Religious decline does not equal moral decline, says researcher

January 13, 2016 by Kath Paddison

Morality is not rooted in religion and religion matters less for moral values now than it did 30 years ago, says a University of Manchester researcher.

Dr Ingrid Storm's findings, based on her analysis of European survey data, found that religious decline does not equal moral decline.

According to Dr Storm, whose research is published in Politics and Religion, involvement in makes the most difference to morality in the most religious countries, and matters less for now than it did in the 1980s.

"Religion has been in sharp decline in many European countries. Each new generation is less religious than the one before, so I was interested to find out if there is any reason to expect moral decline" she said.

Her study found that religion is only related to some moral values, and more so in religious countries and when people do not trust the state.

The respondents to questionnaires in 48 European countries over the period from 1981 to 2008 were asked how often they would justify various contentious behaviours, which she classified into two moral dimensions.

The first is about the individual going against tradition, for example it includes justifying abortion and homosexuality. The second moral dimension is more about justifying behaviours that are against the law and could harm others, such as lying, cheating and stealing.

Dr Storm said: "More Europeans are now willing to justify behaviours that go against tradition, but attitudes have not changed when it comes to breaking the law or harming others.

"As religion has declined in Europe there has also been an increase in acceptance of personal autonomy on issues concerning sexuality and family. Each generation is more liberal on these issues than the one before. In contrast, we find no evidence that moral values have become more self-interested or anti-social."

The research also found that religious people are slightly less self-interested on average, but this can largely be accounted for by their age. This is because the average religious person is older than the average nonreligious person, and older people, whenever they were born, are less likely to justify self-interest values.

"Religious faith and worship also makes most difference to morality in the most religious countries. To be effective, religious norms need to be validated by a moral community of other religious friends and family and social and political institutions" concluded Dr Storm.

Explore further: Does religion make kids less generous?

More information: Ingrid Storm. Morality in Context: A Multilevel Analysis of the Relationship between Religion and Values in Europe, Politics and Religion (2015). DOI: 10.1017/S1755048315000899

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mike74
5 / 5 (8) Jan 13, 2016
What a shocker (sarcasm). Moral and ethical systems are an evolved trait. We wouldn't have survived very long as a social species without them.
Yes, they're not perfect. They're a work in progress and some are more moral than others. But if your claim is that morality comes from scripture or from examples of prophets, then take a closer look at them. There's horrendous texts in scripture that virtually nobody finds moral today, instructed by that god for its followers. And as far as prophets go, Jesus and Mohammad had their own faults. Both had big sensitive egos that wouldn't stand for those who questioned or rejected their ideas (you go to their hell for doubting their tales).
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
4 / 5 (4) Jan 15, 2016
Well, duh:

"Dr Ingrid Storm's findings, based on her analysis of European survey data, found that religious decline does not equal moral decline."

Well, duh: Scandinavia.

"Her study found that religion is only related to some moral values, and more so in religious countries and when people do not trust the state."

Well, duh; religiosity correlates positively with dysfunctionality (distrustfulness) in states. [Paul et al, 2006.]

"To be effective, religious norms need to be validated by a moral community of other religious friends and family and social and political institutions" concluded Dr Storm."

Well, duh: secular morality is the shared morality of all humans. [Scandinavia; moral reaction studies on secular and religious people show the same basic reactions.]

Religious norms is the other crap like systematic bigotry and misogyny hinted at in the article.
StudentofSpiritualTeaching
1 / 5 (6) Jan 16, 2016
Hi Mike,

Am 95% with you in the analysis and conclusions. The only thing to be careful about is trashing the few ones whom we can call true prophets. Those have actually lived and been outstanding human beings (Muhammad, Jesus/Isa/Jmmanuel, …), lecturing wisdom and guidance. The religious books and the religions overall are without any exception large junk. They are disconnected from nature, science and reality. Preaching irrationality and lies, instead of the truth.

