Sunday, May 31, 2015
Religion and morality
As regular readers here will probably be aware, I am an atheist who is sympathetic to Christianity. I regard the Bible as a great source of wisdom and I endeavour to apply its precepts in my life. I do that because every time I do the Christian thing I get a reward. Christian teachings work for me even though I don't accept the metaphysical attachments of such teaching. Christians would probably say that Christian teachings work for me because God is looking after me but in my view Christian teachings simply embody correct assumptions about human nature and how to behave socially in a constructive way.
So I happily read a lot that is written by Christians. Not being a Leftist, the happiness of others does not diminish my happiness. The happiness of others makes me happy and I rejoice in the inspiration and comfort that Christianity and prayer gives to its adherents. I am moved by faith even though I have none. It helps people.
So I am well aware of the common Christian claim that Christianity is what keeps America civilized: Without Christianity, behaviour would deteriorate and become "red in tooth and claw". I don't think that claim is wholly true though anybody who has attended an evangelical church will be aware that some people who have lived a foolish and destructive life testify that Christian conversion has turned their life around. I do think that happens.
But I don't think there is a NEED for Christianity for a society to be civilized. Razib Khan looks at the evidence for that claim below but I would like to add something to what he says. I would like to point to the evidence from Australia. Australia's church attendance rates are among the lowest in the world and in continuing decline. And most of those who do go to church are elderly. So is life in Australia nasty brutish and short?
Far from it. Australia seems to me more civilized than the USA. The constant American scrabble for money, for a start, has only the faintest echo here. Some decades back, when a million dollars really bought you something, Australia had, proportionately, the world's highest number of half-millionaires. Once they got to have half a million dollars, many Australians gave up work and just went golfing. Leisure has a much higher priority in Australia. And I don't need to mention that gun deaths in Australia are the tiniest fraction of the American figure. Life in Australia is much safer than in the USA.
So Australia is a very relaxed place where most people are pleasant and friendly to one another. American visitors often remark on how friendly Australians are. And you don't have to press "1" for English, either.
I could go on to analyse why Australia is better off than the USA but that is a big essay in itself so let me simply point out that standards of behaviour are at least no worse than in the USA despite our negligible rate of churchgoing.
Most Australians do believe in the existence of a creator but they are very doubtful about whether the churches know anything about him. For historical reasons many Australians do have a nominal religious identity. In the days when you had to put down your religion on forms, my late father would always put himself down as "C of E" (to my mother's amusement), but in all the time I knew him he never once set foot in a church. And he was a real gentleman too, despite his lowly occupation (lumberjack).
So most Australians are aware of the Ten Commandments and have some respect for them, but they don't regard them as binding. Far more influential are Australia's own five secular commandments. I discuss them here
I reproduce Razib's comments on religion and morality below"
Probably the biggest blind spot on the cultural Right in the United States is the "family values" Uber Alles stance. As documented over 15 years ago in The Nurture Assumption shared family environment, basically your parents' non-genetic influence, is relatively minor in affecting behavioral life outcomes (this is not to say that the issues aren't subtle, but a simple projection from family home to individual outcomes is not viable).
But there's another major confusion when it comes to the religious Right in particular, and that concerns the origins of morality and ethics. Most people are probably aware of the Josh Duggar fiasco at this point. If you aren't, Google it. There isn't much to say that hasn't been said, but this post from his father-in-law has been raising eyebrows:
".It is a mercy of God that he restrains the evil of mankind otherwise we would have destroyed ourselves long ago. Many times it is simply lack of opportunity or fear of consequences that keep us from falling into grievous sin even though our fallen hearts would love to indulge the flesh. We should not be shocked that this occurred in the Duggar's home, we should rather be thankful to God if we have been spared such, and pray that he would keep us and our children from falling."
