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Tuesday, May 2, 2023


I have been following the civil suit brought by E. Jean Carroll against Trump, but I cannot find out how much she is suing him for. Does anybody know?


Marc Susselman said...

She is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

Marc Susselman said...


Assuming her lawsuit survives a motion for a directed verdict which Trump’s attorneys will likely seek, it will be up to her attorney during the plaintiff’s closing argument to itemize the amount of damages she is seeking.

Marc Susselman said...

The motion for a directed verdict will likely be denied. They are rarely granted. Trump’s lawyers will have to argue that Carroll is not credible, because she waited so long to bring suit. Her credibility is a question for the jury, so the motion will be denied. What defense do they have left? They have indicated that Trump will not be testifying. So Carroll’s accusation of rape will go unrebutted. In a case like this, where it is she said/he said, the defendant usually testifies to rebut the accusation of rape. Trump, however, will not want to testify, because if he loses, before a hostile jury in New York, it will be interpreted that the jury did not believe him. But the jury will likely read Trump’s failure to testify as an admission of guilt. The reports indicate that Carroll held up well under cross-examination. She is likely to win the trial, and Trump will have been adjudicated as a rapist by jurors in a civil trial.

Marc Susselman said...

And here’s a different question:

Be honest, how many of the socialist readers and commenters on this blog are going to sneak a peak of the pomp and circumstance of Saturday’s coronation?

aaall said...

Are you an early riser? I'm on the West Coast, so no way. Besides my 4th GGF freed me from that nonsense.

John Rapko said...

Neither I nor anyone I know is planning on watching the coronation. I do wonder, though, whether they'll have to pin back Charles's ears to fit the crown on his head. As an alternative, just in time here's 'Farewell to the Monarchy', Frankie Boyle's new BBC hit about what he calls 'Britain's most boring crime syndicate':

Marc Susselman said...

When Trump loses the Carroll trial, as I believe he will, how is he going to spin it to his supporters? Is he going to say something like, “She only won the trial because I didn’t testify. I was too busy doing more important things, running for President.”

Marc Susselman said...

Boyles's history of the English monarchy is actually quite interesting and informative.

s. wallerstein said...

No, I don't even have a television set.

When I dropped out over 50 years ago, I dropped out for good.

I don't watch coronations, presidential inaugurations, sports or TV news (even in Youtube).

I don't celebrate any U.S., Jewish or Chilean holidays or even my birthday.

It's not a protest gesture, such things just irritate me and always have, even as a child.

I always have detested having to "be happy" or "celebrate" because humanity is scheduled to celebrate something or to be happy about something or even to mourn something or somebody.

Marc Susselman said...

a. wallerstein,

I can clearly see why you admire, and identify with, Woody Allen.

s. wallerstein said...

Right. I admire and identify with Woody Allen.

Of two figures in popular culture whom I admired and identified with, say, 50 years ago, Woody Allen and Bob Dylan, Woody Allen has grown more.

I look at interviews with Dylan done in the last 30 years and the guy is in a rut. He is still as evasive, hip, cool, intentionally vague as he was in 1965, but he hasn't grown.

The last time I saw an interview with Dylan: I said to him, hey, you're a really smart Jewish kid, come out of the closet and tell us what you've learned in the last 50 years, but no, he can't do that, he's stuck in the image he created over 60 years ago.

On the other hand, if you look at recent interviews with Woody Allen, he has evolved from the smart aleck wise guy of the early films without losing his sense of humor. He's 85 and talks like someone who is 85. The last film of his which I saw, Blue Jasmine, is one of his best, which indicates that he is capable of growing as a creative artist as well as a human being. In fact, one of the best films I've ever seen, although I'm not a habitual movie consumer.

By the way, I believe him, not Mia Farrow.

Marc Susselman said...

I want to believe him, and not Mia Farrow, or Dylan Farrow, or her brother.

s. wallerstein said...

this article gives a good summary of the case. look at it when you have time and I'd like to hear your opinion as an attorney.

Marc Susselman said...

Will do.

s. wallerstein said...

Thanks. No rush.

Marc Susselman said...

A posting title Question should appropriately include questions from Jeopardy.

Two items of Jeopardy trivia.

