Friday, 5 March 2010

Atheists just as ethical as churchgoers?

The telegraph recently had an article about the morality of atheists.
Atheists are just as ethical and have as strong a moral compass as churchgoers, new research shows.

People who have no religion know right from wrong just as well as regular worshippers, according to the study.
There is no source, as seems increasingly common these days. Newspaper articles appear link to their sources less than bloggers. I think the study may be "The origins of religion : evolved adaptation or by-product?" (doi:10.1016/j.tics.2009.12.007).

The Telegraph article goes on to state
But people who did not have a religious background still appeared to have intuitive judgments of right and wrong in common with believers, according to the findings, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
If I am correct about the source article, this may be in reference to this moral evaluator which the article links to. This looks at difficult, artificial, unlikely moral dilemmas, what to do when faced with competing loss of life, and the issue of double effect. It does not ask which type of behaviours are right or wrong.

Of course knowledge of right behaviour does not equate to practice of right behaviour. But is this information surprising? Christianity teaches all men know about God's requirements.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1)
Study author Hauser states
The research suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.
While one would hope that Christians exhibit better moral praxis than atheists, Christianity does not require or specify that atheists only perform immoral actions. What Christianity argues is that atheism as a philosophy offers no reason for morality to exist at all. It is not primarily whether atheism makes people eumoral or immoral—though that is also a point, one I do not think the study adequately addresses—rather it is that atheism logically implies that all actions are amoral. There is no ought, only preferences.

4 comments:

  1. Another important point is that it is much easier to make right moral judgements that are abstract that make right moral real world judgements. Ultimately the test must be based upon likely events, not unlikely ones.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very much so. Most people think that causing deaths of others is wrong, but what of lying, stealing, coveting.

    And even if agreement is reached on the correct course of action much of the battle is the will to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Atheists might not know where their moral choices come from, but that ignorance does not change the reality that morality comes from somewhere outside of ourselves.

    Thomas Jackson, president of Atheism Agenda of the University of Texas (Smut for Smut - Porn for Bibles campaign) said that since murder (for example) hurts society it must be morally wrong. But who says murder hurts society? Who's making that judgment call?

    Good post.

    ReplyDelete

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