Author Topic: The moral compasses of atheists and believers  (Read 540 times)

The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« on: February 25, 2021, 10:29:23 AM »
Interesting study. Speaking only for myself, I know that I don't consider respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity as important as most people. I also tend to be a consequentialist and want to consider different situations on a case-by-case basis.

Atheists and believers both have moral compasses, but with key differences

... Analysis of the results suggests that theists are more inclined than atheists to endorse moral values that promote group cohesion. Meanwhile, atheists are more likely to judge the morality of an action based on its consequences. However, atheists and theists appear to align on moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, liberty versus oppression, and being epistemically rational, i.e.: believing in claims when they are evidence-based and being skeptical about claims not backed by evidence.

The survey results also provided clues as to why atheists' and theists' moral compasses may be calibrated differently: the distinctions may stem in part from theists' increased exposure to community engagement in belief-based behaviors that would be costly if the beliefs were false (such as attending religious meetings). Differences in cognitive style and levels of perceived existential threat may also contribute. Future studies could further explore these potential causal relationships.

These findings suggest that the widespread idea that atheists are immoral may arise in part from their weak endorsement of moral values that promote group cohesion and their consequence-based, case-by-case moral judgment of actions.

Ståhl adds: "The most general take-home message from these studies is that people who do not believe in God do have a moral compass. In fact, they share many of the same moral concerns that religious believers have, such as concerns about fairness, and about protecting vulnerable individuals from harm. However, disbelievers are less inclined than believers to endorse moral values that serve group cohesion, such as having respect for authorities, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity... It is possible that the negative stereotype of atheists as immoral may stem in part from the fact that they are less inclined than religious people to view respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity as relevant for morality, and they are more likely to make moral judgments about harm on a consequentialist, case by case basis."
"Religions are like fireflies. They require darkness in order to shine." - Arthur Schopenhauer

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2021, 11:47:38 AM »
Interesting study. Speaking only for myself, I know that I don't consider respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity as important as most people. I also tend to be a consequentialist and want to consider different situations on a case-by-case basis.

Atheists and believers both have moral compasses, but with key differences

... Analysis of the results suggests that theists are more inclined than atheists to endorse moral values that promote group cohesion. Meanwhile, atheists are more likely to judge the morality of an action based on its consequences. However, atheists and theists appear to align on moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, liberty versus oppression, and being epistemically rational, i.e.: believing in claims when they are evidence-based and being skeptical about claims not backed by evidence.

The survey results also provided clues as to why atheists' and theists' moral compasses may be calibrated differently: the distinctions may stem in part from theists' increased exposure to community engagement in belief-based behaviors that would be costly if the beliefs were false (such as attending religious meetings). Differences in cognitive style and levels of perceived existential threat may also contribute. Future studies could further explore these potential causal relationships.

These findings suggest that the widespread idea that atheists are immoral may arise in part from their weak endorsement of moral values that promote group cohesion and their consequence-based, case-by-case moral judgment of actions.

Ståhl adds: "The most general take-home message from these studies is that people who do not believe in God do have a moral compass. In fact, they share many of the same moral concerns that religious believers have, such as concerns about fairness, and about protecting vulnerable individuals from harm. However, disbelievers are less inclined than believers to endorse moral values that serve group cohesion, such as having respect for authorities, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity... It is possible that the negative stereotype of atheists as immoral may stem in part from the fact that they are less inclined than religious people to view respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity as relevant for morality, and they are more likely to make moral judgments about harm on a consequentialist, case by case basis."
I tend to disagree with studies like this.  One important factor for me is to clearly define what a 'moral' is.  I didn't see that in this article--too much is assumed.  Take this statement: " However, atheists and theists appear to align on moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, liberty versus oppression, and being epistemically rational, i.e.: believing in claims when they are evidence-based and being skeptical about claims not backed by evidence."  I would like somebody to point me toward any theist that bases any of their beliefs on evidence-based claims; or being skeptical about much of anything.  Theists claims of morality and beliefs is actually based upon fear, not reasoning. 

