An Ethical Exercise – What do you think
November 28, 2020 at 6:04 am #34919
This has been on my mind for a while, and I have finally worked up the courage to write out this post. I would like to take you through a bit of a thought experiment. I would like to know your honest thoughts and opinions on the subject. Imagine for a second what it would be like to convert all of the major world religions. Or at least the ones that most people have heard of: Let’s just say for sake of argument, let’s pick Christianity, Mormon, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Or you don’t have to pick those, that’s just an example pick any handful of religions that you want. Would it be unethical to “convert” to all of them? Just to see what happens. Just to see how people react. Just to see how you react. Do you think it is unethical to join a religion that you don’t really believe? Just for the experience? Do you think that bad things could happen? Do you think it really wouldn’t matter. I shared this idea with a friend briefly, not in depth but just the idea, and I was told that this would be like messing with a bunch of different spirits and it could really have an impact on a person’s soul. Do you believe that? Do you believe there is anything wrong with this type of experiment? What are the ethical problems with it? Has anybody done anything like this here?
I have a lot of thoughts on this issue but I’d really like to hear what you all think. I mean what are the deep ethical implications of something like this? Do you believe there are spiritual implications? And if so what kind? Would you do it? Why or why not?November 28, 2020 at 9:06 am #34920
I think it could be considered unethical, on the grounds of insincerity and therefore disrespect to the religions one was converting to. If you don’t really believe with all your heart, it’s insincere.
On the other hand, it would be completely ethical and respectful to want to find out as much as one could about the various religions. I tried to do this in a desultory kind of way when I began writing my book. I went to a Sikh temple when they were having a celebration (they were very nice to me if puzzled as to why I was there). I went to the Christian bookshop and they wouldn’t talk to me. Muslims don’t seem to want to have anything to do with an atheist doing research, although Muslim taxi drivers love to expand and explain their religion to outsiders, apparently. Buddhism welcomed me with open arms. Then I read some books by Karen Armstrong (The Case for God; Muhammed) and Elif Shafak (24 Rules of Love).
In short, there’s nothing to stop you getting to know believers and asking them about their religion. But I think it’s disrespectful to actually convert, insincerely.
Ideally you would be looking for “faith leaders” (monks, priests etc.) who are real experts. If you’re able to access it, there is a good BBC radio programme, Beyond Belief, which talks about “all aspects of faith”.November 28, 2020 at 1:05 pm #34921
Since I do not think any religion is based on truth, this proposition carries no weight one way or the other until religion infects my secular government or stirs up violence as it often does. Other than that I don’t give a rat’s ass what flavor of delusion people suck on.November 28, 2020 at 3:05 pm #34922
I don’t think it is inherently unethical. My dad once considered joining a church after my parents had separated. He wasn’t particularly religious. I don’t think he believed in any god per se (could be wrong). Mostly he just longed for a sense of community. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as you accept the community as they are and aren’t just using them. Admittedly, some of the actual believers may just be using the church themselves for a sense of social standing or moral superiority or other disingenuous motives, but that’s on them.
Joining all (or many faiths) for the sake of inquiry? Can you do that with integrity? Without just using people who have invited you into something sacred to them? I am not a fan of organized religion in the slightest, but I am not so cynical as to believe there are no wholesome and sincere congregations/practices/ communities. If you are seeking something from them, what are you offering of yourself in return? If you can produce a fair answer to that, then I don’t think it is unethical in this hypothetical scenario. (In reality, I don’t think you can pull it off without making some rather hefty lies).
Personally, I won’t so much as bow my head for a meal time prayer if it is a religious ritual. It’s a farce. I can’t feel it as anything other than putting on a show or an outright lie. To me, it’s disrespectful to treat someone’s deeply held practice so disingenuously. Disrespectful to them and to myself. And if it isn’t a deeply held practice for them, they should back the fuck up off me if I say no. Historically, religions have asked people to bow far deeper than a simple mealtime prayer, and especially as an LGBTQ+ person I won’t budge a millimetre in deference or subservience (though not all contemporary religion is bigoted). So there is no way I could go through that experiment ethically, even if it were somehow possible to convert in that way.November 28, 2020 at 3:43 pm #34923
I suppose it helps to look at it by comparing it with similar exercises:
Imagine you live in the UK and you decide to join and actively participate in the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Lib-Dems, the Greens, the Communists, the far right-racist ones, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party all at once and participate in them equally. It wouldn’t be unethical as they don’t require you to be strictly a member of one party (so you wouldn’t have to lie to anybody) and why wouldn’t you want to try them all out and enjoy the social benefits of joining them? Of course if you joined the executive committee then they require you to commit to one party so it would be very dubious to do so as you’d have to lie about that if you chose to be a senior member of the party and yet still be in other ones. Remember religion is no different to any ideology (political one or not) except the fact that they throw in supernatural garbage and they are given special treatment in some countries. Of course people in the party if they found out might not appreciate it that you are a member of multiple conflicting parties (assuming you aren’t a senior member) but that’s their problem to deal with.
I think the same could be thought for any set of conflicting social groups or ideological societies.November 28, 2020 at 4:25 pm #34924
That one can even “convert” from one set of dogmatic beliefs to another teaches us something important. You can’t convert between facts. Reality and truth don’t change with foggy thoughts and beliefs… even if your president happens to be Trump. How can anyone convert and not see this? I was wrong about eternity and my life’s purpose and now I finally got right because my new husband is a Hindu, LOL. It is all too arbitrary to even matter.November 28, 2020 at 5:14 pm #34925
Yes, but the idea is that each one is saying the same thing in a different way, or looking at different aspects of the same thing.November 28, 2020 at 5:24 pm #34926
Do you all think it is unethical if a person joined said religious social groups explicitly for the perks and benefits of being part of these groups all the while knowing they are bullshit just to know you have someone who “has your back?”
