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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

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A study supposedly shows that atheists are more motivated by compassion than are religious people. Atheists have used this in various ways to show that atheist can be moral, that religion doesn't produce compassion and so on. The study is "My Brother's Keeper: Compassion Predicts Generosity More Among Less Religious Individuals."[1] First published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, 00 (0) April (2012) 1-8. The authors were Laura R. Saslow and Bob Willer, et al. It was published on line before print and can found in a pdf:

Past research argues that religious commitments shape individuals’ prosocial sentiments, including their generosity and solidarity. But what drives the prosociality of less religious people? Three studies tested the hypothesis that, with fewer religious expec-
tations of prosociality, less religious individuals’ levels of compassion will play a larger role in their prosocial tendencies. In Study 1, religiosity moderated the relationship between trait compassion and prosocial behavior such that compassion was more critical to the generosity of less religious people. In Study 2, a compassion induction increased generosity among less religious individuals but not among more religious individuals. In Study 3, state feelings of compassion predicted increased generosity across a variety of
economic tasks for less religious individuals but not among more religious individuals. These results suggest that the prosociality of less religious individuals is driven to a greater extent by levels of compassion than is the prosociality of the more religious.[2]
They want to know, if religion makes people more pro-social does it make them more compassionate? If not then can non religious people be more compassionate? They use giving money to charity as the benchmark, and thus decide that non religious are more compassionate not because they give more money but because they have fewer motivations to do so in addition to compassion. So they see non religious motivation as being compassion that is left after other motives of religious people are stripped away, motives such as doctrine and teaching. Religious people, on the other hand, have more than one motivation. Let's look at the methodology and results.


Across three studies, we compared the influence of compassion
on prosocial tendencies among more and less religious
individuals. In Study 1, we examined whether religiosity would
moderate the relationship of trait compassion on prosocial
behavior. We hypothesized that trait compassion would be
more critical to the generosity of the less religious than the
more religious. In Study 2, we tested whether a compassion
induction (vs. a neutral video) would increase generosity
among less religious individuals, but not among more religious
individuals. In Study 3, we assessed if momentary feelings of
compassion would predict increased generosity across a variety
of economic tasks for less religious individuals but not more
religious individuals. By measuring and manipulating compas-
sion, and measuring various forms of generous tendencies and
behavior, across three studies we test our hypothesis that
compassion is more integral to the generosity of the less
religious versus the more religious[3]

They used a scale. Items include:
• "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me."
• "When I see someone being taken advantage of, I feel kind of protective towards them."
• "Other people’s misfortunes do not usually disturb me a great deal." (reverse-scored)

That's how they measure compassion.


Study 1 yielded evidence in suport of our main hypothesis: religiosity moderated the relationship between compassion and pro-social behavior such that the compassion-to-pro-sociality link was stronger for less religious individuals than it was for more religious individuals. Further, these results held while controlling for gender, political orientation, and educational attainment--variables that might otherwise account for our findings. IN sum, these findings indicate that although compassion is associated with pro-sociality among both less religious and more religious individuals this relationship is particularly robust for less religous individuals.[4]
 That's the result for study 1. The others are similar.

Obviously there are definitional issues that need to be addressed. There is a methodological problem involving the nature of their definition of religion. How do they define religiosity? They say more religious are more conservative, but are they just saying religion = conservative thus not counting liberals as motivated?

Participants indicated the strength of their religious identity. The scale was recoded so that higher values represent greater religiosity: 1 (no religion), 2 (not very strong religious identity), 3 (somewhat strong religious identity), and 4 (strong religious identity), M¼2.99, SD¼1.03. Single-item measures of religiosity have been found to have sufficient
reliability and predictive validity in other work (Gorsuch & McFarland, 1972).[5]

That's a pretty shallow understanding of religious faith. That's going to be a problem for them. It's not just a matter of 'either you are religious or you are not'. There are levels of commitment. It's not too absurd or hard to prove that those who are more deeply convicted and who have had spiritual encounters would take the teachings more seriously and be willing to live by them. This has major import in two ways. First of all because it means that there's more involved than just feeling compassion and giving. Their major study says that non religious people have compassion as a motivator more so than religious people. That doesn't prove that religious people are less compassionate. It means that religious people might have three or four motives for giving and compassion might not be the main one (like doctrine or teaching might be more important). Non religious people will have mainly just that, compassion. This is the way the study has been understood by critics. "That doesn't mean highly religious people don't give, according to the research to be published in the July 2012 issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. But compassion seems to drive religious people's charitable feelings less than it other groups."[6] One of the study co-author's says:

"Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not," study co-author and University of California, Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer said in a statement. "The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns."[7]
In other words it's not that the religious people are less compassionate but that they may not use compassion as the top of the lexically ordered value system they go by.

