Support the IEET




The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.



Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:


Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view




whats new at ieet

The Future of Robotic Automated Labor

Consciousness and Neuroscience

Fusion: “Posthuman” - 3D Printed Tissues and Seeing Through Walls!

Philosopher Michael Lynch Says Privacy Violations Are An Affront To Human Dignity

Transhumanism: The Robot Human: A Self-Generating Ecosystem

Indefinite Life Extension and Broader World Health Collaborations (Part II)


ieet books

Virtually Human: The Promise—-and the Peril—-of Digital Immortality
Author
Martine Rothblatt


comments

cacarr on 'Book review: Nick Bostrom's "Superintelligence"' (Oct 24, 2014)

jasoncstone on 'Ray Kurzweil, Google's Director Of Engineering, Wants To Bring The Dead Back To Life' (Oct 22, 2014)

pacificmaelstrom on 'Why “Why Transhumanism Won’t Work” Won’t Work' (Oct 21, 2014)

rms on 'Smut in Jesusland: Why Bible Belt States are the Biggest Consumers of Online Porn' (Oct 21, 2014)

instamatic on 'Smut in Jesusland: Why Bible Belt States are the Biggest Consumers of Online Porn' (Oct 21, 2014)

rms on 'Science Fiction and our Dreams of the Future' (Oct 20, 2014)

rms on 'Sousveillance and Surveillance: What kind of future do we want?' (Oct 20, 2014)







Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List



JET

Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month


Google’s Cold Betrayal of the Internet
Oct 10, 2014
(7516) Hits
(2) Comments

Dawkins and the “We are going to die” -Argument
Sep 25, 2014
(5721) Hits
(21) Comments

Should we abolish work?
Oct 3, 2014
(5145) Hits
(1) Comments

Will we uplift other species to sapience?
Sep 25, 2014
(4593) Hits
(0) Comments



IEET > Rights > FreeThought > Contributors > Valerie Tarico

Print Email permalink (5) Comments (7730) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


Does Romney’s Religious Devotion Make Him More or Less Trustworthy?


Valerie Tarico
By Valerie Tarico
Awaypoint

Posted: Oct 25, 2012

Does religion make people more trustworthy? Most religious people like to think so.

Mitt Romney may be a member of a religious minority, but conservative Christians are working hard to think of him as “one of us.” Romney himself is hoping that they will take his religious devotion as a sign that he is a person of integrity. He wants to be regarded someone to be trusted even if he won’t share his tax returns or details of policy proposals. Does religion make people more trustworthy?

Most religious people like to think so. In fact, many Christians believe that when they are taken up to heaven and the rest of us are Left Behind, the world will descend into an anarchy of deceit, exploitation, and violence. In the words of the New Testament writer, Christians are the salt of the earth, a light shining on a hill –a beacon in an otherwise vast moral void.

In this view, nonbelief is associated with moral bankruptcy, but the right kind of religious devotion makes people honest and good. In the U.S., a confession of atheism can be the death knell for a political candidate. By contrast, a Jesus fish in a business logo says, “We are to be trusted.” Even people who think that religion isn’t true often think that it’s a good moral influence. That is why Chris Rodda’s book title, Liars for Jesus, had a particular bite.

It is also why scenarios like the following can make maligned nonbelievers feel downright righteous:

*  A Catholic Archbishop in Kenya tells the laity that condoms cause HIV, and priests spread the word that rubbers actually are laced with the virus.

*  Gordon Hinckley, president and prophet of the Mormon Church, faces a national audience and an awkward question: Do Mormons teach that God was once a man? “I don’t know that we teach it.” he tells Time Magazine in 1997. A year later he tells Larry King that polygamy is “not doctrinal.”

*  A Pakistani Imam, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, wants Christian families to move out of the neighborhood around his mosque. He plants evidence and then falsely accuses a mentally challenged eleven year old girl of burning a Quran.

*  An Evangelical historian, David Barton, determines to prove that America was founded as a Christian nation. His popular book, ironically titled The Jefferson Lies, gets pulled from bookstores by his publisher because it contains too many factual “deficiencies.”

