Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Religion and Morality

Intrinsic religiosity - belief in God and collective worship as an end in itself.
Extrinsic religiosity - religion and collective worship are seen as primarily social activities, often undertaken for personal gain.

A specialist in cultural evolution, Peter Richardson, and a human ecologist, Brian Paciotti, both from the University of California, used games to test groups of people for altruistic qualities such as generosity, trust and fairness. They found that there was a difference between secular and religious people. Religious people did give more; however, the team found that "only people with intrinsic or questing religiosity were more generous and trusting, and less likely to punish unfairly. Extrinsically religious people were actually less altruistic than the non-religious."

Paciotti believes that the findings support the idea that humans are hard-wired to be moral and cooperative (like other primates who live in groups), with religion serving to define the nature and scope of that moral behaviour and influence with whom we cooperate.

"We do not need religion to live moral lives, but without it morality might never have evolved." writes Helen Phillips.

-New Scientist, 15 September 2007.

Yoga philosophy also states that dharma (morality) is innate. In Ayurveda, Indian traditional medicine, adharma (immorality) is seen as a cause of disease because it goes against the dharma which regulates not only the community but the body itself. No amount of herbs and cleansing practices will cure a disease if the sick person continues to transgress their in-born moral structure.

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