Guest Post: Does Religion Influence Our Decisions?

Does Religion Influence Our Decisions? - image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/average_everyday_sane_psycho/

This post is the first in a series that was written by students in my introduction to philosophy course as an extra credit assignment. Today’s guest author is James Purvis

Everyday millions and millions of people interact with each other, socially, physically, and mentally. To some extent, the choices and decisions we make on a day-to-day basis are all in some aspect subconscious, especially the tiny things. Humans have free will, but the question is how much religion actually affects our decision and choice making skills?

Religion and choices both play big roles in our everyday life, without some type of idea about spirituality, whether it be the lack-thereof or the idea of a certain of god and religion, humans would be lost. It’s the same thing with choices, without making important choices in life, and even to some extent small choices, you won’t get anywhere. To make a decision on a choice you need some type of foundation, but what could that be? Mostly in more black and white situations we use rational thinking, but what about in more stressful situations? People use their inner values and morals.

Religion and the search for a higher power are all very sensitive and personal topics. Everyone is different, but is it fair to say that religion actually has an influence on our decisions?

An example of that would be someone who believes in the Judeo-Christian God deciding to cheat or not cheat on a test, could you say that the decision to cheat on a test was something that was caused by your own free will, or was it something more?

Was the decision caused by your free will and your own ideology that “cheating is very bad” or was it because fundamentally your belief that cheating is dishonest, and that dishonesty goes hand in hand with lying, which in return is involved in the ten commandments and other religious taboos.

A more “conservative” approach to this view would simply be to say that morals and values are closely related to choice making skills, and the assumption that since those two go hand-and-hand obviously the fact that religious belief and morals are so closely related, would say that yes religion and our choices are influenced greatly.

The problem with that view though is both theists and atheists alike can come to the same conclusion. Some people have the same view as above, that atheists have no morals or values. Obviously, that’s not true, but how can it be proven that religion and choice making skills are related?

Again, theists and atheists alike can come to the same conclusion about a certain decision; take the example of cheating on a test. If both an atheist and theist decide to not cheat on the test, the idea of religion influencing values and morals would be false. If it’s considered to be false, what did the atheist use to determine their decision?

That turns the whole idea of religion and choice making skills into fallacy. Though it can’t really be proven, I wonder how much of our decision making skills actually come from our basis of morals and values, whether it be from how our parent’s raised us, our own rational ideas of the world, or our religious background?

What do you think? How do we actually make ethical decisions?

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