Saturday, July 14, 2012

Are religious people less angry?

I've been working on my summer homework, reading Man Seeks God by Eric Weiner. In chapter 2 (on Buddhism) Weiner states that the religious people he's been meeting all say that they're less angry and more peaceful since beginning religious practice.* That got me wondering. Clearly it's an anecdote, not a statistic, but the people Weiner discusses in the first two chapters are Sufi Mystics and Buddhists. Both traditions focus on meditation, circling, repetition, and communion with a greater power (Allah for Sufis and everything for Buddhists.) It stands to reason that spending time each day working on becoming calm, or working on focusing the body in motion (as Whirling Dervishes do) might help to reduce stress. And I wonder how much the surrender also helps. Recognizing a higher power is Step 2 in Alcoholics Anonymous, after all.

So the question is, is this one of the things religion does well that Humanists could adopt and adapt, or is it really god entering into the equation? The Humanist Community Project at Harvard has developed a meditation group (I'll have to cite that later, because their website doesn't seem to be working at the moment, but take my word for it for now) and I found this version of the twelve steps by Googling "Atheist Twelve Step Program."

I'm wondering how many Humanists out there are practicing some kind of meditation. Buddhists don't believe in god per se, but the whole interconnectedness of all beings thing is more or less beyond our ability to prove scientifically, and reincarnation is definitely beyond belief. On the other hand, Weiner tries out (also in chapter 2) imagining that everyone he sees was his mother in a past life, and finds that he is less judgmental and more forgiving to the people around him, and this relaxes him a bit. Is that useful as an exercise, even if we don't actually believe it, or does one have to accept reincarnation to practice that particular exercise? Is being less judgmental and more forgiving a good goal for Humanism? What about being less angry? It seems to me that a particular group of Humanists could set goals like this and work toward them as a group, and that might form a good community for those who wanted it. Good without God, and all that...


*I think I remember this is on Page 76, but I might be wrong. Anyway, Weiner said it, and it's in Chapter 2 of his book, and this isn't a scholarly article, so I'm deciding that's attribution enough. If Eric Weiner wants to leave a complaint in the comments, I'll be happy to add a proper citation at a later date.

No comments:

Post a Comment