Posts Tagged ‘Secualr Morals/Ethics Weaker’

Religious-Based Ethics/Morals Stronger Than Secular Ones

January 7, 2012

Religious-Based Ethics/Morals Stronger Than Secular Ones

In reference to my blog, “You Can’t Lie To The Eye In The Sky”, there are still more reasons why secular-based moral behavior is likely to be weaker than religiously based moral behavior.

Psychologists know, and have generally taught their students, that immediate consequences (reinforcement and punishment) most powerfully influence behavior. However, professor Dick Malott (A faculty member in Western Michigan University’s Psychology Department) has long identified some special exceptions to that rule for humans. Because humans learn languages, they can read about and hear about (experience) the past and the present. They can also imagine, or be informed about various future probable and improbable events.

Malott observes (and so can you), that delayed consequences that are small, and not very certain are not likely to influence our behavior as powerfully as delayed, very large and very certain consequences. For example, it is common that people have trouble resisting certain foods that can lead to future weight gain and various health problems. On the other hand how many of us would accept one million dollars today…if we knew that, as a result, in one year (even longer) from now we would be shot dead by a firing squad?

For those who believe in God, both immediate social and delayed spiritual consequences related to moral and immoral behavior can be very big, very certain and very strong.

Ask yourself, what is the reason that Islamic terrorists who blow themselves up to kill the infidels? Do you get it?

For non believers, there are no spiritual consequences. Furthermore secular social consequences are often small, delayed, and improbable for religiously based moral behavior (tell the truth, treat others kindly, don’t steal, etc.). On the other hand immoral behavior earns relatively immediate, large, and certain physiological reinforcement (pornography and sex = novel stimulation and orgasm; ingestion of drugs and alcohol = reduced anxiety and novel/rewarding changes in states of consciousness; Gambling and violence = physiological excitement, stimulation). Also, social the plentiful contexts in which to behave in immoral ways and gain the approval of others are readily available, encouraged through media marketing (prompting,  modeling and imitation).

To the believer, “the wages of sin is death”. To the secularist, the wages of sin are more immediate, larger and more certain reinforcements. The painful and damaging outcomes for both non-believing individuals and non-believing sociocultures engaging in immoral behavior (and enjoying the resulting more powerful immediate environmental reinforcers) are often so delayed that the individuals and socioculures are oblivious to them.

This makes the exercise of what we commonly call “self-control” impossible. Over time the accruing delayed negative results can become calamitous. For individuals and societies, the tragic delayed consequences are undetected until it is too late to avoid or escape them.

If you watch the behaviors of individuals, our government and the rapidly changing culture in America, you should be able to see many examples of what I am discussing.

What will you now go and do?!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

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