The other reason knowing the depth of commitment matters, is because "religious" covers a lot of ground. It includes people who don't feel the love and those who do. If you don't examine them in separate groups the averages will probably be dragged down by the less committed group. Like having bad students brings down the class average. There is a lot of evidence that those who experience the real spiritual side of their faiths are more giving and have more social consciousness than those who don't. Andrew Newberg says the kind of faith is what make the difference in terms of the result of faith upon the subject.
h+: In your new book, How God Changes Your Brain, you argue that religious fundamentalism can actually be good for you. How do you figure?
AN: It really depends on the nature of the belief. Fundamentalism, per se, isn’t bad or good. It all depends on the nature of one’s beliefs. We’ve found that if one’s beliefs are positive and loving and compassionate that can have a very profound effect on one’s health and happiness. But the opposite is true. If you believe in a punishing god, or if that fundamentalism preaches hate and anger — then the effects are going to be bad. Anxiety levels will go up, a stress response can occur, and like any stressor, if that continues for long enough, it’s going to impact health outcomes in a negative way. The real point is that what we believe has a very direct effect on the quality of our lives and we need to remember that.[8]
Two major studies of mystical experience found that those who experienced the form of spirituality known as "mystical" or "peak" experience tended to have increased sense of social consciousness and became more giving. These studies are by Greely and Wuthnow.
Other positive consequences of religious experience include being less authoritarian and racist, less materialistic and status conscious, and showing more social concern and more self-assurance (Greeley 1975, Wuthnow 1978). In fact, it is in large part because of such consequences that scholars continue to acknowledge the importance of the experiential dimension of religion, even if not many study it.[9]
There are some studies that show religious people either have a high level of pro social behavior and/or generosity and compassion. John Lieff reports higher moral development among mystics.[10]
It's important to understand that just doing the two hours a week in chruch and hearing that we should love and be good to people is not enough to change one into a Mother Teresa. Those who have had actual spiritual encounters with the divine have been changed. They will always be the minority and so the average is drug down. There are studies from scholarly sources that show not only giving and compassion associated with religious belief, but pro social behavior in general. The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion finds:

An important discrepancy seems to exist between self-reports and laboratory studies regarding prosociality among religious people. Some have even suggested that this involves moral hypocrisy on the part of religious people. However, the assumption of the four studies reported here is that the impact of religiousness on prosociality is limited but exists, and does not reflect self-delusion. In Study 1 (N= 106), religious young adults tended not to use indirect aggression in dealing with hypothetical daily hassles. In Study 2 (N= 105), female students' religiosity was associated with willingness to help close targets in hypothetical situations but the effect was not extended to unknown targets. In Studies 3 (N= 315, 105 triads) and 4 (N= 274, 109 targets), religious targets not only reported high altruistic behavior and empathy, but were also perceived as such by peers (friends, siblings, or colleagues) in three out of four cases. Other results from the studies suggested that the prosociality of religious people is not an artifact of gender, social desirability bias, security in attachment, empathy, or honesty.[11]

One critique against the kind of study Saslow conducted with laboratory conditions, is a study of  Israeli Jewish women published by McGill University that seems to indicate the short comings of laboratory conditions. The study indicates that religious prompts have to be backed by real world cues that reinforce the religious training.

We may conclude based on the results that reports show higher charity and volunteering among the religious not because they are more altruistic, but rather because these individuals live in an environment that more often pressures them to give, in accordance with popular moral codes. As explained previously, worship rituals and holidays often contain cues to give money and time (Shapiro 1971; Bird 1982; Cascio 2003). Without exposure to customs designed in part to solicit donations, it is possible that the non-religious inclination to give often lies dormant.[12]

Those findings might seem to be anti-religion as a force for giving, but it must be pointed out the atheists would have the very same motive to exaggerate giving. They have social cues and a social movement (many tend to be politically liberal) that endorses compassion and giving. In those studies that involve self reporting there would be a motive to exaggerate one's own giving.

A study by Einlof in Sociology of Religion Quarterly consisting of life narrative interviews from midlife in the United States, "examines how religious values, ideas, and language motivate prosocial behaviors." This includes giving and self sacrifice and living up the teachings of Christ.

Using ratings from independent coders, statistically significant relationships were found between most of the themes and prosocial behaviors, particularly for respondents who engaged in multiple helping behaviors. In addition to documenting the relationship between religious ideas and values and helping behaviors, the study demonstrates how language mediates the relationship between the social and personal aspects of religion.[13]

A reader of this blog, Yonose, had a cogent criticism:

I saw the Brothers Keepers' study from the link. It is interesting nonetheless. If there's a positive correlation between compassion, empathy and prosocial behaviour, this would actually imply that, somehow, less religious people need to be fed of compassion more consecutively, to do any good deed with our human brethren, by applying constant sense data by stimuli and induction. All of the above seems to be correct. I don't see anything weird about that by now. As a consequence, this would also mean that less religious people are easier to be lied to with political propaganda e.g. like SOME extremist environmental alarmists. Where I believe the study is somehow flawed in context, is the linking of a positive correlation between prosocial behaviour and the making of good deeds per se as universal, because many people who love to be vocal about their lack of religiousness, just like to do good deeds in a preferential way: most probably they will help non-religious people only. Such behaviours have been demonstrated by themselves over and over. It is just overly simplistic to have a positive correlation with compassion, by induction, lack of religiosity, and then conflating such, with the actual making of good deeds to people. There is not a single trace in that study that confirms which types of people they had helped, whether religious or not.

