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Does Religion Make You Nice?--Does atheism make you mean?
Slate.com ^ | Nov. 7, 2008 | Paul Bloom

Posted on 11/15/2008 7:00:17 AM PST by Alex Murphy

Many Americans doubt the morality of atheists. According to a 2007 Gallup poll, a majority of Americans say that they would not vote for an otherwise qualified atheist as president, meaning a nonbeliever would have a harder time getting elected than a Muslim, a homosexual, or a Jew. Many would go further and agree with conservative commentator Laura Schlessinger that morality requires a belief in God—otherwise, all we have is our selfish desires. In The Ten Commandments, she approvingly quotes Dostoyevsky: "Where there is no God, all is permitted." The opposing view, held by a small minority of secularists, such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, is that belief in God makes us worse. As Hitchens puts it, "Religion poisons everything".....

....In a review published in Science last month, psychologists Ara Norenzayan and Azim Shariff discuss several experiments that lean pro-Schlessinger. In one of their own studies, they primed half the participants with a spirituality-themed word jumble (including the words divine and God) and gave the other half the same task with nonspiritual words. Then, they gave all the participants $10 each and told them that they could either keep it or share their cash reward with another (anonymous) subject. Ultimately, the spiritual-jumble group parted with more than twice as much money as the control. Norenzayan and Shariff suggest that this lopsided outcome is the result of an evolutionary imperative to care about one's reputation. If you think about God, you believe someone is watching. This argument is bolstered by other research that they review showing that people are more generous and less likely to cheat when others are around. More surprisingly, people also behave better when exposed to posters with eyes on them.

(Excerpt) Read more at slate.com ...


TOPICS: Judaism; Mainline Protestant; Religion & Science; Skeptics/Seekers
KEYWORDS: atheism; atheist; drlaura; schlessinger
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1 posted on 11/15/2008 7:00:18 AM PST by Alex Murphy
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To: Alex Murphy
Answer emphatically NO

as a Christian I am well aware there are much ‘nicer’ atheists out there than me. Niceness isn't an issue.

2 posted on 11/15/2008 7:01:54 AM PST by vimto (To do the right thing you don't have to be intelligent - you have to be brave (Sasz))
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To: Alex Murphy
Interesting question.
Personally, I have never known an atheist that was happy or joyous. They have all been blah or angry about something or other.
3 posted on 11/15/2008 7:02:17 AM PST by svcw (Great selection of gift baskets: http://baskettastic.com/)
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To: svcw

I have to agree. The ones I have dealt with on USENET are always negative, angry, intolerant of other views (ESPECIALLY any Christian views, which they deem ‘radical’).

To me it is very obvious they are traveling through life with heavy scales on their eyes, yet they choose to remain unhappy in their disbelief of God.

I pray for them a lot, but then again, you’ve got to ‘shake the sand from your sandals’ when you find yourself beating your head against a brick wall time and again!


4 posted on 11/15/2008 7:06:57 AM PST by pillut48 (CJ in TX --"God help us all, and God help America!!" --my new mantra for the next 4 years)
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To: Alex Murphy
weird question!
NO. no more than meaning being a christian means you will vote pro life (this election and others prove it). or a host of other issues.
i have met many atheist (one in my family)and until you discuss matters of faith you would never know....
5 posted on 11/15/2008 7:07:03 AM PST by CanadianMusherinMI (drill baby drill/mine baby mine!)
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To: svcw

There are PRO-LIFE CONSERVATIVE atheist on Free Republic. I’m a devout Christian, but these are really nice people.


6 posted on 11/15/2008 7:08:00 AM PST by Coldwater Creek ("There is no insanity greater than electing a pathological Narcissist as president.")
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To: Alex Murphy

In The Ten Commandments, she approvingly quotes Dostoyevsky: “Where there is no God, all is permitted.”
_________________________________________

However in Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky punishes the student for murdering the old woman...

he thinks he has license to kill, but he does repent in the end..


7 posted on 11/15/2008 7:15:36 AM PST by Tennessee Nana
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I’m an atheist. I figure I have built in morality. Most people follow the golden rule, right?

