A new study suggests that religious people are no more moral or immoral than people who are not adherents of any particular religion.
And without discounting the research, I think it's wise to remember several things as we hear about such studies.
First, what does it mean to be a religious person? The now-familiar catch phrase is that many people describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. So how do you categorize such folks for a study of this kind?
Then it's important to remember that religion does not have as its sole (or even soul) purpose making people act in moral ways. Surely that's one of its goals, but religion is so much more than that. It has to do with community, with hope, peace, justice, mercy, awe, wonder, compassion, love and on and on. To limit its portfolio to moral actions is to misunderstand religion profoundly.
I'm not suggesting that the people who led this study were trying to restrict what religion is all about, but it's easy for people reading about the results to forget the broad sweep of faith and to conclude that religion is useless if it doesn't make its adherents behave in ways that are more moral than those who are not followers.
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MISLEADING THE CHILDREN
The authorities in Texas who mandate what must go into public school history textbooks have opted for right wing "political and cultural indoctrination, a dash of mindless inclusivity and brute memorization," this analysis suggests. I suppose their hope is that the students who get this kind of faith-based indoctrination won't ever discover they've been misled. How sad.