It’s Official: Religion Doesn’t Make You More Moral. Die fundies gaan hulle self bekak as hulle hierdie artikel lees. Maar natuurlik, soos hulle al vir eeu lank lieg en bedrieg, sal hulle nog leuns uitdink om te se dat hulle geloof die hoe grond hou as dit by moraliteit kom. Maar wie vat daardie narre deesdae ernstig op?


It’s Official: Religion Doesn’t Make You More Moral

A recent study comparing views on morality of religious and non-religious people found something surprising: Religion doesn’t make our everyday lives more moral.
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.

The fact that atheists are apparently as moral as believers will be counterintuitive to some. In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Dmitri Karamazov famously worries, “But what will become of men then…without God and immortal life? All things are lawful then, they can do what they like?”

In late 2007, when Mitt Romney was still uncertain whether he could win the GOP presidential primary, he made a speech on religion to reassure a leery electorate. His Mormon faith was no reason to reject his candidacy, he argued. What really mattered was that he was religious, and thus had the same moral beliefs as other religious people. “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom,” he said, insinuating that a free but godless people might form an unruly mob. Later in the speech, he added, “Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.”

Yet Dmitri Karamazov and Mitt Romney are likely wrong. 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.

While both groups reported experiencing similar moral emotions, such as shame and gratitude, religious people who described their feelings were somewhat more intense.
“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.”

Daniel Wisneski, a collaborator on the study and assistant professor at St. Peter’s University, said that “heightened ecological validity was a goal of the study.” He added that “the method is not a better method, but complementary to other methods.” Eric Schwitzgebel, a professor of philosophy at University of California at Riverside who maintains a blog on the philosophy of psychology, wrote in an email, “Since the literature on moral cognition has so far been dominated by laboratory studies and online surveys, with relatively few studies of moral behavior sampled in everyday contexts, I think it’s exciting to see researchers expanding their methodology in this direction.”

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.

But there is reason to be cautious about the results. The study relies on the participants in the study to self-report honestly and accurately, and participants might be embarrassed to reveal immoral acts. People also have a tendency to overestimate how moral they have been. Schwitzgebel believes that there are inherent problems with self-reported studies, but they can offer valuable research nonetheless. “It’s a matter of weighing concerns about the inaccuracy of self-report against concerns about how representative laboratory behavior is of behavior in non-laboratory contexts,” he said.
Wisneski agreed that the concern about self-reporting is a “valid critique” of his study. He observed, however, that many participants report committing immoral acts such as adultery, which is encouraging (at least as far as the accuracy of the study is concerned).

The study did not limit itself to comparing views of religious and non-religious people. It also compared the views of people with different political ideologies. According to one recently proposed psychological theory, the Moral Foundations Theory, there are several different grounds for finding an act moral or immoral. One act may be considered immoral because it harms someone. Another act, however, may be considered immoral not because it is harmful but because it evinces disloyalty. Previous laboratory experiments using the Moral Foundations Theory framework had shown that liberals and conservatives emphasize different moral foundations. For example, conservatives are more likely to cite acts that exhibit respect for authority as moral, while liberals are more likely to consider acts that exhibit fairness as moral. The current study confirmed these differences between liberals and conservatives outside the laboratory, but not to a striking degree. “Moral Foundations Theory found some support in theoretically predicted directions, but this was dwarfed by a huge amount of overlap between liberals and conservatives,” said Wisneski. “If we watch Fox or MSNBC, we might think that liberals are from Mars, conservatives are from Venus. But there are far more similarities.”

The researchers deliberately refrained from defining “moral” and “immoral” for study participants. Leaving the definition of “morality” open enabled the researchers to see the variety of acts that some people considered moral or immoral. “There’s always the tradeoff between the clarity of telling participants exactly what you’re looking for, and the risk of missing important aspects of their moral lives,” said Graham. “For instance, if I think morality is fundamentally about fairness and justice, and define it as such for participants, then I will get a more precise and specific set of moral events from them, but I will miss a lot of what they find morally good or bad.”

There’s some reason, though, to think most people were pretty much on the same moral page. All the moral and immoral acts that participants texted to researchers were each independently rated by several judges who did not know the purpose of the study nor anything about the participants. There was a remarkable level of agreement. The judges in aggregate differed from the participant in their opinion of the morality of an act less than 1 percent of the time.

In all, Schwitzgebel thinks that this study has been an important step forward in empirical research of morality. “In studying as complex a phenomenon as moral and immoral behavior, one wants to employ a wide variety of different methods with their various complementary advantages and disadvantages. There’s not going to be any one single perfect method,” he said. “So it’s terrific to see the literature expanding in new methodological directions like this.”


8 thoughts on “It’s Official: Religion Doesn’t Make You More Moral. Die fundies gaan hulle self bekak as hulle hierdie artikel lees. Maar natuurlik, soos hulle al vir eeu lank lieg en bedrieg, sal hulle nog leuns uitdink om te se dat hulle geloof die hoe grond hou as dit by moraliteit kom. Maar wie vat daardie narre deesdae ernstig op?

  1. Defnitief nie. Religion gee mense ‘n false sense of security en laat hulle dink hulle is speciaal of iets. Dit is die pinnacle van immoreel en oneties om ‘n leun aan die wereld te verkondig. Religion maak dinge net erger.


