William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Atheists More Motivated By Compassion Than The Faithful?

Why? (Source)
Give till it hurts

Today’s title was swiped, word-for-word, from a Live Science press release. This is important because the point I wish to make has to do with how the press and publicity treat papers; I have little to say about an actual paper.

And this is by necessity, since the paper being reported upon does not exist. Or, rather, it exists but will not be published until July, two months off, so far after the appearance of the press release that nobody in the media or public will remember to look the paper up when it finally shows. All that will be recalled were the old headlines.

Like the one appearing as our title today. Or the one, even, appearing at HotAir.com: “Confirmed: Atheists more motivated by compassion in charitable giving than believers are.”

Now pause and consider just these two headlines, the only words of a story likely to be read by most folks. What would your conclusion be? Why, that atheists are more generous, more compassionate than theists. This is striking because it goes against what many would have guessed to be true. Maybe there’s something to this atheism thing after all?

But suppose I told you I conducted an experiment with 100 atheists and 100 theists and asked them to self-report how much money they donated and the attitude they had whilst doing so. Say that 90 out of the 100 theists made charitable donations and that all claimed their activity was a duty; further say that just 10 out of 100 atheists gave but that each of these 10 reported doing so because they were moved by compassion. What would your conclusion be?

Obviously, “Atheists are more compassionate than theists.” Golly! This rendition is even true, in some political-spin kind of way. Not the way an ordinary citizen would understand it, of course, but ordinary citizens can’t be expected to comprehend difficult scientific concepts.

The paper that-is-not-yet was written by academic sociologists Robb Willer and Laura Saslow. In it, so the press release informs, they conducted three studies.

The first was to look at an old survey. Result: “compassionate attitudes were linked with how many generous behaviors a person was likely to report. But this link was strongest in people who were atheists or only slightly religious, compared with people who were more strongly religious.”

In other words “atheist” as defined by this first study meant “not-atheist” or “some atheist, some religious.” The lumping is suspicious and might—I say might—indicate their statistical correlation did not produce a publishable p-value when they compared actual atheists with actual theists. And just you examine what the study reports: the number of “generous behaviors” (whatever these are) was correlated with some definition of compassion. There is no word about the fraction of theists who engaged in “generous behaviors” versus the fraction of atheists who engaged in these.

In study number two:

101 adults were shown either a neutral video or an emotional video about children in poverty. They were then given 10 fake dollars and told they could give as much as they liked to a stranger. Those who were less religious gave more when they saw the emotional video first.

The description is not clear, but it appears that participants saw both videos but in random order. We’ll have to wait for the paper to see if just as many theists as atheists saw the “emotional video” first. Or whether they once again lumped some theists in with atheists to round out their numbers.

And did you notice that the fake dollars were given to a stranger? Why not real dollars to real children in actual poverty? Were these Monopoly money given to WEIRD college students? An odd, very unrealistic situation.

The third study:

[A] sample of more than 200 college students reported their current level of compassion and then played economic games in which they were given money to share or withhold from a stranger. Those who were the least religious but most momentarily compassionate shared the most.

Didn’t we see this or a similar game mentioned in yesterday’s post on the over-reliance of WEIRD people in academic research? Well, who knows. But how does one gauge somebody’s “momentary current level of compassion”? And what does fake money have to do with real-life giving?

The number of ways for this study to mean the opposite of the headline are many—but like I said, we’ll have to wait until we actually see the paper. There is at least good cause not to write the headline so boldly.

Live Science ends with a quote from Willer: “Overall, this research suggests that although less religious people tend to be less trusted in the U.S., when feeling compassionate, they may actually be more inclined to help their fellow citizens than more religious people.” Now why bring up that atheists are “less trusted”? What does that have to do with any of these studies? Might Willer be subject to a little confirmation bias?

Did you notice the qualifier? Atheists, when feeling compassionate, may be more inclined to “help” (with fake money, of course) their fellow citizens. What about when atheists are not feeling compassionate? Do they feel compassionate more or less often the theists? Who gives more? Who is in real-life more generous?

Aren’t these the real questions?

33 Comments

  1. I bet there would be a big difference between Libertarian atheists and Libertarian Christians. I’d bet on the Christians being more charitable Of the two.

    Some interesting work has been done on comparing the rate of theism in general public vs incar erated.

  2. At an even deeper level: the papers are holding up compassion as something that’s good. Why?

    Once the leap is made that compassion is good, and more compassion is better than less compassion, only then can poorly-designed “experiments” make one group of people look better than another.

