Pharyngula

An Orange County poll

Hey, I’m going to be at the Orange County Freethought Alliance conference on 8 May; how convenient that the OC Register is running a silly little poll already.

Does religion make us better people?

Opinion 1: Religion makes people behave better. 32 %

Opinion 2: Being religious has no effect on your behavior. 25 %

Opinon 3: Religion makes us behave worse. 43 %

It’s actually a fairly even-handed article by a rabbi starting a new weekly religion column. He even gives reasons for each of the three possibilities. For #1, he cites Rick Warren and Tom Coburn. For #3, he cites Gregory Paul, a scientist.

A statistical study by Gregory Paul shows an even more astonishing result. He reports that, in general, higher levels of religion correlate with higher rates of homicide, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies. While this does not prove religion is the cause, the link between religion and bad behavior indicates that, on average, religion makes us behave worse.

You know, even if I didn’t have a prior bias, the article would have convinced me that the evidence favors the third option.

In his follow-up article, the rabbi is surprised at the result so far. I think it’s about to get a little more surprising…for him.

Comments

  1. #1 Valdyr
    April 28, 2010

    I have to disagree, actually. I think it’s more likely that poverty is still the number one predictor of crime, and that poverty correlates with poor education, which correlates with higher religiosity. It DOES support the second option, though–clearly, religion doesn’t somehow insulate a person from behaving badly. It might make them feel bad about it afterwards, is all… unless they were convinced that God approved of whatever they did.

  2. #2 jmchiejr
    April 28, 2010

    I would only be concerned that the rabbi would take the intentional crashing of his poll (presumably originally intended primarily for the local audience) to be evidence against option #3.

  3. #3 tresameht
    April 28, 2010

    Hey this is my local right wing nut paper, hands off of our whack os. This is nothing compared to the people that send letters to the editor.

  4. #4 Andyo
    April 28, 2010

    Hmm it’s my neck of the woods. If I pay the $50 to sit at your table, will I get to talk to you about American Idol and stuff?

  5. #5 The Science Pundit
    April 28, 2010

    The good rabbi got Paul’s argument all wrong. Paul’s thesis is that a weak social safety net leads to both higher crime and religiosity while a stronger one leads to better societies and more atheism. The relationship is not a causal one (according to Paul), but rather both are symptoms of how good your society’s safety net is.

  6. #6 PZ Myers
    April 28, 2010

    You get to talk about whatever you want, I get to use my spoon to flip mashed potatoes at you.

  7. #7 Randomfactor
    April 28, 2010

    Surely a menu choice of flying spaghetti would be more appropriate, PZ…

  8. #8 https://openid.org/docbrad
    April 28, 2010

    It seems the page has been dispollenated.

  9. #9 Ing
    April 28, 2010

    Religion convinces the poor to accept their lot in life, therefore it props up poverty therefore makes life worse.

  10. #10 stevorino
    April 28, 2010

    Sweeet! I had no idea this was going on! I guess the only question for PZ is: Which watering hole are we all meeting up at?

  11. #11 ashleyfmiller
    April 28, 2010

    I’m in LA! I want to have mashed potatoes flipped at me! Of all the people I know who fling mashed potatoes, he is the most bearded and godless.

  12. #12 Jay
    April 28, 2010

    While I tend to agree with the #3 finding, I have to agree with The Science Pundit correlation does not imply causation. I think a lot more research needs to be done in this area before we can begin to say that religious belief actually negatively affects behavior. I don’t think you can correctly conclude from the study that it, “indicates that, on average, religion makes us behave worse.” Considering that the majority of people claim to be religious then it isn’t really surprising that a high percentage of people who commit crimes are religious, since they are a greater majority of the population.

  13. #13 Andyo
    April 28, 2010

    Hmm atheist food fight. I’m there. Oh wait, I’m broke.

  14. #14 Qwerty
    April 28, 2010

    *8 I couldn’t find the poll also, until I looked again. It’s on the right of the page below the article.

    Look again.

  15. #15 abb3w
    April 28, 2010

    Valdyr: I have to disagree, actually. I think it’s more likely that poverty is still the number one predictor of crime, and that poverty correlates with poor education, which correlates with higher religiosity.

    The link may be more direct (as The Science Pundit noted). Poor social support conditions correlate to higher crime. Poor social support conditions correlate to higher religiousness.

    It’s seems that religion may be give a survival advantage in such areas by keeping society from flying apart entirely, tending to be a limited local (social)evolutionary advantage more than elsewhere, and thus tending to spread more there.

  16. #16 William
    April 28, 2010

    Also echoing the “correlation is not causation” mantra.

    Also, You know, even if I didn’t have a prior bias, the article would have convinced me that the evidence favors the third option. is pretty much nonsensical.

