On how religions could accidentally incite lies and violence: Folktales as a cultural transmitter

Abstract

This research employs the Bayesian network modeling approach, and the Markov chain Monte Carlo technique, to learn about the role of lies and violence in teachings of major religions, using a unique dataset extracted from long-standing Vietnamese folktales. The results indicate that, although lying and violent acts augur negative consequences for those who commit them, their associations with core religious values diverge in the final outcome for the folktale characters. Lying that serves a religious mission of either Confucianism or Taoism (but not Buddhism) brings a positive outcome to a character (βT_and_Lie_O= 2.23; βC_and_Lie_O= 1.47; βT_and_Lie_O= 2.23). A violent act committed to serving Buddhist missions results in a happy ending for the committer (βB_and_Viol_O= 2.55). What is highlighted here is a glaring double standard in the interpretation and practice of the three teachings: the very virtuous outcomes being preached, whether that be compassion and meditation in Buddhism, societal order in Confucianism, or natural harmony in Taoism, appear to accommodate two universal vices—violence in Buddhism and lying in the latter two. These findings contribute to a host of studies aimed at making sense of contradictory human behaviors, adding the role of religious teachings in addition to cognition in belief maintenance and motivated reasoning in discounting counterargument.

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