    The *Why?* is certainly not based on science or the reality of what happens every day in all of the most successful species on the planet.

  3. I am puzzled by this endless parade of research purporting to demonstrate the social superiority of atheists in every realm of ordinary life. I’m worn out from hearing all about this *good news.* PS The next time someone gives me some imaginary money, I’m keeping it.

  4. Let’s ‘spin’ it differently, with a different experiment.

    A homeless man on the street is begging for money. A theist walks by and donates nothing. An Atheist walks by and donates a dollar. Who is the more compasionate?

    One possible interpretation:

    The theist knows that within a few blocks there are at least three different missions for the homeless, one operated by a Convent. He knows that the homeless man has ample access to food and shelter (thanks to the charitable donation of the various congregations around the city). A dollar given to the homeless man will not help anybody.

    The atheist see’s a man standing alone with nobody to help and nobody to care. He gives the man a dollar and see’s the theist as a heartless compasionless Scrouge.

    In this case both are compasionate, but one is better educated.

    Generally speaking I would assume most theists are slightly better educated about these matters. Many Churches have ‘Sunday School’ for kids, and the childern are educated at about ‘good samaratins’ and missionary work. Some churches (the Salvation Army for example) are entirely dedicated to this issue.

  5. In the second experiment I suspect that “first” means prior to donating the money, and that the participants only saw one video, either an emotional one or a neutral one.

    This interpretation seems to make more sense than Prof Brigg’s interpretation that they were shown a neutral and an emotional video and the order they saw them affected their generosity.

    But who really knows!

  6. As an addendum to your treatment of this “research”, if I were asked to rate how compassionate I felt at this moment I would rate myself low, because for me to be compassionate is to feel concern for another person’s suffering. If there is no person suffering it doesn’t make sense to say I’m feeling compassionate.

    It would be like saying “I love” without an object.

  7. One thing that is absolutely certain is, on matters of general morality & civil interpersonal conduct, atheists are not hypocrites.

    However, most “Christians” (or pick your faith) are, sometimes to extraordinary degrees.

    For many its much easier to talk about faith than putting it into real practice.

    As Menchen observed ((from Prejudices: Third Series, Alfred A. Knopf, New York (1922), pp. 157-160.) “On Human Progress” by H. L. Mencken (from the Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1927); http://www.mencken.org/text/txt001/elliott.leo.1998.mencken-01.htm):

    “What is too often overlooked is that even Christianity, after two millenniums of ostensible acceptance by all the more civilized nations of the west, is still but imperfectly assimilated by nine Christians out of ten. Certainly no one would argue seriously that its ethical principles are anywhere put into practice in the world today; even its chief spokesmen abandon them at the first temptation, as in time of public war or when they are themselves engaged in controversy with other spokesmen.”

    Cialdini presents some social experiments involving the faithful & how well they do, and don’t, practice what they preach. His “good samaritin” experiment is telling: When preachers were running late to give a school presentation they’d consistently walk right by a student in obvious peril/need. Their behavior was predictable based on purely selfish motives rather than the “Golden Rule”/’do unto others’ value.

    Not that atheists would necessarily be any better, or worse, …but… they at least don’t flaunt a holier-than-though religiosity lorded over the masses they then fail to live up to. That makes their behavior much more tolerable, not for the behavior but for the lack of hypocrisy.

    Put another way, religion is a favorite refuge of narcissists (a broach class of people having diminished to no conscience that includes sociopaths) as it gives them an easy means of appearing wholesome. Religion facilitates “believers” to put on a show (Sam Vaknin addresses this in his book, Malignant Narcissism). Most people are inclined, via lazy observational skills, to see the facade and not past it.
    At least until its too often too late.

  8. Ken,

    The argument, “Christians don’t live up to their standards and thus are hypocrites” is partially true, but Christians generally add to any discussion “I”m a sinner and don’t live up to this, but I’m trying.” Either way, it doesn’t address the question of whether or not those standards are good and should be goals. Just because I fail to do my math right doesn’t mean the goal of getting 100% correct on my exam is stupid, it just means I need to study harder.

    Plus, given what you just said, it appears the only “ethical” thing is for a man to give up having high standards since (and potentially improving by repeated attempts to live up to those standards) and instead just admit to and live as the low-life scum he is. That man is not very likely to improve, if anything he will become even more of a jerk, but hey, he won’t be a hypocrite (which is a very silly position to hold ethically. “Yes officer, I killed that man, but I always said I was a jerk!”)