The Final Jeopardy category last night was 18th century literature. The questions was: This protagonist’s first name came from a Hebrew word meaning “devoted to God” and the surname referred to someone who is easily taken advantage of. None of the contestants got the answer.

Answer: Lemuel Gulliver

Another question which stumped the contestants was: What is the plural of the word “opus”? Neither “opi” nor “opuses” is correct. The answer: “opera”

Who besides LFC got both of these correct?

John Rapko said...

Isaiah Berlin used to pose difficult questions at parties, e.g. Who is the second greatest Portuguese poet of the 20th century? 'Annoying savant see, annoying savant do', so recently at dinner parties, when there's an extended lull in the conversation, I've been posing two questions. No one has ever come close to answering them correctly: #1. Who was the famous person who was seemingly the only person to have fought for the Confederate Army, the Union Army, and the Union Navy in the American Civil War? (NO GOOGLING! Hint: I discovered this in doing some background reading on Joseph Conrad). #2. Everyone knows the first line to Hank Williams's 'Jambalaya': 'Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me-oh my-oh". And likewise everyone knows the beginning of the second line: "Me gotta . . ." What's the rest of the second line? What is it that me gotta do? Again, googling the answer is a shameful sign of spiritual weakness.

Marc Susselman said...

I will conceded, I do not have a clue as to the answer to either question.

LFC said...

I certainly would not have gotten "Lemuel Gulliver," and I don't think I'd have gotten the plural of "opus" either.

Wrt J. Rapko's questions, I don't know. But my guess on #1 is that it's a "frontiersman" type, someone like Davy Crockett or someone in that mold, who didn't have very strong ideological or regional allegiances and hence fought for both sides. Or possibly an army officer who was conflicted and switched sides. My other guess would be a writer, say Ambrose Bierce. I don't think it was Stephen Crane, who I think only fought for the Union. My final guess is that it was a Southerner from a fairly affluent family but one without strong ties to slavery or the plantation economy. One last guess: it wasn't an American at all but a foreigner, maybe a Brit.

LFC said...

The last guess prompted by the hint re Conrad, which actually isn't that much of a hint.

John Rapko said...

LFC, yes, it's a Brit. Hint #2: He is famous in particular for (allegedly) uttering a particular sentence that everyone knows. With regard to Hint #1, think of the continents wherein one of Conrad's best known works takes place, and not Nostromo (South America) nor The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes (Europe).--Hint for Jambalaya: what me got to do involves a boat.

LFC said...

It's almost 1 a.m. here and I need to turn in so I'm prob not going to be able to solve this now if at all.

Heart of Darkness takes place in Africa and Lord Jim in S. & E. Asia if memory serves, so this is presumably a Brit who was involved in the imperial service in one or both of those continents and uttered allegedly a sentence that everyone knows. I doubt it could be the Duke of Wellington ("the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton") bc I'm not sure he was even still alive at the time of the American Civil War. But I'll have to leave it at that for now.

John Rapko said...

You've got the continents rightly narrowed down. You're almost there. All you need now is to think of the most famous sentence (allegedly) said by a Brit in Africa or S.E. Asia in the second half of the 19th century, and you'll have the answer.

Achim Kriechel (A.K.) said...

On Trump:
I hope he is convicted. I hope he dismantles DeSantis and loses against Biden.

On Jeopardy:
I remember when the first 1 million euro question was asked on the show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" almost 20 years ago. The question was: Who accompanied Edmund Hillary on his first ascent of Mount Everest? I knew it before the 4 choices were available because at the age of maybe 10 or 12 I had read a report in a book for young people and I remembered the name Tenzing Norgay. However, I could not have answered the questions for 2000 and 5000, which shows that it is not always important to know something, but to know it at the right time.

About Charles III:
Of course I will have a look at it. I prefer an honest, controversial monarchy that has fallen out of time, rather than these strange elected heads of state that are basically just a prosthesis to soothe the phantom pain that some feel.

To Woody Allen:
His movies are and always have been a celebration. I remember that a small art house cinema in the vicinity organized so-called film nights. Fran├žois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Stanley Kubrik, Tarkovski and many heroes of cinema. For the night with Woody Allen we went like a picnic, packed with wine, and a lot to eat.