This attitude is entirely unsurprising to me, I've heard it many times from evangelical Christians. The theory is that without religion, and particularly their religion, they would be "a rapin' and murderin'". Why? Because that's what people do without God. Believe it or not, I have never believed in God, nor have I raped and murdered (or molested). Nor do I think that raping and murdering would be enjoyable. Nor do I think that the evangelical Christians who proudly declaim that without their savior they would rape or murder with abandon would actually rape or murder.
This idea that without religion there is no morality is very widespread in the subculture, to the point of being an implicit background assumption that informs reactions to many events in concert with the idea of original sin and fundamental human depravity (thank you St. Augustine and John Calvin!). I have a socially liberal friend from an evangelical background, who is still somewhat associated with that movement, who confided in me that to did look forward to debauchery in a post-Christian life on some occasions. I had to convince him that even if he was not religious life was not likely to change much for him in the sex department unless he shifted his standards somewhat. Without God all things are not possible, believe it or not.
The fundamental misunderstanding here is actually one of intellectual history. Many evangelical Protestants in particular envisage the world before the revelation of God to Abraham, but sometime after the Fall, as a Hobbesian one of "all-against-all." This is not limited to evangelical Christians. Many Muslims also conceive of the pre-Islamic jahiliyya in Arabia as one of pagan darkness and debauchery. The root misunderstanding is conceiving of morality and ethics as a historical human invention, as opposed to formalizations of deep cognitive intuitions and social-cultural adaptations.
Broadly, I agree with Peter Turchin that the origin of modern organized religions has its ultimate roots in the social and institutional needs of pan-ethnic imperial systems during the Axial Age. The synthesis of a supernatural Weltanschauung with the nascent enterprise of philosophy and the older intuitions of tribalism allowed for the emergence of the multi-textured phenomenon which we now term organized religion. Religion co-opted and promoted morality, but it did not invent it. The Israelites put in their Lord God's mouth their own morality that was existent before his invention! Prior to the development of organized religion it seems likely that the connection between supernatural agency and morality was more tenuous and conditional (and even then, the angry and jealous petulant Yahweh of the Hebrew Bible has plenty of glimmers of the amoral gods of yore).
That is why even with the diminishing of organized religion in the modern West there has not been a correlated rise in crimes such as murder. The connection between ethical monotheism and ethics is not nearly as necessary as the religious would have you believe. The chart at the top does not prove at all that irreligion leads to decrease in crime (on the contrary, there is modest evidence that religious involvement results in mild prosocial tendencies when you control for confounds). But, it does show starkly that over the last 25 years in the United States there has been a simultaneous decrease in violent crime, and, a massive wave of secularization. This contradicts a model which proposes that religion and ethical behavior are necessarily and deterministically associated.
So no, in the case of Josh Duggar it isn't a matter of "there, but for the grace of God, go I." I'll let others psychoanalyze his behavior, but it isn't a normal human impulse which has to be constrained by the teachings of religion. If religion has to teach you not to molest your sisters you've got a problem, son! And it has nothing to do with your soul.
False rape claims in Britain
Dr. Max Pemberton
Several years ago, I was falsely accused of sexually assaulting a female patient while I was looking after her in the Accident and Emergency department of the hospital where I was working.
It was utterly ludicrous for a number of reasons, not least because she was handcuffed to two policemen the entire time she was in the department, and also because she was under uninterrupted CCTV surveillance that showed I didn’t so much as touch her. Oh, and also I’m gay.
Even though I knew the accusation was false, it really shook me. The woman was very emotionally disturbed — indeed, that was why she’d been brought to A&E.
What upset me was that I had worked particularly hard, staying well after my shift ended, to make sure she was OK. I’d tried to stand up for her with the police and felt I’d done my very best for her.
I was particularly wounded to think that, despite this, she had lied in such a cruel way. It seemed all my efforts to connect with a troubled patient had been in vain.
But then I spoke to a colleague — a doctor who is also a psychotherapist — and he suggested it was the very connection we had formed that had made my accuser say what she had.
She was unconsciously targeting all the anger and hatred she felt against the world at the one person she’d fleetingly felt close to — me.