Personally, I view theists as being mostly sheeple and will simply give one the herd view, not a reasoned view of the world.  Their morality is based upon fear--don't do such-and-such or you will go to hell, type of belief.  Look at the labels they apply to their views--Lord, King, Prince, Christ--all terms that demonstrate they are really into dictatorships and doing what 'authority' tells them to do (which is made up to suit whatever leader they are under).  Atheists are not cookie-cutter in their thinking.  But all are much more skeptical than theists.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Offline aitm

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2021, 01:14:07 PM »
In general I agree with the findings. But the reason for less than enthusiastic respect for authorities, in group loyalty is because they chose to be atheist. Not exactly a “let’s have a group hug” with those who actively denigrate you or attack you simply due to your lack of faith. So it’s a kind of a “Gee! Ya think?” No doubt we share many moral “absolutes” but can’t respect those who choose to attack others for reason we do not find immoral. Gays, immigrants etc... so yeah.
If we had a 700 page checklist of things we find moral vs immoral no doubt we would have many in common and “we” would have less immoral ones than they would...but of course they would follow all their Immoral checks with 5 exclamations.
A humans desire to live is exceeded only by their willingness to die for another. Even god cannot equal this magnificent sacrifice. No god has the right to judge them.-first tenant of the Panotheust

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2021, 01:15:54 PM »
I tend to disagree with studies like this.  One important factor for me is to clearly define what a 'moral' is.  I didn't see that in this article--too much is assumed.  Take this statement: " However, atheists and theists appear to align on moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, liberty versus oppression, and being epistemically rational, i.e.: believing in claims when they are evidence-based and being skeptical about claims not backed by evidence."  I would like somebody to point me toward any theist that bases any of their beliefs on evidence-based claims; or being skeptical about much of anything.  Theists claims of morality and beliefs is actually based upon fear, not reasoning. 

Personally, I view theists as being mostly sheeple and will simply give one the herd view, not a reasoned view of the world.  Their morality is based upon fear--don't do such-and-such or you will go to hell, type of belief.  Look at the labels they apply to their views--Lord, King, Prince, Christ--all terms that demonstrate they are really into dictatorships and doing what 'authority' tells them to do (which is made up to suit whatever leader they are under).  Atheists are not cookie-cutter in their thinking.  But all are much more skeptical than theists.

This study was done by survey, meaning people are self-reporting whether they make decisions on evidence-based claims, not whether they actually do so. What is interesting, to me anyway, is how atheists and believers differ in their self-reports. For example, the study indicates that believers tend to endorse values that reinforce group cohesion and you respond by stating that believers are "sheeple", indicating that you believe putting the harmony of the group before the belief of the individual isn't desirable. To be an atheist in a predominately religious culture requires a degree of resistance to authority and denial of the sacred, otherwise how can one stand up publicly and say Christianity, Islam or other religions are lies.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2021, 01:17:48 PM by GSOgymrat »
"Religions are like fireflies. They require darkness in order to shine." - Arthur Schopenhauer

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2021, 02:02:00 PM »
This study was done by survey, meaning people are self-reporting whether they make decisions on evidence-based claims, not whether they actually do so. What is interesting, to me anyway, is how atheists and believers differ in their self-reports. For example, the study indicates that believers tend to endorse values that reinforce group cohesion and you respond by stating that believers are "sheeple", indicating that you believe putting the harmony of the group before the belief of the individual isn't desirable. To be an atheist in a predominately religious culture requires a degree of resistance to authority and denial of the sacred, otherwise how can one stand up publicly and say Christianity, Islam or other religions are lies.
Putting the harmony of the group before belief of the individual---too often, that is simply us vs them.  Like just about everything, it depends upon how one looks at something.  Going along with the group belief that there are mud people and therefore, they are subhuman is not a good thing even though the harmony of the group is maintained.  But wearing a mask because it is good for the group harmony is a good thing.  When theists speak of 'morals' they are actually thinking of absolute morality.  Absolute morality does not exist, at least not in my view.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2021, 02:38:11 PM »
Absolute morality does not exist, at least not in my view.

