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 Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control

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Aaron
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PostSubject: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:30 pm

I've been arguing this for a while now...

Quote :
Religion May Have Evolved Because Of Its Ability To Help People Exercise Self-control

ScienceDaily (Jan. 1, 2009) Self-control is critical for success in life, and a new study by University of Miami professor of Psychology Michael McCullough finds that religious people have more self-control than do their less religious counterparts.

These findings imply that religious people may be better at pursuing and achieving long-term goals that are important to them and their religious groups. This, in turn, might help explain why religious people tend to have lower rates of substance abuse, better school achievement, less delinquency, better health behaviors, less depression, and longer lives.

In this research project, McCullough evaluated 8 decades worth of research on religion, which has been conducted in diverse samples of people from around the world. He found persuasive evidence from a variety of domains within the social sciences, including neuroscience, economics, psychology, and sociology, that religious beliefs and religious behaviors are capable of encouraging people to exercise self-control and to more effectively regulate their emotions and behaviors, so that they can pursue valued goals. The research paper, which summarizes the results of their review of the existing science, will be published in the January 2009 issue of Psychological Bulletin.

"The importance of self-control and self-regulation for understanding human behavior are well known to social scientists, but the possibility that the links of religiosity to self-control might explain the links of religiosity to health and behavior has not received much explicit attention," said McCullough. "We hope our paper will correct this oversight in the scientific literature." Among the most interesting conclusions that the research team drew were the following:

* Religious rituals such as prayer and meditation affect the parts of the human brain that are most important for self-regulation and self-control;
* When people view their goals as "sacred," they put more energy and effort into pursuing those goals, and therefore, are probably more effective at attaining them;
* Religious lifestyles may contribute to self-control by providing people with clear standards for their behavior, by causing people to monitor their own behavior more closely, and by giving people the sense that God is watching their behavior;
* The fact that religious people tend to be higher in self-control helps explain why religious people are less likely to misuse drugs and alcohol and experience problems with crime and delinquency.

McCullough's review of the research on religion and self-control contributes to a better understanding of "how the same social force that motivates acts of charity and generosity can also motivate people to strap bomb belts around their waists and then blow themselves up in crowded city buses," he explained. "By thinking of religion as a social force that provides people with resources for controlling their impulses (including the impulse for self-preservation, in some cases) in the service of higher goals, religion can motivate people to do just about anything."

Among the study's more practical implications is that religious people may have at their disposal a set of unique psychological resources for adhering to their New Year's Resolutions in the year to come.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081231005355.htm

The study seems to agree with the notion that conformity (or at least religion) is the result of a process of evolutionary socio-cultural development.

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Uriah

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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:42 pm

Oddly enough, in the modern context, the most religious often have the least amount of self control.

It would seem the training tool has outlived its effectiveness.
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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Fri Jan 02, 2009 5:15 pm

Uriah wrote:
Oddly enough, in the modern context, the most religious often have the least amount of self control.

It would seem the training tool has outlived its effectiveness.

Yes which is why some people are so attracted to organized religion, because they're trying to expel some sort of pathology in their developmental makeup.

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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Fri Jan 02, 2009 6:35 pm

Quote :

The study seems to agree with the notion that conformity (or at least religion) is the result of a process of evolutionary socio-cultural development.

During a New Year's Eve party for a few young parents and their children, I had the opportunity to observe socialization in action. One girl, about 18 - 24 months, was doing what came naturally: handling and exploring everything in the host's house. After she was admonished by the mother, "Victoria, we don't touch the TV", she began to carefully explore the limits of that rule. As she sequentially touched the TV base cabinet, a puzzle toy, and the painted wall, she looked at her mother for approval: "Yes, we can touch that". Thus, her childish lack of self-control was slowly converted into a more mature and discriminating understanding of the social rules governing touching. Presumably those cultural norms will eventually be internalized in the form of a super-ego to enforce self-control without the need for an external conscience.

Religion seems to have taken-on a similar parental role in society. It defines what we can and cannot do, according to the cultural and moral rules we have implicitly "agreed" to be bound by in our unwritten social contract, and in God's written laws. Unfortunately, some people absorb the rules, but never develop the necessary self-control to act in "conformity" without constant parental supervision. The Catholic Church especially has traditionally treated its rank & file members like children, but most religious bodies are somewhat paternalistic.

One clear example of religion, faith, and God serving the purpose of external control for those who have difficulty governing their own instinctive behavior is the various forms of addiction. The Alcoholics Anonymous organization requires its members to acknowledge that they are incapable of controlling their inner urges without the help of a higher power. Since the mental image of a disapproving deity is not sufficient to enforce conformity though, AA rides herd on alcoholics with regular semi-religious meetings. Another example is homosexuals who sincerely believe that their non-conforming behavior is sinful. Left to their own devices, most would eventually succumb to innate desires they know to be in conflict with the rules. So church-related groups have developed their own 12-step programs and "watchers" to help weak and sinful creatures to gain control over themselves.

