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Jul 02 2012

Don’t trust the pop psychologists, either

So Jesse Bering had a recent article in Salon in which he said we shouldn’t trust the godless — because psychology blah blah blah fear of an observant deity blah blah untrustworthy blah. Blah blah.

I didn’t like it.

So I wrote a quick rebuttal, and Salon has published it: Don’t trust the religious.

180 comments

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  1. 1
    PZ Myers

    First comment over there:

    If you are an atheist that respects belief . . . who cares, but if you are threatened by it (the only reason this shit wrote this) life is tougher when you are a self absorbed arrogant ass.

    Yay!

  2. 2
    robro

    Yet another way to sucker the gullible. Just put out a “dogged eared” Bible and hang a cross somewhere, and the devout will believe anything you say or do because you must be of the highest moral fiber. No one would do such a thing for a cynical purpose. Oh no. Never.

  3. 3
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    You damn atheists and your convenient ethics.

  4. 4
    Johnny Pez

    PZ, Salon identifies you as “a prominent atheist”. You ought to insist that you be correctly identified as a prominent poopyhead.

  5. 5
    daniellavine

    Bering:

    In crunching the salacious online numbers, Edelman discovered that the U.S. population is significantly less likely to purchase online subscriptions to pornographic websites on Sundays than they are on any other day of the week.

    And yet the Bible Belt states lead the nation in porn subscriptions overall. Those Bible thumpers must really be packing it in the other 6 days of the week.

    Bering again:

    After all, who in their right mind would lie before God? Well, as these findings suggest, atheists are more likely to do so.

    Well, based on the last bit of evidence, they DO lie before God. And after God. Just not during God.

    And that’s a big blind spot for a psychologist to have. He goes on and on about how moral Christians are while they’re explicitly thinking about God. I think if Bering really thought this through instead of just throwing some linkbait on Salon he’d realize that he’s better off trusting the person whose sense of morality isn’t hugely context dependent.

    I’d also think a psychologist might have read Altemeyer’s work on RWAs and realized that the same religious folk who give twice as much to charity as non-believers (hence indicating their morality to Bering) also tend to be self-righteous hypocrites. The more screamingly religious they are, the more likely they are to be hypocrites.

  6. 6
    daniellavine

    BTW, responses to FIRST! are great:

    dubo6524
    Monday, Jul 2, 2012 02:55 PM EDT

    Spoken like a self absorbed arrogant ass who feels threatened by atheism…

    SusanMcSalon Core Member
    Monday, Jul 2, 2012 03:02 PM EDT

    First time reading PZ Myers, eh? Get used to it; he’s phenomenal.

  7. 7
    Dabu

    So, being religious gives you the social cachet to pick and choose the taxi queue head? There’s a fine example of Mr Bering’s god-given moral responsibility.

  8. 8
    cactuswren

    The most overtly religiously devout boss I ever had was also the most overtly and blatantly dishonest, lying on a daily basis to the home office, to clients, to respondents, and to his own employees; demanding that employees lie just as regularly to the home office, to clients, and to respondents. (He was genuinely shocked if ever any employee was less than scrupulously honest with him.)

  9. 9
    Forbidden Snowflake

    In crunching the salacious online numbers, Edelman discovered that the U.S. population is significantly less likely to purchase online subscriptions to pornographic websites on Sundays than they are on any other day of the week.

    There tend to be many spouses and children hovering around the house on Sundays, potentially inhibiting porn consumption.

  10. 10
    Glen Davidson

    I always trusted Madonna, because she wore crosses, and then Kabbala stuff when she took up that fad. Because jewelry and icons mean so damned much…

    Look, I don’t know, I might prefer a committed Xian, if I could tell who that was (and how would I do that?), in a place where price gouging was common. So what?

    The truth is that you don’t have a lot of reason to trust most strangers, regardless of religion. But the taxi is a special situation, where you might indeed expect less from, say, a true anarchist, than from a truly religious person.

    What about in Japan? Should I expect better behavior from an atheist, a Buddhist, a Shintoist, or a Xian? The fact is that most of them would at the least not rob you, and some religionists know how to rationalize bad behavior very well.

    Who would I trust to teach honest science in the US? Or doesn’t that count for anything at all?

    Glen Davidson

  11. 11
    IslandBrewer

    And yet the Bible Belt states lead the nation in porn subscriptions overall.

    I got it! I’m going to open a porn shop in Oklahoma, with dog-eared bibles and crucifixes in the window!

    A good trustworthy Christian porn dealer! Maybe there’s an untapped porn market for atheist/christian bondage and roleplaying!

  12. 12
    Jadehawk

    In crunching the salacious online numbers, Edelman discovered that the U.S. population is significantly less likely to purchase online subscriptions to pornographic websites on Sundays than they are on any other day of the week.

    no shit. this is a pretty well-known phenomenon, that the religious are primarily religious on Sunday. Soo many Christians party on Saturday and repent on Sunday.

    This is the opposite of showing that religion makes people more ethical.

  13. 13
    Jadehawk

    After all, who in their right mind would lie before God? Well, as these findings suggest, atheists are more likely to do so.

    does not compute.

  14. 14
    daniellavine

    Maybe there’s an untapped porn market for atheist/christian bondage and roleplaying!

    Umm, I think Mel Gibson tapped that already. I apologize for the revolting double entendre.

  15. 15
    Tak the Hideous New Girl

    I work for a lawyer and any time someone says something to the effect of, “I’m a Christian, I don’t lie,” we know that the opposite is true.

    Just sayin’

  16. 16
    Jadehawk

    oh hey, someone already called PZ a communist in the comments

  17. 17
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    PZ, Salon identifies you as “a prominent atheist”.

    It also identifies him as “the science blog Pharyngula.”

  18. 18
    mcwaffle

    It’s the “explicitly thinking about God” part that gets me. If you honestly believed there was a God, wouldn’t that literally be the very first thing you thought about before doing anything? That’s why it’s so outrageous to me that so many religious folks haven’t read the bible. I mean, isn’t that supposedly the absolute most important thing in the history of the universe? You can’t take a few hours to do the most important thing possible?

    For the amount of power they put on this God of theirs, they really don’t often follow through rationally. But I guess that’s to be expected.

  19. 19
    Moggie

    In crunching the salacious online numbers, Edelman discovered that the U.S. population is significantly less likely to purchase online subscriptions to pornographic websites on Sundays than they are on any other day of the week.

    Wait. People pay for Internet porn?

  20. 20
    ChristineRose

    Christians are more likely to steal because even if they get caught and go to prison, God will forgive them and they will still get to spend eternity in heaven, whereas a stealing atheist has the potential to mess up his entire life.

    Well not really, but sometimes the depths of people’s blind spots amaze me.

  21. 21
    ButchKitties

    For the record, the dog-eared copy of the Bible that frequently resides in my car’s passenger seat is there because I’m a religious studies major, and I need it for school. Not everyone who reads the Bible believes in it.

  22. 22
    curtisnelson

    “I always just hop in the passenger seat of the car and tell the driver my destination — scrutinizing the car and driver is just a little creepy and weird.”

    Nice response except for the “creepy and weird” bit. Describing someone you disagree with who has observed something as creepy and weird for making the observation is becoming too common a way of discrediting them out of the starting gate. It is not creepy or weird to notice what this guy did about those two cabs.

  23. 23
    mcwaffle

    I think a subscription to paid internet porn is probably a good indicator of lack of internet savvy. Or, I guess, an indicator of very specific tastes. Could probably go either way.

  24. 24
    Randomfactor

    Salon identifies you as “a prominent atheist”.

    How can THAT be? He hasn’t recently converted to Catholicism, has he?

  25. 25
    a miasma of incandescent plasma

    I’m glad you went with the idea that you acknowledge those were good studies, but can’t necessarily be extrapolated to be applicable to every situation and ignore nuance.

    My first reaction to the “god deterrent” argument was to compare it to the “death penalty deterrent” argument, where contrary to the argument the numbers tell us it’s not a deterrent at all. And the death penalty is, you know, real. If humans really did have negative behavior deterred by a potentially-existing know-it-all, you’d think there’d be at least a hint of a statistical hiccup that would decrease murder rates in those states with a really-existing death penalty consequence.

    But, um, no.

    But hey, maybe I’m making a Bering-esque mistake by extrapolating and applying one finding to fit another model.

  26. 26
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Be good because God is watching you masturbate?

    If the threat of being observed was a proper deterrent, CCTV cameras would have put an end to all crime by now. At least they’re real.

  27. 27
    peggin

    I wonder if there are any statistics on how many people behaved the same regardless of whether they were exposed to those words, and how their religious beliefs compared to the people who altered their behavior. Because, really, the fact that some people behave more ethically immediately after being exposed to religious terminology doesn’t prove that “god” makes people act ethically. Really, the very fact that they act less ethically when NOT exposed to those words kind of proves the opposite.

    I mean, say you’ve got two kids, one who always behaves himself and the other who only behaves himself when you remind him “I’m going to be watching you, and if you’re good you get a cookie, but if you’re bad I’ll spank you.” Isn’t saying this study shows that a god belief makes people act ethically kind of like saying that the second child is the more ethical child?