That is a defining difference. Theists believe morality is independent of human reasoning. God determines what is right and wrong, not people.
"Religions are like fireflies. They require darkness in order to shine." - Arthur Schopenhauer

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2021, 04:26:22 PM »
Harmony, LOL. Religion provides us comfort in a world torn apart by religion. Too bad we can't just stop "teaming up" in so many ways.

The Christian foundations of vicarious redemption and human sacrifice are immoral. A real bad start.

Offline Mermaid

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2021, 04:35:56 PM »
Interesting, and makes a lot of sense to me.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.

John F. Kennedy

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2021, 06:28:45 PM »
That is a defining difference. Theists believe morality is independent of human reasoning. God determines what is right and wrong, not people.
Absolutely- that is what theists insist.  God gave us the rules that make us moral if we follow them.  Except, nobody can point out exactly what these rules are, and even in the context of the 10 commandments, where they are found.  Everybody knows what they are (according to the various leaders say) it's just that 'everybody' disagrees with everybody else.  Theists don't reason, just believe.  And therein lies the entire difference between theism/religion and atheists.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Offline Hydra009

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2021, 06:34:06 PM »
... Analysis of the results suggests that theists are more inclined than atheists to endorse moral values that promote group cohesion. Meanwhile, atheists are more likely to judge the morality of an action based on its consequences.
Huge consequentialist here, so that part is unsurprising.  Imo, when it comes to morality, the whole point is to build a better world (aka human flourishing).  I'm suspicious of anyone whose morality is not laser-focused on that.

Case in point is "family values" and "sanctity of marriage" stuff that seems aimed at denigrating (if not actively violent against) people who deviate from a very idealized hetero relationship.

Is that what they mean by "promoting group cohesion"?  Pressure to conform to a very narrow and frankly strange idea of what society should be like?  Because if so, count me out.

Quote
These findings suggest that the widespread idea that atheists are immoral may arise in part from their weak endorsement of moral values that promote group cohesion and their consequence-based, case-by-case moral judgment of actions.
Well, that extremely uncharitable conclusion is kinda built into the religion - it's not like hugely religious people encountered atheists and then independently decided that atheists are immoral.  This garbage is preached from the pulpit, not learned from experience.

Quote
Ståhl adds: "The most general take-home message from these studies is that people who do not believe in God do have a moral compass. In fact, they share many of the same moral concerns that religious believers have, such as concerns about fairness, and about protecting vulnerable individuals from harm.
I would certainly hope so, but I dunno if we should take this as a given.  When it comes to protecting the most vulnerable in society, in the US there are some pretty stark political differences entwined to some degree with religion.

Quote
However, disbelievers are less inclined than believers to endorse moral values that serve group cohesion, such as having respect for authorities, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity... It is possible that the negative stereotype of atheists as immoral may stem in part from the fact that they are less inclined than religious people to view respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity as relevant for morality, and they are more likely to make moral judgments about harm on a consequentialist, case by case basis."
Well, obviously atheists tend to lack a sense of "sanctity" (whatever that means exactly) and ingroup loyalty is at the expense of outgroup hostility.  So that's a big yikes from me.

And yes, atheists have less respect for authorities because those authorities are often either religious leaders themselves or strongly allied with them.  In American politics, and thankfully this is sort of going away, it wasn't too long ago that "God told me to go to war" was a thing.  That's a diseased moral compass that I'm thankful I'm not infected with.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2021, 06:39:08 PM by Hydra009 »

Offline Hydra009

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2021, 06:38:18 PM »
That is a defining difference. Theists believe morality is independent of human reasoning. God determines what is right and wrong, not people.
Which is an incredibly dangerous stance to take because it makes reform unthinkable.

