Morality and Religion

There’s a new article in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences that explores the link (and distinctions) between morality and religion. As Dr. Marc Hauser, one of the authors of the article, says:

“For some, there is no morality without religion, while others see religion as merely one way of expressing one’s moral intuitions.”

For years, the debate surrounding the origins of religion has been split into two camps. One camp believes that religion evolved as a way for non-related individuals to cooperate and live together. The other thinks religion emerged as a “by-product of pre-existing cognitive capacities.”

Dr. Hauser and co-author Dr. Ilkka Pyysiainen reviewed a number of moral psychology studies and found that people of varying religious backgrounds (including no religious background) showed no difference in making moral judgements. In other words, people knew the basics of right and wrong intuitively and were making their moral decisions independent of religious affiliation (or lack thereof).

The good doctors claim that this research supports the-religion-as-a-by-product camp, though I admit much of their argument goes swooping over my head. You can read their full article here.

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