Completed all aspects of this research: Scientific research yields inconsistent and contradictory evidence relating religion to moral judgments and outcomes, yet most people on earth nonetheless view belief in God or gods as central to morality, and many view atheists with suspicion and scorn. To evaluate intuitions regarding a causal link between religion and morality, this paper tested intuitive moral judgments of atheists and other groups. Even atheist participants judged immoral acts as more representative of atheists than of other groups.
These findings demonstrate a prevalent intuition that belief in God serves a necessary function in inhibiting immoral conduct, and may help explain persistent negative perceptions of atheists. Without God and the future life? It means everything is permitted now, one can do anything? If you learn about an individual's moral or immoral conduct, what else can you infer about that person's beliefs? For instance, if you learn that an individual kills homeless people for fun, or has consumed human flesh, what else might you guess about him or her?
The present experiments evaluate the degree to which people perceive religious belief as a necessary component of morality. To individuals who intuitively assume that morality primarily arises from religion, another person's moral behavior may be seen as diagnostic of his or her religious beliefs—or lack thereof. Across experiments, the present paper tested the
Experimental design definition statistics of sexual immorality to which immoral behavior is intuitively seen as a "Experimental design definition statistics of sexual immorality" of religious disbelief.
Is religion the bedrock of morality? On the one hand, religion is linked to a variety of positive outcomes, including prosocial behavior  — volunteerism honesty  — and an ability to resist temptation  — . Religions may have been instrumental in the development of moral communities  that foster cooperation. On the other hand, moral judgments rely heavily on intuitions that emerge early in development  and may be shared with close primate relatives  — .
These moral intuitions may suggest the operation of a universal moral grammar  that is robust across differences in religion  — . Although scientific opinion on the relationship between religion and morality is somewhat ambiguous, popular opinion seemingly is not. Most Americans report that belief in God is an integral component of morality, a sentiment echoed at least as strongly in most countries worldwide .
A perceived intimate connection between religion and morality may engender widespread reactions of exclusion distrust  — and disgust  towards atheists around the world. An assumed causal relationship between religion and morality has the potential to influence the intuitive assumptions that often underlie stereotyping and prejudice.
People readily form intuitive representations of a person's likely group memberships given only minimal information about that person . To the extent that people view morality as deriving from religious belief, information about a person's moral conduct may be intuitively viewed as diagnostic of that person's religious beliefs.
In other words, to an observer who thinks that religion enables people to inhibit immoral behavior, learning that an agent engages in immoral behavior may be sufficient to lead the observer to intuitively infer that the agent is not religious.
Thus, reactions to descriptions of immoral behavior can shed light on people's intuitions regarding the role of religious belief in morality. An intuitive connection between religion and morality may also help explain the prevalence of negative perceptions of atheists. Atheists are routinely excluded in the U. In the context of many classic approaches to prejudice and stereotyping, this is a puzzling form of antipathy . Atheists do not constitute a cohesive or powerful group if, indeed, Experimental design definition statistics of sexual immorality can even meaningfully be thought of as a groupand classic intergroup dynamics do not appear to adequately explain negative perceptions of atheists.
In addition, perceptions of warmth and competence do not explain why atheists are perceived even more negatively than other groups similar in this regard . Initial research highlights distrust as one key component in anti-atheist prejudice  — .
The present research, in addition to exploring intuitive perceptions of a religion-morality link, offers to broaden this investigation of distrust of atheists to consider the broader question of whether atheists are distrusted in part because people intuitively assume that atheists in some way lack a perceived necessary component of morality: The present experiments evaluated intuitive perceptions of a causal link between religion and morality by utilizing the representativeness heuristic a mental shortcut that biases people's probability judgments.
In a classic problem illustrating this heuristic, participants are given a description of Linda, a politically active, single, liberal woman who cares deeply about social justice and asked whether it is more probable that Linda is A a bank teller, or B a bank teller who is active Experimental design definition statistics of sexual immorality the feminist movement.
Although the first option is necessarily the correct answer feminist bank tellers being only a subset of bank tellers in generalmost people commit a conjunction error: However, if participants are instead given a potential group membership that does not fit the description e. Thus, by independently manipulating the contents of the description and the potential group membership implied in the question, researchers can use the rates of conjunction errors for different targets as an index of the degree to which a given description is intuitively viewed as representative of different groups of people .
In five experiments, I presented participants with a description of someone engaging in an action that is often viewed as immoral. Then, between participants, I varied the potential groups to which the person might belong to test the degree to which the immoral act was seen as representative of different groups of people schematically represented in Figure 1.
All five experiments drew samples from adults in the U. Across experiments, I tested moral perceptions of atheists across eight different moral transgressions varying greatly in severity, ranging from relative innocuous e. In addition, throughout experiments perceptions of atheists were compared to perceptions of a variety of other targets, including Christians, Jewish people, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Whites, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and gay men. These experiments therefore present a thorough investigation of intuitive perceptions of a religion-morality link that includes various domains of morality and contrasts atheists to many other religious, ethnic, and cultural outgroups.
Experiment 1 presented participants with a description of a person engaging in clearly and unambiguously immoral behavior: Crucially, Experiment 1 tested the hypothesis that participants would find a description of an animal torturer and serial murderer to be more representative of atheists than of a variety of different religious groups.
Two hundred thirty seven American adults from Mechanical Turk participated in Experiment 1. The participants represented a wide variety of religious backgrounds full demographics for all experiments are presented in the supporting information: I aimed to recruit at least 30 participants per cell, and deliberately oversampled to meet this goal.
All sample size decisions were made a priori. Three participants failed an Instrumental Manipulation Check  and were excluded before any analyses were conducted. Participants first completed an IRB-approved online consent procedure. Participants read a consent form. After reading the form and having an opportunity to email with any questions, participants checked a box to confirm that they were at least 18 years old, had read and understood the consent form, and agreed to participate.
After giving digital consent, participants proceeded to the main survey. In the main survey, participants were first presented with the following description of a
Experimental design definition statistics of sexual immorality transgressor:. When Dax was young, he began inflicting harm on animals. It started with just pulling the wings off flies, but eventually progressed to torturing squirrels and stray cats in his neighborhood. As an adult, Dax found that he did not get much thrill from harming animals, so he began hurting people instead.
He has killed 5 homeless people that he abducted from poor neighborhoods in his home city. Their dismembered bodies are currently buried in his basement. Immediately following the conjunction question, participants had one additional item as an Instrumental Manipulation Check  to exclude participants not paying attention to directions.
This item included a question about US Presidents, with a drop down menu providing several response choices. However, in the instructions for this item, participants were told to skip the question without leaving a response.