  9. Why does giving fake dollars mean anything.

    Rather than looking at how people play some giving game, why don’t we look at actual giving. Who gives more time? who gives more money? Who gives a greater percentage of their money?

    Those who are more invested in their communities give more:
    Home owners give more than renters
    Married people give more than single people.
    Belonging to a church may be the single biggest indicator of propensity to give.

  10. Ye Olde Statistician

    2 May 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Do they suppose they are doing actual science? It looks like cargo cultism to me: dressing up in white lab coats and repeating the terminologies of physics or chemistry and hoping to call down thereby really-truly scientific results. Do they really think they are measuring compassion? Do they really think playing with pretend money has anything to do withgenerosity? Is their grasp of science as weak as their grasp of statistical analysis?

    Or was dressing up in a white lab coat just cover for the tendentious purpose of their “research”?

  11. Eric Anderson

    2 May 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I used to give somewhat regularly to panhandlers on the street. Rarely anymore.

    Part of the reason is that in my volunteer work I have become knowledgeable about many organizations in our community that serve the poor, the elderly, the youth, the underprivileged, the homeless and others in need. For example, we have an excellent organization in our community that helps homeless men learn job skills, find basic labor, and eventually earn enough to cover food and get a simple apartment or at least a rented room. This organization has shared with me statistics about how much panhandlers make at various intersections in our area and I was astounded at how much can be had at certain “prime” street corners. This organization has expressed frustration that one of the challenges in getting men to commit to the organization’s program is the temptation of easy money panhandling.

    As I’m sure do many others on this blog, I donate a fair amount to charity. But I try to focus on organizations that know how to make a real difference, stretch the dollars as far as they can, leverage volunteer hours, teach lifelong skills, etc. Am I less compassionate now when I pass a panhandler on the street than I used to be? No. Not any less compassionate. However, I am more educated about where to direct my limited resources.

    ————

    On a note specifically related to the papers Briggs discusses, I would add that some (most?) religious traditions, in addition to teaching compassionate service, also emphasize self reliance and personal responsibility. Some would even add in concepts such as relying on family, the church and volunteer organizations before looking for governmental help or handouts from strangers. We can of course debate the best ways to alleviate the ills in the world, but assuming someone wants to better the world but doesn’t think handing money out to strangers is the best way to go about it, wouldn’t that significantly affect the outcome of any “experiments” that use handouts of cash to strangers as a measuring stick for ascertaining compassion?

  12. This reminds me of one of the examples in the first Freakonomics book. I don’t know if it was Dubner’s work, but someone did a study of experts pricing baseball cards: They went to a convention and brought dealers into a separate room and asked them what they would sell certain cards at. Most of the dealers gave very similar valuations.

    The second step was to send a shill around to the same dealers earlier tested and buy the cards that they had been quizzed on, and the prices were far more variable and in many cases much higher.

    Things are different in the real world than in a low/no stakes lab setting.

  13. Christina, The portion you wrote “Plus, given what you just said, it appears …. I always said I was a jerk!”)” does not in any way follow from anything I wrote, or implied. Your position is, in other words: “People consistently fail to live up to certain standards, thus those standards should be abandoned” is nonsensical in most situations. What can be inferred from my remarks is: “One should not flaunt, or even let on to, one’s religiosity because sooner or later one will certainly fall way short & appear as vile luke-warmer-Jesus-vomit [to paraphrase a famous Biblical passage.”

    The blogger here has taken a very defensive, almost neurotic, postion to a statement/finding that ought to be prima facie obvious & of no cause for alarm by anyone…except perhaps that anyone would expend effort & resources to collect evidence for it.

    People having religious values will commonly do charitable things out of a sense of compulsory obligation stemming from the religous values and/or their religious affiliation in some organization. They tithe to their church out of such pressure (including peer pressure), donate time to various functions out of such pressure, etc. (this “pressure” may be real or just perceived as an expected “right thing to do”). Failure to do so brings on a sense of guilt or worry of some adverse response. This is precisely the same emotional dynamic as employees attending company-sponsored events (picnics, etc.)–where they “give” to various causes at such events out of a sense of obligation or desire to maintain good relationships with bosses that value the activity, etc. and never would have considered doing so if not for the boss’s watchful eye. Some of the religious and/or some of the “company employees” give out of a sense of compulsion imposed from the outside rather than from a sense of intrinsic desire.

