Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Religious Affiliation and Conceptions of the Moral Domain

Levine, S., Rottman, J., et al.
(2019, November 14). 


What is the relationship between religious affiliation and conceptions of the moral domain? Putting aside the question of whether people from different religions agree about how to answer moral questions, here we investigate a more fundamental question: How much disagreement is there across religions about which issues count as moral in the first place? That is, do people from different religions conceptualize the scope of morality differently? Using a new methodology to map out how individuals conceive of the moral domain, we find dramatic differences among adherents of different religions. Mormon and Muslim participants moralized their religious norms, while Jewish participants did not. Hindu participants in our sample did not seem to make a moral/non-moral distinction of the same kind. These results suggest a profound relationship between religious affiliation and conceptions of the scope of the moral domain.

From the Discussion

We have found that it is neither true that secular people and religious people share a common conception of the moral domain nor that religious morality is expanded beyond secular morality in a uniform manner. Furthermore, when participants in a group did make a moral/non-moral distinction, there was broad agreement that norms related to harm, justice, and rights counted as moral norms. However, some religious individuals (such as the Mormon and Muslim participants) also moralized norms from their own religion that are not related to these themes. Meanwhile, others (such as the Jewish participants) acknowledged the special status of their own norms but did not moralize them. Yet others (such as the Hindu participants in our sample) seemed to make no distinction between the moral and the non-moral in the way that the other groups did. Our dataset, therefore, suggests that any theory about the lay conception of the scope of morality needs to explain why the Jewish participants in our dataset do not consider their own norms to be moral norms and why Mormons and Muslim participants do.To the extent that SDT and MFT make any predictions about how lay people decide whether a norm is moral, they too must find a way to explain these datasets.