Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Public Favours Religious Values

This piece on BBC website is interesting.

A BBC poll suggests that most people want religion and the values derived from it to play an important role in British public life.
Of 1,045 people questioned by ComRes, 62% were in favour.
Meanwhile, 63% of those questioned agreed that laws should respect and be influenced by the UK's traditional religious values.


Thanks to anticant for drawing my attention to it.

27 comments:

The Atheist Missionary said...

The results of this poll are not surprising. Religion currently persists in spite of the overwhelming weight of reason because fooling oneself into a belief in God is an inviting delusion, a mirage in what for many would be a desert of nihilism. Recently I have been studying Nietzche and Schopenhauer and I am beginning to appreciate why religion will always pose a lure to the human psyche. The challenge skeptics and atheists face is how to combat the lure of the religion placebo effect.

Matt M said...

"play an important role in British public life"

What does that mean, exactly?

Do they want religion to be encouraged, or simply not shut out of the public square?

Stephen Law said...

That's a good question Matt. Often, by "secular", the religious mean the view that religion should be kept entirely out of public life and public view. That's a very extreme view - certainly not mine. I just don't want religion to have a privileged place in the public space, e.g. seats in the Lords, state funding for its schools, etc.

Unfortunately, this distinction is usually obscured.

McCurious said...

America is constitutionally secular, yet it has one of the highest number of religious folk in the developed world.

Doesn't secularism create a vacuum and thereby draws up religiosity?

In the UK the Church of England is lame but it does fill the void...

SilverTiger said...

Unfortunately, the "public" (including pollsters) do not usually think as logically as philosophers. This poll is about "religious values", not about "religion".

I think it quite likely that the fuzzy-minded public would reject the interference of religion in their lives while somehow thinking that "religious values" are something to be adhered to.

I would suspect that they think of religious values more in terms of ethics, honesty and looking after the needy rather than in terms of theological concepts such as sin, salvation and abstention from meat on Fridays.

There persists a confusion in people's minds that morality comes from religion and that without religion we would never have had morality. So even non-religious people are capable of, for example, sending their children to faith schools "to teach them morality".

Maybe this confusion is something that we non-religious people should be directing our attention to clearing up.

wombat said...

SilverTiger

Well put.

I also think there will be an influence from the ceremonial side of it too. People like weddings for example - even if not so many people get formally married they like watching them. Religion has managed to get itself associated with the family, having some ceremonial input to birth, marriages and deaths. It's motherhood and apple pie.

Then again it's got the old ten commandments (perm any ten from about fifteen) the seven deadly sins so on. They sound like they could be the basis of law and order don't they? Look how well "Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime" played.

Wonder how many of those who answered the poll would agree to religious police enforcing abstinence over Lent?

anticant said...

As Silver Tiger says, many people who vaguely think of themselves as being ‘religious’ do so because they conflate religion with morality, wrongly believing that “you can’t have one without the other” [which is also wrong about love and marriage].

So they pay undue respect to the witterings of clerics like Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, who ‘argued that Christian beliefs - such as the sanctity of human life and the rule "do as you would be done by" - should continue to underpin the behaviour of Britons’. Apart from the fact that the Catholic Church’s regard for the sanctity of human life is, and has always been, highly selective, the Golden Rule – “do as you would be done by” – is a Greek ethical concept which preceded the birth of Christ by many centuries.

As for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s moan that the government is using legislation to control people's morals as well as their behaviour, he must really be as stupid as he looks if it has escaped his notice that this is exactly what the Church did consistently during its centuries of predominant power. For him and other church leaders to warn that recent legislation “has elevated goals such as freedom from discrimination for homosexual people above the freedom of religion” really does let their nasty reactionary agenda of perpetuating such discrimination out of the bag.

Joe Otten said...

Oh good grief, that's a classic compound question.

Get to the bottom of it like this:

1. Ask separate questions about religion, and the values derived from religion. You'll find many are happy to have the second without the first.

2. Ask what people think these values derived from religion are. You'll find many express perfectly humanist values.

What blatantly twisted polling.

Trav said...

Of course religious values are going to be reflected in laws, and of course they should.

The whole of European and Western society is based on the bedrock of religious values. I understand several authors are supposed to make this point quite persuasively, like Rodney Stark and Dinesh D Souza, amongst others (although I havent read these works myself).

But it seems intuitive and common sense that this would be the case, given the religious heritage we share.

You'd need to overhaul the legal system to remove the influence of these values, and that isn't something which I see many people supporting.

I should add, that irrelevant and misguided rants, such as the one by The "Atheist Missionary" that completely miss the point, don't do anything for rational discussion.

And yes, religion should play a role in the public square. Why shouldn't it? It's something which many people adhere to, and has many socially advantageous aspects to it. The debate I guess, is over exactly how much role it should play.

Trav said...

And on the issue of state funding for schools, why shouldn't religious schools be funded?

As I said, plenty of people are religious, and plenty of people want their kids attending religious schools. So at a basic level, it would seem a severe violation of our committment to democratic values to deny funding to religious schools.

