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Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Atheist News - How Atheists Don't Need a God to be Good, But Theists Need One to be Bad.

Misinformation and Facts about Secularism and Religion | Psychology Today

In this devastating rebuttal of the 2011 claim by Dr Thomas G. Plante, Ph.D, that generally, religious people are more moral than non-religious people, David Niose, former president of both the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America, points out the factual and unfounded errors in Plante's article. In particular:
Plante casually claims that religious people are "better citizens" and "behave better." And without citing any sources, he tells us: "Research has consistently found that religious people are less likely to engage in criminal behavior, marital infidelity, alcoholism, unprotected sexual activity. . ." In other words, according to Plante, if you're not religious you might be a good person, but on average you are more likely to have these undesirable characteristics. This is a bold assertion that, of course, immediately puts secular individuals on the defensive. (Just imagine if the same claims were made against any other minority group.) It is precisely claims like these that lead to many Americans having an unfavorable view of atheists and other nonbelievers. Fortunately for atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists, there is no factual basis for Plante's claim that "research has consistently found" secular individuals to be more prone to such antisocial behavior.
Plante appeared to be unaware of the actual research in this field, and in particular of that of Phil Zuckerman of Pitzer College, whose paper, (Zuckerman, P., Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions; Sociology Compass 3/6 (2009): 949–971, DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2009.00247.x) is in the adjacent PDF box.

In this paper, Zuckerman points out that repeated studies have shown that Atheists and secularists, like many theists, have strong values but that these values are less likely to be prejudicial, judgemental or socially divisive and harmful than those of theists:
Values, Beliefs, Opinions, and Worldviews

It is often assumed that someone who doesn’t believe in God doesn’t believe in anything, or that a person who has no religion must have no values. These assumptions are simply untrue. People can reject religion and still maintain strong beliefs. Being godless does not mean being without values. Numerous studies reveal that atheists and secular people most certainly maintain strong values, beliefs, and opinions. But more significantly, when we actually compare the values and beliefs of atheists and secular people to those of religious people, the former are markedly less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less anti-Semitic, less racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less close-minded, and less authoritarian (Greeley and Hout 2006; Sider 2005; Altemeyer 2003, 2009; Jackson and Hunsberger 1999; Wulff 1991; Altemeyer and Hunsberger 1992, 1997; Beit-Hallahmi 2007; Beit-Hallahmi and Argyle 1997; Batson et al. 1993; Argyle 2000).
If Atheists and secularists were really less moral in their behaviour, we would expect this to be reflected in the figures for criminal behavior. However:
Criminality and Moral Conduct

In many people’s minds – and as expressed so clearly in Psalm 14 cited at the outset of this essay – atheism is equated with lawlessness and wickedness, while religion is equated with morality and law-abiding behavior. Does social science support this position?

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord.

There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.

Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge.

Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

Psalm 14: 1-7
Although some studies have found that religion does inhibit criminal behavior (Baier and Wright 2001; Powell 1997; Bainbridge 1989; Elifson et al. 1983; Peek et al. 1985) others have actually found that religiosity does not have a significant effect on inhibiting criminal behavior (Cochran et al. 1994; Evans et al. 1996; Hood et al. 1996). "The claim that atheists are somehow more likely to be immoral," asserts Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi (2007, 306), "has long been disproven by systematic studies."