Religious people lie about all kinds of things. So do the rest of us. But in each of these high profile cases a public role model was moved to lie in the service of religion itself. Each believed himself on a mission for God, one that could be achieved only by distorting reality. According to the dictates of dogma, lying was the lesser evil —less evil, for example, than contraception, public derision, diversity, or secularism, and so faith became the impetus for dishonesty rather than a barrier against it.
The relationship between religion and honesty is, at best, complicated.

Most religions place a high value on honesty and on the concept of truth itself, which is seen as sacred. Religion scholar Huston Smith, said that the world’s great wisdom traditions converge on three virtues: charity (meaning love or compassion), humility, and veracity. Veracity is truth seeking and truth telling, and the sublime objectivity that enables both. Medieval Jewish commentator, Rashi, said famously, “God’s seal is truth.” Muslims call Islam “the religion of truth.” In Christianity, the two defining attributes of God are Love and Truth while Satan is “the father of lies.” In Buddhism, which is nontheistic, compassion is the highest virtue, but some say that truth is god.

From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that veracity is one of the world’s most universal ethical values. Whether or not we thrive depends on our ability to figure out the cause and effect relationships that govern our wellbeing. Which buttons do I need to push to get fed, to get money, to get sex? Getting the answers right can be a matter of life or death. In the short run it may be nice to think whatever I want, but if I indulge in too much wish-thinking, reality can hit me pretty hard.

We also can get whomped if other people lead us astray, whether it is because they themselves have a poor grasp of reality or they don’t care what is real or they have reason to trick us. As members of a social species, most of the information that we need in order to flourish comes from other humans, and so one of the most critical aspects of any relationship is trust. It is tremendously important that we be able to differentiate useful truths from hot air and deception.

While the jury is still out on the net effect, for better or worse, of religion in the modern world, some scholars (and research) suggest that religion functions to bind communities together, suppressing selfishness and encouraging shared beliefs and virtues that enable communal life. Consequently, religions have mechanisms for encouraging veracity, along with other virtues like generosity and service. For example, truth telling and truth seeking are taught during religious training, from Vacation Bible School to seminary.  Divine Truth is the focus of songs and art, while human dishonesty is cause for shame or confession. Religious communities expect members to be “upright” in their dealings with each other and they sanction violators. In addition, theistic religions, meaning those with humanoid gods, leverage another form of social pressure. They cultivate the sense that someone is always looking over your shoulder. Like Santa, God sees you when you’re sleeping and awake, whether you’ve been bad or good. Researchers have foundthat, even in atheists, mentally activating the concept of “God” can elicit more scrupulous behavior.

The caveat is that religions also use the concept of truth in ways that encourage dishonesty and self-deception. Many start with a set of dogmas and ask believers to make any eternal logic or evidence fit the structure of the dogmatic belief system. Truth is, essentially, trademarked. It is what leaders or sacred texts tell you it is, and it is your job to revise or ignore any indication to the contrary.
This may not have created much of an integrity problem for believers in ages past, when the only available explanations for natural phenomena and human behavior were those derived from religion itself. In modern societies, though, adherents are confronted with a whole marketplace of ideas. The proto-scientific aspect of religion, meaning its value in explaining the natural world, is increasingly obsolete, as are its moral priorities. As religious teachings diverge further and further from what is known about the world around us and about the functioning of the human mind, the faithful can feel obligated to contort their own minds, suppressing evidence and distorting logic in order to maintain traditional beliefs.

In fact, sometimes they are exhorted to do so. An Evangelical Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, written by Gleason Archer, opens with the following words: “In dealing with Bible problems of any kind . . . be fully persuaded in your own mind that an adequate explanation exists. . . . Once we have come into agreement with Jesus that the Scripture is completely trustworthy and authoritative, then it is out of the question for us to shift over to the opposite assumption, that the Bible is only the errant record of fallible men as they wrote about God.”  Whew. Archer goes on to create a 400-page monument to the art of confirmatory thinking.

Religious teachings themselves can make honest inquiry feel unsafe. Threats of eternal damnation, shunning, or even the divinely sanctioned murder of apostates all provide strong incentives for the faithful to avoid looking too closely at received traditions. Threats like these create the conditions for what is called motivated belief, in which rationality provides post hoc justifications for beliefs that are subconsciously driven by emotion. A thoughtful but motivated true-believer may become particularly adept at logical fallacy and distortion of evidence–-in other words, adept at the art of self-deception, something we’re all rather good at even without any help from religion.