On seperation of church and state, I take a minimalist view. I disagree with the idea of a church literally running the state. But naturally, the church is a very relevant social institution in society for a lot of people, so there needs to be a level of peaceful cooperation between church and state. To deny this will simply create unnecessary animosity and public unrest. Most people recognise this necessary relationship, however many secularists try to completely rid religion from the public square. But the majority retain the common sense to see the necessity of relationship and cooperation between big social institutions and government, and that this can exist well without having that social institution literally take over the government.

Trav said...

A further example.

Imagine 10 friends are sitting around a dinner table enjoying a meal. One of the 10 is a church going Christian, and would much rather have his child educated in a Christian school. Another of the 10 is a less committed Christian, he's fairly nominal, attends church a few times a year but he's Christian nonetheless, and also shares person 1's conviction that his child should be educated in a Christian school.

Now, the remaining 8 are fairly ambivalent. They share a variety of beliefs, mostly agnostic or very nominal Christian, and they don't really care eithr way whether their children are educated in a Christian school or a public school. One's even a reasonably committed Christian too, but he doesn't really care for Christian education. Some would rather public, as they don't want their child "indoctrinated", but others don't really care as they don't feel that education in a quality Christian school would do much in the way of indoctrination anyway.

Now, I think I've painted a fairly accurate and fair idea of what the average Brit, or Aussie, or European would think on the subject with that illustration.

Considering that they ALL pay taxes, why should ONLY 8 of the 10's taxes be going towards funding the education they want for their child?

The people holding the committed view that they want their children educated in a Christian school are the minority in that example, as they are in society. But the whole point of a democracy is that even the minorities get a voice. Therefore, it would be utterly non democratic to deny the funding of Religious schools. This is NOT the same as saying that religious institutions should run the state, and that's what the seperation of church and state should be about.

Steven Carr said...

'Meanwhile, 63% of those questioned agreed that laws should respect and be influenced by the UK's traditional religious values.'

Does that include sanctity of life, considering that opinion polls used to show majority support for the death penalty?

wombat said...

Trev -

"Therefore, it would be utterly non democratic to deny the funding of Religious schools."

How so?

There appear to be plenty of cases where minority interests which do not get funding because having held a vote the majority decides that the money should be spent otherwise. The minority gets a voice, gets a share of airtime even but ultimately does not get its way, even in proportion.

ponerses said...

"And yes, religion should play a role in the public square. Why shouldn't it?"

Well what if it were like smoking? (tobacco that is)

Even today when we know how injurious it is to health overall, we still allow cigarettes. We are however increasingly reluctant to allow smokers to share their smoke with others. So why not the same with religion? Feel free to do it at home. But not in public, and definitely not when there are children involved.

Trav said...

Perhaps so, but I would suggest that the majority would not be against public funding for Christian schools because they realise that Christian schools do not aim to indoctrinate.

Also, the loudness of the voice of those Christians who do want Christian education for their children, generally will ensure that their voice is heard.

Trav said...

"Even today when we know how injurious it is to health overall, we still allow cigarettes. We are however increasingly reluctant to allow smokers to share their smoke with others. So why not the same with religion? Feel free to do it at home. But not in public, and definitely not when there are children involved."

You idiot. You absolute idiot. Are you being serious or simply stirring the pot? If the former, you're sadly mistaken, but I do apologise for my insult towards you. If you're taking the piss as I suspect, I pity you more than anything else. And that's the reasonable conclusion based on what you've written.

Christians are more charitable people than non Christians, this has been consistently shown by study after study. Christians are also democratic and relatively non violent. Christians and other religious people are also healthier and happier people than the non religious. Again, this has consistently been shown by studies.

So why on earth would you equate something which is so beneficial to both society and individuals, with something which is evidently very dangerous to a citizen's health?

Kyle said...

I just don't want religion to have a privileged place in the public space, e.g. seats in the Lords, state funding for its schools, etc.

I don't really understand this. Either what you are saying is misleading, or it is saying very little.

Do mean that in political discussion these options should be removed? Or just that we shouldn't have them enshrined in a constitution? Or just that you think society would be better without them.

I agree with you that the House of Lords should not have bishops, but I have no problem with it being an option when there is discussion of House of Lords reform. If the majority of people think having Bishops in the House of Lords is a good thing, then that is what we should have.

I disagree with you about faith schools. I am in favour of a significant degree of freedom for parents in deciding how their children should be educated. This freedom needs to have boundaries, but they should not be so tight as to restrict certain religious views.

I realise that you disagree with me about that, but are you simply saying that in a vote you would vote against faith schools, or are you claiming that it would be wrong to even allow that vote in a secular society?

wombat said...

Trav -

The last post re smoking was me - I messed up on the captcha. Perhaps the idiot comment was apt...

No really. Its a serious point of view. Strangely enough one which despite your indignation you seem to engage with at some level. My suggestion is that religion could be seen as generally detrimental to society as a whole and possibly, statistically speaking detrimental to the individuals exposed to it. I guess you would argue that Christianity in particular is more like say taking cod-liver oil or some other generally beneficial habit. I notice in your response that you cited some of these possible benefits, which you say are shown by numerous studies. Others would point to historical evidence (wars, religious persecution of minorities etc.) which would appear contrary.

