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1 RanchTooth  Sun, May 1, 2011 11:44:05am

First off, there's an "Intenational Journal for the Psychology of Religion". Dude. That should be an article in and of itself.

Also, I liked this assertion:

Although recent research indicates that positive rewards can encourage cooperative behavior when there is an opportunity to form
social relationships... the [Supernatural Punishment Hypothesis, SPH] specifically predicts that it is the punishing aspects of gods and the threat of divine punishment, rather than any loving or compassionate traits, which are responsible for keeping adherents from crossing ethical boundaries in anonymous situations where they would otherwise be tempted.
Therefore, if gods make people good, it may be because of the credible threat of their punitive tendencies. As a result, the SPH specifically predicts that a belief in fearful and punishing aspects of supernatural agents should be associated with honest behavior, whereas a belief in the kind, loving aspects of gods should be less relevant.

I wonder if this self-inflicted fear of punishment, and acceptance of such punishment, has anything to do with why some religious folk have the holier-than-thou complex. This comes from an atheist Jew. 'Nough said.

2 Achilles Tang  Sun, May 1, 2011 12:19:52pm

re: #1 RanchTooth

There should be little surprise here since, after all, this is what is preached from many pulpits all the time, including the idea that there would be no morality or even law if it wasn't dictated from above.

In other words, many people freely admit that they would be sociopaths if not for "the word".

Isn't that what all atheists are?//

3 calochortus  Sun, May 1, 2011 12:42:36pm

Is this cause or effect? Since atheists/agnostics cheated at a similar rate to religious people without fear of divine punishment, perhaps the 'kind God/angry God" beliefs are the result of people in greater need of forgiveness gravitating towards a forgiving deity?

4 Achilles Tang  Sun, May 1, 2011 1:00:01pm

re: #3 calochortus

I think you misunderstood the result analysis. Collectively atheists and religious people were similar. However religious "nice god" people were different from religious "mad god" people. Taken together they cancel each other out in the higher level analysis for religious.

However, this does suggest that the "mad god" people were actually more ethical, on average, than the atheists, and the "nice god" ones were less so, otherwise the religious categories would not have cancelled out to equal the atheists.

....unless there was a weighting to the honesty factor in addition to the absolute numbers, in which case one could have had a less simplistic comparison.

I'd look at the numbers more closely if not for the fact that I know I'm more honest than most of them anyway. ;=)

As to the cause/effect factor, personally I think that is a moot point since it is the people who invent their god to begin with.

Made not in His image but made in Their image.

5 Obdicut  Sun, May 1, 2011 1:26:24pm

re: #4 Naso Tang

Nah. Read what calochortus said again. They're making an entirely different point.

6 Achilles Tang  Sun, May 1, 2011 1:46:56pm

re: #5 Obdicut

I understood, but find the point weak. My answer was in the last two sentences above, but I could speculate further by suggesting that the nice/mad god distinction comes not from within but like most religion, from what one is taught.

I suppose some people, who pick and choose their church based on their personal preference could gravitate to one or another based on their fear of hell, but this is getting somewhat away from the evidence at hand.

7 WINDUPBIRD DISEASE [S.K.U.M.M.]  Sun, May 1, 2011 2:13:11pm

this all sounds very Neil gaiman :D

8 Obdicut  Sun, May 1, 2011 2:39:08pm

re: #6 Naso Tang

I don't know of any possible branch of Christianity, aside from the more insane cults, where you couldn't have some members who believed in a punishing god and others a forgiving god.

9 Achilles Tang  Sun, May 1, 2011 2:41:01pm

re: #8 Obdicut

There is truth in that, but I do think that churches can be categorized into broad grouping where one perspective or another dominates.

10 Obdicut  Sun, May 1, 2011 2:50:51pm

re: #9 Naso Tang

I don't. That would be one hell of a premise to support; it's certainly not something that's obvious by assertion.

11 calochortus  Sun, May 1, 2011 3:01:52pm

re: #6 Naso Tang

I suppose some people, who pick and choose their church based on their personal preference could gravitate to one or another based on their fear of hell, but this is getting somewhat away from the evidence at hand.

That was precisely what I was wondering. I realize that is not what the study looked at, but the fact that there is apparently the same range of behavior in religious and non-religious people raises the possibility that the religious folks are sorting themselves into groups, otherwise it would seem to be a remarkable coincidence that the numbers are the same for the religious and non-religious. After all, if fear of punishment is what keeps us honest, the non-religious should cheat more than the religious. Combine that with the large percentage of people who change religious affiliations and I think I have a good argument.

12 Achilles Tang  Sun, May 1, 2011 3:32:03pm

re: #10 Obdicut

I don't. That would be one hell of a premise to support; it's certainly not something that's obvious by assertion.

It is not a hell of a premise at all. There are fire and brimstone churches, there are profit in money churches and there are the Jesus kind, where people give as much as they possibly can.

You can be a real argumentative sod sometimes, but you spice the place up.

