Do we all want to, or need to, belong to something?

Over at Pharyngula, and I’m sure many other sites, there is a discussion on an article,
Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion by Jonathan Haidt, in which he states “religious believers in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity”. Now I’m not going to discuss all the ins-and-outs of this article, more, and better educated, people than me have already done this. I just wanted to discuss one aspect of the preposed “more generous to charity” quote, particularly in relation to belonging to a group.

There are various thoughts as to why religious groups appear [1] to volunteer more often, or organise and/or donate to charities more. Comment #33 on Pharyngula’s site cites 2 good reasons why. However, I have a third theory which relates to people wanting to belong to a group.

Its far easier to organise something when in a group, and religious groups have been around for a long time. I know from experience that some (perhaps, many) church goers like the aspect of belonging to a group and having lots of group activities to get involved in, more than the actual religious aspect of that group.

Its not surprising that throughout England and Australia lots of small towns have at least 1 church, and 1 pub! It gives people somewhere to go to meet, and often to help each other or the community. Churches have often provided an opportunity for a group of people to get together under a common idea. Communities, especially small communities, need to work cohesively, particularly in times of trouble (eg. drought), and church groups, often being the main, or only, organised group within a community were in the prime position to perform this role.

So it is hardly surprising that religious groups were [2] in the forefront of charitable works.

However, this does not necessarily equate to them doing charitable works because they are religious. Perhaps its just because they are already in a group that like doing things together?

There are not that many atheist groups around, (To me it seems a bit odd to have a group that gets together because they don’t believe in something. TIC) so its not overly suprising that there aren’t many ‘atheist charities’. However, there are quite a few charities that are not aligned to any religious group, but have arisen through some other common denominator. Its to these charities that atheists should be supporting.

Lastly, I pose this question:

Is being part of a group more important than all the things that group stands for?

[1] I say appear as there are conflicting studies on this
[2] I say were as I’m not sure they are still the main source of charitable works (see above)


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