He did it because he had no respect for the property rights of the southern slave owners.

    2. The majority of men who bought them off the block in Africa and brought them here were doing god’s will. Just ask ’em.

      1. Hey, that white man’s burden gets awful heavy without some darkie to help you tote it.

      2. the concept of hell only extends beyond the non-kin selection to other believers.

        By enslaving them they pull them out of the hell guaranteed to them because of their non-belief.

        Lincoln was freeing Christian slaves. Not pagan ones.

    3. Interesting dichotomy. In college I knew a chick (fundamentalist preacher’s kid, no less) who fucked, drank, drugged, shoplifted and cheated her way through college with the firm understanding of her religion that she
      could accept Jesus as her personal savior on her deathbed and all would be forgiven. She laughed at those whose religion preached that judgement was more a balancing of good and bad acts that would decide if you got through the pearly gates or not.

      1. In college I knew a chick (fundamentalist preacher’s kid, no less) who fucked, drank, drugged, shoplifted and cheated her way through college with the firm understanding of her religion that she
        could accept Jesus as her personal savior on her deathbed and all would be forgiven.

        This attitude really doesn’t make sense. God knows and sees everything, you think he can’t tell whether or not you mean it when you say “sorry”? My guess is that unless something happens to her to make her geuninely repent she’ll never turn away from that kind of behavior.

      2. And she had a point. I made that point in a comparative religion class full of very good practicing Christians and about caused a riot.

        She is right. In God’s eyes no sinner is better or worse than another. And if you truly repent, you will be forgiven. I have a feeling that repenting might be a bit more complicated than she imagines though. If you do all of those things and live a lousy life, those actions have effects on you. And those effects might prevent you from feeling truly repentant. In other words, if you enjoyed it and would do it again, you are not really repentant.

        1. Ok, having said that, if God can read the mind of his flock, than is someone who obeys only because of fear of Hell really acting virtuous in any meaningful sense? I would think that self-interested and incentive-influenced behavior (whether through punishment or reward) would not be virtuous or chosen of one’s own free will and common decency and therefore not warrant a free pass outta hell and into heaven.

          1. I would think that self-interested and incentive-influenced behavior (whether through punishment or reward) would not be virtuous or chosen of one’s own free will

            I don’t think there is anything in Christian cannon that prevents one from fearing hell out of self interest.

            In fact the whole concept of free will would imply choice and consequences.

          2. Who says you have to like it to be moral? Moreover, who told you and your feeble mind that you could even figure out what right and wrong are? Man has spent his entire existence trying to come up with a coherent set of ethics that are self evident and universal. How is that project working out?

            1. How is that project working out?

              Well Christians have been failing for over 2000 years so take from that what you will.

              1. All of mankind has been failing. We can’t agree on a single thing. Morals are whatever you think they are. They are just preferences, one no better than the other.

            2. “…who told you and your feeble mind that you could even figure out what right and wrong are?”

              I did.

              Pain and suffering are bad. Poverty is bad. Disease is bad. Slavery is bad. Depravity is bad. Hurting others is bad. The list goes on and on. It is a no brainer. Dont do things that promote bad shit.

              Freedom is good. Wealth is good. comfort is good. Healthy is good. healing is good. Protecting the weak is good. Peace is good. Friendship is good. Loyalty is good. The list goes on. Spend your time promoting the good stuff for others and you wont have time or care to do bad shit. It is really a no-brainer.

              Right and wrong arent so hard to figure out.

              1. Typing too fast, I left out ‘stealing is bad.’

              2. did.

                Pain and suffering are bad. Poverty is bad. Disease is bad. Slavery is bad. Depravity is bad. Hurting others is bad. The list goes on and on. It is a no brainer. Dont do things that promote bad shit.

                Pain and suffering are bad except when they are not. Was the pain and suffering people inflicted on the Nazis bad? Isn’t murder wrong? What about when murder is necessary to stop an evil? Do you murder then?

                1. *headsmack*

                  Pain and suffering were involved, but it wasnt done for the sake of inflicting pain and suffering. It was done to put a stop to what the nazis were doing, which was evil. If we could have done it by other means we certainly should have. Unfortunately we didnt have that choice.

                  This, in no way, makes the pain and suffering that we had to inflict on the German people good. It was still bad, just necessary.

                  C’mon John, this stuff isnt hard. Pain and suffering are bad. There is no ‘except when it is not’.

                  Murder / Kill. Two different words, two different meanings. Murder is bad, always. Kill is bad, but sometimes necessary. I kill mosquitoes and fireants and bugs in the garden because I have to to survive. I dont enjoy it, but I do it.