  17. #17 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawneFKPEzAZBsanj9me6EOu2PjSlvbqyb8c
    April 28, 2010

    The options present a false trichotomy, because while I would agree that religion doesn’t necessarily cause good or bad behaviour (it depends largely on what sort of religious memes you have been infected with and how badly), it necessarily affects human behaviour in some ways. Nevertheless, I chose option no. 2.

    Yeah, I’m a maverick like that. How does it feel not having your tentacles around every one of your godless minions, lord PZ? :P

    -Watoosh

  18. #18 baroncognito
    April 28, 2010

    Rabbi Seidman has a PhD in Electrical Engineering from UC Berkeley. I’m a little surprised by that.

  19. #19 Bob L
    April 28, 2010

    Frankly form what I seen religion just justifies what you want to do in the first place. You want to be a decent person, religion says the gods agree, you want to be a jerk, the very same religion says the gods agree. Really a win-win for everyone.

  20. #20 Randomfactor
    April 28, 2010

    If Rick Warren and Tom Coburn are his examples of religion making folks better people, I think he just proved #3.

  21. #21 baroncognito
    April 28, 2010

    No, he cites quotes from them, not using them as examples.

  22. #22 Zifnab
    April 28, 2010

    You know, even if I didn’t have a prior bias, the article would have convinced me that the evidence favors the third option.

    He could have used Martin Luther King and Ghandi. Both were major practitioners of organized religion. You can argue what roll religion played in their activities, but you could hardly argue they weren’t deeply religious.

    Honestly, I think the whole idea is stupid. A religion is just a belief system. If you believe in feeding the poor and loving your parents and praying five times a day towards Mecca – and you adhere to your beliefs – you’ll be a better person. If you believe strapping ten pounds of TNT to your chest and running into a shopping mall is God’s will – and you adhere to your beliefs – you’ll behave worse.

    Religion divorces earthly concerns with earthly actions – you’re working to appease some supernatural entity rather than to satisfy material wants and needs – but even that doesn’t guarantee the positivity or negativity of lifestyle choices, because who can say how you’re going to assume that supernatural wants you to act.

    It’s a silly question based on rather simplistic thinking about the very nature of religion.

  23. #23 Insightful Ape
    April 28, 2010

    Tom Coburn and Rick Warren are BETTER people because of their religion?
    Gosh, makes me wonder how much worse they could get without it.

  24. #24 Dae
    April 28, 2010

    I agree that it’s still a silly poll with a silly question – but props to the site/rabbi for at least acknowledging unexpected results. That’s a lot better than we usually see with these things…

  25. #25 scottknickelbine
    April 28, 2010

    88% now say it makes you behave worse. That ought to make the rabbi lose his faith. . .in internet polls.

  26. #26 Vicki
    April 28, 2010

    Yes, Watoosh, there’s an excluded middle there. For example, if someone gets their ethics from some other source, but doesn’t eat pork because they believe that’s what god wants, it’s hard to say that religion has no effect on their behavior, but I wouldn’t say that religion is making them behave better or worse.

    Polls are like that, even ones with more value than the internet stuff PZ jumps on.

  27. #27 DeusExNihilum
    April 28, 2010

    It’s almost a shame to Pharyngulate this poll, considering that (at the time of PZ’s writing) it was already in favour of option three. I think that the good rabbi will most likely see the now huge difference in the poll results and discard them..as they’ve quite obviously been bombed =P

    Makes me wonder how this poll would of turned out if we’d of just left it be, maybe it would of turned out to be a little beacon of hope in Orange county and they’d of voted for the more evident option without our ‘encouragement’

    Just a thought..

  28. #28 ashleyfmiller
    April 28, 2010

    @Deus

    Because our letting it alone would have somehow made the results of an internet poll valid? He should discard the results regardless is, I believe, the point.

  29. #29 Insightful Ape
    April 28, 2010

    I kind of doubt that an engineer would fly a commercial jet airliner into a building full of people, dying in the process, if it weren’t for the promise of 72 virgins.

  30. #30 Blondin
    April 28, 2010

    I kind of doubt that an engineer would fly a commercial jet airliner into a building full of people, dying in the process, if it weren’t for the promise of 72 virgins.

    Engineers don’t fly planes, they drive trains.

  31. #31 Valdyr
    April 28, 2010

    Driving a train into the World Trade Center would’ve been a lot more impressive, honestly.

  32. #32 raven
    April 28, 2010

    A statistical study by Gregory Paul shows an even more astonishing result. He reports that, in general, higher levels of religion correlate with higher rates of homicide, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies. While this does not prove religion is the cause, the link between religion and bad behavior indicates that, on average, religion makes us behave worse.