Salome
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (7) Jan 17, 2016
To lie is considered a moral fault. Since God is present, to deny it outright, therefore, is a demonstration of immorality. To deny the presence of God simply to annoy those who accept God's presence, or to entertain a tendency toward envisioning yourself as the necessary apex of all, or to self lobotomize yourself into thinking you can do whatever you want with no repercussions, which are motivations behind atheists, is depraved in the extreme. Among other things, again, atheists call themselves "scientific" but cannot disprove the presence of God. Then slither around that by talking about other things. They lie about always acting "scientifically" and so are immoral there.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (7) Jan 17, 2016
Among other things, too, the suggested emphasis on being moral for personal survival by protecting the group is a fraud, since morality is not based on your survival but on concern for others! Atheism would hold that, if you had a means of destroying everyone else but still maintaining a life that you found pleasant, it would not be immoral, but those who accept the presence of God cannot abide that.
Frankly, the assertions in the article not very convincing since they rely on the lie that self centeredness is not increasing in the population, today. Ayn Rand, articles on Phys Org claiming selfishness breeds altruism and Oprah equating caring about others with "a disease to please" disputes this.
malapropism
5 / 5 (7) Jan 17, 2016
Among other things, again, atheists call themselves "scientific" but cannot disprove the presence of God.

You shouldn't try to pin your assertions on some vague kind of quasi-scientific method explanation, as in this sentence, because what you write makes obvious your lack of understanding of the methodological principles; to whit, it is not possible to prove the universal absence of a thing (which is what you mean by saying "disprove the presence").

The burden of proof is not upon atheists, who don't wish to have any truck with your god or religion, but upon you believers who claim the god's existence.

If you and others want to believe, without proof, in the presence of this god-thing you propose, that's up to you and, I presume, perfectly fine by most atheists but please don't try to push your dogma onto the rest of society when it's not wanted: freedom of speech and goodwill only goes so far, after enough times "no" becomes "f**k off" because you become aggravating.
malapropism
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 17, 2016
... and Oprah equating caring about others with "a disease to please" disputes this.

You refer to Oprah Winfrey I presume? But really? You actually have the gall and the hubris to quote an unqualified talk-show host as some sort of authority on anything except how to run a successful talk-show?
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (7) Jan 17, 2016
Atheists declare baldly that God is not present and they declare that they operate by proof. That means they are saying they can prove that God is not present. They try to slither around this by invoking the diseased, and disproved, Hitchers assertion that, if one side in an argument fails to provide proof, that is automatic proof that the opposite of their claim is true". Essentially the invalid, "absence of proof is proof of absence". Fermat never proved his Last Theorem, but that didn't lead mathematicians to say that necessarily proved it untrue! To advocate that "principle" is to behave like an arrested development freak denying something you know to be true, just to be spiteful.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (6) Jan 17, 2016
malapropism proves their debased approach by claiming I was calling Oprah an "authority". I was only showing she was characteristic of a trend to promote selfishness in society, and I said so. Not admitting this only indicates stupidity or hate or both in malapropism's nature. And the same for those who gave malapropism "5" rankings.
malapropism
4 / 5 (4) Jan 18, 2016
Atheists declare baldly that God is not present

I don't claim to speak for other atheists but, you know what? I also didn't claim that god is not present. I claimed that your methodological assertion was faulty and that because of this fault you seem to misunderstand that it is impossible to prove that god is not present. What you can do is prove that god is present and I will then believe however I have no interest in even making the attempt of this proof. As a believer though, you should. Please go ahead.

That means they are saying they can prove that God is not present.

No. Please refer to the prior comments on the impossibility of proving negation.

By the by, perhaps I am stupid or full of hate or both, as you suggest. But really, on considering this coming from you, I find that I honestly just don't care what you think.
jackofalltrayds
5 / 5 (2) Jan 24, 2016
commendable restraint malapropism
mike74
1 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2016
Hi StudentofSpiritualTeaching. Thanks for your response.

"Those have actually lived and been outstanding human beings (Muhammad, Jesus/Isa/Jmmanuel, …), lecturing wisdom and guidance. "

I would say, based on what we do know about Muhammad and Jesus, they're anything but "wise". Muhammad was a warlord and Jesus invented the concept of hell for those who disbelieve his credulous claims.

So with respect, I reject your point of view.
mike74
5 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2016
julianpenrod-- "Atheists declare baldly that God is not present and they declare that they operate by proof. That means they are saying they can prove that God is not present."

That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
The way we evaluate existential claims, is that nothing exists until it is demonstrated to exist, otherwise we'd be believing in all sorts of nonsensical, contradictory claims.

Your god hypothesis has yet to meet its burden of proof. Until such time as it has, it's reasonable to dismiss your hypothesis. In fact that's the ONLY reasonable position to take.

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