Religious mixed messages about honesty can be quite overt. Islam, for example teaches that believers should be honest. “Surely God guides not him who is prodigal and a liar” (Qur’an 40:28). However, the Shi’a branch, which emerged under conditions of conflict, also contains a set of teachings called al taqiyya that permit or even honor deception of outsiders under specific circumstances. One such circumstance is when a Muslim fears bodily harm because of his religion. In the most restrictive interpretations of taqiyya, this is the only time deception has divine sanction.

However, sacred texts and historical precedent affirm deception in a broader range of circumstances:  To defeat enemies, to defend Islam itself, or to attain good things, like marital harmony. According to stories embedded in the Qur’an and subsequent records of Islamic jurisprudence, deception can be a virtuous weapon during religious conflict or in the pursuit of Islamic hegemony. Since Islam is Truth, the moral negatives of deception may be outweighed by the benefits of right belief and sharia, which eventually bring joys and peace that trump all else.

Like some forms of Islam, Mormonism crystallized under conditions of persecution, and like Muslims and Evangelical Christians, Mormons traditionally believe that God wants them to convert the world to their form of belief. The combination means that Mormonism sends some mixed messages about honesty. Gordon Hinkley, the Mormon president who publically denied knowledge of traditional teachings, also made the following statement, “In matters of honesty, there are no shortcuts; no little white lies, or big black lies, only the simple, honest truth spoken in total candor… Being true is different than being honest.”  The contrast between this statement and his public dissimulation is stark, and it is a good reminder that people who deceive in the service of faith often are also people who highly value truth.

Mormonwiki contains a section titled, Lying for the Lord, which “refers to the practice of lying to protect the image of and belief in the Mormon religion.” At other sites apostate Mormons discuss the practice, although much of what they discuss is something more subtle than outright lying. One former Mormon reports, “When I was a missionary, the church’s official Missionary Guide instructed missionaries to avoid providing direct answers or solutions to investigators’ questions or concerns.” (An investigator is someone who is considering becoming a Mormon.)  He goes on to say that most missionaries are doing the best they can in an untenable situation, and contrasts a Mormon missionary’s desire for integrity with the objectives of the religion itself: “I wonder if it might be fair to say that . . . the system which puts missionaries in the line of rhetorical fire without providing them with the information necessary to craft meaningful answers to legitimate questions about the church is a form of collective sophistry?”

There’s a reason some answers are to be avoided; they aren’t conducive to belief. The term “milk before meat” is sometimes used to mean that potential converts should be exposed first to teachings that are metaphorically easiest to swallow.  Mormon leader Boyd K. Packer, the second most senior leader in the Mormon Church, had this to say: “There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.”

Boyd also has expressed sentiments very similar to those of Evangelical apologist, Archer:

It is a matter of orientation toward scholarly work—historians’ work in particular—that sponsors my concern. I have come to believe that it is the tendency for most members of the Church who spend a great deal of time in academic research to begin to judge the Church, its doctrine, organization, and history, by the principles of their own profession. . . . . In my mind it ought to be the other way around. A member of the Church ought always, particularly if he is pursuing extended academic studies, to judge the professions of men against the revealed word of the Lord.

This is the mindset to which Mitt Romney is spiritually accountable.

The line between church and state has blurred in recent years. When J.F.K. ran for president as a member of a religious minority, he took great pains to assure the American people that he respected and would enforce separation of church and state. Mitt Romney offers no such assurance. Unlike Kennedy, who was merely a lay Catholic, Romney served as a bishop in the Mormon church, leading rituals and offering spiritual advice to lower level Mormons; and wealthy co-religionists have poured money into PAC’s that support his election because they see him as someone who shares their worldview. Barack Obama grants regular White House access to the Catholic Bishops and their proxies, and one has to presume that, should they want it, Mormon bishops might have similar access under Romney. Thus, it is reasonable to ask how Mormon culture and dogmas are likely to affect policy making.

