Friday, May 01, 2009

Christians and Torture

Yesterday Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy blogged about a recent NY Times article about increased atheist "activism." The comments following were mostly a discussion of the usefulness of atheist activism, but naturally, some commentators could not pass without condemning atheists as having no basis for morality (unlike Christians, who can always trace their morality back to God.) Not unexpectedly, the conservative Christian who is quick to condemn the atheist for his/her lack of morality seems to share a different definition of morality form the atheist and less avowedly religious:

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

I hesitate to draw too general a conclusion from the study, but it seems rather obvious that the more outwardly religious you are, the more likely you are to support torture, and the less outwardly religious/more secular you are, the less likely you are to support torture (naturally, someone can attend church on a fairly regular basis and be completely opposed to torture.) I have my own uncharitable explanation for this of course. It seems that those inclined to more simple-minded religious beliefs, are also inclined to the sorts of old-fashioned notions of tribalism, xenophobia and human rights that our society has gradually moved away from. It would not at all surprise me if those who are quickest to condemn atheists as immoral, are also great supporters of torture. Of course, our current political climate probably has done quite a bit to move the numbers up in recent years; twenty years ago evangelicals and fundamentalists might've had something very different to say on the subject of torture, before it was in vogue on the right again as it is now.

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