Marc Susselman said...


I have to compliment you for your honesty. You are the only reader who is willing to admit that you are going to take a gander at the coronation.

Regarding John Rapko’s questions, the hints to LFC have narrowed it down. It must be somebody who lived during the reign of Queen Victoria, and who lived in either Africa or South Asia. I have eliminated Palmeter, since I do not know that he ever lived in either region. I’ve eliminated Dickens. Disraeli and Gladstone. Only two other names come to mind. The first is Rudyard Kipling, who grew up in India and wrote the “White Man’s Burden,” which would fit with fighting for the Confederacy. But I think he would have been to young to fight in the Civil War. The second is Cecil Rhodes. But the only famous thing I am aware of his saying is, “Boy, bring me my tea.” If either is correct, I swear on my Bar license that I did not Google them.

Regarding Jambalaya, how about “me gotta canoe to Waterloo”?

Marc Susselman said...

I just saw LFC's last answer. I think he got it. Stanley was a journalist, and could well have been reporting on the Civil War. And he is best known for saying, "Dr. Livingston I presume."

Congratulations LFC!

That's a great question for Final Jeopardy.

John Rapko said...

Yes! It was Stanley. I was dumbfounded a couple of years ago when I read the bit about him in the Civil War. He wasn't yet a journalist. He'd gone to New Orleans, and joined the Confederate Army at the beginning of the War. He was captured by the Union Army, then given the option of getting out of prison if he switched sides. He fought 2 years in the Union Army, and then the final year in the Union Navy.--And you're now allowed without stigma to look up the lyrics to 'Jambalaya'; the second line is 'Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou'. Even harder to hear and/or remember is the first line of the second verse (you can look it up).

Marc Susselman said...

Great question.

I was close - a pirogue is a form of canoe.

John Pillette said...


(Somebody has to do it …)

Until my mid-thirties, I harbored just exactly the sort of feelings towards Charles as you would expect of an American. In fact, not just as an American, but as an American of Franco-Hibernian extraction, these feelings (of the “off with his head” sort) were trebled. But beginning in 1999 three things happened which had the effect of softening my feelings.

First of all, I was able to observe him at close range (within 8’) and I realized that the combined psychic *lese-majeste*of the American, French, and Irish Republics could not do any more damage to him than do the dictates of his OWN JOB.

Because what this guy does for work is the most mundane chamber-of-commerce kind of shit you can possibly imagine. For example, what was I watching him do? Was he playing polo? Driving his Aston Martin DB6 Volante (“Vantage” spec, triple Webers, 5-speed, very nice)? Boinking Camilla? Oil painting in a skirt? Talking to his vegetables?

Nope, he was opening a shopping center. A shopping center IN SWINDON. Swindon, if you’ve never been there (and why would you?) is a kind of place like Stockton, Cal., or Peoria, Ill., or Bridgeport, Conn. A less majestic setting would be impossible to imagine.

Not only that, he was manifestly uncomfortable in performing his “royal” duty. Consider the implications of this. You or I or anyone else would jump at this “job”. Sure it’s boring, but the perks are fantastic. After our second shopping mall opening (or vist to a Tampax factory, or whatever) we’d have it down to a science. Smile, shake hands, read a short speech, and then you’re off to do whatever (play polo, talk to vegetables, boink Camilla …).

Not Chuck! He was visibly nervous, tugging at his cuffs, which unfortunately draws attention to his weirdly sausage-shaped fingers (go look them up). 30 YEARS of this, and he still hadn’t gotten it down ... It was impossible not to not feel sorry for the guy!

(I was observing him through the fog of my single worst hangover ever, which may have had something to do with my feelings of solicitude, but still.)

Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield do a sketch called “Minor Royals” which captures the absurdity of this whole thing perfectly.

The second thing that happened was Kate Middleton. Specifically a picture of Kate Middleton … you know the one, fellas … she’s wearing a tweed mini skirt and boots, showing a lot of leg … OMFG! … what was she doing, watching a polo match? Who knows, who cares, she’s gorgeous and I fell instantly and involuntarily in love with her!

For what it’s worth, in the background this picture is what appears to be Blenheim Palace, so it’s not as if the royal press office was downplaying anything.