Many of us are hungry for data-driven policies and public servants who are willing to hear and speak hard truths. On both sides of the aisle, people are weary of politicians who calculate the likely effect of a statement rather than assessing its truth value. Should Romney be elected, many Americans will want to believe that having a devout Mormon in the presidency is one of the circumstances when religion increases integrity.

Unfortunately, in this regard Romney’s religion offers little in the way of assurance. Mormon belief may suppress outright lies in social situations and foster trust between business partners, especially among the faithful. But when it comes to the matter of helping cherished ideologies and groups gain ground, Romney’s relevant Seminary lesson may well have been that the means serves the end.


Dr. Valerie Tarico is a psychologist with a passion for personal and social evolution.  In 2005, she co-founded the Progress Alliance of Washington, a collective of future-oriented donors investing in progressive change.  She also is the founder of WisdomCommons.org, an interactive website that showcases humanity’s shared moral core via quotes, poetry, stories and essays from many traditions. Tarico’s book, Trusting Doubt:  A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light, offers personal insight into how we can apply “constructive curiosity” to our most closely guarded beliefs. 

As a social commentator, Tarico writes and speaks on issues ranging from religious fundamentalism to gender roles, to reproductive rights and technologies. A primary focus is on improving access to top tier contraceptive technologies.  To that end, she serves on the board of Advocates for Youth, a D.C. based nonprofit with wide-ranging programs related to reproductive health and justice.  Tarico co-chairs of Washington Women for Choice, serves on the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest Board of Advocates, and is a Senior Writing Fellow at Sightline Institute, a think tank focused on sustainable prosperity. Her articles appear at sites including the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Salon, AlterNet, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and at her blog, AwayPoint


Print Email permalink (5) Comments (7731) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


COMMENTS


I doubt that anyone, anyone at all reading this, will raise their hand and announce that they knowingly rubbered-up and slept with an HIV patient in full confidence, peace, and joy.

One Harvard researcher ended up agreeing with Pope Benedict:  condoms create a false sense of security.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/harvard_researcher_agrees_with_pope_on_condoms_in_africa/





Henry, IMO ‘botsex might be an alternative to human sex, no STDs from ‘bots that we know of, and no alimony or palimony.

This is a good piece because it covers the crucial angles.
Now, the religious—take Christians for example—do live moral lives.. or at any rate if Christians are as dishonest as the secular they do live cleaner lives; and it is probably better to live a clean life albeit you may miss out on a great deal of the fun.
Romney’s faith is perhaps the one apparent reason to trust him because what are the other reasons? At any rate, he is,  amusingly, what Clinton was: a centrist with the lack of core beliefs that makes smart politicians often fail—if only the Bush dynasty had stood for something besides their dynasty they would have done a bit better—instead we had 12 years of confusion.
Hopefully Romney as president would do better than the Bushes.





Does Romney’s religious devotion make him more or less trustworthy?


More. It’s not his religion that is the problem; religion in and of itself can’t hurt anyone—how many divisions does the Pope have?





I truly hope that soon after effective IQ enhancing tech in whatever form comes along that elections will no longer be decided by people who believe in imaginary friends living above the clouds.





I’m a Mormon, and I love my religion for many reasons. That said, I share Valerie’s concern that religion, Mormonism and otherwise, too often incents dishonesty, particularly about dogmas and particularly among those concerned with appeasing fundamentalists. Even those of us who dislike fundamentalism are often compelled by practicality to shape our religious expressions in ways to minimize negative social repercussions from fundamentalists. That’s not entirely bad, as it can demonstrate charity (fundamentalists matter too!), but taken too far it can demonstrate mere fearful appeasement.





YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Worldchanging, Open the Future

Previous entry: Ethicist: Fixing genes using cloning technique is worth the ethical risk

HOME | ABOUT | FELLOWS | STAFF | EVENTS | SUPPORT  | CONTACT US
SECURING THE FUTURE | LONGER HEALTHIER LIFE | RIGHTS OF THE PERSON | ENVISIONING THE FUTURE
CYBORG BUDDHA PROJECT | AFRICAN FUTURES PROJECT | JOURNAL OF EVOLUTION AND TECHNOLOGY

RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @ ieet.org     phone: 860-297-2376