Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Religion not the only path to altruism

An article was posted to MSNBC today about an analysis of studies of links between religion and pro-social behaviour.

The article states that, "Religion and its promotion of empathy get undue credit for our unselfish acts. Instead, it’s our less-than-virtuous psychological perception that a moral authority is watching us that promotes altruism..."

On the scientific origins of pro-social behaviour, "Humans are evolved to be acutely sensitive to our reputations as do-gooders in our social groups because this promotes strong cooperative bonds that help the species. This psychological mechanism was originally unrelated to religion..."

And as many atheists know, it is not religion that keeps order, "... the courts, police, cameras, credit records and other justice-related authorities can serve the same purpose nowadays, encouraging proscial behavior among large groups of strangers."

Finally, as anybody with even a mild awareness of the outside world knows, "The fact that many non-religious people act as cooperatively as religious ones, and that many predominantly secular states are as (and often more) stable and functional as predominantly religious ones, attests to this"

You can read the full article here.

3 comments:

Makarios said...

Isn't it ever sad that it take the fear of "courts, police, cameras, credit records and other justice-related authorities" to make atheists act like their good people?

I'm joking in order to make a point. That statement is just as silly as saying followers of Jesus obey Him because they are afraid of the God who is watching them.

Just saying . . .

Admin said...

Makarios, as long as you're acknowledging that people can be good without believing in a god, that's great.

Many believers (*cough* Ray *cough* Comfort) assert quite the opposite, and it's ridiculous.

Sam said...

Isn't altruism genetic? I recall learning about some sort of insect which would give up its breeding rights in order to help their family member reproduce.