Religious people often use their religion to signal to themselves and others that they are moral, upright, trustworthy and more. But religion-free people (atheists, agnostics etc) also send out moral signals.Here are some secular methods to signal your virtues:
- Politics: (depending on the audience, declaring your political allegiance can have this affect.
- Diet: Vegetarians often reek of this. (I am a former vegetarian, see my confession here)
- Philosophy: Talking about ethics and morality are a signal, no matter how false. (see prev. post)
- Sports: Heck, even declaring oneself a sports fan can signal identity, bonds and allegiances (all part of morality).
- Consumption Habits: Environmentalists, Recyclers etc use their positions as signals
You see, we all signal our morality in some way. Religious folks usually include this signaling in their abstract package of religion as I illustrated in the diagram to the right (from this post). By using religion as their packaging, they feel they can amplify their signal. The problem with religious vs. secular signaling is that, for the most part, religions discourage questioning of the package, of the values or of any doctrine. Whereas secular folks, though signaling, are much more open to discussing and questioning their signals — but that is an intuition, I can’t quote an article to support my impression.
Question to readers: Name others secular signals you can imagine. What do you feel about my last claim?
— See my other posts on Morality here.