The third thing was the realization that of all the democracies that actually have their shit together half of them are constitutional monarchies (you know, Scandinavia). So while having a royal family is necessarily a waste of money, so what? Think of all the money we waste on equally stupid stuff … In fact, you could argue that what we waste money on is even more stupid.

So there you have it, those are the reasons I gave up on royal-hating and transferred that hating onto other objects. I'm as surprised as you would be ...

Marc Susselman said...

Another different question.

When Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland School gunman who killed 17 people, was being sentenced, I expressed disagreement with family members who were demanding that he be given the death penalty, primarily because I believed he was seriously mentally ill. The jury sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Today, the Texas law enforcement personnel arrested the gunman who killed 5 people who lived next door to him, because the father asked him to stop firing his weapon late at night, which was preventing his infant child from sleeping. He walked over and killed them, using an AR-15. Texas has the death penalty. I feel differently about this case, and would have no qualms with him being given the death penalty. Why? Because he responded violently to a civil request, and killed children as well as adults. Moreover, there does not appear to be any issue regarding mistake identity (unless the arrestee has an identical twin brother). Do any of the readers/commenters on this blog agree with me? (You may, of course, also express your disagreement.)

aaall said...

Marc, I wouldn't have a problem with either one being executed. The problem is the number of cases that aren't clear-cut, eternal race/class issues (during the Civil War there was a mass execution of Native Americans but traitors like Davis and Stephens skated), and competency in application using dubious methods.

May be of interest:

JP, it isn't necessary to hate monarchy to decide not set the alarm for 2 AM

Marc Susselman said...


Thank you for the link. Senator Whitehouse is terrific. He should run for President.

The belief, however, that the ethic rules which apply to the lower federal courts are effective is, unfortunately, illusory. I know this from personal experience. The general rule is that you cannot prove that a federal judge (or even a state judge, for that matter) if biased or not impartial on the basis of the judge’s rulings in a case. The only way to prove improper bias, generally speaking, is by obtaining extra-judicial (i.e., outside of the case itself), such as that the judge has taken a bribe. Such extra-judicial evidence is almost impossible to obtain. My personal experience? I filed a judicial complaint against a federal District Court judge earlier this year. The complaint, under the rules, had to be filed in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. As the basis for my formal complaint, I listed 9 rulings by the judge that I contended were inexplicable except that she bore a bias against my clients. The complaint went nowhere. In fact, in a decision denying my appeal, the Court took me to task for so much as questioning the professional integrity of a federal judge.

Marc Susselman said...

And still another question.

Devastation, brutality inhumanity and cruelty in Sudan, Ukraine, Syria, Iran ….

Are you there God? Prof. Wolff, Marc S., s. wallerstein, LFC, aaall, John Rapko, Michael Llenos, R. McDonald, David Palmeter, Achim, several anonymi, in fact, every reader and commenter on Prof. Wolff’s blog, and thousand, upon thousand others, are asking.

Achim Kriechel (A.K.) said...

Dear Marc,

I have to admit that from time to time I ask myself whether the world in which we live has become crazier, or whether I get this impression because I am no longer able to understand it. I have been engaged in philosophy since my youth, which means that I have always focused my attention very much on reading philosophical texts and on what one could cautiously call the philosophical discourse. Thereby Hegel's definition from his "Philosophy of Law" was always in my mind according to which "philosophy is its time in thought".

Whether Mr. Hegel would still uphold this claim today I do not know. He may have lived in revolutionary times, but the revolutions that have taken place since then have almost certainly been beyond his imagination.

Skepticism has good arguments, but giving up the option to see things more clearly simply leads to the boredom of one's own private allotment garden. Then rather Dylan Thomas or Albert Camus Sysiphos, of whom Camus said that one must imagine him as a happy man.

Marc Susselman said...


Thank you for your response.

Most individuals who read and comment on this blog are atheists, or at least agnostic, as I am. So, many may have thought my question was a silly one. Of course there is no God, no omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient supreme being, so why ask why s/he hasn’t intervened to prevent the unspeakable acts of devastation, brutality, inhumanity and cruelty which are being inflicted on the people of Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Iran, and numerous other countries, since s/he does not exist.

