Perhaps the common hostile reaction to the so-called “new atheists” (or gnus) is more a matter of the disgust in the eye or brain of the beholder than any “stridency” or “shrillness” on the part of the atheist. Well, that’s what the recently published work of Ritter and Preston suggests (see Gross gods and icky atheism: Disgust responses to rejected religious beliefs).
They used groups of Christians as subjects in two experiments to test the effect of reading material from their own group (bible) and outgroup (Muslim and atheist) sources on feelings of disgust. This was evaluated by rating responses to a drink before and after copying a passage from these sources.
From the paper’s abstract:
“In Experiment 1, Christian participants showed increased disgust after writing a passage from the Qur’an or Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, but not a control text. Experiment 2 replicated this effect, and also showed that contact with an ingroup religious belief (Christians copying from the Bible) did not elicit disgust. Moreover, Experiment 2 showed that disgust to rejected beliefs was eliminated when participants were allowed to wash their hands after copying the passage, symbolically restoring spiritual cleanliness. Together, these results provide evidence that contact with rejected religious beliefs elicits disgust by symbolically violating spiritual purity.”
I guess this explains this strange knee-jerk effect I have observed among Christian apologists. Just the mention of the word “Dawkins” in any discussion sends them off at a tangent. The reactions are clearly emotional, and not rational. So it does seem logical that these emotional responses utilise common intuitions or feelings – and disgust is the obvious one.
Now, I don’t suggest this phenomenon is restricted to only Christians, or even just the religious. (Although i suspect religious believers may be more prone to emotions related to purity and disgust). I think we are all prone to react emotionally rather than logically when encountering anything conflicting with our beliefs. So I think the authors are right to conclude that disgust plays a role in the protection of beliefs, especially beliefs which hold moral value.
This paper is discussed in more detail by Tom Rees at Epiphenom (see Is The God Delusion more disgusting than the Koran?). His discussion includes figures from the paper.
Perhaps next time I find a Christian apologists getting distracted by Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion during a discussion I should recognise they are suffering from disgust, rather than producing any logical argument. Maybe I should then suggest they go away and wash their hands before continuing our discussion.
Posted in agnostic, agnosticism, atheism, Bible, Christianity, Islam, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged atheism, Christian, disgust, God Delusion, Qur'an, Religious belief, Richard Dawkin, SciBlogs, United States
London Imam Usama Hasan
New Scientist has reported a campaign for Islamic teachers, or Imams, to sign an open letter declaring that there is no clash between their religious faith and evolution (see American Muslim clerics sign up for evolution).
The text of the letter is:
Literalists of various religious traditions who perceive the science of evolution to be in conflict with their personal religious beliefs are seeking to influence public school boards to authorize the teaching of creationism. We, the Imams of the mosques, see this as a breach in the separation of church and state. Those who believe in a literal interpretation of scriptural account of creation are free to teach their perspective in their homes, religious institutions and parochial schools. To teach it in the public schools would be indoctrinating a particular religious point of view in an environment that is supposed to be free of such indoctrination.
We, the undersigned Imams of the mosques, assert that the Qur’an is the primary source of spiritual inspiration and of values for us, though not for everyone, in our country. We believe that the timeless truths of the Qur’an may comfortably coexist with the discoveries of modern science. As Imams we urge public school boards to affirm their commitment to the teaching of the science of evolution. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.
Sign Up Now!
If you are an imam and would like to sign The Clergy Letter Project’s Imam Letter, please fill out the form by clicking here.
The Imam Letter, follows on from the similar Christian Clergy Letter which was launched in 2006 and now has 12,725 signatures. Three years ago the Jewish Rabbi Letter, which has 476 signatures, was launched.
This letter is topical and I hope it is successful. Back in March a London Imam, Dr Usama Hasan, who is also a physics lecturer at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, was threatened after presenting a lecture on “Islam and the theory of evolution” at his East London mosque, Masjid al-Tawhid. (see Acceptance of science – dangerous for some and Imam fears ‘nutters’ could kill him for preaching evolution).
Posted in belief, creationism, evolution, intelligent design, Islam, religion, science, Science and Society
Tagged East London Mosque, evolution, Islam, London, Mosque, Qur'an, religion, Royal Astronomical Society, SciBlogs