  28. 28
    Jadehawk

    why is bering saying that it’s the punitiveness of god that makes people cheat less? I mean, ffs, people also cheat less when you paint an eye on the wall, and I don’t think anyone can argue anyone believes the painting of an eye is going to punish them. it seems rather that people simply cheat less when they feel observed.

    I’d be far more interested in the effect of believing oneself saved/forgiven on the likelihood of cheating, tbh.

  29. 29
    petejohn

    @daniellavine

    And yet the Bible Belt states lead the nation in porn subscriptions overall. Those Bible thumpers must really be packing it in the other 6 days of the week.

    I live in a reasonably civilized area of Missouri. The rural areas are wracked with a lot of poverty and a total lack of opportunity for anyone who can’t get themselves out, or who choose not to for a variety of reasons upon which I won’t speculate. Those areas are full of pro-life and pro-gun billboards, and while we don’t have dozens of megachurches like some of our neighbors to the south, we certainly have a lot of churches within spitting distance of the highways.

    But you know what else we have in those areas?

    Porn and sex shops.

    The drive from St. Louis to Kansas City is best done by hopping on I-70 and heading due west through the urban sprawl of St. Louis, through Columbia (where U. of Missouri is) and then through KC’s sprawl. In between there’s a lot of countryside. And porn/sex shops. I’ve never counted, but the number is certainly higher than 5. All are in full view, or have big signs pointing one in the right direction. So, the message is that, in Missouri at least, rural areas have guns, god, and porn. And soybeans.

  30. 30
    Jadehawk

    also, considering that the church-crowd are the worst tippers, and that voting in a church seems to make people more likely to vote Republican, I dispute that thinking about deities makes people uniformly more moral

  31. 31
    anteprepro

    You know, you would think that “religious people act more moral when reminded of God” wouldn’t be touted as laudable. They desperately want “more religious people act better than less/non-religious people” and get instead something as pathetic as “religious people are moral when you remind them they are supposed to be religious and more moral”. That should be fucking damning to anyone who doesn’t think that 3rd graders acting better when they think the teacher is watching is the ultimate example of how adult morality should work.

  32. 32
    petejohn

    @peggin, 27

    I mean, say you’ve got two kids, one who always behaves himself and the other who only behaves himself when you remind him “I’m going to be watching you, and if you’re good you get a cookie, but if you’re bad I’ll spank you.” Isn’t saying this study shows that a god belief makes people act ethically kind of like saying that the second child is the more ethical child?

    It’s amazing that many of the faithful really think the second kid is a shining example of morality. “Do what you’re told so you can get the big prize” is the best they’ve got.

  33. 33
    Ida Know

    Frankly, I’d be scared to get into the cab with the cross, etc. I’d be afraid that they’re going to drive as if they’re expecting divine intervention.

    (I’ve seen too many boneheaded moves in traffic made by vehicles with “In God We Trust” plates. Of course, they *are* very popular in my state, so it’s very likely confirmation bias on my part.)

    Beyond that, there’s just something about people who try too obviously to convince others of their trustworthiness (which is how ostentatious displays of religious faith strike me) that makes me want to back away as fast as I can.

  34. 34
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Interesting.
    The article The Dishonesty of Honest People: A Theory of Self-Concept discusses experiments in which the effects of priming for honesty were measured (the subjects were given the opportunity to cheat on a test). It seems that priming with the Ten Commandments decreased cheating, but so did priming with an allusion to the subject’s university’s [nonexistent] honor code.

  35. 35
    graham

    My first gut reaction on seeing the two taxi drivers would be to go for the one without the bible, on the grounds that the guy with the bible may well be ‘wearing his religion on his sleeve’ as some kind of con trick (A close friend of mine having been completely ‘done over’ by a business associate whose USP was ‘you can trust me, I’m a Christian’). Alternatively if he were genuinely so devoted to religion that he felt the need to have a bible close to hand I’d worry that he might be placing so much faith in his god looking after him that he might be neglecting more practical ways of keeping safe- like making sure his tyres aren’t bald or that he’s not driving under the influence. Then when the adult part of my brain kicks in I’d go for the first guy in the queue, partly as PZ said because that’s the etiquette, and partly I’d be assuming that every driver in the queue is licensed and therefore meets at least some basic standard of competence.

  36. 36
    Johnny Pez

    Be good because God is watching you masturbate?

    Or ceiling cat. One or the other is bound to be watching.

  37. 37
    daniellavine

    But you know what else we have in those areas?

    Porn and sex shops.

    Yeah, they’re thumping something all right. It ain’t the Bible.

  38. 38
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Just another data point on the “Chrisitans are hypocritical liars” graph– Catholic women in the US use birth control at just about the same rates as the rest of us. Are they thinking about God when they pop that little pill?

  39. 39
    Johnny Pez

    the guy with the bible may well be ‘wearing his religion on his sleeve’ as some kind of con trick

    This is why 419 fraudsters are always overtly religious. They figure their marks will be more inclined to trust them if they spend a lot of time saying “blessings of God be upon you”.

    If he really thinks overt religiosity equals trustworthiness, you have to wonder how many URGENT BUSINESS PROPOSALs Bering has fallen for.

  40. 40
    kifflington

    I got into a cab because it had a cross and bible visible. The cross was upside down and the bible had some blood on it, but that’s still ok, right?

    Seriously, I’m confused how someone with an ‘ology’ under their belt could make statements so lacking in scientific rigour in their connection of observation to, well, supposition. First time poster, long term lurker here, btw, hi :)

  41. 41
    Inaji

    Audley:

    Catholic women in the US use birth control at just about the same rates as the rest of us. Are they thinking about God when they pop that little pill?

    If God enters into it at all, it’s “oh, God will understand or God will forgive me”. No one in their right mind would trust God to prevent pregnancy, and they obviously don’t.

  42. 42
    bastionofsass

    So, a comment that I thought was about taxi etiquette is really about good vs evil, ethics, science vs religion, free will, and PZ’s beard color?

    I really must try to improve my reading comprehension.

  43. 43
    peggin

    Audley Z. Darkheart (liar and scoundrel) @ 38

    I was raised Catholic, and most of my family is still Catholic, so I know plenty of Catholic women who take birth control, and what most of them are thinking is that the Pope is wrong about that issue. IMO, it’s not hypocrisy, unless they’re out there telling other people not to use birth control even though they’re using it themselves.

  44. 44
    Ingdigo Jump

    Seriously, I’m confused how someone with an ‘ology’ under their belt could make statements so lacking in scientific rigour in their connection of observation to, well, supposition. First time poster, long term lurker here, btw, hi :)

    astrology, theology, phrenology.

    There’s sadly a good number of practicians of psychology who have been fighting tooth and nail against the rational effort to bring more and more empiricism into their field.

  45. 45
    SnowyBiscuit

    When I click “continue reading” at the Salon.com link (attempting to read some PZ) nothing happens. Obviously the baby Jesus is preventing me from reading the godless commie’s prose. (Ironically, said baby Jesus hasn’t prevented me from finding the free internet pr0n.)

  46. 46
    Ingdigo Jump

    I was raised Catholic, and most of my family is still Catholic, so I know plenty of Catholic women who take birth control, and what most of them are thinking is that the Pope is wrong about that issue. IMO, it’s not hypocrisy, unless they’re out there telling other people not to use birth control even though they’re using it themselves.

    Yes it is hypocrisy. If you think the Pope is wrong on an issue of morality you cannot honestly be Catholic. The doctrine is that God would sooner destroy the entire Church foundation then let it’s leader lead people astray. The Pope has spoken with his authority as the mouth piece of God on this issue.

  47. 47
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    considering also that you’re trying to avoid being overcharged, a practice for which this part of the country is notorious…

    Funny thing, when I lived in Ireland some 10 years ago the taxis had little things called “taxametre”, a little gadget where the price for the trip rises at a fixed rate during your ride.
    Maybe they only have it for atheists…

    “If supernatural punishment is held as a belief, then this threat becomes a deterrent in reality, so the mechanism can work regardless of whether the threat is genuine or not.”

    There’s a little problem here: That supernatural skydaddy also left the biggest loophole ever open: Just say you’re sorry. It doesn’t matter if you turn around and do the exact same thing again. There’s no crime so abhorrent in the history of mankind that religious people weren’t able to justify it.

    And yes, the whole morality of the “god is watching you” is no morality at all. It’s fear and obedience. And we know that people obey all sorts of immoral commands out of fear. There’s probably nothing you wouldn’t do if somebody told you to do it while holdig a knife at your child’s throat. And the christian god is not squeamish when it comes to killing children because their parents disobeyed*.
    There is no actual morality in such a behaviour. Right or wrong doesn’t even come into the play. It’s just do as I tell you or…

    *No, I don’t believe that ever happened. But that’s irrelevant. For a threat to be effective the threatened person has to believe it.

  48. 48
    peggin

    “We Are Ing The Matrimonial Collective” @ 46.

    If that’s true, then I have never in my life met a “true Catholic” because I’ve met hundreds upon hundreds of people who consider themselves Catholic, but I’ve never met one who agreed with the Pope on every conceivable issue.

