The issue of whether “pure evil” exists, however, is separate from what happens to our judgments and our behavior when we believe in its existence. It is this question to which several researchers have recently begun to turn. How can we measure people’s belief in pure evil (BPE) and what consequences does such a belief have on our responses to wrong-doers?
According to this research, one of the central features of BPE is evil’s perceived immutability. Evil people are born evil – they cannot change. Two judgments follow from this perspective: 1) evil people cannot be rehabilitated, and 2) the eradication of evil requires only the eradication of all the evil people. Following this logic, the researchers tested the hypothesis that there would be a relationship between BPE and the desire to aggress towards and punish wrong-doers.
College-age Americans are divided among not two but three distinct worldviews: Religious,
Secular, and Spiritual.
o Each of the three worldviews is attached to a distinct outlook on theological,
philosophical, scientific, public-policy, and political issues.
Gender gaps are noticeable within the Secular (with more males) and Spiritual (with more
females) groups, while the Religious group attracts males and females more evenly.
Each of the group has a distinct religious identification make-up:
o The Religious group is overwhelmingly Christian of various denominations.
o The Secular group overwhelmingly distance themselves from religion; 70% profess no religion (Nones) and 11% refuse to answer.
o The Spiritual group is varied in its religious make-up: one-third are Nones and 17% identify with Eastern religions, Judaism, and New Religious Movements.
Many college-age students seem to have a worldview different from the one in which they were
o The Religious group attended religious services regularly (91% monthly or more often) in
o The Secular group is almost evenly divided; 49% were raised in actively religious homes,
and 51% attended infrequently in their early years.
o The Spiritual group seems to lie midway between the Secular and Religious populations;
two-thirds were raised in religious homes.
Patterns of belief in God are remarkably different in the three worldviews:
o The Religious group mirrors the general American adult population with 70% firmbelievers and only 2% saying they don’t believe in God or don’t know where there is a God and don’t believe there is any way to find out.
o At the other spectrum are Secular students, of whom 77% either don’t believe in God or don’t know if there is a God.
o Spiritual students exhibit an array of preferences: 27% believe in a higher power (but not
in a personal God); 24% are firm believers; 21% believe in God (while having doubts);
12% don’t know if God exists and only 5% don’t believe in God.
Opinions on scientific and philosophical issues differ widely.When asked separately, “Do you believe in miracles?” and “Do you believe in reason/rationalism?”
o A strong majority of Religious students believes in miracles and a smaller majority
believes in reason and rationalism.
o The Secular are as committed to reason (83%) as the Religious are to belief in miracles
(84%). Only 13% of Seculars believe in miracles.
o The Spiritual are between the two other worldviews.
Similarly, the results show considerable divisions by worldview with regard to belief in
Creationism/Intelligent Design and Evolution/Darwinism:
o A majority of Religious students believe in Creationism/Intelligent Design. Another
majority believes in Evolution/Darwinism. Presumably this reflects the split between
conservative and liberal religious believers, with some small group believing in both
o The Secular group overwhelmingly endorses Evolution (93%) and rejects Creationism
(only 5% ‘yes’).
o The Spiritual group believes strongly in Evolution but a significant minority (26%)
believes in Creationism or Intelligent Design.
On public policy issues the Spiritual and Secular groups hold similar worldviews, with Secular
students consistently more liberal and the Religious more conservative. The pattern is similar for
all issues raised: women’s reproductive rights, same sex marriages, gay adoptions, gun control,
and belief in assisted suicide.
Spiritual students seem to distance themselves from religious institutions. When asked “Do you
agree or disagree: Religious institutions and clergy are entitled to their tax breaks?” only 29% of
them agree, compared with 58% of Religious students and 16% of Secular.
Finally, the political orientations of the worldviews are quite distinct:
o Religious students are the most likely to regard themselves “conservative” (34%) compared with 11% of Spiritual and 4% of Secular.
o Secular students are also the most likely to view themselves as “liberal” (44%) compared with 35% of Spiritual and 17% of Religious.
o Secular students are also the most likely to describe themselves as “progressive” (20%) compared with 12% of Spiritual and only 5% of Religious.
o Interestingly, the “libertarian” option attracted almost the same share of students in each group.
o The Religious are the most likely to consider themselves “moderate.”
Pascal's wager is usually framed as christianity vs atheism. More properly it should include other parts of human religion. Hayley forwarded this guide to help your planning (that's if you don't see the wager as fundamentally flawed in the first place).
Pascal's wager is right up there with Anselm's ontological argument - something that strikes me as logically ugly and completely decoupled from the real world and observation.
A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to "debate" on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.
It has been said that most people are nearly perfect atheists -- they reject the supernatural views of the many thousands of religions that have been created while only holding to the view of the religion they were brought up with.