This would also imply that the idea of correlating actual charity with lack of religiousness is not a universal statement, and that it is completely falsifiable, and in consequence, it is not possible to make a proof that "Atheists have more compassion than religious people".That's where I agree that there's a double standard with these types of Atheists. This is just reduced to a mere political game. Have these types of Atheists forgot about their intellectual roots??

These high integration states were also correlated with peak experiences including inner calm, maximum wakefulness, alertness, lack of fear, effortlessness, a sense of perfection, and a sense of being “high.” In an unusual finding these people also had higher moral development, better self-image, better sleep and a better reputation. - See more at:
These high integration states were also correlated with peak experiences including inner calm, maximum wakefulness, alertness, lack of fear, effortlessness, a sense of perfection, and a sense of being “high.” In an unusual finding these people also had higher moral development, better self-image, better sleep and a better reputation. - See more at:
I agree.
These high integration states were also correlated with peak experiences including inner calm, maximum wakefulness, alertness, lack of fear, effortlessness, a sense of perfection, and a sense of being “high.” In an unusual finding these people also had higher moral development, better self-image, better sleep and a better reputation. - See more at:

These high integration states were also correlated with peak experiences including inner calm, maximum wakefulness, alertness, lack of fear, effortlessness, a sense of perfection, and a sense of being “high.” In an unusual finding these people also had higher moral development, better self-image, better sleep and a better reputation. - See more at:
These high integration states were also correlated with peak experiences including inner calm, maximum wakefulness, alertness, lack of fear, effortlessness, a sense of perfection, and a sense of being “high.” In an unusual finding these people also had higher moral development, better self-image, better sleep and a better reputation. - See more at:

[1] Laura R. Saslow, Robb Willer, Mathrew Feinberg, Paul K Piff, Katharine Clark, Cacher Kelntner, and Srina R. Saturn. "My Brother's Keeper: Compassion Predicts Generosity More Among Less Religious Individuals."Social Psychological and Personality Science 1948550612444137
accessed 11/12/13

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Staff Writer, "Atheists More Motivated by Compassion Than the Faithful," Live Science. (May 1, 2012) online resource
accessed 11/12/13

[7] Ibid.

[8] Andrew Newberg quoted by Steve Kotler, "The Neurology of Spiritual Experience," h*, Sept. 2009
accessed 11/12/13

[9] Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, William H. Swatos, Jr. editor
accessed 11/12/13

[10] John Lieff, Searching for the Mind, Online resource.
accessed 11/12/13.

[11] Vassilis Saroglou, Isabelle Pichon, et al. "Prosocial Behavior and Religion: New Evidence Based on Projective Measures and Peer Ratings" Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Volume 44, Issue 3, , (September 2005), 323–348.
 Article first published online: 25 AUG 2005,DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5906.2005.00289.x

[12] Salomon Israel and Maoz Brown, "Faith, Fellowship, and Philanthropy: Giving Rates as a Function of Religiosity among Israeli Jewish Women," McGill Sociological Review, Volume 3, February 2013, pp. 36-54.
On line versoin posted by McGill University:
accessed 11/13/13.

[13]  Christopher J. Einolf. "The Link Between Religion and Helping Others: the Role of Values, Ideals, and Language." Sociology of Religion Quarterly Review  doi: 10.1093/socrel/srr017
first published online April 6, 2011. 

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On Huff post there is an article by Matthew Hutson, author of The Seven Laws of Magical Thinking. The article is called "All Paths Lead to Magical Thinking." (Posted: 09/19/2013 8:32 pm).

In recent years, psychologists have come to understand religion and paranormal belief as resulting, in most people, from simple errors in reasoning. You believe in God or astrology or a purpose in life because you apply ideas about people -- that they have thoughts and intentions -- to the natural world. Some display this tendency more than others, but it's there in everyone, even atheistic heathens like me. What has not been clarified is exactly how the various cognitive biases interact to produce specific ideas about the supernatural -- until now.

He presents a tour de force in the form of a bunch of studies that supposedly prove that religious belief is magical thinking. "In the November 2013 issue of Cognition, Aiyana Willard and Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia report on the relative influence of three cognitive tendencies on three types of supernatural belief, as well as the role of cultural influence." This study supposedly shows that "cognitive biases explain religious belief."
 several studies show that people who think more intuitively are also more susceptible to magical thinking. One intuition that's been proposed as a foundation for religious thought is Cartesian mind-body dualism, the idea that a mind can exist independently of a body. (See chapter 5 of my book The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking, "The Soul Lives On.") This proposition allows for souls, ghosts, spirits, and gods, all made of disembodied mind-stuff. Explanations for dualism include belief in free will and the mutual inhibition of brain areas responsible for pondering feelings and physics.
Of cousre that doesn't say that any of these studies show that religious belief is magical thinking. Instead they present a possibility based upon the notion that more intuitive people are susceptible   to magical thinking. So that says "if you are not careful you  might do some magical thinking." Nor is a link provided between being more intuitive and religious belief. Although I would not doubt that believers are more intuitive, but the lack of prevision of that link is telling.