  49. 49
    daniellavine

    If that’s true, then I have never in my life met a “true Catholic” because I’ve met hundreds upon hundreds of people who consider themselves Catholic, but I’ve never met one who agreed with the Pope on every conceivable issue.

    I’m torn. Catholic doctrine DOES say that the Pope is the infallible mouthpiece of God on this Earth. But saying you have to actually believe that to be Catholic is a “no true Scotsman” argument.

    Actually, I’m not very torn. It is hypocrisy to call yourself a Catholic when you don’t believe the primary fucking thing Catholics are supposed to believe.

  50. 50
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    kifflington:

    Seriously, I’m confused how someone with an ‘ology’ under their belt could make statements so lacking in scientific rigour in their connection of observation to, well, supposition.

    A friend of mine works in a VA hospital and regularly hears mental health professionals saying derisive, discriminatory things about LGBTQ people and claiming that being queer is a choice. I don’t know if he’s brought up the various studies that refute these things, but they couldn’t possibly have missed them all.

    First time poster, long term lurker here, btw, hi :)

    Welcome!

  51. 51
    Randomfactor

    Doesn’t this tie in with the OTHER recent misanalyzed study, the one which showed people were more likely to think someone was a rapist AND an atheist than just an atheist? The one which shows that people simply make logical errors when they think about atheists? (And follow-up shows it can be corrected for by reminding them that atheists have to deal with the same police and courts as believers.)

    The writer’s saying that most people will make that logical error. After all, HE admits HE did.

  52. 52
    daniellavine

    Another way to put it — if you call yourself “Catholic” when you don’t believe the things Catholics are supposed to believe then what does that say about your religious convictions?

    To me, it suggests that they’re a matter of convenience, of signs and symbols. As PZ pointed out in the editorial, it’s a cheap signal. They’re not religious believers, they’re part of a social club.

    In which case Catholic convictions about morality are clearly not binding and so they’re not any more trustworthy than atheists. But probably less so since they’re making such a big deal about the trappings of religious belief.

  53. 53
    daniellavine

    Doesn’t this tie in with the OTHER recent misanalyzed study, the one which showed people were more likely to think someone was a rapist AND an atheist than just an atheist? The one which shows that people simply make logical errors when they think about atheists?

    You’re reading too much into that. People are just susceptible to the conjunction fallacy, it doesn’t have anything to do with atheists in particular. A liberal secularist is likely to conclude that “Christian right-winger” is more probable than “Christian” or “right-winger”, which is the exact same fallacy.

  54. 54
    Randomfactor

    No the study showed that people were more likely to make the conjunction fallacy in considering atheists, than in considering other groups.

    Or so I read it…

  55. 55
    ChristineRose

    A Catholic once told me that not absolutely everything the Pope says is true. He has to make a big deal and then it becomes an infallible pronouncement and the Catholic has to believe it. However the Pope has not made the infallible pronouncement on birth control and hence she (quite sensibly) believed he was wrong on that particular point.

    I have never quite been able to figure out whether this position was really compatible with Catholic theology, but I guess it worked for her.

  56. 56
    peggin

    daniellavine @49

    The idea that the Pope is infallible is far from “the primary fucking thing Catholics are supposed to believe.” It wasn’t even really official church doctrine at all until sometime in the nineteenth century. Also, it is only supposed to apply to matter of official religious doctrine. For example, if the Pope decides the Galileo was wrong after all and the Earth really is the center of the universe, Catholics are not obligated to believe it. Many Catholics take the position that birth control, something that was never once mentioned in the Bible, cannot possibly be a matter of official religious doctrine.

  57. 57
    SnowyBiscuit

    @daniellavine — “To me, it suggests that they’re a matter of convenience, of signs and symbols. As PZ pointed out in the editorial, it’s a cheap signal.”

    Which I remember learning on day one of semantics class — the symbol is not the thing symbolized (day two discussed how there’s also no proof that the person who diplays the symbol actually believes in the thing symbolized).

  58. 58
    daniellavine

    It wasn’t even really official church doctrine at all until sometime in the nineteenth century.

    Like I just said, if you call yourself “Catholic” but don’t buy the dogma then it’s not a matter of religious belief. It’s a matter of being in a social club. Doesn’t matter when the doctrine came into existence. Just matters what you believe and why.

    If you don’t believe what the head of the Catholic church tells you about morality then what does it even mean to call yourself a Catholic? Very little.

  59. 59
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Huh. If the town in Ireland were Drumcree, and the year were 1996, one would ostensibly be safer in a more secularly adorned cab.

  60. 60
    daniellavine

    No the study showed that people were more likely to make the conjunction fallacy in considering atheists, than in considering other groups.

    Or so I read it…

    Could be. I don’t know what specific study we’re talking about and I’m ready to put my foot in my mouth if someone has a citation. I just knew that the human brain was generally susceptible to the conjunction fallacy. But thinking about it, it might make sense if RWAs were more susceptible which would probably result in the sort of findings you guys are talking about.

  61. 61
    peggin

    daniellavine @58

    You’re still making a “no true Scotsman” argument, and it still doesn’t define millions of the Catholics in the world out of existence. You want to think the majority of people who call themselves Catholics are hypocrites, that’s your right, but only in the same sense that any person who has ever belonged to any organization (religious or otherwise) who didn’t agree with every one of that organization’s official positions is a hypocrite.

  62. 62
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    For example, if the Pope decides the Galileo was wrong after all and the Earth really is the center of the universe, Catholics are not obligated to believe it. Many Catholics take the position that birth control, something that was never once mentioned in the Bible, cannot possibly be a matter of official religious doctrine.

    Why then fucking make the effort to call one self member of a group whose sole existence is based on the one guy with the funny hat? You know, that’s the thing that makes catholics catholics and not just mere christians. That’s the thing that seperates them from all the other denominations: the idea that the top guy with the most funny hat is that super-special guy who has god’s phone number

  63. 63
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    He has to make a big deal and then it becomes an infallible pronouncement and the Catholic has to believe it.

    Correct.

    For the papal infallibility requires among other things that the pope is speaking ex cathedra which means that he must sit in a special chair and hold the papal conch. Also, chili and cornbread are traditionally served. The chili is wicked hot and the recipe is a secret of the Vatican.

  64. 64
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    It is not a conch. He has to hold the papal pinto abalone. Geez.

  65. 65
    daniellavine

    You’re still making a “no true Scotsman” argument, and it still doesn’t define millions of the Catholics in the world out of existence.

    No I’m not. Saying it doesn’t mean very much to call yourself a Catholic when you’re not a believing Catholic doesn’t define them out of existence. It’s just an expression of my opinion about Catholics-in-name-only. (I’m a “cultural” Catholic so I am very much entitled to this opinion.)

    You want to think the majority of people who call themselves Catholics are hypocrites, that’s your right, but only in the same sense that any person who has ever belonged to any organization (religious or otherwise) who didn’t agree with every one of that organization’s official positions is a hypocrite.

    That is true. I think it is hypocritical to claim to be part of a religion in whose doctrine you do not believe.

  66. 66
    daniellavine

    That is true. I think it is hypocritical to claim to be part of a religion in whose doctrine you do not believe.

    Which is the point that’s relevant to the OP, by the way. If you don’t believe what your religion says about morality then you can hardly claim that the religion is making you more moral, can you?

  67. 67
    paleotrent

    Great response by PZ. Bering’s anecdote reminds me of a hypothetical situation posed to me by my mother many years ago – one which I found revelatory on so many levels. She said to imagine that you’re walking down a dark alley at night, and you see two large African-American men approaching you. Wouldn’t you feel much safer, she asked, if you knew that said men had just left Bible study? My immediate thought (aside from the most obvious one that there were some really god-awful racial prejudices evidenced in said scenario) was that I would also feel safer had I known that they had just left a “Darwin Day” lecture!

  68. 68
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Wouldn’t you feel much safer, she asked, if you knew that said men had just left Bible study?

    Maybe if you’re a straight man…

  69. 69
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    And also, fwiw, Canon Law is several orders of magnitude more baroque than the US tax code. Think about it. It was designed over 1.5 millenia by some of the cleverest doodz in Europe. It is an instrument that allows the learned to wield power over the unlearned. We are unlikely to sift it adequately here. Its best to just reject the whole mess a priori than try to tear it down from the inside.

  70. 70
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    It is not a conch. He has to hold the papal pinto abalone. Geez.

    Case in point. I stand corrected.

  71. 71
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    You know, I’m a football fanatic (that’s soccer to you).
    Mind you, I can hardly remember who won the German championship, and I only know about that one team that lost their place in the premier league because it was all over the news and I have no fucking clue who won the championships in England, France, Spain or Italy.
    I also didn’t watch a single game of the recent European Championship. I read who won it on Pharyngula.
    How dare you say I’m not a real die-hard football fanatic.

    The above is sarcasm and actually on topic.

  72. 72
    bovarchist

    A person’s moral character is best judged by how they behave when they think nobody is watching them. Christians believe someone is always watching them. Ergo, a Christian can never behave in a truly moral fashion.

  73. 73
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Also, re: Infallibility of the Catholic stance against birth control.

    This was set down in the papl encylcical Humanae Vitae in 1968 by Pope Paul VI.

