Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Consequences’

The Psychology of Morality: Religion vs Atheism

January 20, 2012

The Psychology of Morality: Religion vs Atheism

There are clear reasons why secular-based moral behavior is likely to be weaker than religiously based moral behavior.

Psychologists know, and generally teach their students that immediate consequences (reinforcement and punishment) most powerfully influence behavior. However, Dr. Richard Malott (A professor of psychology at Western Michigan University) has made a special exception to that rule for humans who have mastered the use of language and who can well experience, read about and hear about the past, present. Humans can also imagine, or be informed of future probable events, and they can estimate the size and impact of those consequences for themselves and others.

Professor Malott observes (and so can you), that immediate consequences that are small and not certain are not so likely to influence our behavior. Familiar examples of this weak control would be wearing a seat belt to avoid injury in case of an automobile collision, exercising regularly to avoid a host of possible health difficulties, or brushing our teeth three times a day to avoid cavities, etc..

The control of our behavior is much more powerful when consequences that are delayed, are also very large and very certain. We would be unlikely to attempt to fly to airplane to a destination if we did not know, for certain, that we had enough fuel to arrive safely. A mariner would most likely avoid voyaging in the direction of a developing hurricane.

Of course immediate, large, and very certain consequences control our behavior best. Humans normally avoid stepping in front of a speeding automobile, walking of cliffs, and petting rattle snakes.

But more to the point, for those who believe in God, both immediate cognitive-emotional (guilty thoughts and feelings), social (social disapproval) consequences;  and delayed spiritual consequences (Heaven or Hell) related to moral and immoral behavior can be very big, and very certain .

For non believers, there are no spiritual consequences. Furthermore secular social consequences are often small, delayed, and improbable for religiously based moral prescriptions (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 rewarding changes in states of consciousness, Gambling and violence = physiological excitement and dominance). Furthermore, individuals  will easily find social contexts in which to behave in immoral ways and gain positive reinforcement from others.

To the believer, “the wages of sin is death”. To the secularist humanist, all too often, the wages of sin are more immediate, larger and more certain reinforcement.

 

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.,  1/20/12

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.

You Can’t Lie To The Eye In The Sky

January 2, 2012

You Can’t Lie To The Eye In The Sky

Please notice that many communites are strategically mounting video cameras in an attempt to control criminal (immoral) behavior. There is a strong message in this technological effort, which is doomed to failure.

B.F. Skinner once argued that a government that governs least, governs best, only when something else is  governing. This of course suggests that without good values and moral behaviors, and a source of their maintenance,  “The People” will be unable to govern themselves effectively.

You are seeing the truth of this statement dramatically playing-out, now during Amrica’s tragic decline.

Secular humanism (atheism)  cannot provide the good behaviors and values needed for a population’s sucessful self-governance. The following is an explanation of some of the reasons this is true.

For those who do not believe in God, the question is: Why should they believe in God’s rules for personal conduct?  What moral influences on the nonbeliever are left?

For non-believers,  God’s moral rules are apt to be weaker because there are no spiritual consequences for resisting our innate tendency to selfishly maximize our immediate pleasures with blindness to the damaging delayed consequences of such behavior.

It is natural for humans to associate with others who share similar views and behavior patterns; and who will agree with and reinforce their own, and others, short-sighted pleasure-driven actions. Non-believers, like Believers,  will normally avoid the company of those who do not approve of their thoughts, words and actions.

Non-believers are more likely to associate with those who reward conformity to nonreligious moral codes. Unfortunately, a great many non-religious guides are inferior to the religious ones due to delayed harmful consequences to misbehaving individuals, their loved ones, and the whole socioculture in which they reside.

Secular social moral influences will also have a weaker effect upon the moral conduct of non-believers for another reason. Non-believers will experience social consequences for only their behaviors that are detected by their moral associates. Social moral influences will  be weak when nonbelievers can behave in private, with anonymity (i.e.,the internet, large cities, travel to distant locations). Under these conditions many short and long-term negative social consequences are more easily escaped or avoided by those who do immoral things. Modernity promotes the very conditions that increase privacy, anonymity, and association with others, who are willing participants and share similar immoral value systems and behavioral tendencies. Anonymity also makes it more likely that those who behave badly can find unwitting victims.

On the other hand, for True Believers the most powerful consequences come from their personal God who they believe sees everything they do and even knows their private thoughts. For them, God will certainly consequate their public and private behavior. He will provide worldly misfortunes  for bad public and private behavior, as well as well-known  spiritual (i.e., heaven or hell) delayed consequences.  For the believer, these consequences are certain and they can very powerfully influence the quality of their actions.

The main reason that the True Believer will be more likely to be better behaved than the non-believer simple.

For the True Believer, there is no way to lie to the Eye in the Sky.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.   1/2/12


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