    That is true. Where the statistics exist, fundie xians in the USA score higher on all social dysfunctions, abortion, teen pregnancy, STDs, divorce, you name it.

    They lead the galaxy in hypocrisy thought.

    Oddly enough, a few of the brighter ones are aware of it. But they really just don’t give one damn how screwed up their communities are.

  33. #33 Danish
    April 28, 2010

    After presenting the results of a mere 130 votes, the rabbi goes on to say:

    This is certainly not a large enough total group to be a valid sample of the county opinion. But this is surely not what I expected to find. I wonder if it will change in the coming week.

    Somehow I don’t think this rabbi knows very much about the Internet, or about polls, and certainly very little about Internet polls. He may soon learn a bit more though. :)

  34. #34 Sastra
    April 28, 2010

    I think that personally committing to a religion helps you commit to following the values of that religion. If the values make just as much sense outside the sect as in it, then it will look like religion is making you a “better person.” If the values only make sense if you buy into the narrow supernatural framework its built on, then it will look like religion isn’t “working.”

    Yes it is. It’s helping you keep your commitments.

    Problem is, that there is no rule, upfront, that says a religion has to make sense from a secular standpoint. In fact, if it makes too much sense from a secular standpoint, it turns into humanism-with-nostalgic-poetry.

    So the less sense it makes, the more it relies on what made it religion in the first place. Religion as religion, then, makes us behave worse — because in pure state, by definition, it’s anti-humanistic.

  35. #35 alysonmiers
    April 28, 2010

    Was it Steve Weinberg who said something like: “With or without religion you have good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things. But to have good people doing bad things, that takes religion.” ???

    I pretty much agree with that. The correlations in social problems cited from Paul’s study don’t show a causal relationship so much as that high religiosity and social dysfunction come from the same place, but even that much is damning, given that religion tells you it’ll make you a better person with a better life. When a belief system tells you it’ll make things better, and then takes up your money and mental energy without doing you any good, then it can be argued that the effect is a net negative. If nothing else, that money and mental energy could be directed elsewhere.

  36. #36 Insightful Ape
    April 28, 2010

    But Blondin, you missed the point. Engineers did fly those planes on Sep 11.

  37. #37 red
    April 28, 2010

    Well according to the poll, its a correlation, not a causation. Which makes sense, because in religious groups

    a) you never have to come up with morals, just follow rules. So you don’t really understand why you do things. This is a problem in morally ambiguous situations
    b) you don’t have to think about your own self worth, so you are reliant on others. Not a good way to develop a moral compass.
    c) At least for Xtians and catholics, you can be forgiven of sins…perfect for criminals and child molesters)
    d) its very black and white about rules, so its perfect for those who fear themselves, which is why alcoholics and drug abusers find comfort in it
    e) you can give up some control of your life so it tends to the draw/encourage hucksters and the ambitious who recognize that
    f) its something to external to “rebel against”. See “a” and “b”
    g) it usually relies on making one group feel great about themselves by condemning others. Which tends to lead to conflicts.

    A lot of religions and belief systems actually had a pretty good setup from what I can tell: a lot of the Pacific Islanders and Native Americans, for example. But they seem to be more understanding and tend to be religious more to explain the world, like an olden day scientist/shaman. And their societies appeared to operate pretty well with their religions (at least compared to, say The Dark Ages. But that may be an unfair comparison, since native peoples didn’t really get too advanced…which worked out well for them until contact.)

    But I’m no expert, and the “live with nature, take it easy” religion didn’t last long against the “we are the chosen people to rule the earth” major religions, unfortunately.

  38. #38 Insightful Ape
    April 28, 2010

    The book Sacred and Secular, one of the main sources used by Paul, points out another thing:
    That when things are fine, religiosity declines over decades. Further, in post-industrial societies, the young people are less religious than their parents, while in agrarian societies, there is no age-related difference as far as religiosity is concerned.
    Lastly, there was a study in the USA Today showing the same trend among the millenial generation here.
    So there does seem to be a cause and effect relationship between religiosity and societal dysfunction. Just that the good rabbai got it ass backwards.

  39. #39 lenoxuss
    April 28, 2010

    One of the subtler ways in which religion can be at odds with ethical behavior is the way it provides ritual alternatives to actual ethical behavior, which are falsely labeled as good in and of themselves.

    For example, when someone spends their time praying or going to church, s/he is naturally going to feel that s/he did a “good deed”, a small-scale equivalent to donating blood. People who play video games, listen to the radio, and watch plays, while they might applaud their own good taste, don’t quite feel that way about their rituals.

