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An Open Letter

Entry 1048, on 2009-07-07 at 20:48:54 (Rating 5, Religion)

Hypocrisy is widespread in modern society. Call me a cynic if you wish but I tend to believe the opposite of what most organisations try to tell us is the truth. A political party might say "foreign investment creates more jobs" and I will assume that there will be less jobs in future, or a church might say "you need to belong to our faith to be a moral person" and I will assume they are deeply immoral.

Reading that opening paragraph I really do feel cynical but its hard not to be. Actually my cynicism isn't quite as universal as that might imply. There are situations where I assume things are true by default. These tend to be statements by organisations I support. I might be accused of being more or less critical based on political or social biases but I think its the other way around. I am more trusting of some organisations because they have a better record of being truthful, not the other way around.

Believe it or not, this rather convoluted introduction is leading somewhere. Recently I discovered an "open letter to believers" at the Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists web site. If you want to read the letter the URL for the web site is here.

Basically the letter attacks the idea that only religious people can be moral. Here's a few highlights from the letter...

1. Studies indicate that the least religious countries are the most peaceful in the world. This doesn't prove that religion causes conflict but it certainly doesn't give us any reason to think that being religious makes people more peaceful.

2. The divorce rate among atheists is the lowest in the nation with the highest being among fundamentalist Christians. Divorce doesn't necessarily equate to morality, of course, but given that fundies are always emphasising family values and its alleged link to religious belief I think this does indicate hypocrisy on their part.

3. The Christian abortion rate is as high as the national average and the Catholic rate is even higher. Young unmarried women graduating from private religious schools are actually more likely to get abortions than their secular counterparts. If this doesn't indicate hypocrisy then I don't know what does (considering all the violent anti-abortion protests Christians like to indulge in).

4. Atheists are the least represented group in the nation's prisons, they supply less than 1%, Christians, however, are the most represented, with Catholics at approximately 39% and Protestants at 35%. Well morality and legality aren't always the same but the evidence against Christians is beginning to accumulate, don't you think?

5. Here's a classic. Red states (those that vote consistently with the conservative, Republican, right wing, Christian fundamentalist agendas) and the areas highest in concentrations of those with declared Christian beliefs, purchase the most online porn! What can I say? Looking at porn isn't necessarily immoral but its an interesting statistic I just had to include!

One concern I had with the letter was that the sources weren't listed. I have emailed them about that so I hope to get a list of sources at some time but my own research has confirmed a lot of what the letter claims so I have no reason to suppose it isn't true.

Being an atheist in New Zealand (and most other civilised countries) isn't a problem at all. I could mention the fact to almost any group here and no one would have the slightest problem with it. In fact if a fundy mentioned he was a literal believer in the BIble he would probably be more likely to be rejected for being an idiot!

But things are different in the US (especially the southern states). According to the letter there are states where an atheist cannot hold public office (this is totally impossible to believe from here in New Zealand). And there is the well publicised finding that atheists are the most reviled, despised and mistrusted group in America. This really doesn't leave America with much credibility!

Of course, that attitude is hardly surprising when they hear grossly immoral statements from people like Bush such as: "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."

Again and again we see evidence that not only are religious people no more moral than others but they are, in fact, less moral in almost every sense. That is hardly surprising of course. To take a religion seriously you have to give up all forms of free thought and critical analysis and surrender to the beliefs of others. It might be something written in an old book, some arbitrary rules made up by a large theological organisation, or the personal opinions of a charismatic leader. Whatever the sources of these rules that so many people live by they do not result in a formula for true morality.

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Comment 26 (2238) by SBFL on 2009-07-13 at 17:59:50: (view earlier comments)

As usual you are much mistaken, more due to the fact that you failed to read properly what I have written. The fact is you want to pursue it because of your personal biases (which you let slip in your previous comment). That you keep asking it says something though!

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Comment 27 (2240) by OJB on 2009-07-13 at 21:54:57:

I don't think its anything to do with bias. I originally assumed that all groups were fairly equally moral. This letter seemed to indicate that several surveys suggested religious groups are less moral. Maybe that's true, maybe it isn't, but you don't seem to have defended believers (especially Catholics) very effectively. On the other hand, FLASH never replied to my email with their sources so, who knows, maybe it is all nonsense.

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Comment 28 (2242) by SBFL on 2009-07-14 at 07:55:00:

I don't really know the answer either. For me it comes down to individual performance. You're right that I didn't defend 'believers' very effectively here but that's because I made no attempt at all! For me, it comes down to the individual re morality, and I see little correlation to societal groupings. Hope you understand where I am coming from on this and sorry of I disappointed you!

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Comment 29 (2243) by OJB on 2009-07-14 at 10:34:05:

Yes fine, so we both initially assumed that all groups are equal but this evidence indicates that maybe that isn't true. However until the original surveys can be checked for accuracy and good methodology I think we should return to the original assumption (everyone was equal). Well, that was a lot of fuss about nothing then, wasn't it!

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Comment 30 (2244) by SBFL on 2009-07-14 at 11:27:51:

Indeed.

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