Sunday, September 28, 2014

New Study: Religious Not More Moral

Morality is human, not divine. As writer Arthur C. Clark said, the greatest mistake humanity made was letting religion co-opt morality. And then letting religion twist it into the anti-human IMmorality of racism, sexism, homophobia, sectarianism and general warmongering hatred.

No, the religious are not more moral than the non-religious.  And now there's science to prove it.

The Daily Beast:

Suppose you actually do have an angel over your shoulder telling you the right thing to do. That angel probably wouldn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. A recent study in Science aimed at uncovering how we experience morality in our everyday lives suggests that religious people are no more moral—or immoral—than non-religious people. Whether or not we believe that divine precepts give us guidance, our behavior is remarkably similar.

People who don’t fear that justice will be meted out in an afterlife are apparently no more vicious, cruel, or licentious than a believer.
The current study breaks new ground in a few different ways. Perhaps most importantly, previous psychological studies of moral responses relied on observations in laboratory settings. This study, however, uses a method that allows researchers to escape the lab and catch glimpses of how participants think about morality as they go about their lives. Researchers using the method, known as “ecological momentary assessment,” periodically contact participants to report their feelings.

In this study, over 1,200 people were texted five times a day over the course of three days. The texts asked if they’d committed, experienced, or heard moral or immoral acts in the previous hour. If a participant answered yes, there were follow-up questions that prompted him or her to describe the event and some of his or her reactions to it. The researchers collected over 13,000 responses, almost 4,000 of which described a moral or immoral event. The acts ranged from the mundane to the unexpected: Assisted a tourist with directions because he looked lost. At work, someone stole my partner’s nice balsamic vinegar while he was off shift and most likely took it home with them. Hired someone to kill a muskrat that’s ultimately not causing any harm.

“There have been hundreds of morality studies, and the vast majority have involved presenting people with hypothetical scenarios or dilemmas and directly asking them to make moral judgments,” wrote Jesse Graham, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, in an email to The Daily Beast. “This has told us a lot, but it hasn’t told us much about how morality plays out in daily life. This study’s use of smartphone technology allows for a more ecologically valid picture of what kinds of moral events and situations people actually encounter outside the lab.” SNIP

The main notable difference between religious and non-religious people was that while both groups reported experiencing similar moral emotions, such as shame and gratitude, religious people who described their feelings were somewhat more intense.

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