        2. It sounds like she thinks repentance is kind of like an indulgence–“If I do this act, then I’ll be forgiven.”

          The problem is that’s never been the foundation of Christian belief; it’s been the idea that everyone is sinful and that we’re powerless on our own to save ourselves. Christ never said, “You’re okay to commit these sins as long as you say you’re sorry at the end.” He said, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t hang out with prostitutes and tax collectors because he approved of their behavior, he did it so he could try and convince them to change. For the early Christians, forgiveness was part of the equation, but personal responsibility had to come into play as well.

          1. Exactly. RRR. Repentance is a little more complex and harder than she thinks it is.

      3. I had an uncle who only dated pentecostal women. Back then they were morally very strict. No TV, makeup, etc.

        When I asked him why he said “they mite be buttoned up to here (gesture at bottom of chin) but they aint got no panties on. All they wanna do is saing and fuck.”

        1. The old joke about Mennonite girls was “they won’t listen to the radio or go to a movie on a date, but they sure do fuck”.

        2. A wise and observant man, your uncle.

        3. I think women like to fuck.

          Religion comes second.

          Men are the same way.

          1. “I think women like to fuck.”

            Now there is a newsletter I can subscribe to.

            1. Every culture tries to repress and regulate sex. Some, if not most, incorporate that into their religion.

              I think mostly it is simply parents trying to make sure their kids don’t get into horrible messes….plus jealousy has killed more people then botulism.

              There is good reason why a society would want to restrict it.

              But at the same time any religion that is successful at prohibiting it would not last two generations.

              Anyway the constant pointing at Christians for being hypocrites about sex is not very drool. Individuals in every society of every religion has been hypocritical about sex…if they had not been those religions and societies would not exist.

              In order for there to be people people have to fuck.

    4. Maybe he did it to make up for the widespread poverty, torture, rape, and murder that he inflicted on millions of people.

  9. This is bullshit.

  10. Pete: The Preacher said it absolved us.
    Ulysses: For him, not for the law. I’m surprised at you, Pete, I gave you credit for more brains than Delmar.
    Delmar: But they was witnesses that seen us redeemed.
    Ulysses: That’s not the issue, Delmar. Even if that did put you square with the Lord, the State of Mississippi’s a little more hard-nosed.

    1. I don’t hate that movie…it was good.

      But when poeple put it up there with Raising Arizona or Millers Crossing I just don’t understand it.

      Even the quote you just used, one of the best in the movie, is lack luster compared to regular Coen bro gems.

      I feel the same way about the Big Lebowski.

  11. What’s the evolutionary advantage of believing in a God who punishes you for crimes which you can commit without fear of *human* punishment?

    1. It binds a larger community then a simple tribal/family unit. Kin selection is broadened to non-family members thus allowing larger groups. A larger group can better defend and conquer other groups.

      A less criminal community can kill and out compete neighboring communities that robs, rapes and murders their own.

  12. I never understood cheating on a college paper. In my experience, the more references you had, the more likely you were to get a good grade. So instead of saying it’s your own work, just note where you got it from and you’re scot-free. Getting 10-20 half-paragraphs from 5-15 sources is a helluva way to pad a paper, too.

    1. Exactly. I always felt like the more sources I had the easier it was to write since I had to do less of my own work. This also works in law school.

    2. That’s too much work to get that easy A. It was easier to just write some boilerplate bullshit about how Bush sucked.

      1. I took a class on the Modern Presidency and got the only A because I was the only one who did not write about GWB being the worst and FDR being the best.

        1. I would have turned in a solid 20 pages of Nixon hate, nicely footnoted to Hunter S. Thompson rants.

          1. The hate was for FDR then for some reason I spent about 10 pages on how great Harry Truman was.

          2. I took a class called FDR to Obama and got an A, mainly because on my final I got to write an essay analyzing Nixon’s genuinely fascinating character facets.

            1. Yeah, for all his faults, he was one of the more interesting Presidents. I mean, look at Carter. Incompetent as hell, and boring with it, too.

              1. Incompetent people usually are boring.

    3. Papers even had a required min number of footnotes. So you would get graded down for original work. If I was ever tempted to fake anything, it would have been to claim that something I wrote myself was really copied from someone else. Kids these days.

      1. Forgot to mention that I got this observation from an interview with Bob Dylan.

  13. After downloading the fulltext and reading the methods section, I can tell you one thing for sure: this study is utter bullshit that pretends to go through the motions of science. These guys sure love their little linear regressions.

