Are religious and non-religious people inherently different when it comes to morality?

In answer to Quora question "Are religious and non-religious people inherently different when it comes to morality?"

Question details: "Most of us know it's wrong to steal or kill, but if a person believes there's a supernatural entity keeping an eye on him, would he try harder to resist the urge to do either?"

Thank you for the A2A. I believe you may be asking the wrong question. Perhaps you see spirituality as "belief in a supernatural entity" that keeps an eye on people. I think there probably are "religious" people who operate this way, but personally I think that orientation is pretty immature. It's a 5-year-old's view of an authoritarian "God." I think the more interesting question is: does spirituality itself inform morality in some unique way that a person who resists their own spirituality can't access? But that is not what you asked. So I would say that prosocial impulses are, and always have been, a genetically programmed result of group selection and evolutionary fitness. Which means that human beings as a species have access to the same "conscience," regardless of spiritual insights or religious affiliation. What religion has historically provided is a formalized, institutionalized, often dogmatic form of moral education and social enforcement. And I'm sure that has benefited some people who for some reason have limited access to their own moral compass - but, in general, no more than any other social constraints would. Perhaps, for some, fear of the "Boogeyman in the closet" (i.e. a Devil or other evil force) or deferential respect for a benevolent Deity may have some impact on personal discipline, so that moral commitments and guidelines are adhered to more enthusiastically. It's also true that someone's religious devotion - their love and faith - could encourage a more conscious intentionality that aligns with moral beliefs. But this same devotion could also be arrived at by, for example, a secular humanist who feels compassion for other people, and so aspires to a higher standard of moral conduct, and actively invites others to hold them accountable to that standard. So, in this sense, a "religion" can be invented by almost anyone to systematize and reinforce their values. But I would say that profound spiritual experiences, deeply felt spiritual connections, and an intimate relationship with spiritual intelligence all contribute to a clearer and more refined values hierarchy, so that someone who relies upon these dimensions of being not only can hear their conscience more clearly, but attain insights that evolve their moral perspective beyond social expectation or religious dogma, and mature their mind and heart in the light of skillful compassion.

My 2 cents.


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