But the question is ambiguous. It could be interpreted to mean, why is it that the people who are inflicting these unspeakable acts of devastation, brutality, inhumanity and cruelty on the people of Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Iran, and numerous other countries, many of whom purport to be themselves religious and believe in the existence of a supreme being, engaging in these unspeakable actions? What is the efficacy of religion if it does not prevent the commission of these unspeakable actions by those who purport to be religious? The question is not, where is the actual God, but where is their God, the God they claim to worship? Is either, or both, of the generals who are inflicting untold pain and suffering on the Sudanese people religious? What good is their religion, if they are? According to this article - - Putin “has been keen to present himself as a man of serious personal faith,” his personal choice being the Russian Orthodox Church. Do the precepts of the Russian Orthodox Church condone what he is doing in Urkraine. Does Allah condone the torture of women who dare not to wear a hijab, as is being done in Iran, under the eyes of the imam of Iran? And, since I am Jewish, I should not let Israel off the hook. Does Hashem condone the torture of Palestinian prisoners – even if they are terrorists – as has been reported? Apparently being religious is insufficient to overcome hypocrisy.

What good, then, is religion? After the Holocaust, many Jews, many of them survivors, asked where was God during the Holocaust? The father of my first wife was a survivor, who spent his 13th year in Auschwitz. He refused to enter a synagogue again. The philosophical response was, where was man? A better response is, where were the religious individuals, many of whom professed to be devout Catholics and Protestants, during the Holocaust? I once asked the rabbi of the temple I attended, what is the purpose of Jewish religious education and prayer when I see devout Jews committing, e.g., financial crimes? He responded that one should not judge a religion by the manner in which some of its adherents behave, but by the merits of the religion’s tenets themselves. This may be true, but how does one evaluate its efficacy? Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, even among the religious.

s. wallerstein said...


As you yourself say, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, even among the religious.

That is, religious people have exactly the same psychological motivations, most of them unconscious, as do others.

We all obey the same laws of psychological motivation, and as psychoanalytical and academic psychological studies point out, most of our conscious intentions are rationalizations of unconscious drives and hang-ups and needs.

Marc Susselman said...

s. wallestein,

Yes, I understand. But one possible response to my question, what good is religion, is that without religion it would be even worse. You are not an observant Jew, but I am confident that you would never engage in any of the acts of cruelty which are being committed in Sudan, Ukraine, etc. The same is true of Prof. Wolff, LFC, aaall, etc. There are two possible explanations for this: either you never have the psychological impulses you refer to, which cause others to engage in such acts of cruelty; or, something in your upbringing has taught you to control those impulses. If the latter is the case, it could well be that, while you are not currently religiously observant, you inculcated Jewish values of respect for humanity which have enabled you, regardless that you are not consciously religious, in controlling the psychological impulses you refer to. So, is it possible that although religion does not prevent some adherents from engaging in such acts of cruelty, it prevents enough from doing so, that we are still all better off with its existence than we would have been without it?

Marc Susselman said...


On someone’s suggestion (I think it was Eric’s) I purchased and am reading Leiter’s “Why Tolerate Religion?” I haven’t gotten too far into it (I am surrounded by piles of books, legal pleadings, cases, etc., which I juggle, along with reading and commenting on Prof. Wolff’s blog and playing chess), but Prof. Leiter’s point is questioning why the 1st Amendment values religion as much as it does free speech. One answer could be, just because it does, and that’s the end of it. Another possible answer is that which I propose in the previous comment: With all its flaws, we are still better off, from a practical standpoint, in encouraging religious observances, because we would be far worse off without it.

s. wallerstein said...


Speaking for myself, my Jewish education had zero impact on me, except to irritate and bore me.

I surely learned values from my parents, who were superficially Jewish, but not very religious. I believe I learned more from who they were than from their professed beliefs which they did not necessarily live up to.

Religion may prevent some people at times from engaging in acts of cruelty, but then again so do non-religious ethical systems without the metaphysical bullshit.

My rabbi was intellectually and physically vain, pompous, closed to criticism, prone to favoriticism, in love with the sound of his own voice, hardly an ethical model for anyone. Do he invade any countries? No. If that's your criterion, then he was a good person, but otherwise, an asshole.

Fritz Poebel said...

