Religion and morality
October 14, 2007 11:45 AM   Subscribe

Athiests put less value on love than believers "A new Canadian survey has found that believers are more likely than atheists to place a higher value on love, patience and friendship, in findings the researcher says could be a warning that Canadians need a religious basis to retain civility in society."

Full disclosure: this is a professor at my university, but one with whom I am most emphatically not involved.
posted by arcticwoman (32 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: This is a pretty crappy article on what sounds like a pretty crappy study, and the subject matter seems likely to kind of piss people off. I appreciate the disclosure, arcticwoman, but I think in this case your emphatic non-involvement with the prof. in question might have motivated you to post something not very good. -- cortex

yes, but what about hate?
posted by b1tr0t at 11:52 AM on October 14, 2007

What a miserable study. So he managed to pick twelve "values" for which atheists had less stated affinity across the board than Christians? Maybe they were just being moderate - you know, reasonable? Because rationally, love and friends can be lived without, but total absence of another value such as "reason" would render you a gibbering invalid. In which case you'd have to go work in Canadian academy.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:52 AM on October 14, 2007

What were the actual questions that were asked in the survey? What was the demographic information for the subjects?
posted by demiurge at 11:53 AM on October 14, 2007

I wonder if this professor has ever come across the idea of a non-sequitur in his research.
posted by Dasein at 11:53 AM on October 14, 2007

This is Alberta, right? *Cough* - Lethbridge?

No surprises here - now git back to the farm, oilpatch or kitchen as appropriate...

posted by jkaczor at 11:54 AM on October 14, 2007

Wow, what a piece of shit study and post.
posted by puke & cry at 11:57 AM on October 14, 2007

Richard Dawkins believes morality comes through the altruism gene or the "selfish gene"
Er, I hope that howler is from the journalist rather than the research.

More generally, this to me looks a lot like belief-based evidence making - aside from the point made in the article about 'trigger words' from Biblical morality, it would be interesting to know whether people were able to rate everything as 'very important', or whether it was a ranking of all. In any case, important in what respect? Important in relationships? In society? As high-scoring Scrabble words?

But that's not to say it won't be quoted as gospel (geddit?!) by some parts of the media.
posted by athenian at 11:57 AM on October 14, 2007

Matthew 10:34 "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." - Jesus Aitch Christ
posted by telstar at 11:57 AM on October 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'm skeptical of these findings.
posted by Avenger at 11:58 AM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

"A new Canadian survey has found that believers are more likely than atheists to say that they place a higher value on love, patience and friendship"

Fixed that for you. What people say and what they do are not necessarily the same. I am emphatically not saying that religious people lie more than atheists, I'm just saying that measuring the way people behave instead of their answers to a set of questions would have been a much better study.

I'd bet every participant put love, patience, and friendship higher on the list than would be reflected by their actual behavior.
posted by Plutor at 11:58 AM on October 14, 2007

posted by Titania at 11:58 AM on October 14, 2007

I guess I'm not terribly surprised. A lot of the people who find their way to atheism place extremely high values on logic, rationality, and knowledge. As such, other values may be displaced.

Personally, I think as far as civility and morality goes, it doesn't make a bit of difference how wonderful of a person you are or what great things you intend if your incorrect belief system warps your actions into harm. As such, being rational and responsible in your outlook toward the universe is at least as important as being nice.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:59 AM on October 14, 2007

I would be a lot more interested in how these "stated values" translated in actually behavior.
posted by whoaali at 12:03 PM on October 14, 2007

the researcher says could be a warning that Canadians need a religious basis to retain civility in society.

Let me guess whether the 'research' was conducted from a religious viewpoint or not?

this to me looks a lot like belief-based evidence making

If, and please allow me to paraphrase for my own understanding, you mean 'Making shit up to try and justify religion as essential', I heartily agree.

"Oh noes! We'll all die out and stop reproducing if we don't embrace god! We must love each other GOD's way or we're DOOOOOOMED"

/votes the concept as bollocks
posted by Brockles at 12:04 PM on October 14, 2007

Atheists, please assign each statement with a numerical value of 0 through 5, with 0 meaning "I strongly disagree," and 5 meaning "I strongly agree."

1) I value God's love more than reason.
2) I believe in turning the other cheek because Christ told me to.
3) I have a friend in Jesus.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:04 PM on October 14, 2007

The article seems to indicate a logical failing in Bibby's approach, when it comes to connecting action with values:
But in the realm of forgiveness, which is a core value of many major religions, particularly Christianity, the difference - 32 percentage points - is stark.

"That's a pretty explicit value within a large number of religious communities," said Prof. Bibby.
"Look at the culture as a whole and ask yourself: to what extent do we value forgiveness against themes like zero-tolerance? We don't talk very much about what we're going to do for people who fall through the cracks. So I think forgiveness is pretty foreign to a lot of people if they're not involved in religious groups."

The study says that believers will not always translate their views into action but "at least they are inclined to hold the values"
Clearly not concerned very much with reality :P

I wish they'd quoted Buckman instead of Dawkins, but then acknowledging that Buckman exists would probably go a long way to refuting the study :)

Reginald Bibby, by the way, to get some context.
posted by Chuckles at 12:05 PM on October 14, 2007

Sounds like crap research. non sequitur, causation/correlation.

