- Published on Thursday, 22 December 2011 07:22
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 2553
A recent study showed that believers in God were trusted more and you can't help but notice that the religions of U.S. Presidential candidates are being scrutinized. Is it only because it's a relic from Evolution that we care? (Knowing someone's beliefs was a survival mechanism). Belief is something that is a collection of thoughts and not accessible unless you say or do something. You'd think that we'd only care about what someone does. There are no laws governing what we think - only our actions really matter. The obvious answer is that we believe that most people's actions are governed by their beliefs. To a point this is true - if we believe that it's wrong to steal, we won't do that. But this is a belief about morality, not about a God. Atheists have the same beliefs about morality - in fact, unless they tell you, you wouldn't know someone is an atheist. If they never go to a Church, they could be a believer but just not active in a religion.
We assume that everyone has the same moral beliefs - so that's not the beliefs we care about. People also have beliefs about politics - and unless they tell you, you wouldn't know what they think. Most of us also form opinions about other people - which we often keep to ourselves - and again, how do you know unless I tell you. So there are many types of beliefs but it's only belief in religion that we care about. When someone is labeled a Catholic, Anglican, Muslim or atheist, we immediately have an opinion based on our prejudices. We are assuming either that:
- A person's religion controls their behaviour - since we really only interact with their behaviour, their actions. OR
- They are straight, logical, clear thinkers (or not) because they have the same (or similar) beliefs to us (or not).
We know that religion does influence behaviour but there are other beliefs at work. Extremists of any religion take their beliefs (e.g.) that God forbids something so they go about acting on God's behalf (e.g. kill a few apostates or abortion doctors). Yet not everyone who follows their religion does these things - there is something that causes them to interpret their religious beliefs in the light of innate moral beliefs. Religious beliefs are a collection of interpretations and do not in fact directly control behaviour. Some would argue that they set the stage for moral behaviour by teaching love for fellow men etc but you can love fellow men with any religion or even no religion.
I think it can be safely said that you can't be really sure of a person's ethical behaviour by knowing their religion (or lack of it). Atheists have much the same moral code although some people have formed a prejudice that makes them think that atheists are less moral. In my experience, most theists concede that atheists are just as moral.
That leaves the second reason - if someone thinks like we do, we think that they are like us, we trust such people, we are on the same page as them. People who regularly go to Church find comfort in being in the company of likeminded people - they all think the same way (or they think they do!). People who go to other Churches are only slightly off-base - but anyone who rejects the whole idea of a God - well, they must be stupid. How can you trust such a person?