Religionists Behaving Badly

Modified from Satan, Sin and Death by Hogarth; based on Milton's Paradise Lost
No need for much elaboration on the higher than average prevalence of pedophilia by Catholic priests.

In, Christians behaving badly, PZ Myers chronicles still more naughty and obnoxious antics by religionists:

"It's quite clear that it is not when even its clergy seem unable to find their religion to be a source of moral suasion. Religion doesn't make you bad, necessarily, but it sure doesn't make you good, either."

AThinkingMan at de-conversion states the following:

"There is mounting evidence from several sources continuing to challenge the myth that religion is somehow helpful to society. . . The analysis revealed that higher rates of belief in a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion."

One of the obvious questions is this: if God created humans and wanted his creation to behave well, as witnessed by all the scriptural edicts and proscriptions, then why would God have endowed humans with wicked urges? Theologians 'apologize' for this deic oversight by citing free will. The factual answer is that we were not created by a deity, but instead evolved with urges. Our ancestors survived to be our ancestors because they took what they could get from the world around them, so the human urge to steal should hardly surprise us. Similarly, we would not be here at all if our would-have-been-ancestors lacked sexual urges.

The next obvious question concerns why religion so often fails to guarantee good behavior in its most fervent advocates and followers. Clearly, the reasons must be as complex and varied as human psychology, but a few obvious possibilities spring to mind.

Religions impose a set of illogical doctrines that require that practitioners suspend disbelief and develop an inconsistent rationalization. Such an anti-empirical, illogical belief set is hardly designed to promote a rational worldview – encouraging, even applauding, deceitfulness. Statistically, lower levels of intelligence and a lack of education make the assumption of a dogmatic, credulous worldview much more attractive.

Fundamentalist religionists are more likely than atheists to come from conservative, highly authoritarian backgrounds. It has been repeatedly observed that children who have experienced authoritarian parenting styles are more likely to exhibit poor impulse control as adults.

In contrast to good, authoritative parents who explain moral principles and encourage good behavior for its own sake, authoritarian parents emphasize threats and punishment. In essence, authoritarian or punitive parents impose an external locus of control rather than encouraging an internal impetus toward self-control and socially-cooperative behavior. Some parents place their religion higher on their priorities than they do their children. Even worse, some authoritarian parents step over the punishment line from emotional abuse into physical abuse. Such abuse adds a layer of psychological damage that exaggerates difficulties and generates anger and emotional neediness.

Any religion that demands celibacy of its priests is more likely to appeal to young men who have no sexual interest in women of mature age, appealing to those who have more inclination toward the same sex or toward children, and who hope that prayer will diminish their unwelcome urges.

Religions extend authoritarianism and the use of threats and shaming, while creating a sense of alienation and failing to promote emotional health. More than this, religions delay the threatened punishment until the 'next' life and give believers a get-into-heaven-regardless escape clause. Believers almost invariably seem to think that it is the other guy, and not they, who will suffer the fires of eternal damnation – all they have to do is believe effusively and suck up to God. So, for the believer, religion promises an exemption from punishment – they call it salvation. Isn't it convenient that Jesus died so that they could selfishly escape the consequences of their sins?

Not only this, but religions applaud those who are hateful or hypocritical, provided that their animosities, vitriol, and dalliances are cloaked with a religious disguise – and provided that they say 'God bless' after a hateful utterance. It's even praiseworthy to break commandments against murder when the killings are committed for the sake of religion.

Religions also promise emotional succor that, in the absence of the promised God, religions are unable to deliver. Thus, those who believe that religious devotions will save them from shameful impulses will merely find that these unrelieved urges will build to an explosive level, accompanied by heightened shame that their faith has not been strong enough to conquer the urges.

It really isn't at all surprising that so much bad behavior emanates from the religiously devoted, while atheists are comparatively underrepresented in America's jails.

bigotry, fundamentalism, psychology, religion, society

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