    An atheist lacks a religious value system and will naturally lack any religious-influence or associated feeling of compulsion. Their charity is given [when given] out of non-religious-based motivators…and those other factors are pretty much the same for everyone, including the religious.

    Put another way, a religious person has “N” factors that can induce a charitable behavior while an atheist has “N-1″ with the missing factor being a religious belief.

    Thus, in any grouping of religious & atheistic people that give, many will give for exactly the same reasons, a sincere feeling of charity, and some religious will give primarily or only out of a feeling of religion-based obligations & pressures — thus the religious subgroup will necessarily have a smaller proportion giving to charity out of genuine feelings of charity as some invariably give out of a sense of being compelled [or else].

    That is, the “N-group” will naturally have fewer of the “N-1″ reasons for acting a particular way. But that means nothing as the definitions used guarantee that outcome/finding.

    The study, it is noted, does not indicate that atheists as a group give more or less than the religious. What it noted was a limited inclination of the atheists to give more with certain types of emotional prompting.

    In other words, the study & implied statistic is meaningless as the sum total of its findings is that a subgroup (athesists) with one less factor for acting a certain way exhibit more occurences of the other factors. Given the premise of the study, that finding is impossible to not find.

    Curiously, this “study” maps perfectly with a Business School case study involving auto sales & the associated types of advertising (ad) commercial, with an emotional ad campaign giving highly variable with sometimes highly responsive or dreadfully dull sales while an intellectual ad campaign yielding a rather linear response (more ad volume leading directly to proportionally more sales). Atheists map to the emotional buyers while the religious maps to the intellectual buyers. That, contrived, case study is so close to the LiveScience article I can’t help but wonder if the LiveScience article is in fact an experiment to see how people respond to basically identical information linked to objective (car vs. advertising type) and emotional (religious vs. atheist) presentations.

  14. Here is an article comparing secular and religious. Religious being defined as those attending church regularly. Not quite the same, but I think worth a look.
    http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/6577

    From the article:
    “The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior. For example, among those who attend worship services regularly, 92 percent of Protestants give charitably, compared with 91 percent of Catholics, 91 percent of Jews, and 89 percent from other religions.”

  15. @Ken:

    “One thing that is absolutely certain is, on matters of general morality & civil interpersonal conduct, atheists are not hypocrites.”

    You really need to look up what it means to be a hypocrite. Out of ten concepts in the definition at (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hypocrite), only one involves religion. What you’re saying is that atheists are unnaturally (supernaturally?) virtuous.

    “Put another way, a religious person has “N” factors that can induce a charitable behavior while an atheist has “N-1″ with the missing factor being a religious belief.”

    A particular person will not have N factors. Humanity has N factors, of which any individual will have n_i. You might try to claim that atheists will never have factor number N (God) as one of their n_i, but really their factor N is “to prove there is no God or that God is not necessary for goodness”. So all humans have the same support for reasons to be charitable.

    “Put another way, religion is a favorite refuge of narcissists (a broach class of people having diminished to no conscience that includes sociopaths) as it gives them an easy means of appearing wholesome.”

    Where do you live, exactly? Where I live, the hierarchy is highest to lowest): Atheist, (western) Buddhist, Unitarian, …, Muslim, …, Christian. Religion is tolerated to the degree that it is amorphous or hobby-like. It is true that in many times and places, pretending to be, say, a Christian carried some status with it, but no longer. Anyone who understands Christianity rightly knows that the opposite of what you say is true: it’s the refuge of those who know they are imperfect.

  16. Yes, all real questions, but how to measure compassion? I think I am a person of great compassion because I can’t even kill a spider! ^_^

    I’d love to donate $1,000,000 per year but I can’t afford to do so. I’d love to volunteer 20 hours a day but I can’t afford to do so. I’d love to adopt all unwanted children but I can’t afford to do so. I’d like to practice the great compassion, but…

    Perhaps the study has to do with the motivation difference between theist and atheist. Does the motivation (or moral codes) come from God? Without a God, what motivates an atheist to be kind?

  17. Ken: I get the impression that you don’t have much experience with churches and their outreach programs.

    You are claiming that people who belong do religious organizations act generously due to peer pressure. This ignores a shared concept within many Chritian organizations: calling. This same concept can be found in non religious organizations as well (doctors without borders, for example).