My colleague also suggested that, because there were witnesses, the woman had deliberately chosen someone she knew would ultimately be exonerated.
It made me feel slightly better but it still took several stressful months for the police to interview everyone and review the CCTV.
Given all the publicity surrounding the historic sex abuse scandals, it’s inevitable these, too, will attract people making untrue accusations. But it’s wrong to think the only motive will be malice or a cynical desire for compensation. Often, as with my accuser, there will be a more deep-seated, emotional reason.
In these cases, claims of ‘abuse’ and ‘rape’ are being used to communicate desperate, overwhelming distress, a sense of loss of control and autonomy.
These are words with enormous cultural weight, and immediately convey a degree of psychological trauma it may otherwise be difficult for the person to express. Quite literally, they are saying: ‘I feel violated.’ And they think the only way they’ll be listened to is by giving their pain the most dramatic label possible.
There’s no doubt this shows how damaged and in need of help they are. But that’s no comfort for the victims of their claims.
My own experience has made me think carefully about the issue of anonymity for accused men. And I’m now convinced rape and sexual assault should be treated differently from other crimes, because false accusations can destroy lives. It seems only fair that suspects should be afforded anonymity until convicted. The argument against this is that publicising the man’s name allows other victims to come forward, but that’s sloppy justice.
Each case should stand on its own, and if the man is convicted, then other victims can respond and he can be tried for these crimes as well.
There’s a delicate balance between ensuring women feel confident in coming forward and protecting the innocent.
Jewish woman wins £16,000 payout from car firm hire that turned her down for a job because she can't work on Saturdays
Why can't the firm hire the employees that suit it best? It's a business, not a charity
A Jewish woman has won a £16,000 payout from a travel agent that rejected her for a job because she is unable to work on Saturdays.
Aurelie Fhima, 23, sent her CV to Travel Jigsaw in Manchester and secured an interview. But her application was turned down when it revealed she observes Shabbat – the Jewish day of rest which lasts from sundown on Friday until sunset on Saturday - and prevents work of any kind.
Bosses at Travel Jigsaw sent her a letter after the interview in May last year which said: 'After careful consideration we cannot offer you a position at this time. We are still looking for people who are flexible enough to work Saturdays.'
Ms Fhima, from Salford, asked the car firm hire to review its decision. But when it refused she launched legal action – claiming indirect discrimination on grounds of religion.
Employment tribunal judges found in her favour – awarding almost £8,000 for loss of earnings, £7,500 for injury to feelings and £1,200 in fees.
The 23-year-old told MailOnline: 'It was unfair and they didn't look at my situation. They (Travel Jigsaw) could have accommodated me and tried to work round it but they said it was too complicated. They could have helped me out but chose not to.
'It is a 24 hour operation that is open seven days a week and I said I would be willing to work every Sunday instead. I also said I could change shifts with somebody. 'I also said I could work from 5pm to midnight on Saturdays in the winter as Sabbath lasts until nightfall on the Saturday.
'I tried to accommodate them as much as I could. I understand it is a business, but I said I could change shifts and work round it. But they said I was not flexible and were not prepared to play around with the hours.'
She added: 'I have now found a job working in a very small company with four members of staff. When I told them I couldn't work on Saturdays, they said it wasn't a problem. 'So how can a big company that employs thousands of people say that it was too complicated?'
Kevin McKenna, head of employment at Kuits Solicitors who were acting on Ms Fhima's behalf, said: 'This case serves as an important reminder to employers of the obligations they have to job applicants – not just their employees. It also shows that many large employers still fail to understand the law surrounding discrimination.'
At the tribunal, the firm claimed French-speaking Ms Fhima lied about her ability to work Saturdays during the phone conversation and confessed to the lie during the face-to-face interview.
Ms Fhima denied this and said the way the company acted was 'devastating'.
A spokesman for the business said: 'The company is extremely disappointed with the judgement in this case that was brought by an unsuccessful job applicant, and in the way in which the case was presented to the tribunal.
