Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Religiosity and Moral Foundations: Differing Views about the Basis of Right and Wrong

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Religiosity and Moral Foundations: Differing Views about the Basis of Right and Wrong

Article excerpt

The topic of morality has long been of interest to psychologists. Perhaps most well known is the program of research based on Kohlberg's stage model (e.g., Kohlberg, 1963), including the notable extension by Gilligan (1977). This work suggests that moral reasoning matures with development, progressing from reasoning based on punishments and rewards (preconventional), to reasoning based on societal norms (conventional), to reasoning based on abstract principles of justice and concern for others (postconventional). However, as noted by Haidt (2008), this approach has focused on justice and care, which are moral dimensions emphasized by liberal, secular Westerners, whereas most of the world views morality more broadly. For example, Shweder, Much, Mahapatra, and Park (1997) suggested a moral framework that includes the ethics of autonomy (e.g., rights), which seems to align most closely with how psychologists have typically viewed morality, but also the ethics of community (e.g., community values) and the ethics of divinity (e.g., sanctity). Using this framework, Jensen (1998) found that progressive Hindus and Baptists tended to reason more from the ethics of autonomy, but orthodox Hindus and Baptists tended to reason more from the ethics of divinity.

Similar to Shweder's approach, Haidt (2008) proposed that, "issues related to harm, fairness, and justice appear to be found in all cultures," but that morality is not limited to these dimensions. Rather, "issues related to ingroup loyalty, authority, respect, and spiritual purity are often important parts of the moral domain" (p. 70). In a test of moral foundations theory (e.g., Haidt & Graham, 2007), Graham, Haidt, and Nosek (2009) investigated the judgments of liberals and conservatives. They found that liberals consistently used harm/care and fairness/reciprocity more than ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity, whereas conservatives used all five foundations. These results were obtained primarily for political ideology, but evidence was also obtained for differences between liberal (e.g., Unitarian Universalist) and conservative (e.g., Southern Baptist) religious groups.

The current work sought to extend research in this domain by investigating the relationship between moral foundations and two important measures of religiosity-intrinsic religiosity and fundamentalism-as well as religious affiliation.

Study 1


Participants. Four hundred and eighty-one college students (370 women, 102 men, 9 missing) from psychology courses and 135 people (83 women, 49 men, 3 missing) from Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online meeting place for researchers and participants, were recruited for a study entitled Religiosity and Judgments.1 The college students were awarded credits toward a psychology course; the MTurk participants each received 20 cents.2

Materials and procedure. As part of a large online survey, participants completed the revised intrinsic/extrinsic religious orientation scale (Gorsuch & McPherson, 1989) and the revised fundamentalism scale (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 2004). Participants also indicated their monthly service attendance, their religious affiliation by choosing a religious category (e.g., Catholic, Muslim, Atheist) that best reflected their religious view, and their political view on a 9-point scale anchored with the phrases Very liberal (1) and Very conservative (9). To assess the moral foundations, participants were asked to rate the importance of six moral concepts: Caring for others; Fairness; Loyalty, such as loyalty to one's country; Respect for authority, such as respect for one's parents; Purity, such as avoiding sexually immoral thoughts or behavior; and Freedom, such as speaking up for those who are oppressed; 3 these concepts were rated on 9point scales anchored with the phrases Not at all important (1) and Extremely important (9).

Results and Discussion

Because the moral foundations were assessed in a different, and simpler, manner than those used in previous research, it was important to determine whether previous results on political view were replicated. …

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