    Your claim reverses the order of events. People choose to do missionary work for their own reasons. Churches, and medical associations, tend not to pressure their members to undertake missionary work. The rest of the members act as a financial support system for those willing to go the distance.

    It’s no coincidence that those who answer “the calling” tend to rub shoulders. They end up coming together due to some shared set of goals, not because of “peer pressure at a distance”.

    Churches are a convenient outlet for people interested in charitable work. My late grandmother did volunteer work through her Church for decades. In the small town I come from its not uncommon for the reception at funerals to be catered by volunteers. The Anglican church provides hospice to those facing the end. The Wesleyens provide teachers and aid to third world holes that nobody else has even heard of. The Catholics fund a massive network of missions to help the sick and downtrodden. Etc.. Etc.. Etc..

  18. Atheists aren’t motivated by a sense of Christian duty. Who knew?

  19. …wot?!

    “One thing that is absolutely certain is, on matters of general morality & civil interpersonal conduct, atheists are not hypocrites.”
    Uh… Stalin, Mao, Che, etc, and the humanist-atheists covering for them. (And then there are you Muslim buddies, who are allowed to live on as Eternal Children.) You is being a very funny chicken.

    “Put another way, a religious person has “N” factors that can induce a charitable behavior while an atheist has “N-1″ with the missing factor being a religious belief.”
    That missing factor is a real doozy, you nit-wit. Yes, yes, you hippies are always screaming about how you are the really good people, who ‘give from the heart’, while the evil Christians just give because they are ordered to. Well, consider that Christians do give when they “feel the need to”, or rather ALSO give then…
    Odd how Christians are ‘forced’, by the God they CHOOSE, to ‘give’… what a bunch of evil-choosing chumps…

    I could go on, but you people are beyond stupid, and cannot be cured. So, ta.

  20. If I were to give a man a fish I would feed him for a day. If I teach him to fish instead I would feed him for a lifetime. Going by the study, if I were to believe the latter was the better course to follow, this would make me uncompassionate.

  21. religious people consider giving to charity the default and they give more than the non religious. non religious tend to give only when presented by a sob story. I’m disappointed in my fellow nonbelievers’ response…declaring that the religious are less compassionate when in fact their actions bely that. Who’s giving more and more regularly? Believers. Who does not tend to give unless presented with a heart wrenching story? Nonreligious.

    this is a challenge, fellow nonbeleivers. Put your money where your mouth is and give regularly.

  22. RE: a number of comments:

    RE: One thing that is absolutely certain is, on matters of general morality & civil interpersonal conduct, atheists are not hypocrites.

    THAT remark is subsequently qualified [several sentences & a quote] to specifically religious matters — an atheist, having no religion, cannot possibly espouse a religious precept and then violate it, the latter constituting hypocrisy of the type applicable to this blog essay. I was not commenting on hypocrisy in general.

    It is wrong only when those of you take it out of context…which is mis-stating my statement…which is slanderous/libelous…which is a very un-Christian thing to do.

    Or maybe you just can’t read & understand a complete concept?

    SOME religious people give to charity out of a sense of obligation, peer pressure, etc. (a psychological dynamic applies to people giving to charities sponsored by their companies, etc. — they give because they want to stay in the perceived good-graces of their bosses…). I never stated or implied ALL religious give out of a sense of obligation, etc. Again, the responses reflect a knee-jerk emotional reaction to a context not presented.

    Religion IS a refuge (“a” refuge) for SOME narcissists, sociopaths, etc. That does NOT mean that those finding it a refuge are narcissists, sociopaths, etc. That’s a logical fallacy of the type: ‘all mafia are Sicilian therefore all Sicilian’s are in the mafia.’ Those of you here making such an error really ought to know better… Vaknin describes the narcissist’s attraction to religion in lay terms: http://samvak.tripod.com/narcissistgod.html Many other’s have observed this as well. As they are small minority of the population in general they are a small minority in social groups.

    LASTLY, NOBODY NOTICED THE FATAL FLAW IN Brigg’s ESSAY:

    “And this is by necessity, since THE PAPER BEING REPORTED UPON DOES NOT EXIST.” [emphasis in CAPITALS added]

    THAT IS FALSE.

    THE PAPER DOES EXIST AND IS AVAILABLE AT:

    http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/04/25/1948550612444137.full.pdf+html

    (that is a sublink to: http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/recent
    which is a sublink to: http://spp.sagepub.com/ )

    This whole thing reeks of hypocrisy by key participants

    The blog author has been of late making a particular series of points about thorough analysis over simple-minded analysis — applying a host of logical arguements and logical analyses of various types — all critical of others

    …then himself distinguishes himself about going off half-cocked about a paper he not only hasn’t read but asserts “does not exist” — settling for a summary & thus distorted news blurb — even though a simple internet search found it (for me) in a matter of a minute or two.

