Generally those who don’t know whether God exists or who don’t believe in Him at all (agnostics and atheists) argue that their moral behaviour is as good or better than those who do believe in Him. Now there is research that may undermine this claim.

A new study at the University of British Columbia shows that thinking about religion really does make people treat their neighbour as themselves.

Participants in the study were asked to unscramble sentences. After the task, they were given $10 and they had to decide what amount to keep and what amount to give away to a stranger. Researchers found that priming people with such words as « spirit, divine, God, sacred and prophet » prompted them to be more generous.

Sixty-eight per cent of those who unscrambled sentences with religious words gave about half their money away. Most members of the control group who worked on non-religious sentences kept nearly all their money.

These results by no means indicate that religion is necessary for moral behaviour, but it can make a substantial contribution.

Do you agree that a belief in God can affect moral behaviour for the better?

For atheists who do not believe in God, what is their motivation for moral behaviour?



  1. 1
    dinosaur Says:

    Socialists might believe otherwise but their isn’t one charity I’ve ever heard of founded by an atheist league. Yet look at all the hospitals etc…

  2. 2
    Joanne Nicholls Says:

    I thought you were going to Picton. How come there is a blog today?

  3. 3

    Good comment. Maybe we could get an atheist to weigh in. Thanks for participating.

    Don’t underestimate the ingenuity of the large team behind the McKenty Blog.
    Blogged today from my nephew’s home in Perth. Blogging now from the Holiday Inn in Kingston. Looking forward to playing golf with your mother in Picton on Saturday.

  4. 4
    jeremy Says:

    Well, we know that some believers act in ways un-towards and contrary to God’s word, hating ones neighbor, while professing from the highest hills that God Loves them!

    My short answer to this question is: NO!

    I’m in a Moral Theology Class this semester.


  5. 5

    But surely a great number of other believerslead morallives based on their belief in a Judaeo-Christian tradition.

    After all, what isthe basisfor moral theology. Does your class deal with that?

  6. 6
    jeremy Says:

    Evangelical Christians wave the flag of morality at the world – professing to Know God and Love God, yet hate their neighbor, based on moral judgments. My answer still is NO to your question.

    This has nothing to do with Judeo-Christian beliefs. It has to do with reality of all Christian professing community. A belief in God makes good people do stupid, sad and egregious things in the name of God.A belief in God makes the fundamentalist an animal for God’s glory, judgment and condemnation!

    Does a belief in God help the evangelical or fundamentalist grow in God’s love or shrink in the face of moral discussion? I’m a 40 year old Christian Gay Man with HIV, I know this argument.

    I know my morals and ethics. I base my moral theology on experience, Gula’s Reason informed by faith. The transcendental method.


  7. 8

    Marginalized Action dinosaur:

    I hope you’ll come back and leave a comment. Cheers. Neil

  8. 9
    TearIzUp Says:

    Stellar Post. My compliments to the author.

    Buy Salvia 20x
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  9. 10
    Idetrorce Says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  10. 11
    Chimera Says:

    The study is lacking a whole lot of credibility for more than one reason.

    In the first place, it looks to neatly divide the world into only two groups — those with Christian-type gods and atheists/agnostics. It completely disregards the existence of any religions that do not subscribe to the Christian-type gods.

    And in the second place, in order to make this a viable proposition, they would actually have to have a control group who had never been exposed to any kind of religion.

    Neil: Where are your archives? I’d love to read back and see what went on before I found your blog, but I can’t get there from here! Scatter some breadcrumbs for me, willya, please?

  11. 12


    I think the only archives I have are listed under Categories in the left column of my blog. Hope that helps.

  12. 13
    Chimera Says:

    *sigh* I had been hoping there was a way to connect to the first posts with one click, rather than flipping past page after page one at a time.

    Oh, well.

  13. 14
    dinosaur Says:

    What you have in your temporary possession are my athames. And with that, you’ve sealed your own death.

    Let me clue you in, you miserable pieces of shit. I am not a nice, polite, “an-it-harm-none” type Wiccan. I am a thoroughly-versed-in-the-arts, well-practiced, “know-what-ye-do” type Witch. Those blades are tuned to me, and right now, they’re planning how best to go about initiating the process of your earthy demise.

    There is no pardon. I suggest you make whatever final arrangement you can, and soon. Karma can be a bitch, but she’s a playful puppy compared to that which hunts you now.

    With deadly sincerity


    Sorry for taking so long Neil, Course now that I’ve criticized Chimera he might try to kill me too.

    Then claim the moral high ground, lol.

    Anyway if I look at the scummiest reprobates I know not one of them is even marginally religious, and the numbers Chimers is talking about are laughable once you take out the major gods and Atheists and get down to athame armed witches well there aren’t many in Canada are there. Is it 100,000 from coast to coast?

    So did you get their earthly demise MR thoroughly versed in the arts.

    Maybe you could use the communist countries as a control group like Russia where men live to be 56 and they have the highest suicide rates in the world.

  14. 15
    Chimera Says:

    Well, congratulations, D; you found an old post of mine! How am I supposed to link this to any kind of criticism on your part? You haven’t said anything!

    Did you even understand what it was I was saying in that post?

    If you’re looking for a fight, you’re gonna have to go somewhere else. When I engage in a battle of wits, I like for my opponent to have at least one weapon in his arsenal.

  15. 16
    Alex Thomas Says:

    A fine point, perhaps, but…
    Money is not the root of all evil. The LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Power does not corrupt. It is the LUST for power which corrupts.
    The measure of any Christian lies not in how much that Christian is FORGIVEN, but in how much that Christian is FORGIVING.
    Jesus said: You must forgive your brother seventy times seven times.
    As for « moral behaviour »: In whose estimation, and by what standard of measurement? After all, the Hebrews (derived from hebiru, Sanskrit for nomad) were commanded at Sinai: Thou shalt not kill. Then they proceeded to lay waste to the Canaanites and the Hittites, and anybody else who disputed their claim to The Holy Land. Was there some qualifying fine print not covered there, or what?
    Moral is as moral does. Example set is usually example followed. What I see in today’s modern « Christianity » speaks far louder that what I hear from it. Of course, there are many good, kind, generous, forgiving, tolerant, understanding, reasonable, likeable, humourous, caring, REAL Christians…somewhere…so I hear…rumour has it…we can only hope…God willing…if you can forgive the pun…
    My name is Alex Thomas. Blessed be…or words to that effect…

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