    The jury happens to be out whether this encyclical was ex cathedra. In my mind, PaulVI was clearly not in possession of any abalone when he was seated in the special chair, but I have been wrong before.

  74. 74
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    From my brief scan of the wikipedia entry on Papal Infallibility it looks like There are only a few documents that are broadly agreed to count as infallible doctrine (none of them concern birth control) and there are no clear criteria for making the determination.

    And let’s not pretend like every Catholic who disagrees with the Holy C’s stand on political issues is just some selfish hypocrite. What about those “radical feminist” nuns his holiness so recently denounced? Or the role that liberation theology has played in various struggles against third world oppression? We shouldn’t dismiss these people just because they believe some crazy stories.

  75. 75
    Ingdigo Jump

    Correct.

    For the papal infallibility requires among other things that the pope is speaking ex cathedra which means that he must sit in a special chair and hold the papal conch. Also, chili and cornbread are traditionally served. The chili is wicked hot and the recipe is a secret of the Vatican.

    Except that Catholics are not often told this and the Church is absolutely fine with people mistakenly believing that the Pope has special authority on moral issues.

    They want to have their cake and eat it to. The papal infallibility is very much a case of blatant hypocrisy and hedging.

  76. 76
    daniellavine

    @dysomniak:

    We’re not really arguing about Catholic dogma, we’re arguing about whether Catholics are more trustworthy than atheists. I think that Catholics who don’t believe in Catholic dogma are clearly not trustworthy since they see their religion not as a source of morality (they pick and choose that) but more like a social club.

    @peggin:

    I’m a little curious where the “no true Scotsman” thing ends. Seems to me that if I concede that Catholics remain Catholics even if they reject reams of Catholic dogma then I must also concede that a Catholic need not believe in God. Do you think this is the case — that someone who does not believe in God can with a clear conscience call themselves a practicing Catholic?

  77. 77
    gesres

    One of the best things you’ve written, IMO.

  78. 78
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    I think that Catholics who don’t believe in Catholic dogma are clearly not trustworthy since they see their religion not as a source of morality (they pick and choose that)

    [emphasis added]

    This is what everyone does. Whether you’re religious or not you absorb cultural cultural values and moral arguments from various sources and you pick and choose what makes sense and/or feels right to you. This is no more a reason to trust a religious person than a non-religious person. But hey, Dan Fincke clearly doesn’t believe everything Nietzsche ever wrote – he picks and chooses! Better not turn your back on that guy.

  79. 79
    FluffyTheTerrible

    Ok, this is sligthly off topic, but did anybody notice the crap Loftus posted? Two blog posts, one titled “Ed Brayton, PZ Myers, and Freethought Bloggers, Listen to Me” and the other ”
    Perhaps Ed Brayton and PZ Myers Should Both Apologize” ..he’s going on about how the atmosphere here is not friendly or whatever, and that he had feminist women! eleventy! with links and everything! tell him how they don’t feel safe here.

    On second thought, don’t go read anything there. It will make your blood boil.

  80. 80
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    *no more a reason to mistrust a religious person

  81. 81
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    dysomniac

    Or the role that liberation theology has played in various struggles against third world oppression?

    Which was sucessfully destroyed by John Paul II. Every catholic whi ever actually tried to do something good in this world soner or later got kicked down. Which explains why they loved Mother Theresa so much.

    But hey, Dan Fincke clearly doesn’t believe everything Nietzsche ever wrote – he picks and chooses! Better not turn your back on that guy.

    Very.
    Basic.
    Mistake.
    Daniel Finke agrees with ideas which happen to have been written by Nietzsche. Religioun has it the other way round: ideas (morals, whatever) are good because they come from god.

    Ing

    Except that Catholics are not often told this and the Church is absolutely fine with people mistakenly believing that the Pope has special authority on moral issues.

    I think that’ mixing two things together. One is the ex cathedr thing whic is indeed a rare occurence (I think they have become pretty aware that in this time and age people will read shit back at you), the other one is the pope having special moral authority, which he has, even when not speaking ex cathedra. Remember, he’s god’s very own man on earth ( god is also one of those people who don’t get to vote on who’s going to be that person. Maybe that means that god is a woman after all).

  82. 82
    'Tis Himself

    According to the phfffft of all knowledge, papal infallibility is invoked very rarely. The last time was in 1950 when Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary to be an article of faith which all Catholics are required to accept.

    Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which declared all contraception except Vatican roulette to be a no-no for Catholics, was not an infallible pronouncement. Essentially it was an opinion given by the most senior theologian in the Church, but it’s not an article of faith.

  83. 83
    ChasCPeterson

    And soybeans.

    Monsanto™ brand soybeans.

    AE, you totally made up the papal gatropod thing, right?
    right?

  84. 84
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Except that Catholics are not often told this and the Church is absolutely fine with people mistakenly believing that the Pope has special authority on moral issues.

    To be fair, one of he reasons that they are not told this is that I made up the part about chili. From whole cloth, as it were. Cornbread is a cornerstone, though.

    And also, what Gilliel said. No human on earth is granted more moral authority by more people than he pope.

  85. 85
    ChasCPeterson

    +s
    gastropod goddammit.

    (and I was worried about the trademark thing)

  86. 86
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Heh. “the” pope. He-Pope was a fictional character in The Masters of the Universe series, and as such required the possession of an entirely other mollusc to claim ex cathedral status.

  87. 87
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    AE, you totally made up the papal ga[s]tropod thing, right?
    right?

    Busted.

  88. 88
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    “By the power of Greysquid–”
    HE-POPE!
    “–I have the power!”

  89. 89
    ChasCPeterson

    I only ask because I wasted 5 minutes looking for it.

  90. 90
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    Religioun has it the other way round: ideas (morals, whatever) are good because they come from god.</blockquote.

    And so a religious person who thinks independently on some issue is less trustworthy because?

  91. 91
    Ingdigo Jump

    Because they’re claiming absolute certainty via claiming their subjective opinion is an objective truth

  92. 92
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    How is that different from someone who loyally believes every last word of dogma? It’s still their subjective opinion.

  93. 93
    peggin

    daniellavine

    We’re not really arguing about Catholic dogma, we’re arguing about whether Catholics are more trustworthy than atheists. I think that Catholics who don’t believe in Catholic dogma are clearly not trustworthy since they see their religion not as a source of morality (they pick and choose that) but more like a social club.

    I don’t know what argument you were having but I WAS arguing about Catholic dogma. Also, you’re being ridiculous. Saying that a person can disagree with the Pope on a couple of issues and still be entitled to consider themselves Catholic is NOT the same as saying that a person can reject all Catholic dogma and still consider themselves Catholic.

    You seem to be fixated on believing in everything the Pope says as being the #1 most important thing that makes a person Catholic. When I was studying for my confirmation 30 years ago, we were taught that the most important thing was the emphasis on works — that you aren’t “saved” simply by believing, but that you must also be a good and decent person. I don’t actually believe any of the supernatural stuff anymore, but I do still believe that anyone who actually believes that and lives their life by it will be a better person than someone who believes all you need to do is believe in Jesus. Not that it makes much difference in terms of how moral people of any given religion will actually be, because I know a ton of Catholics who just pay lip service to the “works” part of the doctrine, too.

  94. 94
    Gregory Greenwood

    Take, for example, a situation I found myself in outside a rail station in an Irish seaside town years ago. My luggage in hand, the cold gray sky windy and threatening rain, I was confronted with two taxis at the curb waiting for passengers. One of the cars had a crucifix dangling from the rearview mirror and a dog-eared copy of the Bible on prominent display on the console.

    The other taxi showed no trace of any religious icons. Now, all else being equal, which of these two taxis would you choose, considering also that you’re trying to avoid being overcharged, a practice for which this part of the country is notorious — and that being an American during the W administration, I might add, elevates you one step above our 43rd president in respectability? Both drivers are in all probability devout Catholics — this is Ireland, after all. Still, there’s no way to know for certain.

    Unless you’re trying to make a point about how “atheists are good people too” or you happen to despise the Catholic Church, it’s really a no-brainer: Go with God.

    Maybe I am just getting ever more cynical, but when I read this the first thing I thought was that Bering’s piece talks about religion in general and its supposed effects on more ethical behaviour, but his example deals with exclusively christian, and furthermore catholic, imagery – the bible and crucifix.

    But ‘religion’ is a broader category than ‘christian’. I can’t help but wonder if his attitude would remain consistent if the taxi with the religious symbolism had an islamic crescent dangling from the rearview mirror and a well thumbed copy of the quran on the dashboard, given the unfair stigma that muslims now suffer in Western societies that leads many to automatically associate their religion with terrorism and violent extremism, whether consciously or subconsciously.

    What about if the driver was wearing a yarmulke or a kabbalah bracelet, or had a copy of the book of mormon and the pearl of great price on the passenger seat?

    I think that this is less about the supposedly universal effect of religious belief on honesty, and more about what Bering finds comforting or familiar – his personal confirmation bias and his relationship to socially determined in group/out group dynamics.

  95. 95
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    dysomniak

    And so a religious person who thinks independently on some issue is less trustworthy because?