    A number of commenters are making remarks on matters taken out of context as well and/or are using their personal, anecdotal, experience in lieu of data…or the actual paper about which they are talking.

  23. Why, that atheists are more generous, more compassionate than theists. This is striking because it goes against what many would have guessed to be true.

    Despite our differences, mr Briggs, I always watch you as a non-bigoted person, amongst many various other good traits. That is why this sentence caught me completely by surprise in a very distasteful manner. Shame on you.

    Regarding the scientific criticism of the studies, I have nothing to disagree with you but also little to agree. Ken is right, the paper does seem to exist behind a paywall. I find these kinds of studies very boring. If you want to make a point about compassion and religion, you better make an amazing full proof study on the matter with hundreds of people, well defined concepts and, gasp, a replicatable method. Unless you are amazingly rigorous with what you do (and amazingly generous towards what you actually find, amazingly honest, etc.,etc.), these studies will only reinforce left-leaning scientific atheists’ worldview and be ignored / scorned by the religious people (like mr Briggs). A stupid debate of “NO U” then follows up, and the culture war continues.

    It makes me sigh of facepalmness.

  24. Here’s an exerpt from the abstract from the actual–it really exists!–report (http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/04/25/1948550612444137.abstract ):

    ABSTRACT: Past research argues that religious commitments shape individuals’ prosocial sentiments, including their generosity and solidarity. But what drives the prosociality of less religious people? … results SUGGEST [ephasis added] that the prosociality of less religious individuals is driven to a greater extent by levels of compassion than is the prosociality of the more religious.

    COMPREHEND THAT????

    The paper is NOT so much about atheists doing more or less than some other group as if there was some sort of competition underway between them — which was the false-focus of the blog essay & most of the comments…its about what motiviates “less religious” when they lack a religious-based motivation.

    Read just the abstract & then review the blog essay & see how well, or even if, the blog essay even reasonably derives from the actual research.

    By the way, Science Daily published a more detailed review in late April: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430140035.htm

    The first clue that something was amiss in the LiveScience summary was the use of past-tense (“published”) with a future date (July 2012) — both terms could not possibly be correct [esp. in the same sentence] so one ought to have been inspired immediately to do some fact-checking: was the study published (past tense) correct & the date wrong, OR, was the future date presented indicative of an upcoming publication date and the past-tense “published” a typo for something like “to be published”? Again, this was pathetically easy to validate using keywords from the LiveScience article.

    Especially (esp.) since anyone who’s read LiveScience for any period will quickly realize it has a very liberal bias and skews its summaries accordingly.

    Why/how this blogger, and everyone else at this site, apparently, missed that overt contradiction while concurrently advocating so much rigor & exhibiting so much fussy & detailed parsing & critiques of other’s remarks is very likely due to the objective analytical brain shutting off & the emotional brain (these are metaphors by the way) kicking in when an emotion-laden topic, for them, was presented.

  25. Chill up Ken. You are also a part of this blog post since you commented too, so your last paragraph is logically wrong ;).

  26. I’ve read Ken’s original “One thing that is absolutely certain is, on matters of general morality & civil interpersonal conduct, atheists are not hypocrites.” comment again, and to me it still reads as ‘ex.’, not as ‘i.e.’ Given the last paragraph there especially.

    Since I’m at it, perhaps I should point out that most (methinks, no proof) Christians (and other religious people) pick up an entire, ordered, system of caring for the poor as part of The Choosing of your god (once you’re inclined to think there is one).
    This is in fact rather a strong part of making that choice: only Satanists and Muslims (as far as I know) are motivated by the dark aspects of humanity when looking at this choice.

    Isn’t this classical? Why is it even necessary to have to say this? Oh yes, because of the lies hippies like Ken tell; because they are so utterly stupid the obvious is invisible to some them, while the others simply do not care about evil – a defining trait of the sociopath.

    To be a Christian, you are indeed driven to take care of the less fortunate. In a systematic, self-sacrificing manner. A thing which dovetails perfectly with the distributed decision-making of capitalism (which is so much more efficient than central planning, that you have to redefine what poverty is in order to still have it exist (in a meaningful sense) in the US.)

