October 5, 2005

Cain and Abel seem to still be causing trouble

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at October 5, 2005 11:26 AM

I tend to have pretty harsh words for the Catholic Church, but this deserves applause: Bishops in Britain are actively trying to discourage literal readings of the Bible. Via Pharyngula:

Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible
THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.

“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.

Excellent. Hey, can we get that printed as a warning label on Bibles, like the ones the creationists try to put on biology textbooks?

Tags: Catholicism, Christianity, Religion, The Bible

Possible Warnings: Reading may warp your sence of reality; May not be entirly true or historycally accurate; May cause war, crusades, jihads, and genocide; May cloud ablity to aplly logical judgement to facts observed

Posted by: Shellock | October 5, 2005 11:42 AM

Heh, some scientific works have been known to cause crusades as well. :) You know, all people who don't believe in linear algebra should be brutally tortured; stuff like that.

Posted by: Mason | October 5, 2005 1:02 PM

Hey, can we get that printed as a warning label on Bibles, like the ones the creationists try to put on biology textbooks?

Man, don't I wish...

Posted by: Fuzzball | October 6, 2005 3:03 PM

An interesting and related article that you probably already read off of Warren Ellis's blog: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-2-1798944-2,00.html

Posted by: Josh | October 7, 2005 12:23 AM

Unfortunately, nothing in the article I just posted says anything that I didn't already intuitively believe. Nor does it go in-depth with the research. I wonder if I could get a hold of the source material for the article.

Posted by: Josh | October 7, 2005 12:28 AM

I would be interested in knowing what the Gazebo or some of his readers who are well schooled in statistics thinks of the methods and results reported in that article. Seems a bit of a stretch to try to correlate perceived societal leanings as respects religion on the one hand with the incidence in the overall population of STD on the other, for example. Maybe you get there through organized religion's opposition to condom use (or something) but this just has a less-than-scientific ring to it to me.

Posted by: JSpur | October 7, 2005 1:42 PM

Matt Yglesias did a pretty good post on this a few days back. The short version: most of the correlation seems to come from the US which is an outlier in the data. (The original paper seems to be here.)

Maybe this paper at least helps rebut the oft-heard claim that atheism and teaching evolution are routes to immorality? But I doubt the preachers making this claim care very much what the statistics say.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | October 7, 2005 2:21 PM

Pharyngula had a massive discussion of that paper when it first came out (last week? can't remember...). As I recall, the legitimate conclusion was simply that it disproves the above-mentioned wingnut belief that lack of religion leads to societal collapse. Attempts to read into it a message that religion is the cause of various problems, though sometimes plausible (high rates of STDs and abortions due to abstinance-only sex "education", for example) and often personally satisfying, are not warranted, and IIRC the author explicitly says that somewhere in the paper.

Posted by: Justin | October 7, 2005 4:39 PM

Taking correlation for granted for a second, there's also always the mantra of correlation doesn't imply causation (which most of the world seems to forget, _especially_ when it's convenient).

The other comment I want to make about correlations is to recall the plot on the webpage for the Church of the FSM about what has happened with the decrease in the number of pirates...

Posted by: Mason | October 7, 2005 10:24 PM

I seem to recall that the confusion of correlation and causation also famously accounts for the old wives tale about storks being baby conveyance devices. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but as I recall the way the story goes, in the old days (and Old World) families stoked the furnace to keep the house warmer when there was a newborn at home, thus causing the roof to warm and attracting storks.

Of couse, as we all know, babies are not delivered by storks.

They are delivered by airplane. In the seat behind you. Screaming the entire way.

Posted by: JSpur | October 8, 2005 5:04 AM

I still haven't read the article, so thanks for linking it. I hope to get around to it soon.

Anyway, with that caveat about my uninformed opinion out there, here's my speculations:

While I agree that religion wouldn't be the cause of America's various woes, or any necessarily direct correlation, I think that indirectly there may be some connections on the individual level rather than the national level. Speaking from my own experience of walking away from the concept of God, and from the experience of many of my friends (especially those that attended Catholic school), I find that a common result in all of us who were raised to believe in religious ideals but questioned what was beyond the boundaries of that religion were given to exploration beyond those boundaries.

Many religions come with a set of rules, some clearly defined, some not so much. But taboo ideas in religion often carry a bit of mystique (sp?) with them when an adolescent is led to question those beliefs. Someone who questions the belief in God will naturally also question if what s/he has been taught to be wrong actually is wrong. And, of course, with such disillusionment comes the danger of questioning the social norms of society itself, which not only are heavily based on religion, but are set up very much like a religion when you're a child. Rather than the unseen God that loves you and everyone, the unseen Government protects you and everyone, and believe and be faithful and tithe to that government and you will be rewarded with a chance to prosper as a successful adult in society (which, I suppose, is the sociological equivalent of Heaven?).

Anyway, that all there is the speculative part. However, there are examples of those who turn away from their religions very bitter about the feeling of having been lied to. Truthfully, I'm a member of that particular group. As a result, it's not uncommon to feel a bit willful and break the rules set down by the world of religion "just because we can". The result, for me at least, was when I found out that there were no foreseeable consequences to not doing some of the minor things I was told by my church to do, I became interested in seeing what else I was told was fundamentally wrong, but was lied to about.

Then again, there are some people who do not yet walk away from religion but, in the constraints of youth and the harsh taboos of some faiths, experiment regardless of what they were told. I'm not even joking when I cite how many girls I have known that went to an all-girl, nun-controlled catholic school and went through a "lesbian phase" during that period.

Anyway, none of this actually leads to social problems as cited in the article I linked to. I, for one, don't intend to become a criminal based on my disillusionment in religion. However, that path can appear much more inviting to those who were raised with blinders on by their faith, and simply don't understand what happens when they walk down that path. Moreover, with those who find themselves particularly disgruntled by the constraints of the norms set down by religion, it's indeed very possible, if not likely, for an individual to do something very stupid and wrong simply because they've never stepped foot in that world before.

Anyway, there it is. I'm not sure it makes any sense. The point of it all, though, is that while religion may not have consequences on a large-scale in society, for some individuals that question the boundaries of right and wrong, a religious taboo can be a very appealing idea.

Posted by: Josh | October 9, 2005 1:20 PM

I would also like to point out evidence of my previous point: you'll notice the horrifying way I habitually use "anyway" to begin a new paragraph. Definitely a GRAMMATICAL taboo in my 10th-Grade English teacher's rulebook. ;-)

Posted by: Josh | October 9, 2005 1:23 PM
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