    If the religious narrative were true, than those things would indeed be prudent moral behavior. If Hell were real, than preventing people from going there would indeed be highly moral. And if vampires existed, carrying crosses and garlic would be more important than running fire drills.

    When you’re inside the bubble of religion, its correlation with morality/ethics will seem an obvious 1:1. Why, without religion to stop them, people do all sorts of evil, reckless things, from having the wrong kind of sex to wearing the wrong kind of clothes. They must think that good and evil are meaningless concepts!

  40. #40 mikerattlesnake
    April 28, 2010

    When one bases his decisions on dogma he is more likely to make a bad choice than one who bases his decisions on solid reason and evidence. This does not preclude the religious from making good decisions, and it does not preclude them from doing it most of the time (especially when their texts are interspersed to varying degrees with, essentially, humanist values), but it ensures that bad decisions will be made at least some of the time and that a mechanism for correction is absent.

    Hence, choice number three.

  41. #41 DeusExNihilum
    April 28, 2010

    @ AshleyFmiller

    No, but my point wasn’t about the validity of the poll in terms of “The winner of the pole is the most true”, I just thought it would of been interesting to see if the readers of a religious column, on a non-religious news/tabloid website, would of voted option 3 anyway.

    Not because that would show the validity of option 3, but that its the first time in a while that the majority vote BEFORE PZ steps in chose the same option as AFTER PZ stepped in. Usually, when a poll is pharyngulated, the majority option beforehand favours the exact opposite of what we all vote for.

    It would of been a curious rarity.

  42. #42 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    April 28, 2010

    Current results:
    Opinion 1: Religion makes people behave better. 2 %

    Opinion 2: Being religious has no effect on your behavior. 8 %

    Opinon 3: Religion makes us behave worse. 90 %

    Read the Bible to cover to cover, and you’ll see that is not necessarily a “good book”.

  43. #43 andrewdilullo
    April 28, 2010

    Interesting. I wonder if that’s partly an effect of religion allowing people to convince themselves they’re already more moral than the average person, so they have the leeway to behave a little worse because that still only brings them down to “average”.

    Like sneaking an extra brownie because you ran a little more than normal last week.

  44. #44 Alverant
    April 28, 2010

    @jmchiejr #2
    We’re not crashing the poll. We’re exercising our right to free speech. We have a right to express our opinions in a public forum.

  45. #45 UXO
    April 28, 2010

    Does religion make us better people?

    Opinion 1: Religion makes people behave better. 2 %

    Opinion 2: Being religious has no effect on your behavior. 8 %

    Opinon 3: Religion makes us behave worse. 90 %
    Total Votes: 3232

  46. #46 IslandBrewer
    April 28, 2010

    @Sastra

    You know, some of just can’t resist the pull of good nostalgic poetry.

    “There once was a god from Nantucket …”

  47. #47 Al B. Quirky
    April 28, 2010

    Freethought Alliance. Oh, kay. With a mission statement.

    Our mission: To offer a place for people of non-belief to gather, discuss cultural and political issues and to improve the quality of life for the non-religious

    So its sort of like a church for like-minded group-thinkers?

  48. #48 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 28, 2010

    ABQ, loser

    So its sort of like a church for like-minded group-thinkers?

    No fuckwit. Church implies imaginary deities and mythical/fictional holy books. None of that there. Just a group of people with similar interests, like a knitting group.

    You are the group thinker, and your group is the illogical evidenceless trolls. Not a group I would want to be associated with. No intelligence there…

  49. #49 tsg
    April 28, 2010

    So its sort of like a church for like-minded group-thinkers?

    New rule: Anyone who uses the phrase “group-think” can safely be dismissed as irrelevant.

  50. #50 Gyeong Hwa Pak, Scholar of Shen Zhou
    April 28, 2010

    So its sort of like a church for like-minded group-thinkers?

    A church is a place of worship. It’s also a group, who have similar interests – like worshiping deities. Clubs and organization are also groups. They are entities where people of similar interests gather. Take a tennis club. People of a tennis club are expected to think tennis is interesting and share much of the same knowledge of tennis. But just because a tennis club and a church are groups, do not mean that a tennis club equals a church. A church is specifically a place of worship.

  51. #51 raven
    April 28, 2010

    dumb troll:

    Our mission: To offer a place for people of non-belief to gather, discuss cultural and political issues and to improve the quality of life for the non-religious

    So its sort of like a church for like-minded group-thinkers?

    More like the Native Plant Society or the Gardening club.

    People don’t discuss issues in church. The minister tells you people what to believe and you believe it or else. The usual cult behavior
    That is what dogma and heresy are all about. In times past this was enforced by the charming ritual of the burning at the stake or community participation mass stone throwing.