  2. En waar kruip jou god weg Johann? Hy is ‘n tipiese spiteful fokken asshole. Ek dink die reeksverkragters in die tronk is meer moreel as hy. God is meer onvolmaak as ek of enige iemand in die wereld. Sy fuck – ups het reuse implikasies vir alles en almal. Probeer dit vir ‘n batshit crazy christen te vertel.


  3. Yet another case of religious, in this case Muslim, “interests” interfering in what is none of their business. It makes these BDS arseholes feel important, you see, because nobody could give a rat’s arse about their individual opinion. A bunch of united arseholes can cause a lot of kak though.

    Woolies threatens boycotters

    WOOLWORTHS might haul the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) group into court because, the retailing giant says, the activists’ threats have put the safety of staff and customers “at risk”.

    “Our employees, of all faiths and cultures, are telling us that they are feeling increasingly threatened by the protests. What’s more, the families of our employees have reported being abused and sworn at by BDS.

    “If this continues we will consider taking further precautions, including legal action against the individuals involved,” spokesman Babs Dlamini said this week.

    Woolworths has been the main target of BDS, a pro-Palestinian lobby group targeting companies doing business with Israel.

    It is not known to what extent the BDS threats have hurt Woolworths’ sales.

    Dlamini said “our customers have been supportive [and] sales continue to increase, year on year”.

    For the year to June, Woolworths’s South African clothing sales grew 10.6% and food sales climbed 14.8%. But in Woolworths’s annual report, released this week, CEO Ian Moir warned that “growth will be constrained in the short term” in South Africa, Australia and the rest of Africa.

    Dlamini said that, just as BDS had the right to protest, the group’s employees had the right to work and its customers had the right to shop without being intimidated.

    She said Woolworths was not sure why it was being targeted because “more than 95% of our food is sourced locally [and] the government continues to authorise trade with Israel”.

    But BDS, which has held more than 40 protests at Woolworths stores around the country, including at Sandton City in Johannesburg, Gateway in Durban and Cavendish Square in Cape Town, plans to ramp up the pressure when the retailer holds its annual general meeting on November 26.

    BDS activist Mohammed Desai said “We need to intensify our campaign”.

    He denies that BDS has intimidated staff or customers, saying he would encourage Woolworths to report such cases to the police.

    But questions have been raised as to why BDS has targeted only Woolworths, ignoring other companies with ties to Israel, including Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Danone, Nestle and Motorola.

    “We know there are other companies with similar activities,” Desai said, but BDS does not have the capacity to tackle all of them at this stage.

    “For now, Woolworths is our target. They are making a grave mistake by ignoring us and if we go to all those retailers our campaign will be diluted.”

    Woolworths said it had responded to all communications from BDS.

    “We have listened to them and we shared our position on the conflict in the Middle East. We rarely source food abroad.”

    Woolworths this week revealed that Moir was paid R27.5-million last year, a 1.5% increase on the previous year. During the financial year to June, its pre-tax profit grew 12.5% to R4.1-billion and its share price climbed 21% to R78.15.

    Since then, however, Woolworths’ shares have dropped nearly 10% to R70.69 as fears mounted that it overpaid for Australia’s oldest department store, David Jones, which it bought for R21.4-billion recently.

    Woolworths is not the only one drawing flak for links to Israel.

    Desai said the pro-Palestine movement has been encouraged by the ANC’s stance, pronounced last week, against Cape Gate, G4S and Caterpillar.

    Cape Gate, based in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, supplied materials to Israel for the building of the “apartheid wall”; G4S is contracted by the Israeli government for services in prisons and detention camps for Palestinian activists; and Caterpillar makes the bulldozers used by the Israeli army to demolish houses in Gaza.

    Until now, this political pressure has not translated into bigger problems for Woolworths. But that might change.

    BDS, which has been supported by the ANC Youth League, is understood to have lobbied ANC heavyweights to put pressure on one of Woolworths’s largest shareholders, the Government Employees Pension Fund, which holds 17.2% of the shares.

    Said Desai: “We have been engaging the ANC on this matter for about two years. The sad reality is that we have the PIC and the [pension fund] as shareholders at Woolworths. We hope that they will leverage their influence there,” Desai said.

    Coca-Cola’s South African head of public affairs Vukani Magubane, said the company does not have production facilities on any disputed territory in Israel.

    She said Coca-Cola has a bottling agreement in Israel with the Central Bottling Company, which is a 100% privately owned firm that has Coca-Cola plants in Bnei Brak and Ashkelon.

    “Our Palestinian business employs over 400 Palestinians,” Magubane said.


  4. Roots grow out of vagina after woman uses potato as contraceptive

    A 22-year-old woman placed a potato in her vagina after her mother told her it was a fail proof contraceptive method.

    After experiencing pain in her abdominal area, the Columbian woman went to a local hospital to get help.

    Embarrassed, she told nurses she had put a potato into her vagina two weeks ago, because she was advised it would prevent pregnancy. According to, the potato germinated and grew roots. The nurse who attended to the woman found the roots had visibly emerged from her vagina. The potato was eventually removed, non surgically.

    Sex education is a taboo subject in the conservative Columbian community after families boycotted classes aimed at informing the youth on such topics.


      • Well in any case, McBrolloks, it worked. She got a moerse a belly ache but didn’t fall pregnant. Probably because most guys are put off by potato roots sprouting from a woman’s vagina.


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