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2021, 10:05:18 PM »
Which is an incredibly dangerous stance to take because it makes reform unthinkable.

Agreed. My problems with Christianity aren't in the details but the foundational concepts. For example, I believe humans, being primates, have moral reasoning that evolved, and continues to evolve, from the bottom up and not given to us, from the top down, in a book or stone tablets.
"Religions are like fireflies. They require darkness in order to shine." - Arthur Schopenhauer

Offline Hydra009

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2021, 11:28:04 PM »
Agreed. My problems with Christianity aren't in the details but the foundational concepts. For example, I believe humans, being primates, have moral reasoning that evolved, and continues to evolve, from the bottom up and not given to us, from the top down, in a book or stone tablets.
*shows Michelangelo's painting, Creation of Adam*
"...you see, it took 500 years for someone to notice something hidden in plain sight, it was a doctor who noticed the shape of the human brain.  The message being that the divine gift does not come from a higher power, but from our own minds" - Ford, Westworld
« Last Edit: February 26, 2021, 12:21:55 AM by Hydra009 »

Offline drunkenshoe

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2021, 05:45:48 AM »
Yeah...no. That study is a politically correct, elegant pile of bullshit. The usage of the terms to begin with...Theists? Who are these theists?

Quote
... Analysis of the results suggests that theists are more inclined than atheists to endorse moral values that promote group cohesion.

An overwhelming amount of theists in the world do not define themselves as 'theists'. They define themselves as a member of a specific religion. Yes, technically they are theists but with religous that's where it ends because they do not recognise 'theists'. They believe in the 'moral' values, rules and norms of an organised religion as absolutes required to control and dictate people's lives to fight aginst individualism and that's the reason for their tendency towards group choesion. Otherwise organised religion cannot exist. They cannot exists. The point of being a member of a religion is meeting up, being a part of that group. And they do not define theists or other believers equal to themselves.

On the other hand, there are increasing amount of theists who define themselves as believers in a creator, but refuse to be a member of an organised religious system of any sort. They are also divided in two main sub groups and while in one of them people hold the belief that the creator is not interested in his/her creation, people's lives, their deeds...etc., in the other group people believe in various ways the creator intervenes or attends to his/her creation. (I'm not using any other specific term purposefully.)

The second group of theists are the minority group of theists. They -also like atheists- do not control wealth or political power. The first group of theists, organised religious groups are in control of significant amount of wealth and political power and manage resources through their beliefs. And the moment they lose their numbers, they will lose their position. Hence the engagament for group cohesion. Numbers and money.

Quote
Meanwhile, atheists are more likely to judge the morality of an action based on its consequences.


There is a problem with this sentence. Judging an action based on its consequences, does not make the judgement rational. If the rational judgement here is doing/chosing the necessary thing for the benefit/profit of the one who makes the moral judgement -because frankly, that's how morality works- then religious people do the same. For example, they're well aware that their sexual orientation or personal lives won't change when gay people or minorities have equal rights, treatment with them. (Extreme voices do not matter in this context.) Their problem is with open exchange, loss of power; and the equality itself, because that's the consequence. 

On the other hand, in the last 15 years there has been a visible shift to far right in atheists groups from every age, in every culture. This is to a deegre that almost the only difference is the unbelief status, while these groups share the same 'moral' values with religous groups against nonwhite minorities, LGBTQ groups, women...exactly because of the consequences of equality.

Quote
However, atheists and theists appear to align on moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, liberty versus oppression,

That's what social acceptance dictates. If somebody asks you a question about this and you answer; 'No, I defend oppression over liberty, and you know what, we should harm vulnerable individuals, why not!' people would think you are either trolling the survey or you are one disturbed individual. Either way, you end up in some extreme tendency group and won't taken into account if the survey is not constructed accordingly.

Quote
and being epistemically rational, i.e.: believing in claims when they are evidence-based and being skeptical about claims not backed by evidence.

