Morality and Religion: A Psychological Perspective

By Mustea, Anca; Negru, Oana et al. | Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Morality and Religion: A Psychological Perspective


Mustea, Anca, Negru, Oana, Opre, Adrian, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies


Abstract: The present article investigates how psychological theories of morality approach the relation between morality and religion, debating the role religion plays in human moral development in contemporary societies. Firstly, we critically discuss how the major approaches of morality in psychological theory and research view human moral conduct and moral reasoning. Secondly, we appraise cultural psychology conceptualizations of morality, depicting how they fit religion in a relativist approach on what is moral. Thirdly, capitalizing on the findings of cross-cultural research regarding the relation between morality and religion, we debate and present a pilot study on directions in researching the relation between religion and a psychological approach of morality

Key Words: psychology of morality, religion and morality, cultural psychology and moral development

Introduction

Contemporary societies are clearly defined by radical changes of values systems. This axiological metamorphosis prompted numerous dilemmas pertaining to what is ethical and moral, and how morality is linked to religiousness and spirituality. In psychological theory and research, the concept of morality is predominantly employed, and hence we approach a psychology of morality more so than a psychology of ethics. Psychological approaches on morality comprise a variety of theories and taxonomies, which are often contradictory, focusing on specific and often divergent aspects of the phenomenon. Therefore, an analysis of key theories in moral psychology is necessary. This will aid the construction of an accurate picture on psychological constructs and processes woven into the intricate pattern of human morality and will facilitate a better understanding of where religion and spirituality stand in a contemporary psychology of morality.

Psychological approaches of morality

Numerous moral codes have been created since ancient times, indicating the perpetual interest and importance given to what is right or wrong, good or bad. In those times, such codes were often associated with religious contexts and were integrated into religious writings. Subsequently, philosophers developed a complex and diverse literature on the subject of ethics. As psychology has its roots in the philosophical domain, but strived to impose itself as a science, it developed new approaches to human morality, placing a very strong emphasis on their empirical bases.

Annukka Vainio pointed out that it is difficult to find a consensus in psychology regarding the definition of morality1. On the one hand there are differences between common-sense and scientific theories of morality. On the other hand there are multiple conceptual and methodological divergences among researchers in the field of moral psychology, which we next succinctly approach. Psychological models of morality have their roots mainly in philosophy and sociology, capitalizing on the works of Hume, Kant and Durkheim. Stemming from the works of these philosophers, two main theoretical directions emerged, which prescribed distinct research tenets and methodologies: (1) the universalist approach based on Kant's writings and (2) the relativistic approach based on Hume and Durkheim. Psychologists like Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, Elliot Turiel and Carol Gilligan emphasized the universalist character of morality, based on the writings of Kant. On a different note, Richard Shweder and Joan Miller pointed out that morality is relativist, intrinsically dependent on the social and cultural context, following the direction traced by Hume and Durkheim. More recent psycho-social theories subscribe to a relativist nature of morality, bringing forward the role of individual conduct and its link with reasoning and context, with little focus on global conceptualizations of morality2.

The field of moral psychology has long been dominated by universalist models based on the works of Kant. According to these models, morality and moral judgments are universal, derived from human rationality and independent of social context.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Morality and Religion: A Psychological Perspective
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.