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?