Friday, March 09, 2007

Religion Makes You More Violent

The University of Michigan found that religious texts containing violence (and what religious text doesn't) can increase bloodlust among the faithful:

The authors set out to examine this interaction by conducting experiments with undergraduates at two religiously contrasting universities: Brigham Young University where 99% of students report believing in God and the Bible and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam where just 50% report believing in God and 27% believe in the bible.

After reporting their religious affiliation and beliefs, the participants read a parable adapted from a relatively obscure passage in the King James Bible describing the brutal torture and murder of a woman, and her husband’s subsequent revenge on her attackers. Half of the participants were told that the passage came from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament while the other half were told it was an ancient scroll discovered in an archaeological expedition.

In addition to the scriptural distinction, half of the participants from both the bible and the ancient scroll groups read an adjusted version that included the verse:

"The Lord commanded Israel to take arms against their brothers and chasten them before the LORD."

The participants were then placed in pairs and instructed to compete in a simple reaction task. The winner of the task would be able to "blast" his or her partner with noise up to 105 decibels, about the same volume as a fire alarm. The test measures aggression.

As expected, the Brigham Young students were more aggressive (i.e. louder) with their blasts if they had been told that the passage they had previously read was from the bible rather than a scroll. Likewise, participants were more aggressive if they had read the additional verse that depicts God sanctioning violence.

At the more secular Vrije Universiteit, the results were surprisingly similar. Although Vrije students were less likely to be influenced by the source of the material, they blasted more aggressively when the passage that they read included the sanctioning of the violence by God. This finding held true even for non-believers, though to a lesser extent.


I think this explains quite a bit toward why fundamentalist Christians and Muslims like to shoot guns and blow shit up so much.

17 comments:

Big Ear Creations said...

"I think this explains quite a bit toward why fundamentalist Christians and Muslims like to shoot guns and blow shit up so much."

Possibly an oversimplification?? Yeah... granted... Bad things have be done in the name of Jesus, Allah, Tobias Funke... but the reason why is that people are passionate... and generally dumb and ignorant.

Like litterally... people get parts of scripture and don't get the whole picture... then they act out of their half-full brain... doing dumb things. But cha gotta love em eh?

Krystalline Apostate said...

I dunno, Aaron. It sounds like 1 study. Much as I'd like to agree (& applaud), correlation doesn't mean causation. If there were more studies at more religious institutions, it would fall more in line w/the 2nd law of statistics (that being more data proves the point).

Aaron Kinney said...

Big Ear,

Possibly an oversimplification??

I concede. And there are lots of things that people are passionate about besides religion. But I also think that when you have a worldview that defines morality as manipulating humans to satisfy the strange demands of a supernatural character from a book, it isnt that hard to imagine that the person would shortchange his fellow man and commit violent acts to satisfy said supernatural characher.

I think that religious doctrine can serve as a catalyst, or an excuse or justification, for one to do violent things.

KA,

...correlation doesn't mean causation.

Conceded (wow, Im conceding a lot today). But as I said earlier, I think that religious doctrine can serve as a catalyst or justification for people's violent and controlling desires. In this way, the religious doctrine itself need not be a direct causal agent in order to increase violence.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Aaron:
But as I said earlier, I think that religious doctrine can serve as a catalyst or justification for people's violent and controlling desires.
I think so as well. I'm just saying that we need a whole lot more than 1 study, is all.

Aaron Kinney said...

I'm just saying that we need a whole lot more than 1 study, is all.

I concur :)

mel said...

Thanks for the post and I hope you don't mind a stranger jumping-in.

Mormonism teaches two related ideas: 1. that god literally speaks to the prophet (including scriptural documentation of orders to commit murder, etc) and 2. that the individual can receive the same type of communication. So either god really does speak to these people or they are taking their own thoughts and ascribing them to god.

Either way, I don't need a study to strongly suspect that a person who thinks god has commanded a thing is going to approach the doing with more vigor than one who is suffering from a lesser delusion.

Aaron Kinney said...

Hi Mel!

Thanks for the post and I hope you don't mind a stranger jumping-in.

Not at all! I love new commenters.

Mormonism teaches two related ideas: 1. that god literally speaks to the prophet (including scriptural documentation of orders to commit murder, etc) and 2. that the individual can receive the same type of communication. So either god really does speak to these people or they are taking their own thoughts and ascribing them to god.

Agreed.

Either way, I don't need a study to strongly suspect that a person who thinks god has commanded a thing is going to approach the doing with more vigor than one who is suffering from a lesser delusion.

Well said! Hope to see you around here again :)

By the way I like your blog. But how the heck to I pronounce the title, Æsahættr, and what does it mean?

mel said...

Thanks, Aaron. I'll be back for sure.

Here's some background on Æsahættr.

Elsewhere Wikipedia has it pronounced "EYE-sha-ter" though I'm personally inclined toward "aysahayter". Of course, some see more profane pronunciations at first glance so there's lots of fun to be had.

es said...

Mel, I myself would have guessed "asshatter". I like your site and the name regardless. Pullman's books look like they are worth reading...

What is also interesting about the study is that non-believers were affected by whether they thought the source was the bible or whether god condoned the killing, suggesting that culturally-based religious brainwashing may be deep and possibly impossible to root out entirely.

mel said...

Bingo. Asshatter: a maker of asshats. :)

So the religiously brainwashed will always be with us...possibly always within each of us? Sounds like all the more reason to legalize marijuana.

Paul said...

For sure religion is sometimes used for harmful and violent purposes. Some people can't seem to tell their god from their ego perhaps because of the similar spelling...

All the same, I wouldn't want to identify religion as more or less harmful than plenty of other aspects of society. It has its pluses as well as minuses - for example, the involvement of the black churches during the civil rights movement and before that, the religious motivation in the abolitionist movement.

Also, I'd want to distinguish religious/spiritual experience from doctrine. The trouble seems to come when people ego-identify with their doctrines. You don't see a lot of rampaging monks for example - these contemplative orders emphasize the experiential aspects of religion. Buddhism overall does too - not a lot of Buddhist violence out there...

Sorry so long, interesting looking blog!

Aaron Kinney said...

What is also interesting about the study is that non-believers were affected by whether they thought the source was the bible or whether god condoned the killing, suggesting that culturally-based religious brainwashing may be deep and possibly impossible to root out entirely.

Which is why its important to "get em while theyre young!"

angelsdepart said...

Aaron, you are the author of my favorite blogsite. Thank you for posting such intuitive and thought provoking pieces. I hope that you can help free people from the shackles of religion, although, it is a difficult battle. Do I need to state again how scary religious people are? Ooops! I guess I just did!

Aaron Kinney said...

Aaron, you are the author of my favorite blogsite. Thank you for posting such intuitive and thought provoking pieces.

Hey, thanx!! Im really glad that my writing is giving you the warm fuzzies inside. I know that I sure feel good writing these essays, and it makes me feel even better to know that intelligent people like yourself are enjoying reading them! :)

I hope that you can help free people from the shackles of religion, although, it is a difficult battle.

It sure is! Fortunately, Ive managed to deconvert 6 theists during my lifetime that I specifically and personally know. Each one of those was a tough battle to be sure!

Do I need to state again how scary religious people are? Ooops! I guess I just did!

Keep laying down the truth, brotha! It never hurts to keep it real :)

Louie said...

For some reason I read the title of this post as:

Religion makes you more violet... :)

Aaron Kinney said...

Maybe crimson would be a more accurate color hehe

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