Tuesday, July 18, 2006

On being good

Tom sent me this link to the current travails of Reverend Kent Hovind, the creationist preacher/entrepeneur who once told me I'd burn in hell for writing about evolution. I wish no harm to anyone, but it is good to see lawbreakers find justice this side of the grave.

There was some discussion among Comments here recently about whether religion is a necessary basis for morality. It is often argued that without fear of eternal punishment we'd all be bad. This is nonsense, of course.

One of you asked if there have been any scientific studies on the connection between religion and morality. Are believers more moral than the rest of us?

Some years ago I did a search for relevant research, and although I don't have the results at hand what objective data I found suggests that whether or not one believes in a hereafter doesn't matter a tinker's damn. Atheists and agnostics are on the whole as moral as believers.

The Nobel-prizewinning physicist Steven Weinberg famously remarked (if I remember correctly): "With or without religion, good people do good things and bad people do bad things, but for good people to do bad things, that takes religion."