Given the age and academic demographics of the frequent commenters here, it might be appropriate to note that today is the 53rd anniversary of the Kent State shootings. I don’t think that anyone was ever held legally accountable for that event. Anyway, it ought (in the Kantian sense) to stir up some memories.

Marc Susselman said...


Thank you for reminding us of he anniversary of that tragic event. I vividly remember that day. I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan when it occurred. The photograph of the female student kneeling next to the corpse of her friend, arms outstretched and a scream emanating from her mouth, is seared into my memory, and into the memories of all who saw it.

A lawsuit was filed against Ohio governor James Rhodes and the Ohio National Guard. The case, Scheuer v. Rhodes, went to the S. Ct., 416 U.S. 232 (1974). The lawsuit alleged a violation of the constitutional rights of the victims. The main issue on appeal was whether the 11th Amendment, which precludes suing a state for damages in federal court, barred the lawsuit. The S. Ct., in a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Warren Burgher, ruled that it was not. You can read the decision at the link below:,6cirapp&p=1&q=Rhodes%20and%20(Kent%20%2F4%20State)&sort=relevan

The lawsuit was eventually settled with a payment of $750,000 to the estates of the victims, certainly not a sufficient sum to compensate the relatives for the loss of their loved ones. See the link below:

Howard said...

Dear Marc

Freud separated genuinely religious from the quote unquote rabble.
Truly religious people and I've met a few are quite impressive.
But, religion is naturally authoritarian and it is a fiction.
So my friend Gerard who is a Christian and graduated from Yale, told a woman who was an old classmate from High School whose daughter came out as gay or transgender that she should admonish and punish her. She was merely looking for comfort from a friend and Gerard, usually a kind person, utterly failed
Even Gerard whose faith makes him a good man and a good friend and cultivated, harbors some rigid beliefs straight from the Bible, on his reading
Some justices of the Supreme Court aim to abolish abortion pretty much out of a misreading of the Bible and because the Bible is the word of God, everyone must obey.
Western religions are authoritarian at least mildly
As to banning it, hopefully we'll outgrow it; the attempt will provoke a violent response

LFC said...

Has any serious social theorist, historian, or for that matter psychologist argued that religious belief actually prevents people from committing cruelties or other harmful acts that they would otherwise be likely to commit? Perhaps religion had that effect in certain earlier times and places, when belief in hellfire and damnation was widespread, but I doubt it does now to any appreciable extent.

Despite the cruelties evident in various places, they are overall the exception not the rule. Far more common, and perhaps more overlooked, than such active cruelties is the acceptance of and/or participation in a global political-economic order that disadvantages poor people (whether they live in richer or poorer countries) and that appears to be driving the planet into a climate disaster that, after the commenters here have all passed from the scene, will make, among other things, the current migration and food crises look like child's play.

Anonymous said...

LFC, others, may find these illuminating:

Marc Susselman said...

s. wallerstein’s and LFC’s responses got me thinking – would it be possible to conduct legitimate scientific research to determine whether religious observances have a net positive, negative, or neutral effect on human behavior (using the words “positive” and “negative” to mean, colloquially, “good” vs. “bad”)?

How would one even begin to conduct such research? Would one randomly distribute a questionnaire along the following lines:

Are you a religiously observant individual, Yes or No?
If Yes, do you believe President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is moral, Yes or No.

If No, have your religious beliefs influenced your answer?

If Yes, have your religious beliefs influenced your answer?

Do you believe that slavery is moral, Yes or No.

If No, have your religious beliefs influenced your answer?

If you are not a religiously observant person, do you believe that President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is moral, Yes or No?

If you are not a religiously observant person , do you believe that slavery is moral, Yes of No?

To find out if such research has actually been conducted, I Googled, “Has any research been done on the net effect of religious observance on human behavior?”

