Is religion the bedrock of morality? On the one hand, certain religious beliefs are linked to a variety of positive outcomes, including prosocial behavior, honesty, and an ability to resist temptation. On the other hand, moral judgments rely heavily on intuitions that emerge early in development and may be shared with close primate relatives. These moral intuitions suggest the operation of a universal moral grammar that is robust across differences in religion.
Although scientific opinion on the relationship between religion and morality is somewhat ambiguous, popular opinion seemingly is not. Most Americans report that belief in God is an integral component of morality, a sentiment echoed at least as strongly in most countries worldwide.
My lab is currently working on several projects aimed at teasing apart the complex relationships (actual and perceived) between religion and moral thinking. Do people intuitively assume that religion promotes moral behavior? Inhibits immoral behavior? How do religious motivations affect the perceived morality of good deeds? Do religious reminders change the ways that people make moral judgments?