    Does not compute, because I never made the statement that a religious person is less trustworthy. I would base my evaluation on how trustworthy a certain person is always on my actual knowledge of that person.
    But I think it’s safe to assume that somebody who claims to follow a certain code but then goes on to do/say/believe things that are explicitly against that code has a serious case of cognitive dissonance. And I think it’s safe to say that they are dishonest in that aspect (unless they’re just clueless and I think that holds true for a rather large amount of believers. MOst catholics who don’t believe in transsubstantination don’t do so because they disagree with it but do so because they’ve never heard of it).

    I pointed out that your comparisson with Daniel Fincke was not valid because it’s utting the cart before the horse.

    And no, I wouldn’t trust somebody who can’t come up with a better reason for not stealing than “god said so”

  96. 96
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Sorry for borked tag

  97. 97
    daniellavine

    @dysomniak:

    This is what everyone does.

    Exactly! A cafetaria Catholic is not likely to be any more moral than an atheist. Exactly what I was arguing. Wow, amazing what happens when you actually try to read and comprehend what the other person is saying.

    Oh wait…you thought you were arguing with me? Never mind.

    And so a religious person who thinks independently on some issue is less trustworthy because?…How is that different from someone who loyally believes every last word of dogma? It’s still their subjective opinion.

    If a person believes in absolute, God-given morality and that the Catholic church is the earthly vessel for that objective morality then to be moral one would have to loyally believe every last word of dogma. So not subjective opinion. The objective truth on the authority of the Catholic Church.

    See how it’s phrased as a conditional? It only implies that “independent thinker” is immoral if the condition is true. I don’t believe it is. But if any Catholic doesn’t believe that then I don’t think they’re really much of a Catholic.

    Whether you’re religious or not you absorb cultural cultural values and moral arguments from various sources and you pick and choose what makes sense and/or feels right to you. This is no more a reason to trust a religious person than a non-religious person. But hey, Dan Fincke clearly doesn’t believe everything Nietzsche ever wrote – he picks and chooses! Better not turn your back on that guy.

  98. 98
    daniellavine

    Screwed up, ignore the last paragraph.

  99. 99
    daniellavine

    I don’t know what argument you were having but I WAS arguing about Catholic dogma.

    You seemed to be responding to something I said, but your response was not on topic. I was trying to stop you from derailing. Oh well.

    Also, you’re being ridiculous.

    Trying to make friends, huh?

    Saying that a person can disagree with the Pope on a couple of issues and still be entitled to consider themselves Catholic is NOT the same as saying that a person can reject all Catholic dogma and still consider themselves Catholic.

    When did I say otherwise? What I did was to ask where the line was. I’m honestly curious about that. Why do you say I’m ridiculous for sincerely asking such a question?

    You seem to be fixated on believing in everything the Pope says as being the #1 most important thing that makes a person Catholic.

    No I don’t. I mentioned papal infallibility once, got smacked down, and dropped it. That’s hardly “fixated.”

    The rest of your post is completely irrelevant to anything I am arguing.

    I’m not responding to you again until you stop trying to read my mind.

  100. 100
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    @daniellavine

    Again, what I was arguing against was this (different emphasis added this time):

    I think that Catholics who don’t believe in Catholic dogma are clearly not trustworthy since they see their religion not as a source of morality (they pick and choose that)

    I read that as saying that less dogmatic Catholics would be less trustworthy than stricter ones. Did you mean “not more trustworthy than any other stranger”? if so I apologize for the misreading.

    @gilliel My Fincke analogy was based on this reading of the quoted text. I don’t disagree with the flaws you pointed out but I don’t think they invalidate the analogy for this purpose.

  101. 101
    daniellavine

    I read that as saying that less dogmatic Catholics would be less trustworthy than stricter ones. Did you mean “not more trustworthy than any other stranger”? if so I apologize for the misreading.

    Now that you point it out, I’m sorry for wording that so poorly and to have been so snarky about it when you called it out. No need for apologies from you.

  102. 102
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    I only ask because I wasted 5 minutes looking for it.

    Sorry. It’s difficult to parody the RCC, while making it clear that parody is what’s going on.

  103. 103
    peggin

    daniellavine

    You seemed to be responding to something I said

    Actually, no, you responded to something I said. I had originally responded to something that Audley said and then to something Ing said in response to that. The original issue I had commented on was whether or not it’s hypocritical for someone to use birth control and still consider themselves Catholic. I said I don’t agree that it’s hypocritical because birth control is not a matter of official church doctrine and therefore doesn’t fall under the concept of “infallibility.” If you’re arguing about some larger issue ore really anything else at all in response to my comments, if you’re not arguing about whether or not birth control is an issue of papal infallibility, then we are clearly not even having the same conversation, so there’s really no point in continuing.

    But I will answer your question as to where I think the dividing line is. I think I kind of said this earlier, but I didn’t say “and this is the dividing line”, so maybe I just wasn’t very clear, so I’m sorry about that. There are issues of official church doctrine that fall under the concept of papal infallibility. That includes things like the the need for works and the assumption of Mary. IMO, if a person rejects those beliefs, but continues to call themselves Catholic, then they are much more a cultural Catholic then a “true Catholic”. But that doesn’t apply to everything the Pope says — IMO you can disagree with the Pope on issues that don’t fall under the concept of papal infallibility and still be a “true Catholic”.

    Not that I’m the one who really gets to decide these things or anything, since I don’t believe any of it anymore, but that’s my opinion.

  104. 104
    echidna

    Catholic communities are much, much older than papal infallibility. You can also say that the pope is the bishop of Rome, first among equals. It is sophistry to claim that devout, sincere Catholics are not true Catholics because they recognise that power and politics play a role in the hierarchy of the church that can be quite separate from their beliefs. They recognise themselves as Catholics, and that’s all that is really required. Any other assessment is falling for the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

  105. 105
    alanwilson

    A counter-example to Bering’s argument is the whole country of Japan. This is a godless society and theft is practically unheard of. It’s also physically safe – a stranger, female or male, can walk any street in Tokyo at night without fear. I wouldn’t try that in any of the ‘goddy’ states of the USA….

  106. 106
    echidna

    If you know that God will forgive you anything, if your prayers provide “external” confirmation that your thoughts are the same as God’s, this would seem to justify any action at all, including bad behaviour.

  107. 107
    daniellavine

    Actually, no, you responded to something I said.

    Yeah, I got confused between you and dysomniak, but I was being an idiot regardless. Sorry.

    I doubt there’s any one story on what makes a person a Catholic. The church itself seems perfectly content to count people who don’t believe in any of it or go to church at all so you see the kind of conviction involved here. It’s pretty much a sham on all sides. So…not indicative of morality.

  108. 108
    daniellavine

    They recognise themselves as Catholics, and that’s all that is really required.

    Ah, so I can be a Catholic atheist!

  109. 109
    Randomfactor

    I have hopes of a schism similar to the one which separated Episcopalian from Anglican, leading to the formation of a liberalized North American Catholic Church thumbing its nose at the Vatican. Maybe with an Antipope?

  110. 110
    Randomfactor

    Ah, so I can be a Catholic atheist!

    “Cultural Catholic.”

  111. 111
    Captain Will, Prophet of FSM

    Hahaha, you are my hero PZ! What a great rebuttal!

  112. 112
    daniellavine

    @110:

    Nuh uh, echidna said full-blown Catholic. I’m going with that. =P

  113. 113
    frankb

    For the papal infallibility requires among other things that the pope is speaking ex cathedra which means that he must sit in a special chair.

    Does that mean he doesn’t have to get up to go to the bathroom?

  114. 114
    robro

    pegging said:

    because birth control is not a matter of official church doctrine and therefore doesn’t fall under the concept of “infallibility.”

    I don’t think that’s quite accurate. Opposition to contraception may not have the weight of papal infallibility, but it is a matter of church doctrine as expressly put forward in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical titled “Humanae Vitae” (1968).

    The church’s dogma on contraception is very old and is considered a vital part of their doctrine. As you may know, papal infallibility derives from the infallibility of the church. The church obviously considers the issue of contraception unquestionable on the basis of church infallibility and any Catholic using contraceptives is contravening the teaching of the church. That would, I think, make them hypocrites in the eyes of the church.

  115. 115
    Trickster Goddess

    There is a quote from William S. Burroughs that is always good advice: “If you do business with a Christian, get it in writing.”

  116. 116
    Akira MacKenzie

    Randomfactor @ 110

    “Cutural Catholic.”

    Yes, it’s sort of like diet soft drinks. All the guilt, neuroses, and sexual repression of Catholicism Classic, 0% supernatural bullshit.

  117. 117
    Ingdigo Jump

    “Cutural Catholic.”

    For atheists who hate gays and women and still want to fund pedophiles!

  118. 118
    truthspeaker

    <blockquote.peggin
    2 July 2012 at 4:44 pm

    daniellavine @58

    You’re still making a “no true Scotsman” argument, and it still doesn’t define millions of the Catholics in the world out of existence. You want to think the majority of people who call themselves Catholics are hypocrites, that’s your right, but only in the same sense that any person who has ever belonged to any organization (religious or otherwise) who didn’t agree with every one of that organization’s official positions is a hypocrite.