And in the final measure, I believe in one fewer gods than Christians do.


8 posted on 11/15/2008 7:25:47 AM PST by soroptimist (I don't know why ya come here, I don't know what you want from me. Everybody says you use me.)
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To: Coldwater Creek

Notice I did not say nice. I said no joy and angry.


9 posted on 11/15/2008 7:26:08 AM PST by svcw (Great selection of gift baskets: http://baskettastic.com/)
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To: Alex Murphy

Trying to define “nice” and “mean” behavior with an atheist can be a fools game. “It was nice of you to give that lady a ride to the abortion clinic” versus “It was mean of you to try to talk her out of it.” As one poster here has said, niceness isn’t the issue. There are principled atheists, but one always has to wonder about the authority and integrity of their principles and when they might change.


10 posted on 11/15/2008 7:26:33 AM PST by trubolotta
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To: svcw

The Freepers that I know are not sad and angry.


11 posted on 11/15/2008 7:28:25 AM PST by Coldwater Creek ("There is no insanity greater than electing a pathological Narcissist as president.")
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To: Alex Murphy
IF people actually read the WORDS out of the mouth of Christ they would not consider Him very nice.... Well then maybe that is why so many do not like Him. He did set in place a very high standard.
12 posted on 11/15/2008 7:28:28 AM PST by Just mythoughts (Isa.3:4 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.)
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To: Alex Murphy

I know several atheists who are among the nicest people you could ever hope to meet—warm, kind, generous, happy, honorable. The question arises: how much better would they be if they knew and served God? What wonderful things could they accomplish?

By the same token, I know a number of Christians who are absolutely the pits. We have all met people like this.

This discussion does not give enough weight to innate temperament and to life experience. Perhaps the sunny atheist had a delightful childhood and was born with a disposition inclined away from depression. Perhaps the miserable, outwardly nasty Christian really does believe, but he has chronic pain, or has suffered a scarring life with heartbreak you can’t imagine, or was born with a genetic predisposition to depression. We can’t know, which is why we are told not to judge such things; only God can know them.

As my father said, it is the bad people who need faith the most. Otherwise, imagine how much worse they would be.


13 posted on 11/15/2008 7:29:20 AM PST by ottbmare
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To: soroptimist
I’m an atheist. I figure I have built in morality. Most people follow the golden rule, right?

*********************

What's the origin of the Golden Rule?

14 posted on 11/15/2008 7:34:11 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: trisham

“What’s the origin of the Golden Rule?”

Isn’t it all religions except for one?

I know an atheist who is very nice - and he voted for McCain, despite being very liberal thinking. Marxism and Michelle 0bama were his deciding factors (this from a guy who NEVER talks about anyone badly).


15 posted on 11/15/2008 7:40:43 AM PST by JavaJumpy
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To: svcw

Back in the 1950s when I was in grade school, I remember that we read a lot of Aesop’s fables from Greek times - the children’s literature also had the aim of making us into good people. No Bible teaching was ever done in the classroom. The morals to the Aesop stories were an important part of my early awareness of right and wrong because I rarely was taken to church or Sunday school. No Bible reading went on in my house. My father was a strict authoritarian, however, so there was no doubt as to what behavior was unacceptable.

Today, children, and for that matter, all of us, are being pulverized with the idea that there is no right and wrong way - you decide for yourself based on nothing but the opinions and feelings of the moment. These “lessons” can be heard from both the Liberal Christian and Unitarian wings of religion as well as the Dawkins/Hitchens atheists. There are miserable Christians, true enough, because they have lost their way, but they are not the norm. I am not sure what the norm is for atheists — their public representatives may be aberrations, too — Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, William Ayres, Richard Dawkins are not people I would want to hang out with, but they may be the atheists’ sad and vocal exceptions, too. The Point is, you have to be taught - it doesn’t come naturally to everyone to be civilized, kind, generous, charitable. Some adults, even after knowing all this, still choose to be stingy, mean bastards, caring only about how everything affects them only — little tiny poisonous universes with everything revolving around them.