I received only two relevant hits, at the links below:

“Does religion make people moral?’ Behavior, 151 (2014):

The author of this study, Ara Norenzayan, Dept. of Psychology, University of British Columbia, provides the following abstract:

“I address three common empirical questions about the connection between religion and morality: (1) Do religious beliefs and practices shape moral behaviour? (2) Do all religions universally concern themselves with moral behavior? (3) Is religion necessary for morality? I draw on recent empirical research on religious prosociality to reach several conclusions. First, awareness of supernatural monitoring and other mechanisms found in religion encourage prosociality towards strangers, and in that regard, religions have come to influence moral behavior. Second, religion’s connection with morality is culturally variable; this link is weak or absent in small-scale groups, and solidifies as group size and societal complexity increase over time and across societies. Third, moral sentiments that encourage prosociality evolved independently of religion, and secular institutions can serve social monitoring functions; therefore religion is not necessary for morality. Supernatural monitoring and related cultural practices build social solidarity and extend moral concern to strangers as a result of cultural evolutionary process.”

This conclusion buttresses s. wallertein’s point of view.

The second study, at the link below, titled “Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications,” published online in ISRN Psychiatry, evaluated the effects of religion/spirituality on mental health.

The author concludes: “”A large volume of research shows that people who are more R/S [religious or spiritual oriented] have better mental health and adapt more quickly to health problems compared to those who are less R/S.”

s. wallerstein said...


First of all, look at the U.S. The most religious people tend to support Trump. In fact, European countries with low levels of religious belief tend to have less violent crime, to have more laws promoting social solidarity and to have less aggressive foreign policies than the U.S. or for that matter, Russia.

In any case, in a questionaire measuring people's moral behavior, don't ask them what they believe is moral, observe what they actually do in their daily life. It's easy to condemn foreign countries for acts of aggression, it's harder to modify one's daily conduct.

Finally, we once had a conversation about stuff one should learn in kindergarten, for example, say "please", "thank you" and "excuse me", wait your turn, don't pick on weaker classmates, etc. That has nothing to do with religion. Those are rules that everybody should learn and many don't. Simple rules that a legitimate authority, your teacher, inculcates.

John Rapko said...

Back around 1990, one of Robert Bellah's students reported to me Bellah saying that it's impossible to understand human life without understanding religion. That launched me on a period of reading through the world's major religious texts. I thought that the best of them (in the sense of what one would want to live by) was The Analects of Confucius (not really 'religious', but social ethics and self-cultivation). For example: A disciple said to the Master: 'So-and-so thinks three times before acting. Is that not meritorious?' Confucius: 'Twice is enough.'--It seems to me that the beginning of a wise answer to Bellah's claim is in the anthropologist Maurice Bloch's essay "Why Religion is Nothing Special but is Central." Bloch argues that there are two basic kinds of sociability to human life: what he calls 'transactional', which are face-to-face everyday dealings; and what he calls 'transcendental', where people relate themselves to the 'imaginary' roles of others, including the dead. The great apes and early hominids lack the transcendental dimension of sociability. 'Religion' as usually understood is one, and only ever partial, way of shaping and actualizing transcendental roles.--So the thought suggests itself that the central question is not whether or what sort of religious or non-religious life people lead, but rather what is the quality of their lived and actualized imagination.--A final point: After carefully mentally surveying everyone I've ever interacted with, the following rankings of the most important human qualities suggest themselves: Best (kindest, most compassionate) human beings: Baha'i. Warmest, most fun people: Black Baptists. Best sense of humor: Jews (no argument is possible there). Best music: a tough one, but because of Bach you have to go with the Lutherans. Honorable mention to the Episcopalians for Orlando Gibbons, and the South African Pentecostals for Nduduzo Matse (

LFC said...

Anonymous @12:13 pm
Haven't looked at the links yet but if what you're getting at is that a lot of cruelties have been committed *in the name of religion* - clearly yes, that almost goes w.o saying.

John Rapko said...

Post-script on religious music: My mind is now flooded with instances of the world's religious music. I cannot rest without also giving Honorable Mentions to the Baptists for The Blind Boys of Alabama ( and the Sufis for the qawwali of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (

aaall said...

Marc, I assume religion is mentioned in the Constitution because religion played a prominent role in politics at the time. Oaths implicating doctrine and dogma led to political disabilities. Religion played a role in who emigrated and where they immigrated. Establishment was an issue in colonies/states. Locke's "A Letter Concerning Toleration" was well known.

