Are Religious People More Likely to be Moral?

Now atheists might immediately get rather irritated at this suggestion but before tearing it down with all sorts of references to examples of immoral religion or religious, consider a different argument which does not come from any theology. In his Guardian Blog Andrew Brown ( presents a different argument  for this. He suggest that there is a lot of research that suggests people behave better when they are being watched. This should not come as a shocking surprise. If you have been tempted to commit a minor indiscretion and then notice you are being watched perhaps you suddenly felt societal breaks on your freedom and found the strength to resist temptation. Maybe those speed cameras which display your speed, instead of photographing you, work because other drivers can see how fast you are going so you slam on the breaks and slow down. Brown gives an illustration of a free world where some are shackled to objective morality and others feel free to do as they please.
“Some will be as upright and thoughtful as Mary Warnock, and others will have the morals of the unregenerate Jonathan Aitken. When a Warnock does business with a Warnock (or marries one), their levels of trust are preserved. Similarly, when an Aitken transacts with an Aitken neither feels they must revise their estimate of human nature upwards. But after transactions between a Warnock and an Aitken, the level of trust in society generally must diminish. The Warnock must either withdraw from the group or retaliate in kind. Either way, the norm for the group will become worse; and, since most people in the middle follow the norm, a vicious circle is set up.” (Brown, 2nd October 2009, The Guardian Comment is Free)

Questions to consider:
1. How convincing do you find Brown’s argument?
2. Can you think of any opposing arguments?
3. Is it better, morally speaking, to have people who believe in an objective morality than people who believe morality is subjective?
4. Are there any alternatives to religion as a basis for objective morality?

Download the entire essay here

16 Plus Ethics


772.1 KB

Download resource