16 posted on 11/15/2008 7:44:09 AM PST by Sioux-san
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To: vimto

If a person spends his weekdays searching for articles to slam another religion I guess that would indicate he or she might be mean among other things.


17 posted on 11/15/2008 7:44:34 AM PST by Radl (rtr)
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To: JavaJumpy
I don't know about other religions, but it is in the Bible.

From the Gospel according to Saint Luke:

31 And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them in like manner.

From the Gospel according to Saint Matthew:

12 All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets.

18 posted on 11/15/2008 7:45:31 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Alex Murphy

While many Americans say that, they voted for B. Hussein Obama, who’s mother and father were both atheists and whose statement about clinging to their God is something an atheist, not a Christian, would say.


19 posted on 11/15/2008 7:49:05 AM PST by MIchaelTArchangel
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To: Alex Murphy

Believers are not inherently better than atheists.

However, IMO, without a belief in a superior power a person’s morality is sort of “free-standing.” It doesn’t mean it won’t be firmly believed, it’s just that the belief isn’t really based on much of anything.


20 posted on 11/15/2008 7:49:36 AM PST by Sherman Logan (Everyone has a right to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.)
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To: Alex Murphy
Just don't cut people off and refuse to let them merge if you have a Christian bumper-sticker or little kid praying at the cross decal in your window), that's all I ask.
Has that happen to me YESTERDAY! An ‘Abortion stops a beating heart, a sticker that said something about Jesus, a fish emblem and a ‘Calvin, praying and the @#$@ jerks wouldn't let ANYONE merge/change lanes if they could help it.
21 posted on 11/15/2008 7:54:36 AM PST by RedStateRocker (Sarah Palin has run a state, a town, a commercial fishing business. All Obama has run is his mouth)
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To: Alex Murphy

No such thing as an atheist.

Maybe agnostic... but not atheist.


22 posted on 11/15/2008 7:56:23 AM PST by Safrguns
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To: soroptimist

Why do you suppose you have a built in morality? The Bible tells us that God has written His law on our hearts such that even men who do not believe in Him are inclined to do good.

I have always wanted to ask an atheist about that. Providing there is no God and man is merely an extra-evolved animal why then do we have a conscience? Why are we able to go against our own nature? Animals give no thought to the consequences of their behavior, they do what is instinctual without guilt or pride.

Also, if an animal is hungry, they seek out food without caring that another animal may have to die to provide it. If there is no God and our ultimate end is just decomposition, what difference does it make if we are nice? Why doesn’t society applaud those who will do anything to gain whatever they want? If the answer is that society understands that as a community we must work together and show compassion, they why is that?


23 posted on 11/15/2008 7:57:46 AM PST by Jvette
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To: svcw
Personally, I have never known an atheist that was happy or joyous.

That is why we have liquor and drugs.

24 posted on 11/15/2008 8:00:01 AM PST by P-Marlowe (LPFOKETT GAHCOEEP-w/o*)
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To: svcw
Personally, I have never known an atheist that was happy or joyous.

I once worked with an atheist and it seemed she was always miserable about something. She couldn't discuss her position because she didn't really know why she believed what she did. I think she was basically lazy and figured having no position on a "Creator God" meant less effort on her part.

But.....I've not known many....so this opinion could be skewed.

25 posted on 11/15/2008 8:00:02 AM PST by Diego1618
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To: trisham

“Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do.” The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, 109 - 110 Translated by R.B. Parkinson. The original dates to 1970 to 1640 BC

Plato: 4th century philosopher: “May I do to others as I would that they should do unto me.”

Socrates: 5th century philosopher: “Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you.

Brahmanism: “This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you”. Mahabharata, 5:1517


26 posted on 11/15/2008 8:01:54 AM PST by RedStateRocker (Sarah Palin has run a state, a town, a commercial fishing business. All Obama has run is his mouth)
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To: Coldwater Creek; Alex Murphy
The Freepers that I know are not sad and angry.

Try preaching the Gospel to them. :-)

27 posted on 11/15/2008 8:02:42 AM PST by P-Marlowe (LPFOKETT GAHCOEEP-w/o*)
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To: Alex Murphy
Does Religion Make You Nice?--Does atheism make you mean?