    Churches also don’t improve people’s lives very often. The more malevolent cults such as the RCC, fundies, JWs, Mormons ruin lives by the thousands and millions. The way out there ones occasionally have mass suicides or shoot it out with the cops. The stats quoted above show it, fundie xians score high on any measure of social dysfunction.

  52. #52 Al B. Quirky
    April 28, 2010

    If a church involves worship, then Pharyngula is a church. Cephalopods, anyone?

  53. #53 sqlrob
    April 28, 2010

    Lawrence Lessig receives death threats over this

  54. #54 alysonmiers
    April 28, 2010

    No one here is required to worship cephalopods. PZ likes to post pictures of them and talk about them, and we can join in, or not.

    Besides, I think it’s much more sensible to worship cephalopods than the Magic Skydaddy. At least cephalopods exist. Not nearly as sensible as worshipping cats, though. Cats actually give a shit about whether you worship them.

  55. #55 Gyeong Hwa Pak, Scholar of Shen Zhou
    April 28, 2010

    If a church involves worship, then Pharyngula is a church. Cephalopods, anyone?

    No one here fucking worships PZ or cephalopods. You seem to think that every thing that disagrees with you must be worshiping something. Under that logic, why are you worshiping yourself? It’s not as great as you think it is.

  56. #56 Brownian, OM
    April 28, 2010

    So its sort of like a church for like-minded group-thinkers?…If a church involves worship, then Pharyngula is a church. Cephalopods, anyone?

    Sure. I can go with that. But I’d like Mr. Quirky with his out-of-the-box thinking to explain why a typical workplace doesn’t also fit his definition of a “church”, and if so, why the term “church” means anything useful at all.

    Excuse me, but I’ve got to go worship at a meeting on chronic disease surveillance with my fellow germ-theory group-thinkers.

    Ave, ave, ave age-standardised incidence ra-a-a-a-a-tes!

  57. #57 tutone21
    April 28, 2010

    There is a lot of chatter here about the poor and there behavior being tied to religion, but what about the “Martha Jones’s” out there that lead the church bakesale fundraiser, and talk shit about evryone behind their backs? I would consider that poor behavior due to religion.

    “Did you hear Patty got pregnant. And she isn’t even married!! That little whore is going to hell!”

    That’s the kind of shit that I was exposed too as a kid when I went to church. And there were lots of them at every church I went to. I remember being 11 or 12 and thinking that I never wanted to be like these people.

  58. #58 sqlrob
    April 28, 2010

    No one here fucking worships PZ or cephalopods.

    Everybody always agrees with PZ. I mean, just look at the video game thread. You don’t get much more in harmony than that.

  59. #59 https://me.yahoo.com/a/DhjBEuJ8pt63x6eBKuPx0Jv9_QE-#7c327
    April 28, 2010

    You guys are just so wrong. Religion got rid of those unsightly twin towers, just to cite one obvious example.

  60. #60 Mr T
    April 28, 2010

    Any sufficiently advanced theology is indistinguishable from madness.

  61. #61 sasqwatch
    April 28, 2010

    From the comments section in the original article.

    “bootzy wrote:
    Religion is fine (including Atheism), but when anything is foist upon people its wrong.”

    Excuse me while I hate a little bit. rrrrrr There, done.

  62. #62 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 28, 2010

    Cephalopods, anyone?

    Still an idjit fuckwitted loser. We admire and respect cephalopods, but no worship. The only worshiping here is you with your imaginary deity, and your delusions of adequacy…

  63. #63 JJ
    April 28, 2010

    I’d say it’s the OC register that makes people behave badly. I swear all assclowns growing up had parent who read the Register. Very few went with the LA times.

  64. #64 Evil Merodach
    April 28, 2010

    This is anecdotal but whenever I see people hating other, different people, religion is usually involved.

    Whenever I see people demanding others to behave the same as they do, religion is usually involved.

    Whenever I see people wanting to take away the rights of others, to marginalize them, to declare them threats to society, religion is usually involved.

    Religion is used to justify whatever hatred a person espouses. Religion is a means to avoid self-loathing, because their bigotry is righteous.

  65. #65 Andyo
    April 28, 2010

    Worship cephalopods? Dare me. I’ll cartoon the fuck out of cephalopods.

  66. #66 Sobex
    April 28, 2010

    Speaking of bad polls, here’s one on CBSnews.com asking if you would support an effort in your state to pass an immigration bill similar to Arizona’s:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20003648-503544.html

    Yes is winning handily at the moment :(

  67. #67 Brownian, OM
    April 28, 2010

    Everybody always agrees with PZ. I mean, just look at the video game thread. You don’t get much more in harmony than that.

    Actually, I think that’s another data point for the Religion of Pharyngula hypothesis.