Admittedly, when it comes to underage alcohol consumption or illegal drug use, secular people do break the law more than religious people (Benson 1992; Gorsuch 1995; Hood et al. 1996; Stark and Bainbridge 1996). But when it comes to more serious or violent crimes, such as murder, there is simply no evidence suggesting that atheist and secular people are more likely to commit such crimes than religious people. After all, America’s bulging prisons are not full of atheists; according to Golumbaski (1997), only 0.2 percent of prisoners in the USA are atheists [my emphasis] – a major under-representation.
This holds true in comparisons between nations:
If religion, prayer, or God-belief hindered criminal behavior, and secularity or atheism fostered lawlessness, we would expect to find the most religious nations having the lowest murder rates and the least religious nations having the highest. But we find just the opposite. Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious nations where belief in God is deep and widespread (Jensen 2006; Paul 2005; Fajnzylber et al. 2002; Fox and Levin 2000).
It also hold true when comparing different states in the USA, where:
…the states with the highest murder rates tend to be highly religious, such as Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with the lowest murder rates tend to be among the least religious in the country, such as Vermont and Oregon (Ellison et al. 2003; Death Penalty Information Center, 2008). Furthermore, although there are some notable exceptions, rates of most violent crimes tend to be lower in the less religious states and higher in the most religious states (United States Census Bureau, 2006). Finally, of the top 50 safest cities in the world, nearly all are in relatively non-religious countries, and of the eight cities within the United States that make the safest-city list, nearly all are located in the least religious regions of the country (Mercer Survey, 2008).
Although the correlation is not so strong, there is evidence that Atheists and secularists are more faithful and less abusive in their relationships than theists. There is little evidence to support Plante's claim that the opposite is true:
Some studies report that non-religious people have higher rates of divorce than religious people (Hood et al. 1996; Lehrer and Chiswick 1993; Heaton and Call 1997), but a 1999 Barna study (Barna Research Group Survey 1999, 2007) found that atheists and agnostics actually have lower divorce rates than religious Americans. And according to Kosmin (2008), divorce is a widespread phenomenon that affects the religious and secular in roughly equal measure. As for the effect of divorce on later religious or secular identity, Lawton and Bures (2001) found that kids whose parents had divorced were more likely to become "Nones" later in life than kids whose parents remained married, a finding confirmed by Zhai et al. (2007). While Fergusson et al. (1986) found that non-religious New Zealanders experienced higher rates of domestic violence than their religious counterparts, and Ellison and Anderson (2001) report that regular church-attenders have lower rates of domestic violence than non church-attenders, Brinkerhoff et al. (1992) found no such correlation in Canada, where non-affiliated women experienced lower rates of domestic violence than conservative Christian women.
On the same subject of family values and, in particular, the raising of children to have moral values, Atheists and secularists out-perform theists:
Of children who are raised in non-religious homes, what do we actually know about their upbringing? Christel Manning (2009) has observed that atheist⁄secular parents are not amoral nihilists. Rather, atheist⁄secular parents positively embrace a meaningful moral order, which they actively convey to their children. And in contrast to conservative Christians, who tend to foster obedience in their children (Ellison and Sherkat 1993a), secular parents emphasize the value of "questioning everything," along with the pursuit of truth, the importance of not harming others, rational problem-solving, acting responsibly, and doing what is best for humanity and the planet. Manning’s qualitative research reveals that, as broached earlier, secular people are not without values. They simply embrace – and impart to their children – rational, this-worldly values that aren’t centered around belief in, or obedience to, God.
Lastly, on the subject of sex and sexual activity, contrary to Plante's assertion:
Although Hadaway and Roof (1979) found that secular adults watch more X-rated movies than religious adults, a recent study by Edelman (2009) found that, when it comes to paying for on-line pornography, states with more secular populations have lower consumption rates than states with more religious populations; in fact, one of the most religious states in the country, Utah, actually leads the nation in on-line pay-for-porn consumption. Finally, Rosenbaum (2009) found that teenagers who take religion-inspired "virginity pledges" are just as likely to engage in pre-marital sex as teenagers who don’t take such pledges, but it is the non-pledges who are more likely to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease when they have sex, which helps explain why STD infection rates and teen pregnancy rates are lower in more secular nations compared with more religious nations (Paul 2005).
It is quite remarkable how readily theists descend into the moral gutter when seeking to claim the moral high ground by asserting that they are the moral superior of Atheists and non-religious people by making false claims, including that there is evidence to support them when there is none and what evidence there is, soundly contradicts their claims. Anyone familiar with online debates with theists in the social media will be only too familiar with this example of theistic dishonesty and moral bankruptcy, where a display of piety is simply an excuse to falsely elevate themselves at the expense of others.

In fact, these sorts of baseless claims and false characterisations reflect the lack of morals and personal integrity of those who make them and illustrate the truisms that, "You don't have to be religious to be bad, but it helps", and "Religion provides excuses for people who need excuses."

You don't have to be religious to be bad, but it helps.
Religion provides excuses for people who need excuses.


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