13 Achilles Tang  Sun, May 1, 2011 3:44:06pm

re: #11 calochortus

I understand what you are saying and without looking at the statistical level of confidence in any of this one can only go so far in the anlysis, as I suggested above.

However your speculation

if fear of punishment is what keeps us honest, the non-religious should cheat more than the religious

is based on a religious assumption applicable to all. That is not what is stated here. The premise is that given a religious perspective ethics can take on different perspectives.

If one thinks about it that statement becomes self evident on any number of examples, not limited to Christianity.

As to the general issue of ethics, I take the "Dawkins" view that we are social animals and can only be so by observing certain standards towards each other, just like dogs and chimps do. We can rationalize it as an intellectual necessity if we wish to make it seem more civilized and ourselves more important, but even the most religious of us have the same building blocks, they just have more flexibility in modifying them to suit themselves.

14 Obdicut  Sun, May 1, 2011 3:56:02pm

re: #12 Naso Tang

It is not a hell of a premise at all. There are fire and brimstone churches, there are profit in money churches and there are the Jesus kind, where people give as much as they possibly can.

No, it is not as simple as that at all. I have no idea why you think there is. There are churches that promise fire and brimstone if you rebel against god, but also infinite forgiveness from him if you truly accept him. That is, in fact, the main trope of churches; without the prospect of forgiveness, they wouldn't have anything to sell. I have no idea why you think churches simply slot into punishing or forgiving.

The largest sect, Catholicism, certainly isn't so easily parsed.

15 calochortus  Sun, May 1, 2011 4:01:17pm

re: #13 Naso Tang

I agree that we are social animals and standards can be genetically dictated.

I think, practically speaking, those who fear God would be in one category and those who don't fear God, either because their God is forgiving or because they don't believe in God would be in the other.
If fear of God keeps us honest, the converse is that the lack of that fear lets us cheat. By that logic (which a lot of people believe) atheists should cheat more than religious people. They don't. They cheat in equal numbers with the aggregate of religious people. The message I'm getting is that people are people and their religious beliefs seem to follow whatever they are already doing, not the other way around.

16 Achilles Tang  Sun, May 1, 2011 4:24:03pm

re: #15 calochortus

I don't disagree with you but at the same time I don't think there is a nice pigeonholed explanation. People are shaped by their character which is shaped by their upbringing and probably to some extent their genes. Their upbringing includes their religious instruction. Some can be told they will go to hell if they don't share their toys, and some will be told they go to heaven if they do.

This study investigates the end result, not the causes.

17 Obdicut  Sun, May 1, 2011 4:28:11pm

re: #16 Naso Tang

Some can be told they will go to hell if they don't share their toys, and some will be told they go to heaven if they do.

Why are you ignoring that most are told both?

18 Achilles Tang  Sun, May 1, 2011 4:30:20pm

re: #14 Obdicut

No, it is not as simple as that at all. I have no idea why you think there is. There are churches that promise fire and brimstone if you rebel against god, but also infinite forgiveness from him if you truly accept him. That is, in fact, the main trope of churches; without the prospect of forgiveness, they wouldn't have anything to sell. I have no idea why you think churches simply slot into punishing or forgiving.

The largest sect, Catholicism, certainly isn't so easily parsed.

Obdi, we are getting off track here, but I expect no less.

If I read you correctly, this entire study is bunk because the premise doesn't exist; namely that there are believers tending towards one perspective or the other.

If that is what you think, feel free to say so, specifically.

19 Achilles Tang  Sun, May 1, 2011 4:31:28pm

re: #17 Obdicut

Why are you ignoring that most are told both?

Not ignoring. Have you heard of the concept of dominance?

20 Obdicut  Sun, May 1, 2011 4:34:31pm

re: #18 Naso Tang

If I read you correctly, this entire study is bunk because the premise doesn't exist; namely that there are believers tending towards one perspective or the other.

No, not at all. I have no idea where you got that from.

The churches always offer both aspects, the carrot and the stick. The believers may very much cleave to one or the other, even inside the same church. Even at different times of their life.

Not ignoring. Have you heard of the concept of dominance?

Have you heard of the concept of things not being black and white? Most churches emphasize both salvation and punishment. Some emphasize one much more than another. Most are somewhere in the middle.

Why do you think otherwise? What actual reason do you have?

21 calochortus  Sun, May 1, 2011 5:03:52pm

re: #16 Naso Tang

This study investigates the end result, not the causes.

Which is why I was engaging in speculation as to the cause. I may or may not be right, but it is interesting to think about.

22 Achilles Tang  Sun, May 1, 2011 5:18:03pm

re: #20 Obdicut

Some emphasize one much more than another.

What I said.

23 Obdicut  Mon, May 2, 2011 4:41:02am

re: #22 Naso Tang

What I said.

Nope. You made that blanket statement about all, or most of them. Most, as I said, lie in the middle, offering both salvation and punishment.

I still don't know why you think otherwise. You don't appear to have any reason to. You just decided to.

24 Achilles Tang  Mon, May 2, 2011 6:05:19am

What I meant.


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