Thursday, May 14, 2009

Atheists Have Stronger Morals Than Christians

New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris contend that religion not only dulls the wits and distracts us with fantasies, but actually hinders serious morality. The contention is an offensive generalization, but it is hard to defend against when stuff like this comes out:

The poll data from a survey of 742 U.S. adults released April 29 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found 62 percent of white evangelical Protestants said torture of a suspected terrorist could be often or sometimes justified to obtain important information.

By contrast, 51 percent of white non-Hispanic Catholics, 46 percent of white mainline Protestants and 40 percent of the religiously unaffiliated held that position.

Those who attend religious services at least once a week were more likely than those who rarely or never attend to say torture is sometimes or often justified in that scenario — 54 percent to 42 percent.

How is it possible that Christians, followers of a tortured and executed savior, could be MORE likely to support torture than atheists? Is there another issue about which we ought to have such automatic clarity and unity? If we think, for the most part, that it is okay to go on nailing people to crosses then what the hell is the gospel about?

To be fair, the Pew Forum did point out that religion is a less reliable indicator of support for torture than political affiliation or economic status. Also, a different study done last fall came out with this:

A poll commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University found that 44 percent of white Southern evangelicals rely on life experience and common sense to form opinions on torture. By contrast, 28 percent said they relied on Christian teachings or beliefs.

So if we were to extrapolate irresponsibly from this limited data, we could say that a majority of Christians who support torture do so on the basis of political factors, because they think that their religion doesn't have anything important to say on the subject.

Oh. Ok. So it's just that we have failed utterly to proclaim the gospel, not that more than half of all Christians are repulsive hypocrites. I suppose that's better. Sort of.

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