    I do think that – at least for those organizations that require certain beliefs to remain a member in good standing, which would include the Catholic Church.

  119. 119
    truthspeaker

    Trying again:

    peggin 2 July 2012 at 4:44 pm

    daniellavine @58

    You’re still making a “no true Scotsman” argument, and it still doesn’t define millions of the Catholics in the world out of existence. You want to think the majority of people who call themselves Catholics are hypocrites, that’s your right, but only in the same sense that any person who has ever belonged to any organization (religious or otherwise) who didn’t agree with every one of that organization’s official positions is a hypocrite.

    I do think that – at least for those organizations that require certain beliefs to remain a member in good standing, which would include the Catholic Church.

  120. 120
    truthspeaker

    dysomniak, darwinian socialist
    2 July 2012 at 5:10 pm

    And let’s not pretend like every Catholic who disagrees with the Holy C’s stand on political issues is just some selfish hypocrite. What about those “radical feminist” nuns his holiness so recently denounced? Or the role that liberation theology has played in various struggles against third world oppression? We shouldn’t dismiss these people just because they believe some crazy stories.

    We’re not dismissing them or calling them selfish. We’re just calling them hypocrites, because that’s what they are.

  121. 121
    truthspeaker

    If the ban on contraception isn’t official church doctrine, how come you can’t get a vasectomy at a Catholic hospital?

  122. 122
    truthspeaker

    And if it’s not official church doctrine, then Catholic hospitals and other diocese-owned organizations should have no problem paying for health insurance plans that cover contraception, right?

  123. 123
    strange gods before me ॐ

    at least for those organizations that require certain beliefs to remain a member in good standing, which would include the Catholic Church.

    False claim.

  124. 124
    echidna

    Nuh uh, echidna said full-blown Catholic. I’m going with that. =P

    Well, you’re giving me credit for something I didn’t say, but I like the pun.

    But very simply, truthspeaker, you are not the arbiter of who and what is and isn’t Catholic. The charge of hypocrisy applied to so many people on the basis of their stated religion is dehumanising.

    The idea that people must obey all of the rules, even the contradictory or ridiculous ones, induces guilt when people inevitably don’t follow blindly. The guilt pre-exists anyway, simply by being human (original sin). Double the guilt if you are female. Guilt that the religion promises to relieve by magic words from the priest.

    That’s how Catholicism works, and it’s not the only one that works on guilt. To say that Catholics can’t be Catholic if they sin (i.e. are disobedient) is really, really missing the point of the religion.

  125. 125
    echidna

    Sorry, I seemed to scrunch a reply to daniellevine in with my response to truthseeker.

  126. 126
    andyo

    How about “reluctant catholic”?

    Many of the catholics I know (and it’s almost everyone I know, I’m from Latin America), don’t go to church at all, except for weddings and funerals. They don’t go to confession, and don’t take communion when they do show up.

    I’m probably the athiest of all the people I know, and I’m still a “catholic”, in that the bastards don’t let you go easily. I’m still a number that they tout when they say “hey, there’s a billion of us! I CAN HAZ REVERENZ?!”

  127. 127
    echidna

    I rather like the one that I believe Bill Keller (from the NY Times) coined: collapsed Catholic.

  128. 128
    andyo

    Ugh, I know this is old news, but the new-ish Salon layout is that awful.

  129. 129
    marilove

    andyo
    2 July 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Ugh, I know this is old news, but the new-ish Salon layout is that awful.

    SERIOUSLY. So awful. You can tell they are trying to get page-views. Bleh.

  130. 130
    andyo

    Re: the Bering article.

    Hmm I wasn’t thinking “hypocrite” like he says it sounds “in the surface”. I was thinking quisling.

  131. 131
    Aquaria

    It is not creepy or weird to notice what this guy did about those two cabs.

    But the assumptions this asshat makes are creepy and weird.

    Try to keep up.

  132. 132
    Akira MacKenzie

    I always preferred “Recovering Catholic.” Partially because after 26 years of faith it accurately describes me, but mostly because I know the phrase pisses Bill Donohue off to no end.

  133. 133
    andyo

    The point is that identifying as “catholic” is not like being “christian”, in that it can’t conform to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. You’re a catholic if you have been baptized, and never excommunicated or are formally (paperwork required) an apostate, period.

  134. 134
    andyo

    Like most other organized crime institutions, they keep books with sketchy numbers.

  135. 135
    Aquaria

    If that’s true, then I have never in my life met a “true Catholic” because I’ve met hundreds upon hundreds of people who consider themselves Catholic, but I’ve never met one who agreed with the Pope on every conceivable issue.

    Oh for fuck’s sake!

    If lay Catholics aren’t following church practices, it does not change the fact that those rules are the official positions of the church. It doesn’t change the fact that, technically, people can be run out of the church for not following those practices–if the church has the mind to do so. See: the nun who was excommunicated for authorizing an abortion to save the life of a mother. but that’s the clergy. The laity are harder to control. However, the church could excommunicate parishioners who are using birth control tomorrow. Because it’s their warped club.

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all that some people have been excommunicated for using birth control, even in this day and age. There are vindictive priests and parishioners who could easily make it happen, quietly, or at least out of the public eye. My guess is that the church doesn’t do it often or loudly in the case of the laity, because they seem to have a tacit “don’t ask don’t tell” policy with their parishioners. It might also be that they’re so desperate to keep asses in their pews, to get their tithes so that Joey the Rat can have more Prada boots.

    However, seeming laxity now doesn’t mean there are never consequences for breaking rules within the cult. Because there are. When the church decides it. Also, something being conveniently overlooked right now doesn’t mean it always will be, either. See: Abortion.

    Hint: Don’t bring up the 19th century excuse again. Papal infallibility was decided within a year of the church banning abortion wholesale. And look at how abortion is dealt with by the church these days. Being recent doesn’t mean the church won’t go gonzo over it, if they choose to.

    So it doesn’t matter when the rules came into place. It only matters that the church has them, and is always looking for a way to enforce them. If you think they’re not, then you don’t know enough about your old church, and your old pals who are still Catholic don’t, either.

  136. 136
    Aquaria

    at least for those organizations that require certain beliefs to remain a member in good standing, which would include the Catholic Church.

    False claim.

    Ignorance of canon law is no excuse for that idiotic remark.

    Just because the church is lax now about how people follow their doctrines doesn’t mean it has to be. Or always will be. And if you think the church isn’t swinging to the hard line side, you’re not paying attention.

  137. 137
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    @alanwilson 105
    . It’s also physically safe – a stranger, female or male, can walk any street in Tokyo at night without fear

    Not entirely true for females… The ‘women only’ subway carriages are a reminder of attitudes still held by many Japanese men – and there are areas of Shinjuku I would not want to poke my nose into late at night.

    The stories you have heard about Japanese people handing in wallets etc rather than stealing them are true. I have experienced this several times first hand.

    I think many in the west might be surprised how religious the Japanese people are – but it is woven into their day to day lives in a more matter of fact way than Christianity. They also have a greater respect for authority figures than people in – say – the US might.

    I think the argument still holds as an example of how a non-Christian people can be moral without the constant oversight of a god.

  138. 138
    Aquaria

    That’s how Catholicism works, and it’s not the only one that works on guilt. To say that Catholics can’t be Catholic if they sin (i.e. are disobedient) is really, really missing the point of the religion.

    Not quite.

    You can be disobedient about certain things–as long as you confess your sins and do your penance. That’s what the sacrament of confession is there for.

    However… Confessions isn’t always enough for some sins, is it?

    You know as well as I do that Catholics can’t be Catholic if they disobey what the church teaches in certain ways. Why else would the church have such detailed policies for why to excommunicate–and the procedures to do so, if there weren’t some things that the church simply won’t tolerate? And they do excommunicate people, still, for committing certain sins, even if they do it less rarely or viciously than they did in the past.

    That sort of undermines “to say that Catholics can’t be Catholic if they sin (i.e. are disobedient) is really, really missing the point of the religion”. How is it missing the point of the religion to say that people who aren’t obedient in the ways the church decides can’t be Catholic–when the Catholic church itself says there are certain people who can’t be Catholic if they don’t follow certain rules?

  139. 139
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Ignorance of canon law is no excuse for that idiotic remark.

    Silly Aquaria, it is in fact a false claim.

    It’s not beliefs which keep one in good standing, it’s adherence to the Precepts of the Church, which are all behaviors: go to Mass, confess sins once a year, eat a cracker during Easter season, blah blah blah.

    Just because the church is

    nothing to do with anything I said. Are you drunk?

  140. 140
    jg

    Ignorance of canon law is no excuse for that idiotic remark.

    Just because the church is lax now about how people follow their doctrines doesn’t mean it has to be. Or always will be. And if you think the church isn’t swinging to the hard line side, you’re not paying attention.

    Irrelevant. If the Church doesn’t actually take steps to excommunicate Catholics who aren’t following every little doctrine, then they’re still Catholics according to canon law.