Taking an example from something more easily measured, people's self-reporting of environmental attitudes have been shown to have no correlation with actual energy/resource use. (see Gatersleben, Steg, & Vlek, 2002; Mullaly, 1998; Parker et al., 2005)
posted by anthill at 12:06 PM on October 14, 2007

Starting wendell sequence . . . *beep* *burp* *chug*

error! error#33409fdk448fa44 attempting to give a damn . . .*beep* *snort* *fart*

system error. stand by . . .
posted by nola at 12:11 PM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

For the love of Christ, not this shit.
posted by Abiezer at 12:12 PM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd be fascinated to know how religious belief correlates with advocacy of the death penalty.

Love, indeed.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:16 PM on October 14, 2007

People tend to say one thing and then do another, why I knew this one born again president, why he...
posted by furtive at 12:21 PM on October 14, 2007

I am filled with Christ's love!
posted by empath at 12:22 PM on October 14, 2007

(This guy couldn't possibly have any ideological stake in the matter, could he?)
posted by abcde at 12:26 PM on October 14, 2007

I believe in the Hogfather.
posted by maxwelton at 12:27 PM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Mine eyes roll heavenward.
posted by rokusan at 12:27 PM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Having got the throwaway joke done and actually gone to RTFA, my confidence in the value of the piece is not bolstered by a misspelling of "atheist" in the title of the piece.
Formalistic declarations of subscription to normative values would surely be expected to be higher in those who have perhaps engaged in less questioning of traditional mores. Though those who reject the Living God and his Heavenly Posse are of course instant-gratification haters with no mates, so I'm left uncertain. Agnostic, even
posted by Abiezer at 12:27 PM on October 14, 2007

The National Post is (increasingly) conservative, and Lethbridge is in the middle of corn fields in southern Texas Alberta.

And this is dumb.
posted by blacklite at 12:27 PM on October 14, 2007

The National Post is so earnestly bad that you have to have faith in order to be able to read it.
posted by srboisvert at 12:28 PM on October 14, 2007

Athiests put less value on love than believers

Jeez, I HATE them for that!
posted by The Deej at 12:30 PM on October 14, 2007

Bibby has a B.D. from Southern Seminary in Louisville.

He said people who are believers are encouraged ­- whether by a desire to please God, or because of a fear of God - to adopt these values.

Sure. "I love you because I'm afraid I might burn in Hell if I don't"

God deliver me from "encouraged" altruism.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:33 PM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

there is little doubt but that religon and religious people are moral and nicer and altrusistic well beyond non-believers. Proof: just look at Sunnis and Shia in Iraq
posted by Postroad at 12:35 PM on October 14, 2007

"If you don't have [religion] as a major source [of values] in the culture then what will be the source?"

Yeah, this unbiased, objective, 'scientific study' is sure to be extremely influential. It's not simply a case of a seminary-trained professor who is "himself as a believer in God who holds many of the values that the theists in his survey value" conducting a survey by asking leading questions "in the survey [that] fit in the mould of the Ten Commandments," and finding that, horror of horrors, atheists "do not have as many explicit support groups that are committed to intentionally promoting [a] positive interpersonal life." Which is to say atheists do not define themselves by subscribing to a religious faith. What a fucking revelation!

As an atheist I find this sort of sloganeering equally offensive and dense. "Where would our morals come from without religion?!" Well, they certainly don't come from religion, no matter what the respondents of his survey told him. Certainly not from the Bible, which explicitly condones slavery (Ephesians 6:5), sanctions the murder of disbelievers (Deuteronomy 13:6), sanctions the murder of those who believe in other gods (Deuteronomy 17:2-5), exhorts husbands to stone their wives if they are found to not be virgins on their wedding night (Deuteronomy 22:13-21), tells parents to murder their sons if "stubborn and rebellious" (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), execute homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13), kill anyone who fornicates (Leviticus 21:9) or works on the sabbath (Exodus 31:12-15), etc. On and on. The point is...nobody gets their morals from the Bible and we all know it. The Golden Rule in some form or another existed long before the New Testament and to argue otherwise is extremely embarrassing and shamefully stupid. The point is our sense of morality is innate and there's plenty of evidence to support it, and not in the form of informal surveys. (Mr. Reginald Bibby, meet Marc Hauser. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two from his actual scientific work.) The reason people are so effusive about their religious faith when asked by strangers, honestly faithful or not, is that they believe, as Dan Dennett said, in 'belief'. And why are they afraid of being honest and just admitting that no, they don't reference a pocket Bible every time they are confronted with a moral problem in the real world, they just use their noggins! -- why are they afraid to say this to some obnoxious self-appointed guardian of moral authority? Because of bullshit like this that get run in the paper warning about the coming of the big bad immoral atheists!

Incidentially, I love that these guys never appreciate the irony in conducting what they imagine to be "scientific" surveys and research to prove that their irrational superstitions are anything other than a mind virus.
posted by inoculatedcities at 12:36 PM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

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