[Buddha-l] Be good for Godsake

Richard Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Thu Apr 2 13:54:40 MDT 2009

Dear denizens,

Just about every day something comes along to remind me that I am living
in the wrong country, perhaps even on the wrong planet. Today's evidence
comes from a Pew Forum survey, which was actually released in December,
but of which I was reminded today. On this survey people were asked "Is
it necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good

57% of Americans said YES! Tell me it isn't so. In contrast, all the
civilized countries reported on the survey had a strong majority saying
NO to that question. Canada, Britain, France, Sweden, Spain, Italy,
Germany, Japan, China and Israel all had a majority of respondents
knowing the right answer to the question. (I keep waiting for Americans
to catch up with Italians in religious sophistication, but I'm not
holding my breath.)

Mind you, there are some countries in which even more people got the
wrong answer than in the USA. In India, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia and
Egypt substantial numbers of people gave the wrong answer. The same, for
that matter, could be said of most of the countries in Africa and South
America. If an atheist roams outside Canada, Israel and Europe, the
majority of people she encounters will think she's incapable of being
moral or having good values.

I wonder when the Pew Foundation will get around to asking "Is it
necessary to believe in karma and rebirth in order to be moral and have
good values?" The correct answer to that is the same as the correct
answer to "Is it necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and
have good values?", but I bet even a few subscribers to buddha-l might
flunk this one-question quiz. (I have confidence, however, that the
majority of buddha-l subscribers would get this one right.)

A short version of the Pew survey can be found at
http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=373 at which site there is a link to the
complete 144-page report on a wide range of moral, social and political
attitudes in various parts of the world. The report was published in
2007. It's probably obsolete by now, given how rapidly people abandon
their false beliefs in the light of evidence and sound arguments.

Richard Hayes
Department of Philosophy
University of New Mexico

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