Belief and morality

We humans are mentally very complex – and often contradictory in our beliefs and actions. This must be a real problem for sociologists who often rely on surveys and self-reporting of beliefs.

I have often wondered about the reliability and interpretation of survey data on religious beliefs. In particular the religion question in our own Census statistics. So I was intrigued by the results presented in the Ispos MORI survey Religious and Social Attitudes of UK Christians in 2011.” This specifically questioned people who recorded their religion as “Christian” in the 2011 UK Census.

Two questions were interesting:

1: What do you mean by “Christian.”

The questions was “Which is the one statement that best describes what being a Christian means to you personally?” Nine choices (including “prefer not to say” were provided. The figure below shows the responses.

Interesting!

Most people (65%) think the word means something about how they were brought up or their attempts to be good! And 40% simply see it as a description of their wish to be good!

While only a little over 20% interpret the word to have anything to do with the teachings of Christ or their acceptance of him!

I can’t help thinking that people use their religious “affiliation” as something to do with their reputation, rather than any meaningful understanding of ideology or specific teachings or beliefs.

2: Where do you get your morals?

Here the question asked: “When it comes to right and wrong, which of the following if any, do you most look to for guidance?” Seven choices (including “prefer no to say”) were provided. Results below.

Again, interesting!

Despite declaring themselves as “Christian” only 16% got their morality from Christian teachings and belief. This certainly undermines the argument of militant Christians who argue that because Britain is a “Christian Country” it should not have laws against discrimination against homosexuals, women, etc. And it undermines their argument for retention of existing Christian privileges in policy.

Most people claim they rely on their own inner moral sense. Personally I think that even many providing other reasons actually also rely on their own inner moral sense. How else, for example, do they determine which religious teachings and beliefs to accept and which to reject?

At first sight these two results appear contradictory. The largest fraction of Christians self-identify because they think that means they try to be good. On the other a similar fraction admit they don’t get their morality from Christian teachings or beliefs!

Conclusions

I can’t help thinking that when people answer the religion question in surveys and the census they are seeing it as a matter of reputation, not of community or beliefs. They wish to be known as good people and think self-identifying as Christian will achieve that. perhaps this attitude also explains why so few people will self-identify as “atheist” – preferring something less harmful to their reputation like “non-religious.”

This presents an educational problem for those who work to remove religious privilege in society and ensure a secular state. It also is an educational problem for those who wish that atheism, humanism, and similar non-religious identification were more acceptable. The facts are that religion has no monopoly on being good and this message needs more awareness.

Finally, the results certainly undermine  the way that militant Christian spokespersons make judgemental statements on social attitudes, argue for retention of religious privilege and attempt to justify religious discrimination against various social groups.

These leaders actually do not represent the views and beliefs of the people they claim to – those who self-identify as “Christian.”

Similar articles

About these ads

14 responses to “Belief and morality

  1. A Christian is a person who has been poisoned by the God Virus and whose brain has been so affected by the God Vuris that it has been rendered incapable of rational thought.

    Like

  2. Of course, they’re not “real” Christians.
    For once.

    Like

  3. The militant Chrsitian leaders are quite happy to count them as Christians when they argue to defend their privileges or justify their bigotry. But they are very unhappy when the true beliefs and attitudes of these Chrisitans are revealed.

    If the public becomes too aware of the true situation how will those leaders survive?

    Like

  4. It’s funny if you replace “Christian” with ‘Muslim” in the article and the comments. You just sound like a bunch of bigoted old racists then!

    Like

  5. Go ahead.
    Give us a sample.
    It won’t sound racist at all.

    You can start with “Religious and Social Attitudes of UK Muslims in 2011.” move on to “While only a little over 20% interpret the word to have anything to do with the teachings of Mohammed or their acceptance of him!” and finish up with “The militant Muslim leaders are quite happy to count them as Muslims when they argue to defend their privileges or justify their bigotry. But they are very unhappy when the true beliefs and attitudes of these Muslimss are revealed.”

    Go right ahead. Show us how if you replace “Christian” with “Muslim” you get something that sounds like it comes from a “bunch of bigoted old racists”.
    Do it.
    Put up or shut up, you moron.