    Otherwise, there wouldn’t be very many Catholics at all. They would have to excommunicate all those who use birth control. But also all those politically-conservative Catholics who 1) support the death penalty, 2) support non-defensive wars, 3) support unregulated capitalism, 4) are opposed to welfare and other forms of social assistance, 5) claim the Bible is the only true word of God, 6) believe the Earth is less than 12,000 years old, 7) believe that salvation lies through faith and not good works–all perspectives in opposition to church doctrine or papal pronouncements of the last three decades or so.

    The Church might be swinging to the hard line lately, but it can only swing in one direction, and only so far. Otherwise there’s not much of a Church left at all. Which will probably happen anyway.

  141. 141
    Akira MacKenzie

    How many times do we have to make this clear? The Catholic Church IS NOT a democracy. It is a relic of Medieval Europe kept alive by millions of gullible fools who drop $20 into collection plate each weekend. Lay Catholics did not elect their leaders. Lay Catholics do not get a say in what the official positions or dogma the church espouses. Lay Catholics are mere to the monarchial hierarchy that exist from parish priest all the way up to Pope Hitlerjugend the First himself. They don’t care what the serfs think, they only care that they do as they are told… and that the checks clear.

    It’s hilarious to watch “liberal” Catholics think that they can somehow affect over 1500 years of aristocratic power by sneaking in a birth control pill or a rubber once and a while.

  142. 142
    jg

    That sort of undermines “to say that Catholics can’t be Catholic if they sin (i.e. are disobedient) is really, really missing the point of the religion”. How is it missing the point of the religion to say that people who aren’t obedient in the ways the church decides can’t be Catholic–when the Catholic church itself says there are certain people who can’t be Catholic if they don’t follow certain rules?

    That is the point: the Church, by its own rules, has to take special steps to throw you out once you’re a member. Most religions don’t.

  143. 143
    jg

    Back to the original question: if I had a choice between the two cabbies (and the “first in line” system wasn’t in effect), I’d choose the one without the religious paraphernalia.

    Far as I’m concerned, there are basically two kinds of religious people: those for whom it’s part of their life, and those for whom it should be part of everyone’s life. Obvious and obnoxious trappings are a good sign of the latter, and they generally won’t shut up about it. I’m not saying the cabbie with the bible and rosary would be a preachy and annoying evangelical type, just that it’s an indicator.

    The last thing I want is to be preached at in a confined space at the mercy of someone else. I’d have the same response if the paraphernalia was political, or supportive of a particular sports team, even if I agreed with the views expressed. I want a cabbie who will drive me from point A to point B, and maybe fill me in on the sites or the news in town–not preach to me in his confined soapbox.

  144. 144
    consciousness razor

    If lay Catholics aren’t following church practices, it does not change the fact that those rules are the official positions of the church. It doesn’t change the fact that, technically, people can be run out of the church for not following those practices–if the church has the mind to do so. See: the nun who was excommunicated for authorizing an abortion to save the life of a mother. but that’s the clergy. The laity are harder to control. However, the church could excommunicate parishioners who are using birth control tomorrow. Because it’s their warped club.

    Uh, well “excommunicated” doesn’t mean you’re no longer a Catholic. It’s sort of just a way of putting people in a corner for time-out to think about what they’ve done. So they’re not supposed to eat the crackers, read from their silly book in Mass, or act in some official capacity for the Church. They want to make it extremely hard to leave the Church, no matter what you’ve done. You can be a murderer, a heretic, an atheist, whatever. It doesn’t matter to them, because they think you can be redeemed and continue to give them money.

  145. 145
    marilove

    If someone had just a cross or one or two small religious things, I probably wouldn’t really care or notice, and would get into the cab that was closet. A lot of cab drivers probably like having a few personal items around, and I can’t blame them. I’d probably be put-off by a LOT of religious paraphernalia, though, mostly because I’d rather avoid that conversation in such an awkward spot.

    All that said, I don’t have a lot of experiences with cabs. The only time I’ve taken them is if I’ve called them before-hand… So who knows.

  146. 146
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    There’s a really good reason why the RCC does not bother to officially excommunicate people who don’t follow their dogma (AFAIK they have a little trick: Doing certain things automatically metaphysically excommunicates you, but nobody will know the difference): Money
    They would bankrupt themselves if they excommunicated all people in Germany who don’t follow doctrine. They might still fire them if they work for them…

    But again: how much do you actually have to follow the teachings of the church and agree with them in order to be able to honestly consider yourself a catholic?
    When are people justified to call you a fucking hypocrite? Most catholics I know heavily disagree with the pope on 90% of what he says but still say that he has and defend his special moral authority.
    Am I justified in calling them hypocrites?
    I’d say yes.

  147. 147
    DLC

    I have to wonder if there isn’t something to the notion of god belief requiring self-deception and a propensity for deceiving others. Once you start lying to yourself, it isn’t such a long journey to lying to others, and if you start lying about Jesus why stop at lying about if you robbed/raped/killed someone ?
    After all, you’re “Saved”, you can confess your sins to God and still get into “Paradise” at the end of your days.

  148. 148
    AJ Milne

    Honestly, I dunno. I suspect if you did one of those unconscious association tests on me, if anything, you’d find I’d have a definite aversion to the bible cab, myself.

    I mean, I do tend reflexively to think of the religious as at least probably slightly sleazy by default, the ostentatiously religious especially so. Can’t so much deny that. That latter thing, especially, I think I can even defend as just a natural and practical association. Y’know… Beware of politicians wrapped in flags, ‘n all that.

    But as a practical measure, and ‘cos I try not to assume the worst of people, I’d just take the first cab in the queue, I’d expect, all the same. And try to remind myself as I did so that I’ve had some lovely conversations with all manners of cabbies, some of whom did variously have prayer beads or sealed plastic Korans hanging from their mirrors…

    Hell, I think, in fact, I might even get into a cab decorated like that truck at the top of PZ’s article* (as opposed to, y’know, unobtrusively circling around, picking up a newspaper or somethin’ as a pretext until someone else had taken that one, to get the next on in the queue)…

    But I’d be doing so on the general assumption that the oddly colourful cabbie is something of a literary trope anyway, and s/he’s probably just dutifully filling out the expected role. And, again, hope I was mostly right.

    (*/Come to think of it, actually, I guess I even have.)

  149. 149
    Kel

    It’s interesting that Bering brought up the studies where people were primed with God-related words, because the same effect was found to happen if you used civic-minded words in place of God. Heck, if you tell students there’s a ghost in the room, they are less likely to cheat on the exam. But as Bering points out, the affect works for believers and unbelievers alike. So how it’s reason, exactly, not to trust atheists is unclear.

  150. 150
    Kel

    Do we take that point about ghosts as reasons to trust believers in the paranormal over sceptics? Perhaps we should take those who are paranoid that the government is watching their every move over those who think it’s a load of hogwash. If they’re wearing a tinfoil hat, it’s a sure sign they’re thinking about someone watching over them, after all…

  151. 151
    richcon

    Unless you’re trying to make a point about how “atheists are good people too” a fucking bigot or you happen to despise the Catholic Church be a different fucking bigot, it’s really a no-brainer.

    There, fixed that bit for him.

  152. 152
    richcon

    By the way, great response PZ. Measured, clear, and less inflammatory than I’d be tempted to be!

  153. 153
    left0ver1under

    Regarding Myers’ response and religious taxi drivers:

    The last time I ended up in a taxi with a driver who turned out to be religious, he tried to take the long way around to run up the meter. It would have added 1-2 kilometres to the trip.

    I made him take me back to where I got in (the car had only gone a half km), and he let me out without charging me (not that I would have agreed to pay, anyway). But then he tried to dump religious pamphlets on me, which I left on the back seat.

  154. 154
    echidna

    aquaria:

    when the Catholic church itself says there are certain people who can’t be Catholic if they don’t follow certain rules?

    It’s really, really hard to become a non-Catholic. I’m still on the books.

  155. 155
    Kel

    Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s book Morality Without God? goes over the studies of this nature. He concludes: “If current studies are accurate, religious people are somewhat more charitable, but then secular people are less prejudiced. Neither side has a monopoly on virtue overall.”

  156. 156
    echidna

    Aquaria:

    And if you think the church isn’t swinging to the hard line side, you’re not paying attention.

    QFT. And also back to trying to enforce their ideas on non-Catholics.

  157. 157
    ricardodivali having sniffles over stiffles

    Even if you are both christians, you may still be overcharged for being the wrong sort of christian.

  158. 158
    scooterskutre

    On the Article….

    Hahahaha good one, PZ. You got all logical and rational and professor on his ass. Great punch line, too .

    Nice job.

  159. 159
    kassad

    What I love in the comments is that despite the fact that Prof. Myers explicitely said that being religious doesn’t not make you a bad person, it is still an attack by a vicious atheist.
    Nevermind the fact that it is a response to a “scientist” explicitely saying that atheists are inherently less trustworthy than the god-fearing folks.

    As for the RCC, it is different acording to where you are, regardless of the dogma. In my country, priests and bishops talk a lot more about social justice, opposition to death penalty or war, while in the States, it is abortion or homosexuality. The divide exists in the hierarchy too. Some priests and bishops support birth control and homosexuality. Some are pro death penalty. When my mother, who is divorced, came to a priest and asked if she could get communion (which isn’t allowed normaly), the priest told her “Of course. God is god, the Church is human”.
    It might be hypocrisy, but I’m not sure it changes anything (exept of course if you argue stupidly that a believer is more trustwothy than an atheist).