    See, we agree with PZ about as often as Christians, Jews, and Muslems follow the Biblical prohibition against murder; that is generally but not religiously so.

    PZ, you really need to consider starting a Pharyngula religion. It’ll be great fun; you can lay claim to all sorts of moral tenets which we, as your faithful, can happily ignore, claiming you were merely making a metaphor, or we’ll simply follow the letter but not the spirit of your proclamations. Our Deep Rifts™ can become Schisms, we can accumulate all sorts of loot and have crazy Vatican-scale orgies, all under the blanket of religion. At the merest hint of criticism we’ll scream that it’s become fashionable for the Right Wing Media to blame Pharyngulism (Pharyngulanity?). Can you imagine having the Colgate Twins and their faitheist allies as our defenders? (I mean, it’d totally be like having your own Templars, albeit a version of Templars with mononucleosis and rubber swords, but Templars nonetheless!)

    So, how about it? Feel like being the New Abraham?

    We admire and respect cephalopods, but no worship.

    Now, now: don’t get all huffy, Nerd. Look at the big picture: if ‘worship’ describes our relationship to cephalopods as well as a Christian’s relationship to Christ, then any Christian with more than a passing interest in Christ becomes a fanatic.

    In fact, anyone who even self-describes as a “Christian” must be dangerously unglued; would you name yourself after an object you merely think “is really cool”? I mean, I worship making love at midnight in the dunes of the cape as much as the next guy (for Al. B. Quirky’s definition of ‘worship’), but if I listed “Piña Coladian” on my census form I think the census-taker might just call the police.

    So, yeah, Al B. Quirky: we do worship cephalopods, just as you worship, well, whatever being of smarmy illogic you ascribe to. (By the way, I’ve never been clear on who you worship, mostly because you put so little of interest or use in your comments. Since you’ve redefined worship so that even the most disinterested hobbyist is a worshiper, I’d like to ask whether you’re a Christ hobbyist, a YHWH hobbyist, a Muhammed hobbyist, or something else?)

  68. #68 ScienceAndHonor
    April 28, 2010

    A friend of my ladyfriend claims to practice “Shrimpology”, some kind of shrimp religion. No idea what it means to be a Shrimpologist, but it sure as hell is funny you all are arguing about worshipping inverterbrate sea-life.

  69. #69 PZ Myers
    April 28, 2010

    Yeah, but what are you going to do when I order my followers to prove their fidelity by taking Brownian out to a hilltop and sacrificing him? There ain’t no angel of the lord gonna swoop down and rescue you in this religion.

    And how could I live with myself when the Colgate Twins start apologizing for me? I’d have to destroy myself in a prolonged orgy of decadent drugs and sex and insanity ala L Ron Hubbard.

    Oh, wait…

  70. #70 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 28, 2010

    Brownian taking me to task????

    *checks that the heavy duty fainting couch is free, and the Pullet Patrol? is clear*

    *Clutches pearls, Swoon….*

  71. #71 Brownian, OM
    April 28, 2010

    Yeah, but what are you going to do when I order my followers to prove their fidelity by taking Brownian out to a hilltop and sacrificing him?

    Sigh. Why is it every religion I try to start ends up this way?

  72. #72 Sili, The Unknown Virgin
    April 28, 2010

    Whatever happened to Mormontology by the way? Have they split into sectarian warfare?

  73. #73 Markle
    April 28, 2010

    Does religion make us better people?
    Opinion 1: Religion makes people behave better. 1 %
    Opinion 2: Being religious has no effect on your behavior. 8 %
    Opinon(sic) 3: Religion makes us behave worse. 91 %
    Total Votes: 4568

    How is it that the readers of the religion section of the freakin’ Orange County Register couldn’t manage 69 votes in a week and a half to give the first option the rounding error for a second percentage point?

  74. #74 Charlie Foxtrot
    April 28, 2010

    Actually, that one wasn’t so much a bombing run for me as an opportunity to vote on a (admittedly pointless) poll that I would not have otherwise stumbled upon.
    In 25 words or less: Religion proscribes certain behaviours on believers, therefore they are not thinking for themselves, and not thinking for yourself is limiting and makes you worse.IMHO.

  75. #75 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 28, 2010

    PZ:

    Another California visit!

    How about a thumbnail sketch of your itinerary for those who can’t get enough of all things Pharyngula?

    I believe I still owe you some suds, you see.

  76. #76 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 28, 2010

    Yeah, but what are you going to do when I order my followers to prove their fidelity by taking Brownian out to a hilltop and sacrificing him? There ain’t no angel of the lord gonna swoop down and rescue you in this religion.

