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Templeton Religion Trust

  • Religion as Universal Moral Compass: Does Religious Belief Promote Behavioral Consistency Across Moral Domains? (2021-24)

The Ten Commandments are seen as guiding principles across various moral domains. Research in distinct behavioral areas (such as generosity, cooperation, and honesty) suggests that religious belief functions as a universal moral compass, fostering principled, domain-general moral behavior. However, the existing literature is limited to studies that examine moral domains in isolation and focus primarily on intentions rather than actual behavior. Consequently, it remains unclear to what extent and in what ways religious believers adhere to a principled, domain-general, and consistent moral compass. Our project seeks to address these gaps by exploring the following questions: 1) Do religious believers exhibit more consistent behavior across moral domains compared to non-believers? 2) Does religious belief equally promote moral consistency towards in-groups and out-groups? 3) In what ways does religious belief encourage moral consistency? To answer these questions, we will conduct systematic studies of equal numbers of believers and non-believers, employing economic games that span six different moral domains and include both WEIRD and non-WEIRD samples.

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