Does religion encourage nihilism? Reader Jason argued in the last post that churches teach that life has no meaning and there is no right and wrong if there is no God. As Dostoevsky wrote, if there is no God, everything is permitted. On the other hand, people raised without religion learn other reasons for being good.
So, if a person is raised in a religion but then loses his faith, does he becomes more nihlistic? Is he more likely to break the law?
The General Social Survey asked people about their current religion and the religion of their youth. Here are mean nihilism scores:
Mean nihilism score
Raised in a religion, still has one .32
Raised in a religion, none now .76
No religion as a kid, has one now .47
No religion as a kid, none now .56
Losing one's faith is associated with more nihilism. People raised with no religion do better, but, as we saw in the previous post, belonging to a church currently is best.
And what about bad behavior? I'd like to look at crime, but the question was not asked in the year that childhood religion was. Let's look at attitudes toward cheating on taxes:
Mean wrongness of cheating on taxes score
Raised in a religion, still has one 3.14
Raised in a religion, none now 2.90
No religion as a kid, has one now 3.10
No religion as a kid, none now 2.88
Those who have abandoned religion have basically the same mean score as those who were raised without it. People who have always belonged to a church disapprove of cheating on taxes the most. No evidence here anyway that people who turn away from religion become antisocial.