Beliefs, Morals, and Behaviors

How can some atheists say, “there’s no correlation between morals and religion?” Merely by Googling “religion correlated to values,” it’s easy to see that the correlation is strong. So how can some say it’s a myth? (see Sunrise TV this last week of June 2010.)

One reason is because some studies will look only at the correlation between behaviour and what people say they believe (nominally), not taking into account the depth and character of their religious belief. So if I “say” I’m a Christian in the survey but really don’t take it seriously, then of course my “religion” will have little impact on my moral behaviour.

Whereas the studies that look at how nominal/serious a religious faith is, show clearly that the more seriously the person takes their faith, the more it affects their behaviour. That’s obvious, from saints like Teresa to suicide bombers!

Which means we should all be very careful about what we believe! Believe the wrong thing, and you’re more likely to do the wrong thing. Believe right, do right.

A related reason some atheists point to, is the way religion can be used to manipulate people into immoral behaviour. Yes I agree it can – which just proves my point: religion does greatly influence moral behaviour. For right or wrong, depending on the character of the belief: so we have to take the character of our beliefs seriously and make sure we’re believing the right things, not rubbish.

A second reason Boyd asserts is that atheists are not clouded by “religious preconceptions.” It bugs me when atheists claim the intellectual high ground. On the Sunrise video Boyd says, “now we have a Prime Minister who will be deciding policy on the basis of fact and evidence, not religious preconceptions.” That’s two kinds of rubbish!

1) The PM makes decisions based on her religious preconceptions just like everyone else – she’s a primary member of Emily’s List, because of her beliefs. All politicians take into account the facts and evidence: that part is the same: the only variable is, which values will she bring to bear on her policy decisions?

2) Evidence and religious beliefs are not mutually exclusive – in fact my religious beliefs are based on facts and evidence, as much as any atheist’s. So I take my religious faith seriously. And I do see how it does affect my decisions & behaviour, and I’m thoughtful about that.

It appears that Boyd refuses to admit that he has beliefs, or that his beliefs shape his behaviours. That’s outright dangerous! I say, the more we do examine our beliefs, and their influence on our behaviours, the more we’ll believe and behave positively, and the more we’ll understand others different from us.

A third reason atheists might say there’s no correlation between faith and values, is that although many of them have good moral values, yet don’t believe in God, they fail to admit that most first generation atheists received their moral values from Christianity. Most atheists with strong positive morals, come from Christian or theistic families (Google it – even Julia Gillard, number one ticket holder of Australian atheists, has a Baptist background.) And most atheists are found in Western countries with Christian heritages. And now countries with second-generation atheists (like France, Holland, Russia), are seeing social morals dive, or a swing back to religious faith.

It is certainly possible for atheists to have high morals. But most atheists “intuit” these from an inheritance of good Christian input, and second-generation atheists seem generally less committed to high moral values.

Which means that, whether or not atheists admit it, committed Christians really are the “salt of the earth.” And what good are we if we lose our saltiness?