Psychology Today has a hit job on religious beliefs, which is not surprising given their love for Darwin and all things atheistic.(1)
Despite a widespread perception that religious people should behave more ethically in general, researchers find little evidence that religious people either think or behave more ethically (1). One study, found that atheists were significantly less likely than religious students to cheat on an exam (2).
Psychologists find that religious belief stunts moral development, because it commits people to a dogma, or formula, rather than working out ethical solutions for themselves (the highest stage of moral development known as post-conventional morality).
Fundamentalist religions may undermine moral reasoning. People who “know” that they are saved, may be relatively unconcerned about who is hurt by their actions in this world. A Roper survey found that after being “born again,” people are more likely to drive drunk, use illegal drugs, and engage in illicit sex (3).
I’m not much on comparing people morally, because the Bible teaches that the notion of a good person is a myth. However, one must consider the agenda of the atheist writing this article on Psychology Today. Yes, I make that prediction even though the author did not state his position on God. The author engages in cherry picking–picking out only that research which supports his position. He did not even consider that governmental systems based on atheist philosophy have resulted in the most catastrophic loss of human life in history.(2)
What the author is trying to do is to say that religious folk are psychologically immature and don’t know how to engage in moral reasoning, whereas, atheists are more developed, psychologically and intellectually. I’ll just briefly include some research that is counter to the claims of Dr. Barber:
1). Religious beliefs is associated with lower levels of delinquency and drug/alcohol use in adolescents
2). Religious beliefs are associated with increased self-control. This is a comprehensive review article on decades of research. Other notable findings included are that religious beliefs result in increased lifespan (25-30%), less likely to use drugs/alcohol at all ages and engage in more health promoting behavior, have higher levels of psychological well-being, more likely to stay married and be more satisfied with the marital relationship, and is associated with higher grade point averages.
Does this sound like psychological immaturity or stunted moral development? Not in the least. Here’s to hoping that Dr. Barber will do a little more homework the next time he decides to write a hit job on religion.
(1). Are religious people more ethical in their conduct? Psychology Today, N. Barber, 4/09