    Like

  6. Robert Tobin
    A Muslim is a person who has been poisoned by the Allah Virus and whose brain has been so affected by the Allah Vuris that it has been rendered incapable of rational thought.
    Cedric Katesby | May 3, 2012 at 4:38 pm |

    Of course, they’re not “real” Muslims.
    For once.
    Ken | May 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm |

    The militant Muslim leaders are quite happy to count them as Muslims when they argue to defend their privileges or justify their bigotry. But they are very unhappy when the true beliefs and attitudes of these Muslims are revealed.

    If the public becomes too aware of the true situation how will those leaders survive?

    How’s that for starters Cedric?

    Like

  7. Where does the “racism” or “bigotry” or “old” bit come into it?
    You could switch the labels around with any other religion and it would have the same effect.

    A Scientologist is a person who has been poisoned by the Hubbard Virus and whose brain has been so affected by the Hubbard Vuris that it has been rendered incapable of rational thought.
    Cedric Katesby | May 3, 2012 at 4:38 pm |

    Of course, they’re not “real” Scientologists.
    For once.
    Ken | May 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm |

    The militant Scientology leaders are quite happy to count them as Scientologists when they argue to defend their privileges or justify their bigotry. But they are very unhappy when the true beliefs and attitudes of these Scientologists are revealed.

    If the public becomes too aware of the true situation how will those leaders survive?

    Pick any religion you like and use any of the statements you like.
    (Hindu, Odin, Shinto etc)
    There’s nothing that “bunch of bigoted old racists” would say.
    You have rocks in your head.
    Think before you post next time.
    For once in your life, think!

    Like

  8. Funny dude. If I said that stuff above you’d be calling me a right wing racist nut job.
    Hilarious really. Anyway, have a nice day.

    Like

  9. If I said that stuff above you’d be calling me a right wing racist nut job.

    Don’t just drool on the internet, Andy Scrase.
    Test it for yourself.
    Talk is cheap.
    Pick any phrase or set of phrases you like and use them exactly as written.
    Switch them with any religious labels you like.

    Bábism, Catholicism, Mormons, Ebionites, Murji’ah, Gedimu, Masorti, Ōbaku, Quimbanda, Ghost Dance, Mithraism, Witchcraft etc.
    There’s a zillion possibilities.
    Use any of them. Use them all.

    It’s funny if you replace “Christian” with ‘Muslim” in the article and the comments. You just sound like a bunch of bigoted old racists then!

    Total bullshit. You have no option but to run away and sheepishly abandon your claim. Just like all the other times you’ve been shown up for being a clueless tool on this site.
    You can’t read peer-reviewed papers.
    You don’t understand basic statistics.
    Even the English language with weely-weely tough words like “racism” is something of a mystery to you.

    Hilarious really. Anyway, have a nice day.

    It is hilarious and you are the joke. We are laughing at you.
    Bu-bye, moron. You’ll be back. You can’t help yourself.

    Like

  10. Andy – I don’t think you can learn anything by simply replacing “Christian” with “Muslim.” In fact that would be very lazing and no doubt provide the wrong conclusions.

    I have picked up that in Muslim dominated communities that the word Islam and Muslim is used to mean good (and certainly “atheist” is used for bad) but would not want to take the parallel too much further. This is because the histories and culture of the communities are completely different.

    In western countries where Christianity has been dominant there has also usually been a growth in democracy, liberal outlooks, etc. And of acceptance of science. The Church has continually conceded and modified its position as a result. What we have is the survival of that Christian dominance. This survives in the privileges accorded religion (eg Tax exemption) and attitudes that, despite the evidence, religion is somehow “good.”

    It could still take centuries to “tame” Islam to the same extent, – but who knows – its possible that global interpenetration via immigration, etc., will speed up the process.

    Like

  11. Why should I?

    Like

  12. Nice post, I like pie charts.

    It’s my experience that if someone says they are being a “good Christian,” it means they are being a good person. If they are more specific and say “good Catholic” they are usually referring to good church attendance or something.

    Like

  13. Pingback: Census 2013: That religion question | Open Parachute

Leave a Reply - please be polite to other commenters & no ad hominems.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s