There just brings up a bait and switch that the Aiyana and Norenzayan study is pulling off. They discuss their methodology:

We used a path model to assess the extent to which several interacting cognitive tendencies, namely mentalizing, mind body dualism, teleological thinking, and anthropomorphism, as well as cultural exposure to religion, predict belief in God, paranormal beliefs and belief in life’s purpose. Our model, based on two independent samples (N = 492 and N = 920) found that the previously known relationship between mentalizing and belief is mediated by individual differences in dualism, and to a lesser extent by teleological thinking. Anthropomorphism was unrelated to religious belief, but was related to paranormal belief. Cultural exposure to religion (mostly Christianity) was negatively related to anthropomorphism, and was unrelated to any of the other cognitive tendencies. These patterns were robust for both men and women, and across at least two ethnic identifications. The data were most consistent with a path model suggesting that mentalizing comes first, which leads to dualism and teleology, which in turn lead to religious, paranormal, and life’s-purpose beliefs. Alternative theoretical models were tested but did not find empirical support.
Notice that anthropomorphism is not linked to religoius beilef but they are going to use it anyway because it's involved in belief. In fact all of these things are descriptions of various overlapping historical artifacts form religious thought because it goes back so far in human history. Most of them have not been disproved, none of them are magical thinking. What's the link bewteen teleology and magical thinking? Teleology means an end goal,  so religious thinking is teleological if and only if it assumes there's a creator who has a plan that's being fulfilled. Why is that in itself magical thinking? It's just logical if there is a creator. Has teleological thinking been proved to always be wrong? No, of course not and it's logical if there is a creator. So actually they are just begging the question. They are assuming there can't be a creator so therefore anything connected with belief must also be connected with magical thinking. This probably goes back to the biases of anti-clerical prejudice, that religion is superstition. So they start with the assumption religious beilef must be magical thinking because it's superstition, thus they just look for typical aspects of religious thought (many of which are connected to ancinet religious texts) and assume it's all magical thinking. No psychological link is provided that proves that teleological thinking is magical thinking.

When he says "several studies" he links back to his own website for the book 7 Laws of Magical Thinking (he uses the number 7 rather than writing "seven" seems infantile). So his article is just a rehash of his website. What are these studies what do they really show? Those are the ones that supposedly show that intuitive thinkers are apt to be suckers for magical thinking if they are not careful, but does it access the percentage of the time that they are not careful? Can't we still check the results by our own logic and empirical data?

One such satment in disclosing these "several studies:"

Psychologists who study the origins of religion say belief in God relies on several intuitions, including a teleological bias (the assumption that certain objects or event were designed intentionally) and Cartesian dualism (the belief that mind can exist independently of the body). So to become an atheist one must second-guess these automatic ways of thinking. And recently a number of studies have supported the idea that belief in God is influenced by cognitive style–how much of a second-guesser you are.
Why is teleology "intuitive" any more than it is logical? If God is what you believe in then is it not logical to assume God has a purpose in crating? it's not prove that necessarily intuitive. Not that they link intuitive thinking with magical thinking. His comment about Cartsteian thinking is ironic since major aspects of atheist thinking is also based upon Cartesian thinking. E.O. Wilson's world view is largley Cartesian and he produced evolutionary psychology which is important to atheist thinking.

One such  study: paper published last year in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General by Amitai Shenhav studuents took cognitive reflection test and answered questions. This is so telling he says "The number of intuitive (incorrect) responses they gave on the CRT was correlated with their belief in God and immortal souls," so in other words intuitive means "wrong." How could one possibly study the validity of intuitive thinking when one defines it as "wrong form the outset? Moreover, they are judging it wrong because it's connected to God, is that not also what makes it "intuitive?" They are just running around in circles demanding that what they believe has to be true and using their baises as the basis for proof. When we look at the actual tests on the study (see link above) we find that the real way they administer it (reported badly by Hustson) was to compare math answers arrived at intuitively with the persons individual belief in God. They compared believers answers to non believers answers. We are infer that the believers missed more. Actually that would mean that intuitive thinking does not correlate to belief in God and that the better intuitive thinking is done by non believers. Why? Because they got more math problems right by intuitive means. That would destroy their link from intuitive thinking to magical thinking. Wouldn't it also matter what one used intuitive sense for? Perhaps intuitive sense is better at God finding than at mathematics. What if that's what it was made for? Massimp Pigliucci sights research and argues that intuition is domaion specific. Some things lend themselves to it and some don't. [1]  
Moreover, both studies demonstrated that intuitive CRT responses predicted the degree to which individuals reported having strengthened their belief in God since childhood, but not their familial religiosity during childhood, suggesting a causal relationship between cognitive style and change in belief over time. Study 3 revealed such a causal relationship over the short term: Experimentally inducing a mindset that favors intuition over reflection increases self-reported belief in God. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)[2]
So in other words because they have some evidence that initiative thinking is part of the stronger religious belief that means that religious belief is produced by intuitive thinking which is mostly wrong and is magical thinking. There are a number of things wrong with that methodology. That's not the same as proving that religion itself is derived from intuitive thinking. That is not even investigating the logic that goes into it. Nor does it investigate the right answers in one's personal life that lead to believe, they don't even offer a theological measuring devices for such answers. Putting up a bunch of math problems is not valid. People don't arrive at belief by just saying "I sense that God is really there." There is a sense of God's presence that people  have and they are totally confusing that sense with 'intuitive' thinking,' they don't have it they don't know how it feels or works so they assume it's "intuitive." Moreover, the term "intuitive" can refer to different things. There's no link that the kind of intuitive thinking (guessing) about the math is the same kind done by religious thinkers.