Post Reformation religious wars had devastated Europe and millions had been killed. By the time my fifth ggf bailed on the Rhineland (~1730), around ninety percent of the pre-Reformation population was gone. As we still live with the Civil War so they still lived with the Thirty Years War, etc.

There is a very real persecution complex with the electorally dispositive cohort of U.S. Christianity. Any disagreement is consider a harbinger of lions and Gulags.

Bronze and Iron Age class formation was violent and unpleasant. I assume some folks sincerely sought a better way while others saw the grift potential - just like today.

We should keep in mind that those smiling faces on those lynching postcards were likely in the pews come Sunday morning.

Marc Susselman said...

John Rapko,

As far as memorable music goes, we should not overlook “My Sharona,” written and performed by the lead singer of The Knack, Doug Fieger, brother of Michigan attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who represented Jack Kevorkian.

Marc Susselman said...

Wrong link.

John Pillette said...

Religion was responsible for my first really profound sociological insight. My parents were dutiful (but not especially pious) Catholics and so I was dragged to church every Sunday (well, first I was carried as a babe in arms … later I was dragged). Church itself was just so much background noise, just like the muted trombone in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

At the same time I was an early and avid reader. Some of my favorites were Andrew Lang’s “Fairy” books, which split the difference between literary scholarship (folklore collecting division) and children’s literature. Each fairy tale, if I’m recalling correctly, was about three pages long, and there seemed to be an endless supply of them, but they were clearly all variations on a theme.

So I read these and enjoyed them qua fairy tales, understanding full well that “magic” was purely fictional, that wizards and elves did not exist, and that all of the quaint premodern settings for these tales had come and gone. At the same time, every Sunday I went and sat through another quaint premodern ritual, but without realizing this (because yes, I was one of THOSE kids, the kind who habitually tunes out boring adults, like parents, priests, and teachers).

Until one Sunday I realized all of a sudden that church ritual was based on magic, and that I was expected to believe in it! I was surprised, but more than that I was insulted: “you SERIOUSLY expect ME to believe THAT?” I must have been about eight. It was all nonsense, and yet my parents and all the adults around me were taking it (or pretending to take it) all seriously! WTF!

Around this time I decided to extend the scope of my habitual snooping to include the church basement (this was easy because we lived across the street), and in poking around down there I discovered that communion wafers—the Body of Christ—were in fact manufactured in a factory in Waterbury, Conn. I now had physical, incontrovertible proof that this was all a big fraud!

This discovery is linked in my mind with another pointless masochistic ritual, that of watching the Mets from the upper tier at Shea Stadium. Not only were the players the size of ants, they always lost! (and in fact the Mets would suck until the 1980s) … But this appeared to simply be what social life WAS. Neither the Church nor the Mets made any sense to me, and yet large numbers of people (you could swivel your head and count the numbers) were finding some kind of meaning in it all … go figure!

Marc Susselman said...

John Pillette,

No surprise there. You should have been a Dodgers fan.

Marc Susselman said...

Another case of a man likely wrongfully convicted of murder. He faces execution on May 18.

Marc Susselman said...


Should a person be executed for planning the murder of someone based on the testimony of the admitted actual murder that he was hired to commit the murder, and is given life imprisonment for turning state’s evidence?

If so, we should all be very careful not to express hatred of someone, whom someone else also hates, and my frame us for the individual’s murder, and turn state’s evidence. For a plea bargain..

Marc Susselman said...


So, Kim Kardashian, the self-promoting marketer and sex symbol, and daughter of Robert Kardashian, who defended O. J. Simpson, is studying to become a lawyer, and is devoting her time to advocating on behalf of incarcerated individuals whom she believes have been wrongly convicted. Good for her.

s. wallerstein said...

No one ever should be executed for any crime.

With reference to our conversation yesterday about the "moral advantages" of religion, religious people are much more likely to be in favor of the death penalty.

In Chile the death penalty was eliminated about 30 years ago, shortly after the end of the Pinochet dictatorship.

During the congressional debate about elminating it, one very rightwing Catholic senator advocated for the death penalty on the grounds that it would lead condemned people to repent of their sins and thus, save their souls, saving their souls being much more important than saving their lives.

aaall said...

KK is reading law so she had to take the baby bar which she passed on her third or fourth try. "Baby" is deceptive as most who take it fail.