Just like science, morals are not special as long as they have the same source. It’s been only recently that atheists have been challenged to come up with their own moral norms. They haven’t yet, they still go by the same old Bible inspired sense of right and wrong. Afaik, they only got as far as asserting the possibility of non-Bible morality but there’s nothing measurable yet.
Speculation about our empirical experience, ie science, is available to everyone, it doesn’t transform into anything else if you do more of it, it would still be speculation about empirical experience. It will never progress beyond “I don’t know but I have an idea”. Similarly, there’s no principal difference between various levels of Bible based morality and so measuring whether atheists or Christians teach it better is pointless. They teach the same thing and so to the law of karma it doesn’t matter who teaches it as long as lessons are learned and followed.
I’m back on the children’s altruism study I covered a few days ago. They’ve measured morality outcomes among children from atheist, Christian, and Muslim families and concluded that atheist children are more altruistic. There are other aspects of that study that raise serious questions that I discussed earlier but I want to go back to this particular conclusion – that atheist children are more moral.
First of all, children are children, they might have some innate sense of morality but it’s rudimentary, if we are speaking of child’s morals we are speaking of what this child has been taught. In that study they decided to judge Christian/Muslim morality by how well it is reflected in their children. They didn’t explain why there should be a direct correlation. Say a person has a sense of morality, he decides to teach it to his child, the child learns some of it, then the researchers comes to the school, measure something else entirely, and assign all responsibility for whatever they found to the parent.
I remember they, the researchers, explained that while in individual cases the connection might get interference from outside forces, when taken as a large enough group the correlation between children sharing stickers and parent’s level of morality must be direct. However, large groups might have large interference common to everybody. As I said in the previous post, sharing stickers might be a cultural thing, children who don’t usually get stickers treasure them more and so are less likely to share regardless of their religious background.
But let’s say it’s true that atheist children are more altruistic, there’s still a big leap from there to the conclusion that religions are weak on morals, and that’s what the researches tried to prove, as evident from their interviews and quotes. All it means is that atheists teach the morals better, pay more attention to it, pay more attention to reinforcing good moral behavior, pay more attention to explaining the reasons in the way that a child can understand and so on. It means that they are better teachers and more attentive parents. The morals, however, are still the same – sharing is good, non-sharing is bad.
In eastern countries with their concept of individual karma sharing is morally neutral. It can be as sign of compassion but it’s not compulsory, not a natural state of the world and not a prescribed behavior. In Vedic civilization there are clear lines of authority, some people must share with some others, they have responsibility for their dependents, but it’s not random and you should be very careful with crossing lines.
From the POV of a Vedic kid, sticker distribution then would be seen as an observation of karmic results and it’s a prerogative of the teacher, kids are not supposed to infringe on teacher’s authority and tell her how to distribute stickers better, or change teacher assigned results themselves. Why? Because kids are taught not to trust their own, selfish nature. Perfect moral behavior for them is following the authority, not doing whatever they think is right.
The researches freed kids from their authorities and asked them to make their own minds, and it ended in disaster, predictably. The strength of religious morality lies not in individual choices but in imposing a common code of conduct regardless of how individuals feel. Atheists, OTOH, can’t wait to let people make their own choices and if it happens that these free choices are better then they claim moral superiority. Maybe so, but religious people never make their own choices, they always go with the scripture, their own sense of morals is never to be trusted. It’s common for everyone – Christians have their original sin and we know that these so-called “free” choices are the work of the false ego and will lead to further entanglement.
When we grow up we learn to follow our religious moral code in all circumstances, our kids are not there yet, left on their own they are not ready. Atheist kids might be more independent and appear as capable of making their own moral choices but wait until they grow up – will they always be able to put morals above their own desires? Are they really ready to face life’s choices, control their minds, and make morally correct decisions for the rest of their lives? That is not guaranteed. What is guaranteed, just have one look at the internet, is that they will always be able to justify their decisions on their own authority and so make their own morals as they go. Today sharing is good, next time they’d argue it’s bad, as long as arguments are there it’s acceptable, right?
The purpose of sādhana is to gradually influence our nature. In our case we hope that one day it will squeeze out our base material desires altogether but we will never reach the point where we would be able to walk on our own, we will always be dependent on our guru and Kṛṣṇa. Atheists can say “but on our own we are better and more moral that you”, to which we would reply that we are never on our own so it’s a moot point. We KNOW that we will always fail when acting by ourselves. Atheists think they won’t, that they can achieve moral perfection by their own efforts.
Same foolishness as with science – they achieve some puny results and think that the rest will be just as easy. Then they die. They think that eventually science will find answers to all the important questions but everyone dies still in ignorance.
Oh, and there could be various reasons why atheist parents are better teachers. They have no God, for them children and associated obligations are the biggest manifestation of the Absolute Truth in their lives so they pay more attention to them while religious people might be distracted by prayers. Or it could be that atheists have less children and so more resources and energy allocated per child. Or it could be that Christian morals is their last connection with religion and so they value them very highly. Or, being without God, they could feel the need to explain morals to themselves, justify their own decisions, spend more time thinking about it, and that would naturally lead to spending more time explaining it to their children. You don’t really understand something unless you teach it, as they say.
Raising children is still dharma and with dharma comes morality, what about atheists who never bother to have kids? Can we say that they are as moral as the subjects of this study? I don’t think so, but that’s what the authors and everyone else presenting this study seem to imply. Bottom line, it’s shoddy research to begin with.