Morality and the Religious Mind: Why theists and non-theists differ

Article · December 2014with3,041 Reads
DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2014.05.003
Religions have come to be intimately tied to morality, and much recent research has shown that theists and non-theists differ in their moral behavior and decision-making along several dimensions. Here we discuss how these empirical trends can be explained by fundamental differences in group commitment, motivations for prosociality, cognitive styles, and meta-ethics. We conclude by elucidating key areas of moral congruence.

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    • endorsements, but crucially, they found that belief in the moral absolutism of God's laws mediated this effect. This suggests that one reason for moral disagreement across the religious spectrum is that, whereas believers and nonbelievers alike can perceive objective moral truths amidst individualizing morality of welfare and fairness, believers are more likely to extend this perception of moral objectivity to binding morality of loyalty, authority, and sanctity (for relevant discussion, see Shariff, Piazza, & Kramer, 2014). These findings align with previous research revealing associations between Quest orientation and egalitarian values as well as notions of " inner authority " and openness to change.
    Full-text · Chapter · Mar 2017 · Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
    • increases the likelihood of prosocial behaviors (e.g., Piazza et al., 2011; Nettle et al., 2013; Takagishi et al., 2015). If moral transgressions are observed, the observers may inform others, which could damage the reputation of the transgressor (Piazza and Bering, 2008; Shariff et al., 2014). Maintenance of one's reputation provides a powerful incentive for prosocial behavior (Milinski et al., 2002; Piazza and Bering, 2008), and most of the world's religions posit the existence of supernatural agents who constantly observe and judge our actions.
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A common finding across many cultures has been that religious people behave more prosocially than less (or non-) religious people. Numerous priming studies have demonstrated that the activation of religious concepts via implicit and explicit cues (e.g., ‘God,’ ‘salvation,’ among many others) increases prosociality in religious people. However, the factors underlying such findings are less clear. In this review we discuss hypotheses (e.g., the supernatural punishment hypothesis) that explain the religion-prosociality link, and also how recent findings in the empirical literature converge to suggest that the divine rewards (e.g., heaven) and punishments (e.g., hell) promised by various religious traditions may play a significant role. In addition, we further discuss inconsistencies in the religion-prosociality literature, as well as existing and future psychological studies which could improve our understanding of whether, and how, concepts of divine rewards and punishments may influence prosociality.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2016
    • Altruism Is Negatively Influenced by the Religiosity of Children' Households group. Therefore, this result cannot be simply explained by in-group versus out-group biases that are known to change children's cooperative behaviors from an early age [15], nor by the known fact that religious people tend to be more altruistic toward individuals from their in-group [8, 16]. A second major finding from these data is that religiosity affects children's punitive tendencies when evaluating interpersonal harm.
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Prosocial behaviors are ubiquitous across societies. They emerge early in ontogeny [1] and are shaped by interactions between genes and culture [2, 3]. Over the course of middle childhood, sharing approaches equality in distribution [4]. Since 5.8 billion humans, representing 84% of the worldwide population, identify as religious [5], religion is arguably one prevalent facet of culture that influences the development and expression of prosociality. While it is generally accepted that religion contours people's moral judgments and prosocial behavior, the relation between religiosity and morality is a contentious one. Here, we assessed altruism and third-party evaluation of scenarios depicting interpersonal harm in 1,170 children aged between 5 and 12 years in six countries (Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, USA, and South Africa), the religiousness of their household, and parent-reported child empathy and sensitivity to justice. Across all countries, parents in religious households reported that their children expressed more empathy and sensitivity for justice in everyday life than non-religious parents. However, religiousness was inversely predictive of children's altruism and positively correlated with their punitive tendencies. Together these results reveal the similarity across countries in how religion negatively influences children's altruism, challenging the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior.
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  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previous research suggests that the sexual double standard still exists today, and that women face greater social repercussions for engaging in casual sex than men. This study investigates the effects of religious priming on attitudes toward a hypothetic female target, who is portrayed as either having a single or multiple romantic partners in the past year. In addition, we examined how participants preexisting levels of religiosity, sexual conservatism, and moral concerns might further affect attitudes toward this target. Consistent with our original hypothesis, self reported levels of religiosity, religious fundamentalism and right-wing authoritarianism are associated with more conservative attitudes toward sexuality. Interestingly, this relationship did not influence how our hypothetical character was evaluated. The multiple-partner Amber was rated more negatively than her single-partner counterpart, regardless of participants preexisting levels of religiosity and sexual conservatism. What did appear to be driving this effect were participant’s gender and relative moral concerns, specifically females and those who reported more purity/sanctity concerns. A consistent main effect was found for Amber’s number of partners and for the gender of the participant. For some variables, gender of participant and Amber condition interacted, such that women tended to reward her more than men when she had a single partner. Understanding how people evaluate others based solely on their perceived sexual activity is important, and could shed light on some critical issues, including women’s interpersonal relations and assault investigations.
    Article · Apr 2014 · Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The relationship between religion and morality has long been hotly debated. Does religion make us more moral? Is it necessary for morality? Do moral inclinations emerge independently of religious intuitions? These debates, which nowadays rumble on in scientific journals as well as in public life, have frequently been marred by a series of conceptual confusions and limitations. Many scientific investigations have failed to decompose "religion" and "morality" into theoretically grounded elements; have adopted parochial conceptions of key concepts-in particular, sanitized conceptions of "prosocial" behavior; and have neglected to consider the complex interplay between cognition and culture. We argue that to make progress, the categories "religion" and "morality" must be fractionated into a set of biologically and psychologically cogent traits, revealing the cognitive foundations that shape and constrain relevant cultural variants. We adopt this fractionating strategy, setting out an encompassing evolutionary framework within which to situate and evaluate relevant evidence. Our goals are twofold: to produce a detailed picture of the current state of the field, and to provide a road map for future research on the relationship between religion and morality. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The relation between religious and moral thought has been difficult to unravel because of the multifaceted nature of both religion and morality. We chose to study the belief dimension of religion and the meta-ethics dimension of morality and investigated the relation between God-related thoughts and objectivist/subjectivist morality in three studies. We expected a reciprocal relation between the idea of God and objective morality since God is one prominent way through which objective moral truths could be grounded and thus the lack of such objective truths might imply the absence of God who could set such truths. Study 1 revealed negative correlations between moral subjectivism and several measures of religious belief. Study 2 showed that people adopt moral objectivism more and moral subjectivism less after being implicitly primed with religious words in a sentence unscrambling task. Study 3 showed that people express less confidence about the existence of God after reading a persuasive text about the subjective nature of moral truths. Taken together, the results demonstrate that religious and meta-ethical beliefs are indeed related and can reciprocally influence each other.
    Article · May 2015
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