Hard to say, but I've never seen an Atheist hospital or an Atheist charity anywhere.

28 posted on 11/15/2008 8:04:37 AM PST by Wil H (No Accomplishments, No Experience, No Resume, No Records, No References, Nobama..)
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To: svcw

Well, as an atheist, I would say I’m pretty happy most days, marginally less happy when my two year old decides to vomit all over me at 6am this morning.


29 posted on 11/15/2008 8:09:39 AM PST by Angostura
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To: Wil H
Hard to say, but I've never seen an Atheist hospital or an Atheist charity anywhere.

They do have extremely mediocre skeptic web sites devoted to feeling smug about asking questions that have been asked (and conclusively answered) for centuries.
30 posted on 11/15/2008 8:12:10 AM PST by aruanan
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To: JavaJumpy; trisham

“What’s the origin of the Golden Rule?”

Isn’t it all religions except for one?

I know an atheist who is very nice - and he voted for McCain, despite being very liberal thinking. Marxism and Michelle 0bama were his deciding factors (this from a guy who NEVER talks about anyone badly).”

Christianity is the only religion on Earth that advances positivity as a defense against negativity. Every-other religion has some type of positive for positive and negative for negative angle to it. “Do as ye would be done by” is a true advancement that elevates Christianity above all religions. Christ is the ultimate example of God returning good for humanity’s evil so that we might receive healing and restoration of fellowship. Christ IS the GOLDEN RULE, God’s extension of his grace towards us. No other religion has this rule or has had it uttered so succinctly as Christ uttered it; in word or in total demonstration thru his very life and being!


31 posted on 11/15/2008 8:12:59 AM PST by mdmathis6 (I'm Mike the RN!( I often do plumbing of a different sort))
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To: vimto
Answer emphatically NO

as a Christian I am well aware there are much ‘nicer’ atheists out there than me. Niceness isn't an issue.

Guess it was just coincidence that athiest regimes (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, et. al.) managed to murder over 100 million people in the 20th century. I can't think of any Christian countries that did the same.

32 posted on 11/15/2008 8:18:39 AM PST by Mogollon (Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God. -- Thomas Jefferson)
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To: mdmathis6

Excellent! If I may add, Christ also told us to love one another as he loves us. That puts a burden on Christians that is more demanding than the reciprocity of the golden rule. The golden rule is a brick in the foundation, but not the entire foundation.


33 posted on 11/15/2008 8:22:26 AM PST by trubolotta
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To: vimto

Agreed.

We live in an age of grace, not to be confused with politeness nor with morality. It is an issue of righteousness and justice, where unrighteousness may be confessed through faith in Christ and relationship with perfect righteousness is justly re-established by his grace providing forgiveness.

People may live very morally and be completely out of fellowship with God when they are thinking and behaving independent of faith in Him.


34 posted on 11/15/2008 8:27:23 AM PST by Cvengr (Adversity in life and death is inevitable. Thru faith in Christ, stress is optional.)
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To: mdmathis6

Amen, FRiend.


35 posted on 11/15/2008 8:29:28 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Alex Murphy

It’s going to be hard to be nice in hell... I would imagine.


36 posted on 11/15/2008 8:43:44 AM PST by Paved Paradise
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To: soroptimist

FYI, your built-in morality is because God has written His laws on men’s hearts. It’s there because He put it there. Maybe someday you’ll give Him the credit He’s due.

As for built-in morality, you need to read up on the true story of what happened with the Waorani Indians and Jim Elliott. Excellent story. Important to really read up and study on the Waoranis and how their murder rate was about 90 percent until Christians came into their midst.


37 posted on 11/15/2008 8:47:41 AM PST by Paved Paradise
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To: svcw

I know very few. The only guy that I knew a little about was the husband of a friend of mine. He was very angry and mean. I felt bad for her.


38 posted on 11/15/2008 8:48:23 AM PST by Paved Paradise
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To: Mogollon

Glad someone made that point on here.


39 posted on 11/15/2008 8:48:59 AM PST by Paved Paradise
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To: mdmathis6

“Christianity is the only religion on Earth that advances positivity as a defense against negativity.”

