Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Christians For Torture

This is just great:
In other words, if you are an American Christian, you are more likely to support torture than if you are an atheist or agnostic. Christians for torture: it's a new constituency.


Dan said...

Is this in any way surprising?

It seems to me that studies or polls like these can often highlight the confusion of correlation and causation. Does being a Christian in this country help to make you the sort of person who supports torture? How does that work? You would think that, in general, someone who says he's willingly committed to a set of pre-prescribed moral standards might be opposed to mistreatment on principle. Then again, a twisted version of "an eye for an eye" can just as easily fit into the dogma.

I'm afraid of what I might come up with, actually. But here goes. You write "American Christians", so I'll say it like this: A lot of agnostics and pretty much every atheist I know have been taught or have figured out the value of thinking for themselves. The supposedly practical benefits of torture theoretically might appeal to someone like this, but it doesn't end up working out that way. Number one, they tend to be humanists, and they've found plenty of non-religious reasons to not resort to barbarism. Number two, understanding certain nuances due to skepticism, they're not convinced the torture even "works" in the first place. They have an aversion to accepting nonsense, religious or otherwise, and they're simply less likely to succomb to the administration's bullshit public relations campaigns, of which torture is jsut one.

Mads said...

Yep, I agree with that. It's like a modified "opium for the masses" theory: People who need religion are less inclined to think for themselves. And people who are less inclined to think for themselves are more receptive to overly simple solutions to complex problems like crime ("lock 'em up and throw away the key") and foreign relations (torture).

As humans we have two conflicting tendencies: We're capable of demonizing our enemies in order to defend our "tribe" yet we also have a great capacity for embracing differences and helping strangers.

As a believer in (much of) evolutionionary psychology I think this duality exists because at different times there have been developmental advantages to both. Some relatives of our cave-man ancestors were too "nice" and accommodating to strangers and died out. Others were too mean to cooperate, embrace others and strike valuable alliances, so they died out too. The result is a modern man who has the capacity for both evil and good.

Of course, most of our "evil" tendencies are actually counter-productive in this day and age. But that doesn't mean they can be ignored or manipulated. It is especially dangerous when powerful leaders demonize and dehumanize the "enemy" in order to win support for warfare.