Need help moving? Call up your church and have a group of 18 year old mormon missionaries come pack up your house on the weekend. No strings attached.
lose your job during the pandemic. I’m sure your church would write a check for rent and utilities for a few months.
get sick and in the hospital? Your local mosque will help look after your affairs while you recover….
Is it any different than relying on “government programs” to help you out? Many times there are (I’m speaking for the United States here) government programs that will “Help you,” But day to always have strings attached… You have to “qualify,” Some parts of the country are more liberal than others. Some places won’t even help you qualify even if it means that the fudge the numbers, or make some kind of exception. Many MANY people LIE to these places to get benefits they wouldn’t actually be entitled to. Is that better, worse, or the same as joining a religious group or cult (or multiple ones) for the sake of having a “fall back” plan for tough times….
Are there “perks” to being “one of them” – an insider- that offset the ethical dilemma of lying about the fact that it’s all bullshit? Is there any difference from that and someone who lies to get government assistance they aren’t really entitled to?November 28, 2020 at 5:50 pm #34927
I have to say, for what it’s worth, I do think that would be unethical, unless, as Kristina says, you’re giving something back in the sense of getting involved in Church work.November 28, 2020 at 6:02 pm #34928
As has been stated by others, your “conversion” wouldn’t be a conversion at all. When you join a religion, you buy into it and submit to its core beliefs and participate in its rituals believing that they are effective. It’s a commitment. A promise.
To join for the perks is basically to rip them off. It’s a kind of theft.
Besides, many churches run charitable operations helping believers and nonbelievers alike. Feeding the destitute, providing shelter, and even, sometimes, nondenominational counseling (I know: I got through a severe bout of depression 30 years ago with the help a psychological social worker provided by Lutheran Family Services).
Often they run hospitals where services are rendered without requiring any sort of spiritual commitment, though a patient may get an occasional visit by a minister/priest, nun, or church member offering, to pray with the patient should they wish, totally optionally.
Many Christians, the devout ones, would help you out of general principle anyway, and not because you have joined their church, but because that is how they feel believers should behave. The same is true, I’m sure, of many Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and Hindus, among others, especially if they are friends.
If you want help, you don’t need to join a religion. Just cultivate friendships.
You’ve heard the expression “You are what you eat,” I’m sure. In an even more essential sense, you are what you do. You don’t want to be a person who acts in bad faith.November 28, 2020 at 8:33 pm #34931
<i>To join for the perks is basically to rip them off. It’s a kind of theft.</i>
Is it theft if you pay tithes (like we pay taxes that go to government programs- same idea) and do your part to contribute to the church? Is that still theft if the only difference between you and the “church” or “mosque” or whatever- is that you know in your heart you believe none of it. You’re just there to see what it’s like. For the “experience” or whatever.November 28, 2020 at 8:40 pm #34932
Reg the Fronkey FarmerModerator
I don’t get how people suddenly find other god(s) when they are getting married or just “find” another god out of convenience. I have heard of Catholics becoming Muslim overnight because they want to be of the same faith as their spouse. You would have to become an “unbeliever” in your original god first. You would have to become an atheist, at least for a time. You would have to justify your reasons for no longer believing in your first god. If you could do this and reason through why you no longer believed then you would understand what atheism is, for you would be one. You could only “pick up” another god, or gods if wanting to become a Hindu, if you did not reason yourself through your own de-conversion process. Anything else and you would be untrue to yourself first which would prevent you being true to others.
I don’t get how you could just convert to another religion to see what it is like. If you just “pretended” to convert and attended their functions and churches under that falsehood, then I think it would be disingenuous towards the followers of that faith. I recently took part in some of the Hindu Diwali celebrations with my neighbors. I really enjoyed the company and the food and was treated as an equal. The host knows I am an atheist but that was of no concern.
The word “you” above is used in general terms – not you, Ivy, in particular.
But Ivy it would also take up so much time.November 28, 2020 at 8:46 pm #34933
I’ve been along to a few church services, just to see what it’s like, and because I enjoyed it. I didn’t take Holy Communion because I didn’t believe in it.
If I was involved in working for some kind of Church outreach programme of helping the poor and needy, and I was one of those poor and needy, and I am an atheist, I would think the Church would see that as part of their compassionate community work. I don’t think they’re too fussy who they help.November 28, 2020 at 8:50 pm #34934
@unseen <i>To join for the perks is basically to rip them off. It’s a kind of theft.</i> Is it theft if you pay tithes (like we pay taxes that go to government programs- same idea) and do your part to contribute to the church? Is that still theft if the only difference between you and the “church” or “mosque” or whatever- is that you know in your heart you believe none of it. You’re just there to see what it’s like. For the “experience” or whatever.
If you are there just to enjoy certain benefits, yes, that’s an act in bad faith, and your donations or tithe is basically given out of guilt, because you know you’re acting selfishly and hope to get out more than you put in, in terms of worldly benefits.
Now, that’s assuming you don’t level with them like, “Look guys, I’m here to kind of see what you’re about and also in hopes of maybe getting a little more material backup than I might expect from your normal charitable activities.” Then, at least, you’d be as honest with them as you are with yourself.November 28, 2020 at 8:53 pm #34935
Look guys, I’m here to kind of see what you’re about and also in hopes of maybe getting a little more material backup than I might expect from your normal charitable activities.
There would be no need to be as blunt as that. Tact is OK. People can demonstrate what they are about, through their actions.
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