 There's an article in N.Y. Times that illustrates scientific work depending upon and being  conformed by intuitive thinking. The article is a chapter form a book by Philip Lieberman, Eve Spoke, Human Language and Human Evolution.[3]  The book is based upon scholarly work.

Over the past thirty years my colleagues and I have studied monkeys, chimpanzees, infants, children, normal adults, dyslexic adults, elderly people, and patients suffering from Parkinson's disease and other types of brain damage. We have also examined the skulls of our fossil ancestors, comparing them with those of newborn infants and apes. The focus of these studies has been the puzzle surrounding human evolution. Why are we so different from other animals, although we are at the same time so similar?...In some deep, unconscious way we "know" that dogs, cats, chimpanzees, and other intelligent animals would be human if they could only talk. Intuitively we know that talking = thinking = being human. The studies discussed below show that this intuition is correct.
 This may upset young earth creationists, which I don't  mind doing, but it doesn't disrupt my Christian faith because I don't see evolution as a disruption. Nor does it disprove the existence of the soul because that depends upon answering the question "why is it we did evolve to talk and other animals did not? There are two points that refute Hutson's ideas: (1) not only does religious belief depend upon intuitive thinking of a kind (at certain points) but so does scinece as well. (2) this scientist thinks that the intuitive thinking is proved correct by the scinece. So intuitive thinking is not always wrong. Some studies backing this up have shown that the correct results of intuitive thinking, while not better than other forms of knowing, are not worse.[4]

 U.S. Navy reserach has yielded so much scientific data backing the notion that there is an intuitive sense that aids troops in battle that they started a program to teach troops how to be more intuitive.

 Research in human pattern recognition and decision-making suggest that there is a "sixth sense" through which humans can detect and act on unique patterns without consciously and intentionally analyzing them. Evidence is accumulating that this capability, known as intuition or intuitive decision making, enables the rapid detection of patterns in ambiguous, uncertain and time restricted information contexts, that it informs the decision making process and, most importantly, that it may not require domain expertise to be effective. These properties make intuition a strong candidate for further exploration as the basis for developing a new set of decision support training technologies.[5]
 Ivy Estabrook, program manager at the office of Naval Resarch, says, "There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence, combined with solid research efforts, that suggests intuition is a critical aspect of how we humans interact with our environment and how, ultimately, we make many of our decisions."[6]

 Published in Popular source Sarah Moore form Alberta School of Business and colleagues from Duke and Cornell have produced research that proves that the first choice one makes is often the right choice. [7] That certainly implies an intuitive choice. While Trisha Greenhalgh discusses research that shows that intution is a valuable aid in medical diagnosis and that it improves with critical thinking about the process.

Intuition is not unscientific. It is a highly creative process, fundamental to hypothesis generation in science. The experienced practitioner should generate and follow clinical hunches as well as (not instead of applying the deductive principles of evidence-based medicine. The educational research literature suggests that we can improve our intuitive powers through systematic critical reflection about intuitive judgements--for example, through creative writing and dialogue with professional colleagues. It is time to revive and celebrate clinical storytelling as a method for professional education and development.[8]
 Not only is it not unscientific, not only can it assist in medical care, but it there's a large body of literature that shows it can be improved. How can it be improved (meaning the answers are right) if it's no good and it never works and it's just magical thinking?


(1) None of the studies demonstrate a real link between intuitive thinking and religious belief. They make an unsupported assertion that teleology and other quasi religious ideas are intuitive thinking. The closest thing to a link is one study that shows that believe was strengthened apart form family tie, but that does rule out logic, empirical data, discussions with friends and individual thought.

(2) The studies that claim to link religious belief with magical thinking are doing a bait and switch whereby the substitute intuitive thinking. They don't bother to consider the venue or the domain but merely assume that if intuitive thinking is wrong for math then it must be wrong for all things. They assume intuitive = magical, probably because they think belief in God is magic or supernatural is magic. Then they assert that since intuitive thinking doesn't work in one domain it work in any domain. Since that tag that as religious thinking then religious thinking is wrong. They actually prove nothing at accept that they are biased against religion.

(3) A vast body of scientific research disproves the idea that intuition is always wrong and doesn't work. It's not only backed by science it's part of science. I give examples of scientific work that is based upon intuitive thinking. It's not more special and unique to religious thought than is logic. Nor is it always wrong. The scientific reserach shows it has it's place where it's right, that including not only some scientific work but also medicine.


[1]Massimo Pigliucci, Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life , New York: Basic books, 2012.