    1. Uh, I said that way above. Way to copy me, douchebag. But I guess imitation is the highest form of flattery. Dumbass.

      1. Fuck you. Did you link to Feynman? Do you even have a PhD? Fuck you.

        1. I have an advanced degree in dick-nology!

        2. God damn you Warty ! You fuckin’ asshole! Everything’s a fuckin’ travesty with you, man! And what was all that shit about Feynman?

        3. If you two believed in hell you would not bicker like this.

  14. So belief in Hell is better than the *religion* known as atheism?

    1. In natural selection evolutionary terms Hell increases the chance of gene survival more then atheism does.

      1. How old do you believe the concept of Hell is?

        1. Older then the middle kingdom of ancient Egypt.

          With the rise of the cult of Osiris during the Middle Kingdom the “democratization of religion” offered to even his humblest followers the prospect of eternal life, with moral fitness becoming the dominant factor in determining a person’s suitability. At death a person faced judgment by a tribunal of forty-two divine judges. If they led a life in conformance with the precepts of the Goddess Maat, who represented truth and right living, the person was welcomed into the Two Fields. If found guilty the person was thrown to a “devourer” and didn’t share in eternal life.[9] The person who is taken by the devourer is subject first to terrifying punishment and then annihilated.

          I think religious texts tend not to talk about its prevalence. Looking at modern Christianity there is very little discussion of it in the new testament….yet every Christian has a vivid understanding of it.

  15. Dude, Heaven is just cool like that .Wow.

    http://www.in-privacy.tk

  16. The title (and study for that matter) comes to the wrong conclusion because people may focus on a belief but the belief doesn’t make the people do anything. The beliefs are not external they are internal and reflect that persons personal views. If you’re a real asshole you will likely choose beliefs that justify that narrative like belief in heaven and being forgiven. A good person might use hell to justify being good and try to push others to be good although this part will never work unless the person is already receptive to such beliefs.

    The beliefs themselves are just evidence of personal views but not the cause. This is clear when you look at prisons who have an overwhelming religious population who are big on forgiveness because it fits their current circumstances. The major lack of atheists in prisons should also put this study into question.

    1. They always find Jesus when they go to jail. But I wouldn’t trust anything I read about religious beliefs in prison. Finding religion is rewarded in prison. It is a way to show repentance and get out earlier. If you have a population with a large percentage of sociopaths and reward them for saying something, I wouldn’t exactly believe it when they all said that thing.

      And lastly, if they find religion in jail, the lack of atheists in jail doesn’t disprove the study. They could be atheists when they commit the crime and find religion in the slammer.

      The fact is that there really are not that many atheists out there. So I am not sure you could conclude much either way.

  17. Why should I believe in your morals? Because you say so? And if your morals can be different than mine, why should I believe any such thing exists? All I see is preferences.

    Fuck… I hate to admit it, but I think John is right. This is basically David Hume’s position. I use to think life is sacred and considered my self a Schweitzerian. But then, after listening to George Carlin’s complaint about the idea of sanctity of life, I agree, morals are just preferences. The only reason we care about the “sanctity of life” is because we are alive. Fear in general and fear of the abyss are the only true motivating factors.

    I think murder is wrong because, in my world view based on the evidence presented to me so far, when you die, that’s the end of existence as I know it. I don’t want to die. I’m averse to dying. It is just a preference, a convention. Which, on an aside, is why I don’t give a fuck about the law because it is just a convention too.

    But I don’t see a problem with having a morailty, a convention, or a set of preferences based on the fact, in my world view, that think tend to avoid death.

    And for a a commentariat for a magazine called reason, I can’t believe no one saw the Hume angle.

  18. totally bogus lawsuit against chick-fil-a

    free speech be damned, the CEO’s comments made somebody FEEL badly…

    http://www.volokh.com/2012/08/…..qus_thread

  19. It would be interesting to see if these results hold across cultures and time periods. Life is so good now compared to the daily struggle for existence that was the norm for most of human existence that heaven has less allure than it once did. But we can see in parts of the world where things are still very difficult such as the Middle East that even the promise of a few sexually inexperienced mating partners in heaven is seen as enough motivation to give up one’s life. Their lives are so devoid of pleasure or hope for improvement that they can be discarded rather easily. It may have been similar for other places and times in human existence. The US in this present age may be an outlier.

    But having the carrot and the stick certainly covers the bases. It is likely that different individuals will find more motivation from different incentives.

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