Religious people cannot be epistemically rational. You don't consider the accumulation of human knowledge as the explanation of human behaviour in/of the actual world and then accept religous 'moral' values. It's an oxymoron. Not even going to get in evidence based, backed...etc. claim. Lets start with finding 5 in 1000 religous people who considered the word epistemology something different/beyond of what was written in a book some hundreds, thousands years ago.

Quote
The survey results also provided clues as to why atheists' and theists' moral compasses may be calibrated differently: the distinctions may stem in part from theists' increased exposure to community engagement in belief-based behaviors that would be costly if the beliefs were false (such as attending religious meetings). ...

In atheist far right groups, esp. including the new movements, exactly the same thing goes. It's not just costly once you are in, members are also expected to act and speak in a certain hostile manners and show agressive attitudes to certain groups to be noticed and initiated into those groups.

Quote
These findings suggest that the widespread idea that atheists are immoral may arise in part from their weak endorsement of moral values that promote group cohesion and their consequence-based, case-by-case moral judgment of actions.

That is a religious value, not an idea. It doesn't have any validity. It's widespread because there have always been more believers than nonbelievers. It's a commercail line of '...is a religion of peace' or '...is the best beer in the world'.

Quote
Ståhl adds: "The most general take-home message from these studies is that people who do not believe in God do have a moral compass. In fact, they share many of the same moral concerns that religious believers have, such as concerns about fairness, and about protecting vulnerable individuals from harm. However, disbelievers are less inclined than believers to endorse moral values that serve group cohesion, such as having respect for authorities, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity... It is possible that the negative stereotype of atheists as immoral may stem in part from the fact that they are less inclined than religious people to view respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and sanctity as relevant for morality, and they are more likely to make moral judgments about harm on a consequentialist, case by case basis."

If that was true, there would be atheist terrorist groups bombing places here and there, and secular/atheistic societies would suffer from extreme crime stats. However, there are no atheist terrorist groups in the world, while international and domestic terrorism have almost become synoymous with organised religions. And atheistic/secular societies do not just have the least crime, they have the highest crime charges in certain type of crimes because people are not afraid, and also have the highest social justice and equality.

Because fuck morality, it is ILLEGAL to kill, harm, torture, enslave, sexually or psyhologically abuse people. It's ILLEGAL to attempt to kill elected officials after a lost election, It's ILLEGAL to force people to live according to some arbitrary set of rules.

Forget terrorism, do you know any atheist or even secular mafia? Any kind of orgnaised criminal group? No. But then from Yakuza to Italians, Russian to Turkish mafia, they are all pretty religous and strongly attached to their cultural traditions of the sort, aren't they? 

« Last Edit: February 26, 2021, 05:49:34 AM by drunkenshoe »
"I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are good people and bad people. You're wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides." Havelock Vetinari

Re: The moral compasses of atheists and believers
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2021, 08:34:57 AM »
There is a problem with this sentence. Judging an action based on its consequences, does not make the judgement rational. If the rational judgement here is doing/chosing the necessary thing for the benefit/profit of the one who makes the moral judgement -because frankly, that's how morality works- then religious people do the same.

Consequentialism and deontology aren't differentiated by rationality. An example is lying: A deontologist would say lying is always wrong where a consequentialist would say lying is wrong if it results in negative consequences. Christians ideally tend to be deontologists because they have a list of commandments.



However, atheists and theists appear to align on moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, liberty versus oppression

That's what social acceptance dictates. If somebody asks you a question about this and you answer; 'No, I defend oppression over liberty, and you know what, we should harm vulnerable individuals, why not!' people would think you are either trolling the survey or you are one disturbed individual. Either way, you end up in some extreme tendency group and won't taken into account if the survey is not constructed accordingly.

You are correct the result will depend on how the question is phrased. I doubt the researchers would say "do you agree with protecting vulnerable populations." A better question would be, "Should the US government accept political refugees, acknowledging that some claiming to be refugees will be terrorists?"
"Religions are like fireflies. They require darkness in order to shine." - Arthur Schopenhauer