Tag Archives: holiday

The season for reason

By, Adam K. Fetterman
This Season, Celebrate REASON”, reads an American Atheists billboard by the Lincoln Tunnel. This is another in a long line of billboards and signs reminding people that atheists are out there. The apparent goal of this campaign is to let “closeted” atheists know that they are not alone. This seems particularly necessary during the holiday season as atheists may feel more like they are in the minority than other times of the year. For some, this time of the year requires them to pretend to be religious for fear of social reprisal. Therefore, being reminded (e.g. by billboards) that they are not alone can definitely have positive effects. However, as to be expected, the religious community (mostly Christian) is not responding with acceptance and positivity (though some are). Some have said the billboards are disrespectful and attacking. So, in response, religious organizations are putting up billboards of their own. According to the New York Times, there appears to be a quite interesting sign battle going on in Texas. The atheists’ sign reads “Millions of Americans are Good Without God” on the side of the bus, followed by a truck with a sign reading “I Still Love You – God” and another claiming “2.1 billion Christians are good with God”. While it would be a fairly funny scene to witness, it hits on an old argument about where morality comes from.

For many years, many have assumed that religion is the foundation or source of morality or pro-social behavior. In a recent review, Preston, Ritter, and Hernandez (2010) indicate that religion does not have a monopoly on morality and pro-social behavior. In fact, they indicate that religiosity only predicts moral or pro-social behavior in specific contexts and can actually predict increased anti-social behavior in certain contexts. The authors go on to discuss the differences between religious and supernatural beliefs in regards to moral and pro-social behaviors.

Another researcher arguing that religion is not the ultimate source of morality and pro-social behavior is Sam Harris. He has found (as well as others) quite compelling evidence of naturalistic or evolutionary foundations of morality and pro-social behavior. In fact, I have made arguments about certain motivations that would lead all people to be moral, in previous posts. In the end, it appears to be pretty clear that one can be “Good without God”. With some of the reactions to these billboards (e.g. defacing and anger), it seems apparent that religiosity does automatically make one moral.

More Sacramento-area atheist billboards are vandalized. By, Bill Lindelof, Sacto 9-1-1

Dueling billboards face off in Christmas controversy. By, Laura Dolan, CNN

Atheist bus ads rattle Fort Worth. By, James C. McKinley Jr., New York Times.

Sam Harris’ Website

Preston, J. L, Ritter, R. S., & Hernandez, J. I. (2010). Principles of religious prosociality: A review and reformulation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 574-590.

Read all of Adam K. Fetterman’s posts here.

Valentine’s Day or Chinese New Year?

For the first time since 1953, Valentine’s Day falls on the same data as the Chinese New Year. For most Chinese people, the Chinese New Year will trump Valentine’s Day because the Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in the culture’s calendar and is also the traditional family reunion date. However, much of China’s Generation X/Y population, who are catching on to Western cultures and holidays such as Valentine’s Day, are forced to choose between Eastern and Western traditions, and between mothers and girlfriends/boyfriends.

According to Chui and Cheng (2007), when both cultural representations are activated simultaneously, they are placed in cognitive juxtaposition and attention is directed to their contrastive differences. As a consequence, the perceived differences between the two cultures and the perceived impermeability of their boundary tend to be exaggerated. Thus, individuals constructing a cultural identity will find it easier to compare their personal values with the value representations of the two cultures. For most Chinese people, their personal values are more consistent with the value representation of Chinese culture than that of American culture. These individuals will choose to identify with Chinese culture and be ready to reaffirm their cherished culture in anticipation of globalization’s erosive effects. However, when the context calls for the creative use of ideas from diverse cultural sources, simultaneous activation of American and Chinese cultures will facilitate creative performance by enlarging the perceived distinctiveness of the two cultures and placing them in cognitive juxtaposition. For Chinese young people who have to choose between “the West’s ideal of a paradise for two” and the “Chinese New Year’s ideal of a reunited family”, the creative performance might be trying to do both – spending the morning with the family and the night with their girlfriends. Of course, they have to be delicate in explaining it to both mother and girlfriend.

Chiu, C. &  Cheng,  S. Y. (2007).Toward a social psychology of culture and globalization: Some social cognitive consequences of activating two cultures simultaneously. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 84 – 100.

Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year fall on same day this year, a rare occurrence.