Sunday, June 26, 2016

What Is Religion Good For?

Apparently, Christopher Hitchens was wrong. Religion does not poison everything. The jury has still not decided whether atheism poisons everything, but while we are awaiting the verdict we note with J.D. Vance that religion plays a beneficial role in many peoples' lives.

This, from today's New York Times, of all places. Note that Vance quotes research conducted by one Jonathan Gruber. You recall that Gruber was the architect of both Romneycare and Obamacare.

Vance writes:

Research suggests that children who attend church perform better in school, divorce less as adults and commit fewer crimes. Regular church attendees even exhibit less racial prejudice than their nonreligious peers. The M.I.T. economist Jonathan Gruber found that for many of these traits, this relationship is causal: It’s not just that privileged kids who attend church skew the data, but that attending services produces good character.

These benefits apply broadly, across a range of faiths, so the phenomenon appears unrelated to doctrine or place. Undoubtedly, church fish fries and picnics help build social cohesion. It was at my dad’s medium-size evangelical church — my first real exposure to a sustained religious community — that I first saw people of different races and classes worshiping together. The church even collected money to help families in need and established a small school and home for single expectant mothers.


Anonymous said...

Mainline churches turning against Israel.

Anonymous said...

Religion-on-religion is too much.

Religion-on-secular-order offers some kind of balance, esp as current secular culture is so excessive and debauched.

It's like salt-on-salt is too much salt.
But salt-on-potatoes offers balance.

A sane secular order may not need religion.
But we have an insane secular order that promotes trashy decadence. Any counter-weight is bound to some good by providing some balance.

Furthermore, it's not really reason vs religion but neo-cults vs rooted faiths.
The current mania(proselytized by 'secular' elites)for homosexuals and transsexuals has to be regarded as a mindless cult, not a progress of reason.
What does the rainbow have to do with a severed penis of a man who thinks himself a woman in need of an artificial vagina? What is the rational debate behind that?

Sam L. said...

Anon #1, this is not surprising. They are now Leftist, and/or insane. Let us embrace the power of and.

Ares Olympus said...

If religion is defined as "Regular church attendance", I wonder where televangelists fit, where people can feel connected without leaving their living room. As well, lots of young people consider themselves "spiritual" while not "religious".

You'd assume without the face-to-face communal experience, the apparent benefits are lost? But maybe they're also partly lost in megachurches that are too big for social cohesion to develop between members?

On the other side, the bible says "Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." So can you do religion only within your own nuclear family and reap the same benefits?

Finally we can wonder if or how politics and religion can mix. At least we know "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."

So there is some need for mental boundaries that don't require God to be exclusively on the home team's side, and against the other team of the football game.

It does just seem silly, but we can wonder who should you pray to, when you want your political rivals vanquished?

David Foster said...

But it will not work--is not psychologically feasible--to tell people, 'believe in a religion because it is good for society,' or even 'believe in a religion because it is good for YOU"....there has to be at least some confidence in the truth-value of the religion in question, even if it is far from 100% faith.

Arthur Koestler, at the end of his neglected novel of ideas The Age of Longing:

"Her thoughts travelled back to Sister Boutillot standing in the alley which led to the pond…Oh, if she could only go back to the infinite comfort of father confessors and mother superiors, of a well-ordered hierarchy which promised punishment and reward, and furnished the world with justice and meaning. If only one could go back! But she was under the curse of reason, which rejected whatever might quench her thirst without abolishing the gnawing of the urge; which rejected the answer without abolishing the question. For the place of God had become vacant and there was a draught blowing through the world as in an empty flat before the new tenants have arrived."