Is religion a ‘no no’ for think tanks?

16 December 2011

The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) is a very interesting think tank. It does not just talk about evidence but also about faith. Its mission statement is:

To foster from a faith-inspired perspective a critical understanding of current issues. Guided by the Church’s Social Teaching that emphasises dignity in community, our mission is to generate activities for the promotion of the fullness of human life through research, education, advocacy and consultation. Cooperating widely with other groups, our Jesuit sponsorship directs us to a special concern for the poor and assures an international linkage to our efforts. We aim to promote an inculturated (sic) faith, gender equality and empowerment of local communities in the work of justice and peace and the integrity of creation.

Maybe they have a point. Research from North America shows that atheists are distrusted as much as rapists:

The study, conducted among 350 Americans adults and 420 Canadian college students, asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher?

The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher.

This moral distrust of non-believers is relevant in very religious societies -and much of the developing world qualifies as such. By combining religion (with explicit references to values) organisations like JCTR are able to award a certain degree of credibility to the, less face it, sometimes God-less work of the researcher -who will not believe it until it can be measured.