Cigarettes. Not that long ago they were seen as harmless. Before that positively beneficial. The Elizabethans wrote songs in praise (e.g. "Tobacco, tobacco" Thomas Hume @ 1605 ish). Doctors were used in tobacco adverts in the 50's. Studies have been done which appear to show some beneficial effects. Taken in a wider context we can see that these effects are usually far outweighed by the harm. For example there appears to be a benefit to smokers in respect of some types of disease such as IBS. In that case the effect seems to be due to nicotine, a very powerful and rather non-specific agent. The delivery system (inhaling fumes from burning plant cuttings) is barbaric and ultimately deadly. Research is ongoing to find more specific drugs which can be administered safely. Perhaps we should be looking for ways of getting the beneficial effects of Christianity that you claim (charity, peace) without the harmful side effects.



Anyhow as I said originally, "What if it were like smoking?"

If that proves to be the case then are we not justified in limiting it to the home amongst consenting adults?

If it is more like cod-liver oil then by all means teach people about it but don't make them take the stuff.

Andrew said...

The BHA were pretty unimpressed with this poll, and the associated reporting. As Matt M pointed out, the questions are ambiguous, and the BBC also used 'militant atheists' in a news story, which is silly.

I particularly like this bit:

"Church leaders have warned that recent legislation has elevated goals such as freedom from discrimination for homosexual people, above the freedom of religion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams warned that the government was using legislation to control people's morals as well as their behaviour."

How backwards is that?

wombat said...

"Christian schools do not aim to indoctrinate"

This brings up a wider point. How is it possible that a school can be a religious school of any specific denomination without indoctrination?
This must be a particular problem for proselytizing religions.

FWIW I accept that schools can (and should) teach about religion(s) without bias.

Kyle said...

How is it possible that a school can be a religious school of any specific denomination without indoctrination?
This must be a particular problem for proselytizing religions.


Why? Do you think that arguing for something counts as indoctrination?

One can even teach about a subject in a biased manner without indoctrinating.

wombat said...

Kyle -

Re: Arguing for but not indoctrinating.

Hmm. Well in general I agree that it is possible but I think it depends on what circumstances. In the case of children I think we need to be rather careful; if this is the only argument they get to hear and they get gold stars when they repeat it back and black marks when they suggest alternatives then it may veer too far into indoctrination territory. I think I would consider some sorts of "arguing for" as "teaching about" and therefore wholly acceptable. The sort of things that I believe present difficulties would be actual participation in some of the religious practices and ceremonies on an ongoing basis as opposed to being told how they are performed and what they are supposed to represent to the participants.

I think the distinction I am trying to draw is that between a school which has study of religion on the syllabus as opposed to one that is run in a religious way and requires pupils to do religion (a religious school).

Kyle said...

Are you also opposed to parents taking their children to church or Sunday School?

wombat said...

Kyle re -opposed to kids attending Church and Sunday school.


Yes but only incidentally so. In one sense I am quite comfortable with that as it does not involve public money. Furthermore if the children decide it is not for them it does not cause such stress to their education. Again it depends on the circumstances - they shouldn't be pressured into it. I would consider it a bit like watching certain material on TV. Not when they are too young and only once they are able to make judgements about such things. Dunno what the cutoff should be - not under 12 years old maybe?

anticant said...

Trav says: ”Christians are more charitable people than non Christians, this has been consistently shown by study after study. Christians are also democratic and relatively non violent. Christians and other religious people are also healthier and happier people than the non religious. Again, this has consistently been shown by studies.”

Smug assertions like this need supporting with details of the ‘studies’ and their methodology. They sound pretty dubious to me. When you say ”Christians are more charitable people than non Christians” do you mean that they are more tolerant and understanding of other peoples’ points of view, or that they give more money to charities – presumably Christian ones – or both? If you make statements like this you should be prepared to prove them. And if they are statistically correct, so what?

While it may be true that some traditional long-established Anglican schools don’t indoctrinate, there are plenty of more hard-line ‘faith’ establishments that do. Can you point to any Muslim school that does not teach its pupils from a very young age that they must accept Islam as divinely given ‘truth’? An Islamic headmaster made this very clear in extensive exchanges here on Stephen’s blog some months ago.

The point about indoctrination as opposed to education is that the former teaches a tradition or a point of view as ‘THE truth’, while a conscientious teacher encourages critical thinking, historical perspective, and comprehension of others’ belief-systems even if he or she doesn’t share them. If this was the accepted norm in ‘faith schools’ there would be no objection to their receiving public money. But taxpayers should not be called upon to subsidise groundless claims about the nature of ‘truth’ and what constitutes it.

anticant said...

I've just found this methodological criticism of the BBC's poll, showing that their "national sample" included only 21 Muslims and 9 Hindus!

http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/1941

Obviously a very dubious, unprofessional job.

Anonymous said...

63% were in favour .... very closely matching the percentage of those polled who were christian.

So the main finding is that christians believe we should live by christian values.

.....now there's a shock !