Well, the data is in. The research has been done. It has also been published but most people won't see it unless they read the right books or articles. It may drift through into "memes" or highbrow conversations, but will the information hit mainstream and become common knowledge? We'll see.
But we now know, not just surmise, that religion affects morality. The links are clear. The facts are nevertheless shocking.
As the professor introduced it, he said "..but you won't like it," and in my case he was wrong. I loved it. It explained so much.
You see, they have conclusively proven with repeated studies, on a variety of people, right around the world, that religion powerfully and directly affects morality. That's not the part I love.
They've broken it down, and they know why. But even that's not the best bit.
It is not that it affects their morality for the better.
Before some of you get too excited, it's not that it affects it for the worst either. Both are true.
I wish all of you could watch these lectures and read the associated reports, but I know you won't, so I'll now attempt to explain it as succinctly as I can. I'm not very good at succinct, so please cut me some slack here.
First they broke religion down into 3 key areas:
1. Religious belief.
2. Religious practice.
3. Religious experience.
Religious belief, by all accounts, doesn't affect much at all. That is to say, which religion you follow, and what the specific beliefs of that religion are, really play no important part in your overall morality. And, the simple fact that you have any belief at all, or none, or just a little vague belief, has no real bearing on it either. Just having a belief, any belief, of any level, or none, does not really affect a person's morality.
This is important. I hope it's obvious why, and if it isn't, you need to study this more yourself.
Religious experience even, the most powerful, or the absence of any, has almost zero impact.
But religious practice, that is to say sharing your religion with others, attending places of worship, and being part of a religious community, with all the associated social and instructive aspects of that, has a massive effect.
As we are a very social creature, I expected it to have some effect, this is not all that surprising, but I was not expecting it to be THE effect, and I certainly wasn't expecting to hear that religious beliefs have hardly any effect at all. But, as I said, and wish to re-iterate, this is not the opinion of one researcher, of from one study. This is solid evidence from multiple and varied research, internationally.
What this means is that one's peers and teachers, regardless of who they are, and regardless of what we think, direct (control?) our behaviour far more than any concept of divinity we may or may not have.
I really think you should mull that over for a bit. It explains peer pressure. It explains cultural influence (cultural contamination, if you like). It explains a lot.
Unfortunately, it explains two things equally well.
It explains why charity is associated with churches.
It explains why people become suicide bombers.
The subtle and not so subtle pressures from your religious community can be a force of good or a force of evil. It can go either way.
I could go on about this at considerable length, but a) I'm not the expert, I'm just reporting, and b) I'm sure a discussion will ensue anyway.
There it is. Make of it what you will. Clearly, interpretation is the key here.
I know what Dennis is going to say. He'll quote Shakespeare.