A Comet Unnoticed
8 hours ago in The Astronomist
“Cheating is especially easy to justify when you frame situations to cast yourself as a victim of some kind of unfairness,” said Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied the use of prescription drugs to improve intellectual performance. “Then it becomes a matter of evening the score; you’re not cheating, you’re restoring fairness.”
... the concept of a punishing God should be expected to be more widespread in societies where the threat of freeloading is high, such as those lacking effective social institutions, experiencing internal or external threats, or both. This hypothesis raises the possibility that the widespread belief in benevolent deities is a modern phenomenon—the consequence of a gradual change in religious beliefs.
The function of Hell is to reinforce social order by threatening punishment to wrongdoers who can't be brought to justice by normal societal mechanisms. As a strategy, it's not terribly successful. Medieval Europe is not renowned as an era of peace, justice and harmony.The feel-good version of religion, like atheism, is what you get when you remove danger and threat from people's lives.
But perhaps in the absence of more effective social controls, promoting fear of hell is better than nothing. When better social controls are invented – such as in modern Europe – Hell is no longer needed.
If Hell is no longer needed in modern Europe, then Heaven still is. People still die, and our basic, evolved instincts make us all fear of death. The prospect of heaven can reduce that fear – but only if you abandon the inconvenient concept of hell.
As a result, modern Christianity, reacting to market demand, quietly drops the concept of hell, but retains the concept of heaven.
...participants read a short text presenting the case of a female student who participates in many after-class activities as well as prepares for her exams. After having fallen asleep on a bus, she was robbed of her bag containing all of her books and notes. As a consequence, she cannot successfully prepare for one of the exams, and in spite of her explanations to the professor, she failsFor half the participants, the female student was described as being a feminist.
These results extend to fundamentalism the findings of previous research showing that religious people’s prosociality exists but is limited and does not extend to targets who threaten their values such as homosexuals (Batson et al. 1999), sexually promiscuous people (Mak and Tsang 2008), and foreigners (Pichon and Saroglou 2009).
However, RF differed from religiosity and paralleled RWA by showing negative attitudes in emotions attributed to the feminist target. This finding is in line with the idea that RF, like authoritarianism, implies prejudice towards outgroup members.
Witches were unanimously believed in, and were regularly exorcised, and punished by law, up to the beginning of the last century. Ordeals and duels, most reasonable solutions of complicated difficulties according to the popular theory of religion, were found absolutely fallacious in practice. The miraculous power of relics and images, still so general in Southern Europe, is scouted in England. The importance ascribed to dreams, the barely extinct claims of astrology, and auguries of good or evil luck, and many other well-known products of superstition which are found to exist in every country, have ceased to be believed in by us.
... it is equally certain that similar benefits are not excluded from those who on conscientious grounds are sceptical as to the reality of a power of communion. These can dwell on the undoubted fact, that there exists a solidarity between themselves and what surrounds them, through the endless reactions of physical laws, among which the hereditary influences are to be included. They know that they are descended from an endless past, that they have a brotherhood with all that is, and have each his own share of responsibility in the parentage of an endless future. The effort to familiarize the imagination with this great idea has much in common with the effort of communing with a God, and its reaction on the mind of the thinker is in many important respects the same. It may not equally rejoice the heart, but it is quite as powerful in ennobling the resolves, and it is found to give serenity during the trials of life and in the shadow of approaching death.