Massimo Pigliucci (Italian pronunciation: [ˈmassimo piʎˈʎuttʃi]; born January 16, 1964) is the chair of the Department of Philosophy at CUNY-Lehman College.[1] He is also the editor in chief for the journal Philosophy & Theory in Biology.[2] He is an outspoken critic of creationism and advocate of science education.

[2] Shenhav, Amitai; Rand, David G.; Greene, Joshua D. "Divine intuition: Cognitive style influences belief in God." abstract on line: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 141(3), (Aug 2012), 423-428 abstract on Apa Psychnet  accessed 10/2/13.
[3] Philip Lieberman, "The Mice Talked at Midnight," except from Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution, New York: W.W. Norton, published in New York Times, on line  accessed 10/2/13
[4]AJ Giannini, ME Barringer, MC Giannini, RH Loiselle. Lack of relationship between handedness and intuitive and intellectual (rationalistic) modes of information processing. Journal of General Psychology. 111:31-37 1984.
[5] Office of naval research Basic Research Challenge: Enhancing intuitive deicsion making.
Solicitation Number: 12-SN-0007
Agency: Department of the Navy
Office: Office of Naval Research
Location: ONR
 accessed 10/2/13.
[6] Ivy Estabrook, uoted in Channing Joseph, "U.S. Program to Study How Troops Use Intuition," New York Times, Wednesday (Oct 2, 2013) story filed March 27, 2012, 5:09 pm on line
 accessed 10/2/13.
[7]Leon Watson ."why we are right to trust out gut intincts:Scientists discover First Decision is the Right One." Mail online updated 30 (August 2011) accessed 10/2/13
[8]Trisha Greenhalgh, "Intution and Evidence--Uneasy Bedfellows?" BJGP:British Journal of General Practice. 52, (478) May (2002) 395-400. On line article  accessed 10/2/13

The last time I blogged, I mentioned the Humanist Ten Commandments (HTC) which have been proposed on the American Humanist Association (AHA) website by Christian Hagen, the communications assistant for the AHA. As I noted, the AHA through Mr. Hagen has proposed the HTC allegedly as an opening for discussions which "might bridge the gap" between evangelicals and nonbelievers over “universal values.”

Of course, I don’t believe that many secularists would accept the idea that there is a commandment of any sort concerning morality or universal values. After all, the word "commandment" suggests the existence of someone giving the command which runs counter to their view that no universal lawgiver exists, i.e., God. Even Mr. Hagen’s article notes that when the idea of the HTC was initially floated by Lech Walesa, some secularists correctly questioned what would guide the decision as to what constitutes these universal values. Undeterred, Mr. Hagen suggests

Thus we propose herein to provide such a list, a Humanist Ten Commandments, that it might serve to aid those questioning the moralities of the universe regardless of their religious belief or nonbelief.

Last time, I wrote that it is inappropriate to call this effort by the name "Ten Commandments" because, unlike Mr. Hagen and his secularist friends who wrote the HTC, most Jews and Christians (like myself) do not believe the Biblical Ten Commandments to be either human-made or negotiable. But letting go of that objection for a moment, I want to focus on the silliness of proposing the HTC as a starting ground for opening discussion between Evangelicals and nonbelievers because the authors of the HTC are either not seriously desiring them to be an opening for discussion or the authors are so blinded by their Humanist faith that they don’t see how close-minded their proposals actually read.

Keep in mind that I think it would be constructive to discuss our differences in the same way I am in favor of all interfaith discussions. In fact, I find that there are some "universal values" in the HTC with which I could probably agree as being a universal value. (This is not surprising because, as the Apostle Paul notes in Romans 2, the laws of God are written on the hearts of all people. Also, most atheists have grown up in Western civilization -- the foundation of which is Christianity. Thus, it should be expected that Christian morality and values would be part and parcel of their worldview in many areas.)  Still, there are also definite ideas in the HTC that I would necessarily reject.  

I won’t set forth the HTC in its entirety, but I do want to highlight Humanist Commandment (HC) 5 through HC 7 as obviously unacceptable and thus not a starting point but an ending point for conversation. Don’t get me wrong; I understand the secular mindset that resulted in writing these three HCs in this way. But if the alleged purpose of the HTC is to open discussion between evangelicals and nonbelievers then these three HCs represent a dead-end to that conversation.

HC 5 reads:

5) Thou shalt use reason as your guide. Science, knowledge, observation, and rational analysis are the best ways to determine any course of action.

Now, no thinking Christian opposes using reason as a means of reaching decision. Christians have long used science, knowledge observation and rational analysis in their thinking, writing and work. Moreover, the Bible, much to the surprise of many uninformed skeptics, is a book that calls for people to use their reason. In Isaiah 1, God, through the prophet Isaiah, calls on men to reason with Him. Luke explains that what he is relating in his Gospels are matters that he has personally investigated. John presents evidence for his claim that people should believe in Jesus. Reason is at the heart of the Gospel. HC5, however, basically forecloses the role of divine inspiration or prayer as a source for reaching a decision. 