    Consider the hippies: their ‘system’ (third way to socialism to communism) is one of theft; but more than that, abuse. The Gov is empowered to TAKE, and then ‘give’ as it sees fit. How very ‘generous’ the hippies are, to FORCE ‘generosity’ upon all.
    Or rather, how ‘generous’ the hippies are, to completely remove the possibility of acts of generosity – how deeply insane people like Ken have to be, to do such a thing, to effectively crush to death so basic and essential an aspect of humanity, all in the name of ‘goodness’.

    This is one of the stronger arguments against atheists and their beloved Gov welfare, but remains oddly hidden most of the time… wonder why… oh, yeah, more totschweigen-taktik.

    And one really, really, really has to wonder why EVERY hippie considers this removal to be NECESSARY… really does make you look at people like Ken with a different set of eyes…
    Their socialism is literally the true anti-thesis of ‘goodness': it is not evil, directly, but instead takes the viewpoint of sociopathy, as mentioned above, that goodness should not even exist! (OK, maybe that is directly evil.)

    But run around some more Mr. headless Ken-chicken. As for “which was the false-focus of the blog essay & most of the comments…” blah blah. Even granted that the paper does exist, that one error does not somehow magically negate everything else that was said. But you know that, don’t you – you’re just another little lying hippie, throwing around pseudo-logic with great conviction, hoping to overcome truth with a rain of lies.

  27. The love of faith is the root of all evil.

  28. Ken,

    Yours are easily the most uncharitable comments in this thread. So you say you are an atheist? Hummm.

  29. Dave Roberts

    3 May 2012 at 3:47 pm

    “And did you notice that the fake dollars were given to a stranger? Why not real dollars to real children in actual poverty? Were these Monopoly money given to WEIRD college students? An odd, very unrealistic situation.”

    And should be pointed out, fake dollars that were *GIVEN* to them before the experiment and therefore weren’t earned by them through hard work. Giving away unearned fake dollars is a relatively low-threshold, I would think. That somebody gave them away slightly faster than somebody else seems almost irrelevant.

    A better test might be:
    1. Select 1,000 tax returns at random.
    2. Note the amount of charitable giving as a percentage of gross income.
    3. Call the tax return owner and have them self-report on their own amount of religiosity.

  30. Many surveys are flawed by the terms they use and the way the researchers choose to define or interpret those terms.

    It seems to me this study isn’t measuring compassion, but sentimentality.

    Mere primitive emotion can be manipulated (as it was in this study), and often leads to sentimental actions determined less to help the other so much as to provide immediate emotional release from excessive feelings.

    A compassionate desire to aid the other remains present and constant without regard to emotion, evaluates and responds less to the presenting pain than to the deepest (causal) needs, needs that may not even be recognized by the sufferer : compassionate people may or may not give a dollar, but it won’t be because they watched a tear-jerker of a movie.

  31. Switch “theist” for Black, Arab, or Jew and I doubt these sorts of “research” papers would ever see the light of day.

    I’m a little surprised groups like Bnai Brith aren’t all over this. These past two studies have basically called Jews (and Christians) stupid, heartless, and inferior.

    Up next: “Researchers at the univeristy of whatsamacallit have discovered a gene sequence responsible for theism, a condition many scientists agree results in low analytical ability and sociopathy. Based on this new research doctors now recommend Euthanasia for fetuses carrying the gene.”

  32. Up next: “Researchers at the univeristy of whatsamacallit have discovered a gene sequence responsible for theism, a condition many scientists agree results in low analytical ability and sociopathy. Based on this new research doctors now recommend Euthanasia for fetuses carrying the gene.”

    Ah. Was about to laugh, but then I noticed how realistic your assessment is.

    To laugh, I prefer cb’s post. It’s Ayn Rand mixed with christian zealotry if anything like that was ever possible. Hyper-hilarious.

  33. People commenting in this blog are not reading what’s presented, much less in context. The following are both true statements and not at all mutually contradictory:

    1. Religion is a vehicle for good people to do good for others. This is someting I didn’t comment about because:

    2. Religion is a vehicle for very bad people to do harm to others.

    The people involved in “1” outnumber those in “2” … however … people solidly in category “1” like to pretend that what religion facilitiate in “2” doesn’t exist, doesn’t amount to much, etc.

    As it happens, the small minority of those that abuse religion, corrupt it out of “good”/”noble” intentions, etc. convey severe and bloody effects. Many of you want to pretend this doesn’t exist/hasn’t existed. That’s a variation of Matthew 7:3’s warning going unheeded.

