Cousar, K.A., Carnes, N.C. & Kimel, S.Y.
Social Cognition 2021
Vol. 39 (1)
Past research finds contradictory evidence suggesting that religion both reduces and increases violent conflict. We argue that morality is an important hub mechanism that can help us understand this disputed relationship. Moreover, to reconcile this, as well as the factors underlying religion's impact on increased violence (i.e., belief versus practice), we draw on Virtuous Violence Theory and newly synthesize it with research on both moral cognition and social identity. We suggest that the combined effect of moral cognition and social identity may substantially increase violence beyond what either facilitates alone. We test our claims using multilevel analysis of data from the World Values Survey and find a nuanced effect of religion on people's beliefs about violence. Specifically, religious individuals were less likely to condone violence while religious countries were more likely to. This combination of theoretical and empirical work helps disentangle the interwoven nature of morality, religion, and violence.
Past research on the relationship between religion and violence finds contradictory evidence suggesting that religion both reduces and increases violent conflict. However, here we explain how morality is an important hub mechanism that, when considered, clarifies the complicated relationship between morality, religion, and violence. Specifically, we have brought together independent theories on moral cognition and social identity that together provide the mechanisms that enable Virtuous Violence Theory to explain why morality motivates violence. Further, we take empirical data from the World Values Survey to further support our understanding of this relationship. More specifically, our analysis finds a nuanced effect of religion on people’s beliefs about violence, with an opposite pattern of results for both individuals and countries. In general, individuals were less likely to condone violence, which aligns with previous research on prosocial influence of religion (e.g., views about the importance of God), while countries were more likely to condone violence, which aligns with research on social components of religion (e.g., observant practice of attendance and prayer). This work emphasizes the importance of considering the influence of morality as a linchpin in intergroup relations, especially during relationships marked by violent conflict.