The wording used in HC5, i.e., that “science, knowledge, observation, and rational analysis are the best ways to determine any course of action” will immediately be seen by a Christian as skeptical shorthand to exclude other means of reaching truth because the notable omission from the list is divine revelation or divine guidance. In fact, many of the accounts of God’s intervention in the Bible are counter-intuitive to where rational analysis would lead. Consider Gideon, who was told to send most of his army home before battling the Midianites (Judges 7). This was clearly not in line with typical military tactics and no one would have seen that as the result of "rational analysis". Even the means chosen by God to save mankind from sin was counter-intuitive (even if it can be readily understood and explained in retrospect). 

Thus, while science, knowledge, observation and rational analysis often can be a good way to reach a good, feasible solution to a problem, it is not the case that it is necessarily the best way to determine a course of action. Saying that they are the best way is not going to be acceptable to Evangelical Christians.

HC6 reads, 

6) Thou shalt not force your beliefs onto others, nor insist that yours be the only and correct way to live happily.

Of course, we can agree with the secularist that Christianity should not be forced on another person. In fact, the vast majority of Christians would agree that belief cannot be forced on a nonbeliever – faith is a voluntary surrender to the Lordship of God. But the second part of HC6 goes to the heart of the truth of Christianity. HC6 is clearly simply a proclamation that Christianity’s claim that Jesus is the only way is immoral. 

If Secularists cannot get Christians to abandon their beliefs altogether, Secularists desire to marginalize Christianity by reducing it from truth to mere belief. And not only is it a mere belief, to the Secularist the Christian belief is simply a viewpoint that involves only the believer. It has no more power than a person’s belief about music, movies or food. Thus, writing that people should not “insist that yours be the only and correct way to live happily” is a direct attack on the truth claims of Christianity. Evangelical Christians (who the HTC is supposedly trying to bring to the table) would never agree in any way that their view is not true for everyone and that the only way to God is through Jesus. (John 14:6) Saying that the claim of Christian exclusiveness is immoral will serve as a strong disincentive to further conversation.

HC 7 reads, 

7) If thou dost govern, thou shalt govern with reason, not with superstition. Religion should have no place in any government which represents all people and beliefs.

HC7 is similar to HC5 in that it is actually discounting divine guidance when it says that people ought to govern with reason and not superstition. It is probably also intended to be short-hand for excluding prayer at public or governmental gatherings. But it goes further than this by saying, “Religion should have no place in any government which represents all people and beliefs.” (Emphasis added.) No place? No place at all? Does this mean that people of faith should be excluded from public office? I know that some Secularists believe this. 

But even if these are more moderate Secularist who merely mean that we should not be incorporating religious doctrine into law, then HC7 is essentially declaring that Christians should cede public policy to the Secularists because they hold the only correct view of the world. Consider, as an example, the gay marriage debate. Supposedly, only Christians oppose gay marriage because of their blind faith in the Bible. Looking at it from the Secularist viewpoint, Secularists (who are largely in favor of gay marriage) will obviously have the correct view of the issue since free of the “superstitious” beliefs that are clouding the view of Christians. In other words, Christians need to shut up and keep their religion in their churches where it belongs while letting the wiser, knowledgeable, scientific, reason-based Secularists to make the decisions. But that’s simply not how the United States government has been set up. Christians, being citizens, are allowed to advocate and argue for their view of what constitutes a good society consistent with their Christianity in the same way and to the same extent that Secularists are free to advocate and incorporate in law their beliefs. Neither side can put into law a provision that requires a particular means of worshiping or not worshiping God. But this provision is the Secularists’ attempt to “have their cake and eat it, too.” They want to have their point of view (which is a religious belief) declared the only legitimate view for governing so that they can strike down any law that comes from a Christian world-view as promoting religion.  

No, the HTC is not a legitimate starting point for conversation that will "bridge the gap between Evangelicals and nonbelievers." It is a way for some Secularists to feel better about themselves by claiming that they are trying to bridge that gap while they are actually either being disingenuous or really ignorant. I leave it to the reader to decide which is the more likely.

A couple of days ago, I received the Humanist newsletter. It links to an article on the American Humanist Association website entitled “The Humanist Ten Commandments” by the inappropriately named Christian Hagen who is the communications assistant for the American Humanist Association.  Mr. Hagen (for I cannot call him “Christian”) has decided to propose a new set of commandments (complete with the use of the archaic “Thou Shalt” at the outset of most of the commandments to give them gravitas) to take the place of what he apparently views to be those poor, outdated Judeo-Christian commandments. Why? Well, according to the introduction to the article,

At a summit of Nobel Peace award winners in Warsaw, Polish Nobel Peace laureate Lech Walesa called for a “secular Ten Commandments,” a guide for universal values that transcend religious beliefs. The response has been a heated debate among secularists about what could constitute such a guide. And while some have criticized the idea for being too dogmatic, others have embraced the notion of a set of rules which might bridge the gap between evangelicals and nonbelievers.