    Metaphor for avoiding consumerism and especially the crimes of overconsumption. See, you chose the follower named after Brownies, which are sinful little cakes, and…

  77. #77 Rorschach
    April 28, 2010

    @ 39,

    One of the subtler ways in which religion can be at odds with ethical behavior is the way it provides ritual alternatives to actual ethical behavior, which are falsely labeled as good in and of themselves.

    For example, when someone spends their time praying or going to church, s/he is naturally going to feel that s/he did a “good deed”, a small-scale equivalent to donating blood.

    QFT.

    And if anyone ever mentions the Weinberg quote again, I hope PZ will smite them, as he does when that joke comes up…..

    Wrt the poll, obviously all 3 answers can apply to various people at various times, it is an artificial trichotomy, I voted 3 for the fun of it, but things are not that simple….:-)

  78. #78 tsg
    April 28, 2010

    Sigh. Why is it every religion I try to start ends up this way?

    It’s one of those situations that absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part. You know, a martyr.

    (“And we’re just the guys to do it.”)

  79. #79 tsg
    April 28, 2010

    If a church involves worship, then Pharyngula is a church. Cephalopods, anyone?

    Continuing to confirm my point @49….

  80. #80 DaveWTC
    April 28, 2010

    @#73 Same stat’s after > 5100 votes.

  81. #81 DaveWTC
    April 28, 2010

    @POST “… the rabbi is surprised at the result so far …” Rabbi surprised at ~even results after 130 total votes. Can’t wait for Rabbi’s second follow up!

  82. #82 DB
    April 29, 2010

    Pharyngulation snapshot:
    1. Better – 1%
    2. No effect – 8%
    3. Worse – 91%
    Total votes: 5626

  83. #83 glasgowaspie
    April 29, 2010

    Not much difference, other than the total number of votes.

    1: Religion makes people behave better. 1 %
    2: Being religious has no effect on behavior. 8 %
    3: Religion makes us behave worse. 91 %

    Total Votes: 6011

  84. #84 WCorvi
    April 29, 2010

    I don’t think it’s that simple. I have one neighbor (a JW) who would give you the shirt off his back, primarily because of his religion. I have another (a psychopath bible-banger) who uses the bible to justify lying, cheating, stealing, etc. I suppose, then, you have to vote based on which you think is more common? It clearly can have all three effects.

  85. #85 John Morales
    April 29, 2010

    WCorvi,

    I don’t think it’s that simple. [...] It clearly can have all three effects.

    Except that the question is not whether it makes us behave better, but whether it makes us be better.

    Behaving better is not the same as being better; in the case of religion, if the behaviour is predicated on avoiding punishment and gaining merit in an expected afterlife, then that behaviour may be good, but the person is nonetheless being selfish and greedy.

    That said, I do grant that if you’re a scumbag, it may indeed make you be better if you buy into the magical thinking and imposed morality imposed by religion.

    I suppose, then, you have to vote based on which you think is more common?

    I suppose so; and it brings to mind Steven Weinberg’s aphorism: “I think that on the balance the moral influence of religion has been awful. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil. But for good people to do evil — that takes religion.”

  86. #86 Moggie
    April 29, 2010

    #35:

    Was it Steve Weinberg who said something like: “With or without religion you have good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things. But to have good people doing bad things, that takes religion.” ???

    I’ve never been satisfied with that line. Counter-examples include politics, war, and beer.

  87. #87 judashpriest
    April 29, 2010

    Does religion make us better people?

    Opinion 1: Religion makes people behave better. 1 %

    Opinion 2: Being religious has no effect on your behavior. 8 %

    Opinon 3: Religion makes us behave worse. 91 %
    Total Votes: 6666

    10 times the number of the beast and then some!!

  88. #88 RabbiLSeidman
    April 29, 2010

    So what are we saying here folks. Is there something about a little poll that is so threatening that you can’t allow it to proceed?

    Sure its a simple poll. I was hoping to get some thoughtful conversation. We had some on the OCR web site.

    At last count there were 7000 votes in the Register poll. Do you really have 7000 members who honestly voted?

    I expect that any kind of liberal, godless or not, would have enough integrity to not shout down the voices of others. This technique was last used by the Moslem students at UCI.

    Dissent is great. I am trying to encourage intelligent thought about God and Religion. Is that really something this group is committed to opposing?

  89. #89 Usagichan
    April 30, 2010

    Rabbi Seidman #88

    I think you will find if you look back through the archives that it is the use of internet polls that ‘this group’ opposes – on the basis that such easily manipulated data is detrimental rather than beneficial to healthy debate.

