I have been thinking about the idea that religious people are somehow nicer or more compassionate than non-religious people. This seems to be a prevailing concept in our culture, especially among Christians. But is it true?
This website, which is by a Christian, points out that according to a large variety of measurements of morality, ethics, compassion, etc., Christians fare no better than non-Christians.
In my own life, I have experienced the “not-niceness” of Christian religion. Being a fundamentalist, Evangelical Christian kind of made me an asshole. There were several things about this mindset that did not sit well with my personality at all:
- As a Christian I was taught that the world was divided into two groups of people: Folks like me who have been saved by the blood of Jesus, and are therefore going to heaven, and other folks who are lost, and are therefore going to Hell.
- I was also taught that there is one Revealed Truth of the heart of God: The Holy Bible. Other so-called religious books were works of the devil.
- Even where the Christian teachings were moral, I always complied with a reluctant heart, out of obligation and fear. Thus, I was not very loving and giving, oddly
Now that I am in what I call a “post-Christian” state, I seem to be nicer. At least that is what the folks around me (notably my wife) tell me. One thing I have noticed, especially with respect to my wife, is that my attitude about her dramatically shifted after I let go of the sin thing. Prior to that point, I loved my wife dearly, and wanted to be married to her. But there was something galling about the religious obligation. It was almost like I was doing something that I should do, according to the religious traditions, and that took some of the joy out of doing it.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to be with my wife, and I want her to be with me. But now I basically woo her continuously. I don’t assume that she will stay with me out of religious obligation. It’s a moment-by-moment thing. I actually want her to choose to be with me, continuously. The only way to achieve that is to truly love her, out of my heart, not out of duty. Thus, letting go of the idea of religious duty gave me something more in that very important relationship.
The first two points, though, caused me to have great hubris. When I was a Christian, I was utterly convinced of my own righteousness, and the correctness of my position. I had no doubt at all about that! And that made me completely obnoxious to many people, especially non-Christians. I looked down upon these poor lost souls. I prayed for them, but only in a hope that they would become like me. It never occurred to me that I might have something to learn from them.
Since I let go of religion, I have been having a lot more interesting relationships with random perfect strangers. I seem to be able to relate better. Since I am now equally convinced that I know absolutely nothing, I am more teachable.
Not saying I have arrived here, but I seem to be on the right track.