Many religious folk claim that without a god in your life, well, all hell will break loose. Why? Their god is the source of morality. For years I have found this claim to be patently absurd. First, examine the many social groups around the globe and you will find many lacking “the” god of the Bible, or any supreme being for that matter, and, guess what — no wanton immorality. People seem to get along just fine. Though certainly with some exceptions. Just as you find among believers in a most high god.
Second, I have extensively studied risk factors for crime, and non-belief isn’t one of them.
Now new research further refutes the “first God, then morality” claim. In fact, the research argues that the claim has things backwards. It states:
“It seems that in many cultures religious concepts and beliefs have become the standard way of conceptualizing moral intuitions.”
That from, Morality research sheds light on the origins of religion.
So yes, religion and morality are likely related. But that relationship may consist of religions “conceptualizing” pre-existing “moral intuitions.”
Here’s the old view of the relationship, favored by pro-religion naturalists:
“Some scholars claim that religion evolved as an adaptation to solve the problem of cooperation among genetically unrelated individuals…” [bold mine]
But the new scholarly research refutes:
Citing several studies in moral psychology, the authors highlight the finding that despite differences in, or even an absence of, religious backgrounds, individuals show no difference in moral judgments for unfamiliar moral dilemmas. The research suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.
And so “Dr. Pyysiainen and co-author Dr. Marc Hauser, from the Departments of Psychology and Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University” were led to this conclusion -
“This supports the theory that religion did not originally emerge as a biological adaptation for cooperation, but evolved as a separate by-product of pre-existing cognitive functions that evolved from non-religious functions,” says Dr. Pyysiainen.
Those who claim that you need religion to love thy neighbor and whatnot likely have placed the cart before the horse. This new research reveals that without the horse, there would be no cart. And as for atheists, they have no need for the cart of religion. And can love their neighbor just fine.