Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Morn' Discussion

Great article in my local paper this morning: Does Religion Make Us Better People? (You know I can't pass up an opportunity to get all fired up about this sort of thing.)

My take? No, religion does not generally make people better behaved. In a lot of cases, it makes people behave pretty badly, in fact. There seems to be a whole lot of self-righteousness, intolerance, prejudice, and hypocrisy going on in circles of faith. There seems to be an underlying attitude of not being compassionate, of not being altruistic, of acting in one's own self-interests first and foremost and not that of fellow human beings', of not taking steps to make the world a better place for everyone. Of course, that is a generalization and doesn't apply to everyone. I'm sure there are fine, compassionate, upstanding Christians, just like there are fine, compassionate, upstanding Agnostics and Atheists.

What really chaps my hide is this notion that without God, without religion, without the Ten Commandments, for crying out loud, there would be no morality. And I've been personally confronted with this notion a number of times. I've been asked, incredulously, to my face, "If you don't have God, where are your morals?" It's ridiculous and utterly insulting to proclaim that without God, a person is without a moral compass. It's also ridiculous to assume that a person who has God and/or religion at the center of their life is of higher moral character than someone who doesn't.

I find it interesting and pleasantly surprising that, so far at least, the majority of the commenters to that article seem to be non-believers (right here in the conservative Republican, Mega-church heartland). Maybe our numbers aren't as small as I thought.

So what do you think? Do you think religion and/or God makes people better people?


Leigh Anne said...

I definitely consider myself a Christian, but I also DEFINITELY do not think I'm any better than anyone else in any way whatsoever!! (In fact, I'm pretty much the opposite...I think everyone does everything better than me...well maybe except making poached eggs, lol)

I used to be very active in church as a teen and younger adult, but something happened at our church that broke it up...the pastor cheated on his wife w/ a member of the congregation and left with her. how morally upstanding is that??? Christians who tout themselves as being morally (or anything) better than anyone else are definitely not acting like Christians. I'm no longer active in church mostly because there is so much fact, the pastor whom I used to have in our youth group is now the pastor of a local church that is so clique-y that I could never go there. And that's not how I think church should be, ya know! I got tired of those who were calling themselves Christians judging me, assessing me for the label on the inside of my shirt, for which designer shoes I was was more like a fashion show and if you weren't perfect, you sat alone in the back. I could keep going on, but I feel I'm getting/sounding a little bitter, lol. What I am saying...I agree with you.

Esther and Brian said...

No, I do not think that being religous makes one a better person. What makes a person a better person, or a person with moraals, is their upbringing (what did his/her caregivers teach), their own personal beliefs, attitudes and working on themselves to be a better person. Just because one goes to church, does not mean that they are a better person..nor the other way around. That's what I think...

Melissa said...

My response is, 'if you feel you need God and the Bible to keep you moral and law abiding, then, for all our sakes, I'm glad you have it!'

Stephanie said...

Religion can make people more moral but it isn't a prerequisite and of course an atheist or agnostic can be a moral person. To say otherwise is simply ignorance. In my own religion, before Islam people used to kill their female children, until the Quran came about and it was forbidden. Likewise women were treated no better than chattel, no rights to self determination, divorce, the owning of property, etc. Islam gave women those rights and transforomed a society within a few generations that became known as the Golden Age of Islam (think Andulusia). Of course today people use that same religion to justify all sorts of immoral acts, violence, and discrimination. Same goes with Christianity, a religion that preaches love, forgiveness and tolerance. Then there was also that little thing called the Inquisition. As any ideology, religion can be used to sway the masses either way.

Cheryl said...

I believe that which makes us "moral" is our soul. Our souls are independent of any religion created by man, although there is no disgrace to take sustenance and strength from any which call to us and lend us comfort on our journey. Our soul is on a "learn at your own pace" curriculum to gain greater wisdom and, eventually, take our place in the order of the universe we call God.

mominsanity said...

I agree with Stephanie - I think that religion helps teach morals but I also feel like people easily use ANY sort of the major religions - Islam, Christianity, Judaism - what have you, to justify acts of hate and intolerance. I mean, look at the wars now going on in the Middle East and look at the Crusades also. On a more personal level, I feel like people use religion to also hate on individuals. I realize that not everyone is like this, but I feel like people take advantage of their religion and use it as an excuse to do these horrendous things.

diane rene said...

I think when you tell people not to judge, and then give then a standard in which to judge, you have opened the door to a whole lot of trouble ... but that has nothing to do with your question, does it?

I don't think that God or religion makes you a better person. I think honesty, open mindedness and an open heart do. if you are honest with yourself, you will portray that to others. If you are good to people and treat them the way you would hope to be treated, then you will portray that to others.

I know some pretty amazing believers and I know some pretty amazing non believers.

... and I agree wholeheartedly with Melissa!!

Brandie said...

My husband is not at all religious and he is one of the most caring, honest, thoughtful people I've ever met. Probably why I married him. Really, I can't see how going to church could change him. He has his vices, like we all do, and I don't think religion would change that.

Talley Images said...

Im late to the party (darn you blocked internet at work!), and everyone has given such good answers, so really there is no point for me writing, but Im doing it anyway (b/c Im like that)... take it as you will

Does religion make you a good person? Ugh, absolutely not, for all Ive seen, it makes most people worse

Does God make you a better person? I can only answer from personal experience and say that He has made me better... am I better than anyone else - nope, not even at eggs - actually Im horiible with eggs (see 1st commenter) - ha ha... knowing God makes me realize how imperfect I am... and how much of a failure I am... but I still try

To be honest... I have been skipping church lately b/c Im so tired of all the BS that is put up with there... and Ive seen so little love there, that its hard to see how they call themselves a church... actually I dont think that is the type of church God ever had in mind, but then again, that is just my opinion, what do I know?

Anyway.... if I have ever come across to anyone (you especially, Lisa, as its your blog) as holier-than-thou or more self righteous or like I have it all figured out, then I apologize... that is my fault, and I struggle... please dont judge God by me.