On God and good behavior

Not that I want to be viewed as someone who is anti-religion, but the writer of this article may have a point, and Egypt is the best possible place to prove it. People here have been getting more religious for the past 10 years, and yet, somehow, they are not better people for it!


21 Comments on On God and good behavior

  1. Valerie
    March 23, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    We have a similar philosophical split between the Republicans and the Democrats in the US.

    The Republicans want a more limited role for the government, especially on social issues (most of the time — abortion and stem cell research are big exceptions brought in by the a subset known as the Religious Right). I read recently that Republicans tend to donate more money to private causes.

    The Democrats believe in social action by the government. They like big government, lots of it, and they want the government to see to it that people behave in politically correct fashion. Despite their general stance on “Civil Liberties” they are very much in favor of paying taxes, and having the government handle most charitable actions, precisely because they don’t want individuals choosing not to help some people. They tend to donate less money to private causes, partly because they think the government should do that for them.

  2. Toady
    March 23, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    The author confuses correlation with causation. Religious belief is pretty low in Russia too, but crime, drug use, and alcoholism are very high.

  3. Andrew Brehm
    March 23, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Perhaps it is the other way around. People turn to religion when things get worse.

    In the rural US society might just try to use religion as a means to control the problems, perhaps solve them. It’s not clear that religion causes the problems. (Although it is pretty clear that religion doesn’t exactly solve them either.)

    Toady’s point about Russia is quite valid. And incidentally, I would not be surprised if in Russia crime was lower in more religious communities.

    West Germany is more religious than East Germany, yet East Germany is poorer and has, as far as I know, higher crime rates.

    Israel is very religious, compared to western countries, but I’m not sure its crime rate (apart from terrorism committed in Israel) is higher than that of a more secular European country.

    Perhaps it depends on the religion?

  4. RocketRay
    March 23, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Perhaps it depends on the religion?

    In the words of Ghandi:

    “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

  5. Nomad
    March 23, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    depends more on the degree in Ignorance : “pardon them, they are ignorant” Jesus Christ

  6. aengus
    March 23, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    Very oversimplified article

  7. LaRoacha
    March 23, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    As an atheist I, in my mind justified the need for religion as a way to control the mass’s and make them act civil. The article really didn’t persuade me to change that view. Using the authors logic, becoming a Catholic priest, could cause you to become a homosexual pedophile, when you weren’t before.

  8. Aardvark EF-111B
    March 23, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    I agree with Aengus

    The article (as well as all BBC sponsored & British opinion pulls in general) are over-simplified.

    -When we talk about [Belief], must note we are not talking about the same thing for everyone.
    -Culture & Economics are BY FAR more affecting people decisions & norms of living than Belief.
    -For Egypt in particular…….there is a vaccum of civil regulation filled by religion, but religion is diffuse in the vaccum like gas without actually materializing any thing!

  9. Lara
    March 23, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    I think it’s the other way around, too. The more civilized a country is, the more educated its people are. And, the more educated someone is, bigger the possibility of not being religious.

    Of course, there are a lot of educated, religious people, and a lot of uneducated people that don’t believe in God. I don’t want to offend anyone, I’m just thinking in numbers.

    When you go to college, you study, you’re thinking about abstract stuff like: who am I, what am I doing here on Earth, does God exist… you wonder… For educated people it’s harder to take things for granted.

    And uneducated people have other things to worry about. In a poor country you have to think about tomorrow, not about who made the universe. And sometimes, God is the only hope, and the easiest answer. And afterlife it’s the only hope of a better life.

    And maybe it’s harder for uneducated people to be honest and admit they don’t believe in God, so they declare that they are religious. Or maybe they “really think” they are religious, but it’s ok to do some bad things. See the terrorists for example.

  10. Josh Scholar
    March 23, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    I’ve often wondered if religion makes men act better in aggragate. One can think of individual cases where it helps but I doubt that it improves morals on the whole in any rational sense.

    Beyond that, I’m reminded that Islam seems to lack even the nominal morals of other religions so I have trouble imagining that it ever improves a person. It probably promotes some improvements in behavior toward Muslims in some situation, but since it promote absolute depravity toward non-Muslims and the mistreatment of women and girls, it can’t be said to be good.

    Christians put a lot of effort into giving people very conservative practical advice (basically the advice is “don’t take any risks”) so that they can claim to be doing good in this life rather than being all pie in the sky by and by. It’s an inherently weak arguement for any religion, but Islam may lack even that.

  11. BrooklynJon
    March 24, 2007 at 3:01 am

    Andrew B,
    “Israel is very religious, compared to western countries”

    If you’re talking about Europe, you’re probably right. If you’re talking about the USA, I’m not so sure. I had a conversation yesterday in which the conclusion was that, by and large, American Jews seem to be more religiously observant than Israeli Jews.

  12. Karen
    March 24, 2007 at 4:07 am

    Hey Jon,

    Look at the Anti-Mubarak post, first comment. There are those dots again, now over Karzai’s name. Go figure 🙂

  13. Nomad
    March 24, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Karen, Rapporteuse ! 😛

  14. Roman Kalik
    March 25, 2007 at 6:36 am

    *shrug* Religion can improve a social group, just like any other institution. It just depends on whether the religious institution is focusing on improving society or strengthening the institution. Bums on pews only get you so far if your goal is yet more bums rather than improving the people those bums belong to…

  15. BrooklynJon
    March 25, 2007 at 4:23 pm


    Interesting. What’s her point? That Karzai is Nazi-like? How bizarre!

  16. Karen
    March 25, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Maybe that is her point. I know there are certain people who think badly of Karzai and that he is “an American puppet” (never mind the elections).

    So, the dot thing didn’t work for you? I haven’t had time to try, but I will later. There are a lot of places where I can envision putting them. Think of the fun that can be had 🙂

  17. BrooklynJon
    March 25, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    “There are a lot of places where I can envision putting them”

    TMI, perhaps? 😉

  18. Karen
    March 25, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    No, silly…I’m talking politically. Kind of a back atcha sort of “place”.

  19. BrooklynJon
    March 26, 2007 at 3:21 am

    Whew! What a relief!

    I think I’ll pass on the battle of the umlauts. Good luck with that, though.


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