What about Buddhism?


40 posted on 11/15/2008 8:49:29 AM PST by JavaJumpy
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To: Wil H

He he. You won’t see a Buddhist one either or Hindu Hospital either.


41 posted on 11/15/2008 8:50:19 AM PST by Paved Paradise
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To: RedStateRocker

I know; it’s happened to me many times as well. But, keep in mind the jerk driving could be the Christian’s atheist brother-in-law (he he).


42 posted on 11/15/2008 8:51:53 AM PST by Paved Paradise
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To: Cvengr

Yes. Also, many people are only nice or “good” because they have an expectancy to GET something, whether its an accolade, promotion, or whatever human construct we have put into place that gives people the warm fuzzies.


43 posted on 11/15/2008 8:53:31 AM PST by Paved Paradise
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To: ottbmare

In my 74 plus years of living (55 as a born from above Christian) I too have very good and kind atheists,(and very evil atheists). And I have meet some unkind and un-thoughtful Christians,(I confess I have been guilty),and some very kind and compassionate Christians.
I love what one TV ministries has said; “The best unbelievers in this world will not enter heaven, and the worst believer will enter into God’s kingdom.”
That is the point, unbeliever’s shall have their part in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). But there is no condemnation to those that believe, but there is condemnation to unbelievers. (John 3:18).
We read that Abraham’s belief was imputed to him for righteousness. (Romans 4:16_25).
And in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He (God) hath made Him (Jesus)to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus).


44 posted on 11/15/2008 9:18:32 AM PST by LetMarch (If a man knows the right way to live, and does not live it, there is no greater coward--Anonymous))
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To: Cvengr
Ha Cvengr, you understood my point exactly.

Some Christians are nice people before they are born again. Nevertheless they testify to the change that has been wrought by grace - so we really don't see the deep stuff at all.

I was once in a congregation with a Christian who had personality halitosis. Someone asked me how that person could be a Christian. I said by grace - just imagine what he could be like without it. Isn't it great that the Lord doesn't save according to our estimations of each other?

warmest regards

45 posted on 11/15/2008 9:36:27 AM PST by vimto (To do the right thing you don't have to be intelligent - you have to be brave (Sasz))
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To: Mogollon
You are of course right.

Atheism will eventually show the most degraded characteristics.

But individuals can be pleasant and nice. It's one thing that fools people into thinking they are already ‘Christian’!

warm regards

46 posted on 11/15/2008 9:38:53 AM PST by vimto (To do the right thing you don't have to be intelligent - you have to be brave (Sasz))
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To: ottbmare
Excellent post - you put the situation vis a vis atheists and Christians mush better than I would be able to!
47 posted on 11/15/2008 9:42:15 AM PST by vimto (To do the right thing you don't have to be intelligent - you have to be brave (Sasz))
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To: Alex Murphy
I believe the real issues is not "nice" - but who defines "nice"? And more importantly, who defines "good"? The atheist has no objective standard for his ethics. And there is no "oughtness" - there is no compulsion to be nice or good, if there is no universal Justice-keeper.

Any sense of "good" is built in as a result of being made in the image of God - yes, even atheists are made in His image.

48 posted on 11/15/2008 9:42:59 AM PST by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: Alex Murphy
I have to take exception with their silly little experiment. They have defined "knowing how to unscramble a religious word jumble puzzle" with "believer in God", and they have then gone on to define "believer in God" with "someone who shares money with someone else who didn't earn it."

I submit that even as an atheist, I could unscramble the meaningless word game, and when it came time to give away earned income, I'd stand there with fellow conservatives of all stripes and say, "No, thank you."

49 posted on 11/15/2008 9:51:17 AM PST by hunter112 (Obamunism will fizzle, fo' shizzle.)
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To: svcw
I have never known an atheist that was happy or joyous.

Well, here I am! I will admit, I've been a bit less joyous since Election Day, but I would be willing to bet that quite a few Christians feel that way as well.

50 posted on 11/15/2008 9:53:13 AM PST by hunter112 (Obamunism will fizzle, fo' shizzle.)
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