    THE HISTORY OF RELIGION IS BLOODY, OPPRESSIVE, etc. etc. etc. What the history shows is religious values readily serve as platform for extraordinarily vile acts having no corrallary in the pagan, pre-monotheistic, conversion of Europe. ANYONE ENDORSING RELIGION MUST endorse all of it…picking & choosing those aspects found favorable is to present a distortion — what laypeople call a “lie.”

    – Decades/centuries of Christian-on-Christian violence, harrassment, oppression, etc. is a historical fact. E.G., Northern Ireland, which was [is] an extension of Protestant/Catholic-base feuding going much further back in England.

    This topic, by the way, includes non-Christian: http://securityinnovator.com/index.php?articleID=556&sectionID=27

    Jamestown — anybody today want to go back to religious-based laws, Christian-based-laws, that were accepted then: http://www.nps.gov/jame/historyculture/martial-law.htm & http://digital.lib.lehigh.edu/trial/justification/jamestown/time/num-02.02.08_exp-false/ & http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Lawes_Divine_Morall_and_Martiall & http://www.virtualjamestown.org/rlaws1.html & http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/lhbcb:@field(DOCID+@lit(lhbcb7018cdiv50))

    Christians today–those setting the example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16347418 & http://www.loweringthebar.net/2011/12/muslim-police-break-up-christian-broomstick-fight.html & http://www.loweringthebar.net/2009/03/brawl-at-the-sepulchre.html & http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/28/israel.religion http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/julyweb-only/7-29-52.0.html

    Those are hard to distinguish from the “hardcore” Islamists of today…

    Remember the Pilgrims? Probably only Thanksgiving–how they didn’t starve–but ever consider the bloodshed & mayhem that they were running away from? Again, more Christian-on-Christian bloodshed, oppression & so on: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel01.html

    EXamples:

    St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris, August 24, 1572. Thousands of Huguenots were butchered by Roman Catholic mobs.

    The murder by Irish Catholics of approximately one hundred Protestants from Loughgall Parish, County Armagh, at the bridge over the River Bann near Portadown, Ulster. This atrocity occurred at the beginning of the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Having held the Protestants as prisoners and tortured them, the Catholics drove them “like hogs” to the bridge, where they were stripped naked and forced into the water below at swordspoint. Survivors of the plunge were shot.

    Huguenots at least matched the harshness of the persecutions of their Catholic opponents. Atrocities A, B, and C, depictions that are possibly exaggerated for use as propaganda, are located by the author in St. Macaire, Gascony. In scene A, a priest is disemboweled, his entrails wound up on a stick until they are torn out. In illustration B a priest is buried alive, and in C Catholic children are hacked to pieces. Scene D, alleged to have occurred in the village of Mans, was “too loathsome” for one nineteenth-century commentator to translate from the French. It shows a priest whose genitalia were cut off and grilled. Forced to eat his roasted private parts, the priest was then dissected by his torturers so they can observe him digesting his meal.

    WHY:

    The religious persecution that drove settlers from Europe to the British North American colonies sprang from the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that uniformity of religion must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens. Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of the concept, denounced by Roger Williams as “inforced uniformity of religion,” meant majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst. In some areas Catholics persecuted Protestants, in others Protestants persecuted Catholics, and in still others Catholics and Protestants persecuted wayward coreligionists. Although England renounced religious persecution in 1689, it persisted on the European continent. Religious persecution, as observers in every century have commented, is often bloody and implacable and is remembered and resented for generations.

    ISN’T IT ODD THAT A SINGLE FOUNDER–AN ALMIGHTY GOD NO LESS–PRESENTING A SIMPLE PHILOSOPHY HAS SPAWNED A RELIGION THAT HAS BECOME SO MANY MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE DOCTRINES–DISTINCT RELIGIONS UNDER THE SAME OVERARCHING LABEL–ENABLING & MOTIVATING BLOODY IN-FIGHTING, TORTURE, ETC. THAT IS ENTIRELY CONTRADICTORY TO THE BASIC OVERARCHING PREMISE OF THE FAITH PRESENTED: ‘DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU’ (that saying, by the way, was documented by Buddha some 500 years earlier so even that’s not original).

    What all this shows, relative to the source, is that most religions are a severe corruption of the source material, and/or, most practicioners are adhereing to a corrupt/false version.

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