Might there be some value in the conservative virtues?

Answer, “balance”. Response, “re-balance”.

Neither Douthat’s answer or Wilkinson’s response address Haidt’s original point about conservative virtues: “surveys have long shown that religious believers in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and to each other than are secular people. Most of these effects have been documented in Europe too. If you believe that morality is about happiness and suffering, then I think you are obligated to take a close look at the way religious people actually live and ask what they are doing right.”

What sort of balancing or re-balancing of the virtues in society gets the modern mix ((I guess its obvious that modern, liberal virtues are better…)) right and still maintains what “religious people… are doing right” to make them happy?

10 thoughts on “Might there be some value in the conservative virtues?”

  1. Seems that liberals consciously self-select, while all someone has to do to be a conservative or religious type is to “go with the flow” in their parent communities. Are religious people happier because they’re tight with Jesus/Allah/Buddha/Iehovah/Zeus, or because they live with plenty of personal acceptance among family, friends, and neighbors?

    Liberals, by definition, are estranged from the establishment. You’re not a liberal unless you believe something is wrong with the world. This probably places lots of stress on a person, and the links between stress and disease are pretty well documented.

    So, hypothesis 1: A conservative religious type transplanted to a majority liberal atheist community will suffer stress.

    Hypothesis 2: A conservative religious type will suffer stress when transplanted to a majority conservative religious community different from their own. Ex: an Evangelist living in Tehran, or a devout Sunni living in the bible belt.

  2. Those are great questions for the data. You can test these hypos by looking at liberals happiness in conservative enclaves and conservative happiness in liberal enclaves. I ordered The Happiness Hypothesis by Haidt; maybe it has answers.

  3. Nice idea, though there isn’t a 1:1 correlation between liberals and atheists, or conservatives and theists.

    I was about to type something about liberals being more likely to experiment with sex, drugs, and other risky behaviors, but that doesn’t seem to ring as true as I once assumed.

  4. Just to give it real-world context: $5 says a person with religious views would feel somewhat stressed living in Japan.

  5. “a person with religious views would feel somewhat stressed living in Japan”

    Yeah, all those Buddhists and believers in Shinto have a really tough time of it.

    “there isn’t a 1:1 correlation between liberals and atheists, or conservatives and theists…”


  6. You missed Will’s point all together. The premise is not the difference between contemparary sectarians, but intergenerational differences. Todays Religous people are more liberal than yesterday’s Religous people. That is the observation. The mechanism is gradual “re-calibration” of moral norms.

    Anyway, thats Will’s argument. The NRO folks are arguing that moral norms are set in stone, or something.

    The point you make about the differences between contemparary secular and religous people is a different subject all together.

  7. @Gavin:

    I bet there’s some interesting data to be teased out of that group. Compare Japanese Christians to their neighbors for factors like health, well-being, and lifespan. $5 CDN says that Christianity is far more socially acceptable there than in 1907.

  8. Steve, well then Will misses Haidt’s point (and the NRO folks too). That norms change isn’t new. That it matters how they change is. Haidt shows norms should change with an eye on the traditional conservative norms because people who tend to care about those illiberal things tend to be happier.

    swong, I’ll bet dimes to your Canadian dollars that when Haidt talks about conservative folks, he’s being religion-neutral. People that have more traditional mores (e.g they think group fealty matters, that there exists the sacred, etc) are more happy regardless of the particular society they live or religion they practice.

    From the edge piece, “morality is a set of constraints that binds people together into an emergent collective entity.” The “binding together” is what the conservative mores do.

  9. Religion-neutral yes, but not theism-neutral. I’m just saying that heresy is full of occupational hazards. Traditionally, religion has been, uh, traditional.

    I could be wrong – if lonely people die younger, maybe you’re never really alone when you’re surrounded by angels, spirits, demons, or His Divine Noodly Presence.

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