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Old 02-11-2016   #1
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Believing in God makes you a better person

Apparently, the fear of an all-knowing God makes you a better person.

Moralistic gods, supernatural punishment and the expansion of human sociality:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal...ture16980.html

I am always skeptical of these types of studies, but I think it's important stuff, nevertheless.

Humanity jumps off skyscraper. Halfway down, it yells triumphantly, "So far, so good!"
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Old 02-11-2016   #2
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

News in the UK at the moment:

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...ers-confession

I have wondered to myself, if I were in the place of the parents and had previously been in some way neutrally agnostic (or whatever I might have believed), whether I would, after this, be more or less likely to believe in God. As you can probably judge, it could go either way.

The family talk of their daughter's soul now being at rest. I don't think it would be unreasonable for them to wish for some kind of justice for the killer after his death, too.

"人生夢幻耳" - 高井鴻山
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Old 02-11-2016   #3
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

I would love to be religious. Believing in God and a Master Plan - sounds sweet. I'm just not sure it's a possibility for me; I think you have to be wired for it.

Studies show that religious people are happier than non-religious people. But does that mean that you can become a happier person if you choose to believe in God? Not necessarily. Correlation is not the same as causation. It could be that religious people are simply naturally happier, and a predisposition for religion goes hand in hand with a less gloomy personality.

It's also interesting that the happiest countries in the world are, in fact, secular societies (Scandinavia).

Nevertheless, if I could flip the Religion Switch, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Humanity jumps off skyscraper. Halfway down, it yells triumphantly, "So far, so good!"
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Old 02-11-2016   #4
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

It makes sense.

Lucian pigeon-holed the letter solemnly in the receptacle lettered 'Barbarians.' ~ The Hill of Dreams by Arthur Machen
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Old 02-11-2016   #5
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

I think a large part of what we constitute 'good behaviour' to be in western society stems from a Christian perspective, so it seems clear to me that being a Christian would make somebody more likely to fit our agreed model of 'good behaviour'. I don't think it means anything beyond that.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 02-11-2016   #6
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

The study focuses specifically on altruism, something that exists in all cultures and religions.

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Old 02-11-2016   #7
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

I dispute the concept that doing something because you expect intense reward or are fearing intense punishment is truly altruistic. An unrepentant monster would perhaps stop their misdeeds if you threatened them with provable eternal torture or offered them a guaranteed billion dollars and immortality, but I don't see any increased morality overall in chasing these things.

I think that in certain specific situations monotheistic religion is beneficial to community happiness (the chance to see a dead loved one again, maybe), but its overall effect on society is too pernicious to really make me look particularly kind on it. I believe overall it causes as much, if not maybe more, unhappiness than it does happiness. I see no correlation between religion and being a more moral person, even if I think it's arguable that some religious people will be frightened in to behaving better or being more charitable.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 02-11-2016   #8
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

My belief in god and return to religion came about accidentally, when I nonchalantly decided to pray and see if there wou'd be any effect. I wasn't expecting anything, and certainly had no desire to return to Mormonism. But the presence of God or the Holly Spirit or whatever the hell it was became so potent that I felt it as a kind of spiritual assault, and it was so real that I simply couldn't be hypocrite enough to deny the experience. But it hasn't made me a better person--I'm still a wanker and a goon.

"We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."
--Henry James (1843-1916)
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Old 02-11-2016   #9
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by hopfrog View Post
My belief in god and return to religion came about accidentally, when I nonchalantly decided to pray and see if there wou'd be any effect. I wasn't expecting anything, and certainly had no desire to return to Mormonism. But the presence of God or the Holly Spirit or whatever the hell it was became so potent that I felt it as a kind of spiritual assault, and it was so real that I simply couldn't be hypocrite enough to deny the experience. But it hasn't made me a better person--I'm still a wanker and a goon.
This is interesting to me. Praying does something; the question is what.

It has been suggested that prayer and meditation are the same thing and work in the same way. I have no problem accepting that meditation works, but my personal biases make it harder for me to accept that prayer works too.

Maybe there are certain brain states that are incompatible with others. Praying somehow calms the mind by stopping negative thoughts that produce anxiety.

Or maybe there is a God.

In any event, there's something to prayer that needs to be explored. I don't think it really matters if you believe in God or not; the real question for me is, "are you humble enough to try it?"

Humanity jumps off skyscraper. Halfway down, it yells triumphantly, "So far, so good!"
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Old 02-11-2016   #10
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

In my younger years, I approached this idea of 'God' as one might approach a logic puzzle - What are the knowns, what are the unknowns, what can the arrangement of facts do to fill in the gaps where there are no facts. Of course, the empirical evidence of a supreme being being "zero" it was pretty easy for me to shrug the problem off with a hearty "Clearly there is no God. If there is, show me the proof."

Problem solved, right?

Then I fell victim to time, experience, life, and realization that I have limitations which render me unable to grasp all possible answers. A time came when I had to admit that there was an awful lot about nearly everything which I (and the rest of humanity) can't explain - the origins of consciousness, the definition of intelligence, various perplexing manifestations of an ever expanding cosmos, etc.

I came to realize that it was possible, perhaps even likely, that the human mind is incapable to tackle certain problems. As an allegory, consider posing the question of how to build a stealth jet to a cat. Cats are fairly successful mammals, all things considered, but not only are they unable to explain how to build a stealth jet, they can't really conceive of what a stealth jet *actually is*.

Similarly, perhaps humans are not intellectually equipped to tackle concepts like God, or the subtle workings of time, infinity, the cosmos, etc.

There was a piece by Dr. Wayne Dyer I saw a while back that sort of encapsulated the idea. I'll post it below, fully anticipating my digital crucifixion at the hands of the internet mob.
In a mother’s womb were two babies.One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”
Link

I'm not going so far as to advocate the bit about "Mother's voice", but I though it was interesting to consider that our ability to perceive the reality of our world (much less entertain ideas about the larger reality beyond our perceptions) is extremely limited.

So . .. does believing in God make one a better person? I don't know. Probably depends on the god you believe in and how you modify your life to accommodate such a belief. I think it does, however, make the universe a little bit more wondrous to behold.
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