There is so much wrong with the idea of creating new commandments to “bridge the gap between evangelicals and nonbelievers” that I hardly know where to begin breaking this down.  Let’s start with this: for believers, the Ten Commandments are the Word of God. Neither Jews nor Christians (except those in the most liberal denominations, i.e., those who have shown a tendency in the past to disregard the Scripture when it does not coincide with their secularized understanding of what God seeks) are apt to believe that they have the freedom to change what God has said. Thus, if the goal is to get us to seek out our common ground on universal values, working out these areas of agreement should not be put into terms of a new “ten commandments.”

Second, and more importantly, I don’t understand how a secularist could believe in universal values. It seems to me (and the Secularist Ten Commandments back this up in Commandment number 7) that the secularist who is committed to the world of matter that can be tested (what Mr. Hagen refers to  as “[s]cience, knowledge, observation, and rational analysis” independent of any supernatural causes) as the sole means of true knowledge must necessarily conclude that any so-called “universal values” arose by nothing more than natural selection and cannot truly be universal. Instead, the secularist must conclude that these values really are simply pragmatic activities that arose because they best enabled one generation to pass its genes along to the next generation.

Allow me to give an example. If the goal is to pass along the genes to the next generation, then the secularist must explain in those terms where traits such as unselfishness or altruism come from. They do try. Thus, the “kin selection theory” posits that altruism arose as a means of indirectly passing one’s genes on to the next generation. According to an article on entitled “Where does good come from?:

[The kin selection theory] says that an organism trying to pass its genes down to future generations can do so indirectly, by helping a relative to survive and procreate. Your brother, for example, shares roughly half your genes. And so, by the dispassionate logic of evolution, helping him produce offspring is half as good for you as producing your own. Thus, acting altruistically towards someone with whom you share genetic material does not really constitute self-sacrifice: It’s just a different way of promoting your own genes.

Humanist Commandment number 2 notes, “Thou shalt be curious, for asking questions is the only way to find answers.” So, I believe it is appropriate to ask the underlying question: why should we conclude that simply because the act results in passing along one’s genetic material to another generation that the act is necessarily a good thing that we ought to promote? After all, I can think of several ways to pass along genetic material to the next generation that would not be considered consistent with what most people would believe to be moral, in line with “universal values” or even remotely acceptable. One could consider, as examples, father-daughter incest or rape (both of which violate Humanist Commandment number 3). After all, both result in the genetic material being passed along, but neither is considered good or moral by secularists or virtually anyone else. So, it cannot be the case that simply because the act achieves the goal of passing along genes to the next generation that it makes the act a good.

A secularist could respond that the passing along of genetic material is not the absolute measure for determining value. Rather, there are other competing values that limit the number of ways that acts which pass along genetic material can be considered good. For example, we know that incest leads to genetic issues. Thus, one could argue that passing along genetic material in a manner that is likely to result in genetic problems cannot be considered an act to value. Rape violates another principle that we ought not hurt other people in our group (Humanist Commandment number 3) which is considered a value because we need to be cohesive as a society and not hurting others in our society is the best means of the society going forward and, hence, passing the inhabitants’ collective genes along to the next generation.

Both of these seem okay on the surface until other questions are asked, such as "Why does the one value supersede the other?" Looking at the passing along of genetic material through incest, is it necessarily true that not passing along defective genetic material is a good that we ought to be promoting? It is certainly true that genetic defects are more readily passed along when the individuals are related Yet, if we are really concerned with passing along genetic material that is free from defects, why do we not oppose people with Learning Disabilities marrying and having children? After all, some learning disabilities are hereditary, so if our sense of morality or universal values are based on whether non-defective genes are passed along to the next generation then we should feel the same value revulsion from reproduction through people with learning disabilities as we do with incest. But we not only reject the notion that a person with a learning disability should not marry, we promote marriage and pro-creation by individuals with disabilities. See, e.g., Personal and Sexual Relationships for people with Learning Disabilities: A guide for parents and carers. How can that be if morality or values are based on the risk of passing genetic defects?

As far as the case of rape, let me start by saying that I totally agree that rape is wrong and repugnant. In making the point in this paragraph, I am not advocating that rape is good or that the rapist should not be punished. However, history has shown that societies can and do survive if the women in the society are treated as little more than baby-producers. Rape, while degrading and likely harmful to the woman, is an effective way for the stronger males to pass along their genetic material to the next generation. Yet, the secularist who believes that values such as altruism and care for others arose from the desire to pass along genetic material has not explained why the promotion of care for others in the group (such as women, and thus opposing rape) should be more important than preventing rape if both arise as an evolutionary means of passing along genetic material. Why does the first supersede the second from a purely evolutionary standpoint?

The secularist may argue that our views of the acceptability of both rape and incest have changed over time showing the evolutionary nature of the process. I certainly agree that time has changed the rules about incest and how women are treated. But simply saying that it occurred is not the equivalent of showing why it occurred. Saying that we know secular-based evolution of the views of incest and rape have occurred because the rules have changed is a clear example of begging the question. As a Christian, I have a basis for explaining the changes in the way we treat both incest and rape and a reason for saying that these changes are good. I am not sure that the secularist has either. Certainly, the reason that they put forth (passing along genetic material) seems to not have sufficient explanatory power to answer the questions that I have posed throughout this post.

I welcome someone to explain this to me in the comments. 

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