'Travel Jigsaw employs an extremely diverse workforce with colleagues representing 65 nationalities.'
Another perverted multicultural doctor
A vulnerable patient ‘swept off her feet’ by a predatory accident and emergency doctor today revealed how she still has nightmares about their sexual role playing almost two years later.
Dr Curtis Sonny, who has now been struck off following the month-long illicit affair, started seeing the 37-year-old mother after she visited a hospital in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.
The 47-year-old doctor would turn up at her home with a 'special' bottle of dark rum and cigarettes - and they would have sex.
But today, the woman told MailOnline: ‘I didn’t consider it a relationship at all. I knew it was wrong but he was very persuasive and said he was a friend - and that he could “fix me”.
Sonny, who labelled the allegations a fantasy, now lives in his native Trinidad and was not at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service fitness to practise hearing on Wednesday - which found him guilty of misconduct.
The panel heard that in September 2013 the woman attended the Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital where Sonny worked, after falling from a kitchen stool while drinking Bacardi.
She was taken by ambulance wearing a pink mouse onesie with a tail, hood and ears.
Sonny gave her an Indian head massage and complimented her on her hair. She claimed he told her at a later date that he had to sit down after the massage physically aroused him.
But he also took her mobile phone number – writing it on the back of a form at the hospital, she claimed - and the pair then exchanged texts and Facebook messages.
Later they carried out a sexual role-play game in which Sonny would be the ‘daddy’ to the patient's ‘baby girl’ - and, when he wanted to meet for sex, ask her: 'Fancy a rum and fag?'
She told MailOnline: ‘The last occasion was when we did the role play, “daddy - baby girl”. It totally freaked me out as it seemed too true and real as if he had done it before - saying the stereotypical things like, “this is our secret”, “don’t tell mummy”, etc.’
The patient - who has a degenerative spinal condition and was described as Patient A in the hearing - added: ‘I’m still not over it... I have nightmares about the last time, the role play thing.
She said: ‘It was totally one-way - I had no feelings for him at all. He actually made me feel nervous, which is why I put him off so many times and only let my guard down after I had consumed alcohol.
‘Whilst in A&E and the first phone call I was flattered by his attention, after that I knew what he was doing was wrong and didn’t trust him. I also saw on his Facebook page that there were a lot of comments from women which made me suspicious of if he was doing it to other patients.
‘He also told me conflicting stories - such as he was going away, then he wasn’t, that he had a girlfriend, then he didn’t, then he did but hadn’t seen her six weeks. I was concerned about my sexual health in the end, which is why I told my nurse.’
Sonny visited her home on at least three occasions. However, when she told a nurse about the contact between them, the doctor claimed his lover was ‘living in her own fantasy world’.
But, finding him guilty of misconduct, the panel condemned Sonny - who was saved in the woman’s phone as ‘Dr Sonny head massage’- for his ‘abhorrent and sexual motivated’ behaviour.
Sonny did not attend the hearings - due to what he claimed were ‘financial constraints’.
Chairman Lisa Smith said: ‘It is clear that Dr Sonny abused his position and the trust that Patient A placed in him for his own gratification, putting his interests before those of a vulnerable patient.
‘The panel considers his behaviour was predatory and abhorrent. Not only did Dr Sonny pursue a sexual relationship with a patient but his actions in doing so were premeditated, deliberate and repeated.
‘Patient A was vulnerable in many different respects. Dr Sonny recognised that in A&E and later exploited the fact that she was flattered and pleased by his attention to her.
‘He specifically exploited her vulnerabilities by contacting her late at night, asking if she had consumed alcohol and, when informed that she had, visiting her home with the purpose of engaging in sexual intercourse with her. This sexual intercourse was unprotected, further risking Patient A's health.’
A spokesman for the hospital said the doctor had been dismissed early last year.
The patient added: ‘To any other patient who may find themselves in this position, tell someone, tell someone who can report on your behalf. There is an amazing network of professionals that can help you in every way.’
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.