    I don’t think it is intended to shout anyone down as such (although admittedly they tend to break in a certain direction). Robust debate in public forums is a good thing – Did you read the comment thread here? Your poll actually stimulated some interesting comments (I particularly liked John Morales’ distinction between ‘behaving’ better and ‘being’ better – apart from his inclusion of the Weinberg aphorism that seems to have been rather ‘done to death’). In that sense, perhaps your poll has actually had the effect you intended?

  90. #90 boygenius
    April 30, 2010

    RabbiLSeidman:

    So what are we saying here folks. Is there something about a little poll that is so threatening that you can’t allow it to proceed?

    In what way did we not allow your poll to proceed? To the contrary, we participated enthusiastically. You put a poll on a public website, and we voted our convictions. If you didn’t want people to do so, why go to the trouble of posting the poll in the first place?

    At last count there were 7000 votes in the Register poll. Do you really have 7000 members who honestly voted?

    Pharyngula averages nearly 100K visits per day. (Click on the sitemeter at the bottom of the page.)

    I expect that any kind of liberal, godless or not, would have enough integrity to not shout down the voices of others.

    No shouting. We simply joined our voices to the chorus of the others who were voting on the poll.

    Dissent is great. I am trying to encourage intelligent thought about God and Religion. Is that really something this group is committed to opposing?

    Have you ever read this blog? We have thoughtful, intelligent debates about God and religion every day here. Far from opposing it, we thrive on it. Forgive me if I don’t buy your claim that you believe “Dissent is great.” since your entire comment was a complaint about having encountered dissenting opinions.

  91. #91 John Morales
    April 30, 2010

    I note the Rabbi is incredulous that Pharyngula draws so many commenters, and has written a follow-up where he jumps to an unwarranted conclusion:

    I can?t give you a final poll count because somebody decided to fake the results by voting thousands of times. It is disappointing that he or she feels a need to disrupt our conversation. I?ll try a poll again next week. I hope no one will feel a need to shout everyone else?s voice down.
    Before the poll was hijacked, votes were continuing to come in on the website. Interestingly the overall percentages had not changed significantly. As of Tuesday afternoon, we had 184 votes on the question: Does religion make us better people?
    The percentages were these:

    Funny how the Rabbi is skeptical about reasonable things, yet credulous about ridiculous things (such as a supernatural realm and denizens thereof).

    Yeah — the poll was hijacked alright — people voted other than the way he expected. Reality bites.

  92. #92 Birger Johansson
    April 30, 2010

    My only beef is that the poll makes no distinction between direct and indirect harm caused by belief (or conduct inspired by belief). In a western society, direct harm (example: burning heretics) is generally dwarfed by the *indirect* harm caused by religiouly motivated behaviour like out-of-control hypocrisy (example: opposing HPV vaccine campaigns). In the limited scope of the three options of this poll, I would say option two is most common: behaviour is directed by the bottom-up societal norms not by top-down religious edicts, making religion mostly irrelevant. People will find excuses for bad behaviour regardless of religion.

  93. #93 boygenius
    April 30, 2010

    In the comments of the link from John Morales #91 the good Rabbi still insists that we botted his poll, even after PZ himself responded that there was no such botting. (If it really was PZ and not an imposter.)

    And despite the fact that I requested he check the sitemeter in my #90.

    Fingers firmly in ears, sing LALALALALALALA.

  94. #94 RabbiLSeidman
    April 30, 2010

    It was the Register’s judgment that this was a hack. There are a fairly small number of people who comment here, and who commented on the OCR site, compared to the 7000 or so on the poll. In the discussion of the poll here, a few of you differed in your view from the majority. Perhaps the next poll will not be seen to lump this group into the same category.

    I invite you all to comment as well as vote.

    And, as somebody commented, if I had a hand in stimulating this discussion, and I learned something, it was a good result.

    BTW-If I read sitemeter correctly it seems to say that the average visit duration here is 6 seconds. Am I reading that correctly? What does that mean?

  95. #95 John Morales
    April 30, 2010

    RabbiLSeidman,

    It was the Register’s judgment that this was a hack. There are a fairly small number of people who comment here, and who commented on the OCR site, compared to the 7000 or so on the poll.

    A couple of years ago I noted that Pharyngulation (aka PZ drawing readers’ attention to an internet poll) typically accounts for 5-10 kilovotes, depending on levels of interest.

    I can’t rule out botting, but what you have been exposed to is a variant of the Slashdot effect. Ask the Register how many unique site visits there were to your poll page. :)

    (I voted once, but felt no need to comment there.)

  96. #96 DethB4DCaf
    May 1, 2010

    Current statistics as of May 1 3:44 am MT:

    Does religion make us better people?
    Opinion 1: Religion makes people behave better. 1 %
    Opinion 2: Being religious has no effect on your behavior. 8 %
    Opinon 3: Religion makes us behave worse. 91 %

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