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Old 12-02-2009, 12:00 AM   #1
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When God's on your side

A neat little article about the eerie tendency of God's will to align with peoples own thoughts
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For many religious people, the popular question "What would Jesus do?" is essentially the same as "What would I do?" That's the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.

Psychological studies have found that people are always a tad egocentric when considering other people's mindsets. They use their own beliefs as a starting point, which colours their final conclusions. Epley found that the same process happens, and then some, when people try and divine the mind of God. Their opinions on God's attitudes on important social issues closely mirror their own beliefs. If their own attitudes change, so do their perceptions of what God thinks. They even use the same parts of their brain when considering God's will and their own opinions.

Religion provides a moral compass for many people around the world, colouring their views on everything from martyrdom to abortion to homosexuality. But Epley's research calls the worth of this counsel into question, for it suggests that inferring the will of God sets the moral compass to whatever direction we ourselves are facing. He says, "Intuiting God's beliefs on important issues may not produce an independent guide, but may instead serve as an echo chamber to validate and justify one's own beliefs."

Epley asked different groups of volunteers to rate their own beliefs about important issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, the death penalty, the Iraq War, and the legalisation of marijuana. The volunteers also had to speculate about God's take on these issues, as well as the stances of an "average American", Bill Gates (a celebrity with relatively unknown beliefs) and George Bush (a celebrity whose positions are well-known).

Epley surveyed commuters at a Boston train station, university undergraduates, and 1,000 adults from a nationally representative database. In every case, he found that people's own attitudes and beliefs matched those they suggested for God more precisely than those they suggested for the other humans.

Of course, correlation doesn't imply causation - rather than people imprinting their beliefs onto God, it could be that people were using God's beliefs as a guide to their own. Epley tried to control for that by asking his recruits to talk about their own beliefs first, and then presenting God and the others in a random order. And as better evidence of causality, Epley showed that he could change people's views on God's will by manipulating their own beliefs.

He showed some 145 volunteers a strong argument in favour of affirmative action (it counters workplace biases) and a weak argument opposing it (it raises uncomfortable issues). Others heard a strong argument against (reverse discrimination) and a weak argument for (Britney and Paris agree!). The recruits did concur that the allegedly stronger argument was indeed stronger. Those who read the overall positive propaganda were not only more supportive of affirmative action but more likely to think that God would be in the pro-camp too.

In another study, Epley got people to manipulate themselves. He asked 59 people to write and perform a speech about the death penalty, which either matched their own beliefs or argued against them. The task shifted people's attitudes towards the position in their speech, either strengthening or moderating their original views. And as in the other experiments, their shifting attitudes coincided with altered estimates of God's attitudes (but not those of other people).

For his final trick, Epley looked at the brains of recruits as they in turn attempted to peer into the mind of God. While sitting in an fMRI scanner, 17 people had to state how they, God or an average American would feel on a list of social issues, including universal health care, stem cell research, euthanasia, abortion, sex education and more. As before, their answers revealed a closer match between their beliefs and those they ascribed to God, than those they credited to the average Joe or Jill.
From the original paper
Quote:
"People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want. The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God's beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing."
Creating God in one's own image : Not Exactly Rocket Science

It would be interesting if FYM posters see where they line up with these types of questions, whether there are issues where they take a position that goes against what they think God would want.
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Old 12-02-2009, 10:14 AM   #2
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Interesting article and thread, thanks for posting it.
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Old 12-03-2009, 06:47 PM   #3
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press>>>play



Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side.

Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side.

Oh the Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I's made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side.

Oh the First World War, boys
It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting
I never got straight
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side.

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.

I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.

~Bob Dylan
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Old 12-04-2009, 01:48 PM   #4
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What's that Aaron Neville song? "Did Judas Iscariot have God on his side?".
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Old 12-05-2009, 09:33 PM   #5
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What's that Aaron Neville song? "Did Judas Iscariot have God on his side?".

Questioning everything is good.
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Old 12-05-2009, 11:23 PM   #6
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"what would jesus do?"

go fuck himself?

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Old 12-07-2009, 09:45 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by bigjohn2441 View Post
"what would jesus do?"

go fuck himself?



It's always Jesus...

Wanna write the definition of rebel?
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Old 12-07-2009, 10:57 PM   #8
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1 : opposing or taking arms against a government or ruler.
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:15 PM   #9
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1 : opposing or taking arms against a government or ruler.

6. to resist or rise against some authority, control, or tradition.
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the iron horse View Post
6. to resist or rise against some authority, control, or tradition.


like Christianity?
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:50 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Irvine511 View Post
like Christianity?

Press>>>Play


In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

~Bob Dylan
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Old 12-10-2009, 09:51 PM   #12
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I'm not sure I wanna press play anymore.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:26 PM   #13
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shit, i pressed record by accident and taped over everything
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Old 12-12-2009, 07:11 PM   #14
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shit, i pressed record by accident and taped over everything

I know the feeling.

You try to do something right and TSHTF.
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Old 12-13-2009, 09:21 PM   #15
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Apparently the courts are on side too
Quote:
Charities and religious groups may discriminate against gay people or anyone else who might offend their values after a landmark decision quashed a finding in favour of a gay couple who wanted to become foster parents. Church leaders praised the ruling saying that anti-discrimination cases threatened their ability to do charity work. The couple were refused access to the Wesley Mission's foster care agency because they were homosexual. They took their case to court and were awarded $10,000 and Wesley Mission told to change its practices so it didn't discriminate.

Wesley Mission appealed with the appeal panel overturning the decision and ordering the original tribunal to hear the case again. The panel headed by Magistrate Nancy Hennessy even instructed the tribunal to this time take into consideration whether monogamous heterosexual couples are the norm for "Wesleyanism" and whether they might have had to reject the couple in order to preserve their beliefs and not offend people in their religion.

Wesley Mission and the couple both declined to comment, as the case must now be reheard, however Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal Pell hailed the move as a great win for freedom of religion. "The decision is very helpful, a step in the right direction," he said. "It is important to protect people from unjust discrimination but it is ridiculous to claim discrimination every time we show a preference for some people over others. "Anti-discrimination laws should not be used to change how church agencies organise themselves."
Court upholds right of churches to discriminate
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