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The moral consequence of religions Shariff, Azim F.

Abstract

Debates about the causal relationship between religion and morality continue to be inconclusive, despite the willingness of pundits on both sides to speculate freely. We present three studies aimed at resolving whether religion has a causal effect on prosocial behaviour, and what mechanisms may be involved. Our results indicate that the implicit priming of religion does, indeed, increase prosocial behaviour towards anonymous strangers. The effect holds both for theists and atheists. Meanwhile, self-reported religiosity as a trait measure does not seem to be associated with prosocial behaviour. We also find that religion primes, but not control primes or ones associated secular institutions of morality increase feelings of guilt and nervousness. We discuss the mechanisms that may underlie such effects. In addition, we examine the implications that such a finding has for theories positing religion as a necessary, culturally evolved, facilitator in the emergence of large scale societies at the beginning of the Neolithic period.

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