That raises an interesting question: with no church to supervise them, and no fear of God to terrorize them, how do Deists maintain self-control?
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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:36 pm

Because Deism itself, and by nature those attracted to the philosophy, are products of the ideals and philosophies of The Enlightenment.

The ideas of Natural Rights, the Social Contract, and all that.

This is the root of why Reason is so important to Deism.
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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:42 pm

Hmm.

A while ago my brother brought his girlfriend and her six year old with him on a visit. I know that his girlfriend saw the way I was looking at the kid when she started crying while we were out eating dinner and was probably offended, but it was just that her total lack of self-control was so...weird.

In high school one of my friends asked me why I didn't drink or smoke or do drugs since I didn't believe in God. I didn't understand the question. What does a supreme being in the sky have to do with my taste buds, desire to be healthy, not wanting to run the risk of jail, and most of all hating the idea of not being in control of myself?

The same puzzlement came up in a discussion about cheating on another forum - I was accused of being a rigid fundie because I am monogamous. Again, what would a supreme being in the sky have to do with my love for my husband and total lack of interest in anyone else and desire to not break my husband's heart?

I don't know - I am really beginning to appreciate my mother. She's coming to visit the weekend after next and I need to do something to show her how much I appreciate her and how great a mother she was and is. Apparently she taught me all this stuff in such a way that I totally internalized it, to the point where I can't comprehend needing something outside of yourself - a supreme being or social "rules".

I never believed in a god and I have always chafed against conformity. With the result that I am very happily married, have a job that I like and enjoy, live in a really cool house, and in general have a great life. And I did not get any of that by exploiting people more than a person born in the US can help exploiting people or - gah, I can't even begin to imagine what it's like inside the mind of someone who doesn't care about other living beings and has to have some outside authority tell them "No, you can't abuse and exploit others to get what you want." Actually, looking at that sentence - I really can't even understand wanting something that would involve hurting others.

But I understand that I am not typical - my husband once called me his statistical anomaly.

Looked up a bit about the superego - I think Freud himself had issues that colored his theories but that's no reason to reject them totally.

I don't know - looking at that it's like maybe my superego has taken over to the point where it's become me?
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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Fri Mar 13, 2009 6:19 pm

IMO organized mythic religion is just a meme that develops from the "Conformist" level of developmental. Perhaps you used something else as a tool of conformity when you were at that level.

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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:23 pm

Religions provide a cautionary tale based on an imaginary cause-and-effect:
If you sin during this short life, you will be punished in the next eternal life.

Some of us have recognized a real cause-and-effect aspect of behavior that occurs in this life: If I treat others poorly, I'll have no friends. If I am angry most of the time, I will feel stressed and become ill.

In the first example, one must have faith in the truth of the threat in order to be affected by it. In the second example, one can experience the effects for oneself. That experience creates self-control, leaving no need for an external enforcer.

Jesus reduced the ten commandments to two: "Love God and love thy neighbor", but he didn't explain why! The Buddha said: "Hate is like picking up a hot coal, intending to throw it at your enemy. Both get burned."

Because Jesus was a "shepherd guarding his flock of sheep", Christianity is paternal. The Buddha admonished his followers against worshiping him, and taught that each person could attain enlightenment on their own. Both religions provide a form of self-regulation, but the difference lies in who is in doing the regulating.

Deism is, in a sense, a Western version of Buddhism.

Unfortunately, there is an evolutionary advantage to traveling in packs - safety in numbers. The well-organized army of Christians will always outnumber the independent thinkers who make their own way in the world. Crying or Very sad
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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Mon Mar 16, 2009 5:11 pm

PA I think you're saying that thestic religions have fear of the outside enforcer (i.e. God) to keep them on the straight and narrow while deists and presumably atheists of good heart don't need the external enforcer because they've figured out, through their own reasoning, so to speak, the golden rule.

I think you suggest that the flocks of theists are somewhat lemming like and maybe under dubious control of those who would purport to know what God's commands are. So you do raise a good issue.

But I don't think it's so black and white. Of coursse, alot of Christians and other of the theistic flock have also been able to figure out, like deists and theists, the strictly utilitarian benefits of the golden rules.

And equally true, some of us deists, myself included, still completely believe and hope that our actions in this life will be called to account in the afterlife, should there be one.
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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:56 pm

Quote :
But I don't think it's so black and white. Of coursse, alot of Christians and other of the theistic flock have also been able to figure out, like deists and theists, the strictly utilitarian benefits of the golden rules.
It's not so much the rule itself, but the enforcing authority behind the rule that differs between the revealed religions and the agnostic philosophies. Utilitarian benefits and detriments in the temporal world are pretty obvious. But what about the eternal consequences?
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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:43 am

Quote :
Utilitarian benefits and detriments in the temporal world are pretty obvious. But what about the eternal consequences?

I just think this world is real, and the pain and sorrow are real and, therefore if there is an afterlife, the cause and effect of our actions would obviously continue or have an impact in any afterlife.
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PostSubject: Re: Religion Helps People Exercise Self-control   Fri Mar 20, 2009 12:58 am

i agree it's about self-control. the problem is what controls our sense of self.

religion doesn't have to be bad. it just is. we is tribal.
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