  160. 160
    postman

    Given that I had a taxi driver preach to me before, I would rather not enter the overtly religious cab. I wouldn’t want a repeat of that akward experience.

  161. 161
    Ida Know

    I remember when my husband and I were shopping for a used car. One dealer we tried was *uber* religious, and would not shut up about it. Christian, of course, as that’s the prevailing delusion in our area, though I couldn’t tell you what sort of christian (they all tend to blur together for me).

    Practically every other sentence out of his mouth was God this and Jesus that. It was like he was more interested in selling us his church than a car. Or maybe he thought it made him seem relateable and trustworthy. Or it was just automatic. Or I suppose he could have been mentally ill.

    It was creepy. Though as he also looked about 150 years old, it was also almost cute, in a way. We were pleasant to him, but we got out of there as soon as we could. Without buying anything.

  162. 162
    truthspeaker

    I didn’t say they weren’t Catholics, I said they were hypocritical Catholics.

    And there’s nothing dehumanizing about calling people hypocrites.

    If call myself a Marxist-Leninist, but I reject most of the precepts of Marxism-Leninism, doesn’t that make me a hypocrite?

    Same with Catholics who think using birth control isn’t a sin.

    Those Catholics who use birth control but still think it’s a sin aren’t hypocrites, just fools.

  163. 163
    opposablethumbs

    I would be less inclined to trust or feel easy around anyone who is making an ostentatious display of their religious beliefs, particularly any of the big three flavours of monotheism (why trust someone who is effectively declaring that they despise me?). This may be in part because where I live it is not normal to do so, so anyone who does is opting to display an unusual level of obsession; I suppose I might (MIGHT) feel differently if I were somewhere where I knew such displays were low-level background radiation and were probably invisible wallpaper to the cabbie.

  164. 164
    Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts

    I keep reading ‘poop psychologists’. I’m sure there are some that aren’t.

  165. 165
    jimmauch

    Here is a perfect example if the public’s understanding of research projects. One poorly prepared study does not make for the definitive proof for the criminality of atheists. That study should be given no more credence than the discovery of cold fusion.

  166. 166
    Christophe Thill

    I would like a taxi driver relying on good driving, not prayer and amulets, to keep himself and his customers safe.

    I wouldn’t like a taxi driver who would force me to listen to a monologue of his conservative social and political views.

    I would like a taxi driver who looks at the road while driving, not at his bible.

    I wouldn’t like a taxi driver with a “holyer-than-thou” attitude, in an already strongly religious country.

    I wouldn’t like a taxi driver to ask me to pray with him, and throw me off his car when I say I don’t do this kind of things.

    I wouldn’t like a taxi driver prozelytizing to me.

    So I think I’d prefer to avoid Mr bible-and-Crucifix, thank you very much.

  167. 167
    Banned Atheist

    Yah I saw this article on Salon.com and had the same reaction as you, PZ.

    I wrote a take-down: http://banned.bentzine.net/2012/07/02/dont-trust-jesse-bering-salon-com-panders-for-hits-sells-book/

  168. 168
    ricardodivali having sniffles over stiffles

    Morality Without God?

    religious people are somewhat more charitable

    Does that include the church-enforced charity and tithing?

  169. 169
    strange gods before me ॐ

    As a Marxist-Leninist (Maoist), I’ll take this one:

    If call myself a Marxist-Leninist, but I reject most of the precepts of Marxism-Leninism, doesn’t that make me a hypocrite?

    No, it does not. It makes you either:

    1) incorrect about being a Leninist (this is very unlikely, but theoretically possible, if you truly, literally have no idea what Leninism even is, like maybe you just liked the sound of the word)

    or

    2) a Leninist who has a lot of intellectual disagreements with other Leninists.

    (At this late time, by the way, there are so many varieties that “reject[ing] most of the precepts of Marxism-Leninism” is a fair description of every single one of us.)

  170. 170
    trevordavel

    So overcharging is rife among taxi drivers in the area, and most taxi drivers are expected to be catholics … there’s an inescapable conclusion in here somewhere.

  171. 171
    Kevin

    What in the world does private behavior have to do with morality?

    This goes back to the common presuppositional bias that god cares about your genitalia and the method(s) by which you use them.

    That’s not “morality”. That’s a blue-nosed obsession with other people’s business.

    I’m sick of it.

  172. 172
    Kevin

    @Aquaria…

    Normally, I’m right there with you, but in this instance, you’re misinformed. There is no such thing as a sin that ejects you from membership in the church. You just can’t eat the cracker.

    An excommunicated Catholic is still a Catholic. Still expected (required, even) to attend mass, go to confession, pile the contents of her wallet into the collection plate, and all the rest. They just can’t take communion.

    Still a Catholic.

    If it were that easy to leave the church, way more people would have done it by now. And, of course, that’s the reason the church made up those rules. Even excommunicated, you’re still under their control (nominally these days, but completely, utterly, and bodily back in the day). And still part of the membership.

    Just sayin’.

  173. 173
    markr1957

    Aquaria @ 135

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all that some people have been excommunicated for using birth control, even in this day and age.

    Maybe not quite in this day and age but my mother (now deceased) was excommunicated in 1968 for refusing to die following the birth of her 6th child, my youngest sister. Her uterus was so badly prolapsed than a hysterectomy was the only viable option, as otherwise she bled to death.

    The RCC diocese in Hampshire, England wasn’t very accomodating at all and the bishop himself told my father that he would be welcome back in church with us children but only as long as mother didn’t come with us.

    I didn’t hear about the reason for this until many years later (I was just 11 when it happened) but it coincided with the last time we ever went to church as a family.

  174. 174
    daniellavine

    @echidna:

    Well, you’re giving me credit for something I didn’t say, but I like the pun.

    Actually, I was kinda mocking you for something silly you did say:

    They recognise themselves as Catholics, and that’s all that is really required.

    I think it’s ridiculous to claim that self identification is all that’s required to be a member of a religion, and highlighted that by insisting that I can be a Catholic atheist by those marks. The other story I got on what it takes to be a Catholic is from peggin who layed out a few specific beliefs to which one must adhere to be Catholic (in the opinion of peggin).

    Another possibility is that one must be a member of a particular social group to be a member of a religion. The common theme is “what does it actually mean to be a member of a religion.” It does seem rather ridiculous to me to be able to say “I’m a Catholic, but I disagree with the Catholic church on many specific moral issues.” Then how are you a Catholic? Catholics who disagree with church teachings are traditionally called “protestants” and not usually acknowledged as Catholics.

    But very simply, truthspeaker, you are not the arbiter of who and what is and isn’t Catholic. The charge of hypocrisy applied to so many people on the basis of their stated religion is dehumanising.

    I disagree that it’s dehumanizing. I think it devalues the meaning of “a member of the Catholic church” when that phrase just means “not necessarily entirely unaffiliated with the Catholic church”.

  175. 175
    Matt Penfold

    My grandfather was threatened with excommunication in the early 60s by the Catholic Bishop of Arundel. He had a friend who’s son was marrying an Anglican in an Anglican church. The friend asked my grandfather if he should go to the wedding even though the priest had told him not to. My grandfather told him in no uncertain terms (his having been a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy I can imagine what that meant!) that he was to go to the wedding.

  176. 176
    timgueguen

    Bering might want to spend some time around actual religious people. The world is full of people who behave as devout members of their faith while going about their business as villains, for lack of a better term. For example a Catholic priest has been tried in Argentina for his role in human rights abuses during the “dirty war” of the ’70s. Overt signs of piety are nothing more than signs of belief, not guarantees of behaviour.

  177. 177
    rorschach

    I haven’t read the whole thread, so I don’t know if this was already mentioned. But PZ talks in the Salon article about the “supernatural monitoring hypothesis”. Now as I recently wrote here, it’s actually not whether you think you are being observed, but whether you believe in a hell, that seems to have a predictive value to a degree for whether you are more likely to commit a crime or not, as shown in the study I talk about in the article.

  178. 178
    strange gods before me ॐ

    whether you believe in a hell, that seems to have a predictive value to a degree for whether you are more likely to commit a crime or not,

    Yes

    actually not whether you think you are being observed,

    Actually it’s about this too

  179. 179
    left0ver1under

    ricardodivali @168:

    – Morality Without God?
    – religious people are somewhat more charitable

    Does that include the church-enforced charity and tithing?

    That’s not all that can’t be counted as charitable. Other donations don’t qualify either:

    (a) money given for tax rebates,
    (b) money given to lower gross income and change tax brackets, and
    (c) money given to proselytizers (e.g. “samaritan’s purse) which tell the poor “NO RELIGION = NO FOOD!”

    Real charity expects only two things in return: the words “Thank you” and warm fuzzies. Those who “give” for (a), (b) and (c) are doing it for their own benefit.

  180. 180
    John Morales

    [OT]

    left0ver1under:

    Real charity expects only two things in return: the words “Thank you” and warm fuzzies.

    Nah. Real charity ain’t a quid pro quo; there’s such no expectancy in real charity.

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