Jump to content

Would atheists have fared better in the Milgram Experiment than theists?


Hypercube
 Share

Atheists in the Milgram experiment  

8 members have voted

  1. 1. Would atheists be less likely to go all the way in the experiment?

    • Yes
    • No
      0
    • Quite possibly
      0
    • Probably not
    • Undecided


Recommended Posts

Obviously we can't know for sure unless someone actually investigates this, which to the best of my knowledge has never been done, but I'm curious of what everyone's opinion about this is. I'm sure many of you have heard of Stanley Milgram's famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) shock experiment, so I won't bother explaining it, but suffice to say I was absolutely horrified by the results and am quite confident that I would never take it the whole way like the majority of participants did. But after watching a documentary about a reenactment (I can't remember the proper word for when someone repeats an experiment) of the experiment, I thought of an interesting question: Would atheists/unbelievers/agnostics, such as myself perform better on the experiment than religious people/theists would?

 

Personally, my opinion is that they very well might, for two reasons. One, despite what the religious fundamentalists will often say, atheists are not inherently immoral people, and to be honest, I might even go so far as to say that the majority of atheists are probably more inherently moral than are theists, but that's neither here nor there, and I say that merely as a statistic; I'm in no way trying to say that being religious makes you immoral, because I know that that is not the case. The second and more important reason is that atheists are by their very nature, at least in my case and opinion, less deferential to authority figures than are people who believe that they have to obey 'the word of god' in order to be saved. Again, I do not say this to offend anyone, it is just my honest opinion.

 

And what about the Solomon Asch experiment? Would the same also apply in that experiment?

 

I'm interested in hearing what others think of this idea, and again, if I have said anything that anyone finds offensive then I apologize, because I did not intend it to be so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think religion (or the lack of) has anything to do with it.

 

What I observe in my part of the world is that many people just follow the religion or lack of religion of their parents. In other words, both atheists and theists just follow what their parents did. When it comes to following authority, or doing as you're told, both seem to do that just as much.

 

But then again, over here in the Netherlands, many atheists are 2nd or 3rd generation atheist. This story might be different in other countries where people of this current generation comes to their own (personal) conclusion that religion is not for them. These people who change their system of beliefs during their lifetimes might fall into a different category. But personally, I do not know such people.

 

What you suggest might be true, or not, but at this moment I see no reason to think so. I have a lack of data, and any claims from my side would be speculation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a corollary - I wonder if people who have suffered at the hands of authority for their beliefs (whether as an atheist or minority religion) would perform "better" or "worse".

 

Your original is a good question - although we will never know, I just don't think you could get the Research Ethics Committee Clearance for experiments of that ilk nowadays.

 

On CaptP's point about a split between ancestral atheists and born-again non-believers; I remember a colleague in our Rotterdam office talking about the steady decrease in Christianity in the Netherlands - especially in the last 30-40 years. A quick look on Wikipedia confirms a decrease of 1,000,000 in the last 4 decades in Roman Catholicism. I think it is easy to forget how religious NWE was just a few years ago ie since the sexual revolution etc and the sixties.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On CaptP's point about a split between ancestral atheists and born-again non-believers; I remember a colleague in our Rotterdam office talking about the steady decrease in Christianity in the Netherlands - especially in the last 30-40 years. A quick look on Wikipedia confirms a decrease of 1,000,000 in the last 4 decades in Roman Catholicism. I think it is easy to forget how religious NWE was just a few years ago ie since the sexual revolution etc and the sixties.

Actually, the decrease started way before that, but it is very difficult to unregister from the Roman Catholic church. You talk about registered people, I talk about those that actually believe. These are two very different things in the Netherlands.

 

But I propose we get back on topic... religious demographics of the Netherlands could get its own thread, but I propose we just leave it at this. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...

Yes. See the study below:

 


In my study, the resisters were characterized as either having no religious affiliations (many were atheists) or affiliations that were outside the religious mainstream (e.g., Unitarians, Quakers; both religions downplay the role of authority in their religious structures) (Presley, 1985).
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

They might, but psychology is complicated and multifaceted. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/epiphenom/2015/01/why-are-american-atheists-disagreeable-and-unconscientious.html We're less agreeable, but this might require a further breakdown. We might be less trusting of the scientist's professionalism, or just less sympathetic to the guy claiming to be in pain... but even then, he really is faking the pain so it's all good.

http://psychology.about.com/od/personalitydevelopment/a/bigfive.htm

Agreeableness: This personality dimension includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other prosocial behaviors.




Yes. See the study below:


Resistance

In my study, the resisters were characterized as either having no religious affiliations (many were atheists) or affiliations that were outside the religious mainstream (e.g., Unitarians, Quakers; both religions downplay the role of authority in their religious structures) (Presley, 1985).


What's rit.org?

Edited by MonDie
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm hesitant to draw a conclusion on this subject without solid data to provide some indication one way or another beforehand. It's far too easy to fall into self-congratulatory assumptions about results that don't yet exist based on the belief that "your kind of people" have virtues lacking in other people that must be what lead to their downfall. It's the exact kind of thinking that lead to the experiment in the first place and that made its results so shocking.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hypercube,

 

I don't think obedience to god so you will be saved had all that much to do with the experiment. It seems to me it was more obey and be paid, or disobey and not get paid. The authority figure was an employer. Think how many atheists do what their boss tells them to do, even if is against their better judgement.

 

Regards TAR.

 

4 dollars for an hour's work in 1961 was significant. I think my dad made well under 10K as a college professor back then. Think what you might be able to do, if a trusted scientist that was paying you 40 dollars to do it, said it would be OK to do it. And maybe the subjects had a feeling it was a recording screaming and picked up a falseness about the timings or something, and proceeded, knowing it was an experiment, and no scientist would intentionally kill a subject with a heart condition with an electric shock. Even though the subject administered the shock "they were just following orders". Perhaps people in that time period, anxious to have Nazi guards convicted of their crimes, thought that by "following dasterdly orders" in an experimental setting, they would help to prove the prison guards guilty of dasterly deeds.

 

Or some other combination of prosocietal behaviors that would add up to 66 percent of the people fulfilling their contracts with the experimenter. It most likely has nothing to do with fearing god.

Edited by tar
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.