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← Morality: no gods required

PJG's Avatar Jump to comment 58 by PJG

Flying Goose

I agree to a certain extent. There was a wonderful longitudinal study done in the 50's (published in the 60's as "The Psychology of Character Development" by Peck, Havighurst and others) in which they categorised a continuum of moral development. In very simplified terms...

Amoral (no understanding of right or wrong)
Expedient (immediate gratification of impulse and only felt bad if they were caught - no internalised morality)
Conforming (did what they were "told" and so were highly influenced by peers/authority/religion - no internalised morality)
Irrational conscientious (did the "right" thing because it made them feel good about themselves - not a bad outcome, apparent morality - but still for selfish reasons)
Rational altruistic (weighed up the consequence of their behaviour regarding the effect on others as well as on their self-worth/values - true internalised morality).

Only the rational altruistic are what we would call truly "moral". When theists claim that people can only be moral if they (believe they) are being watched (by God), they are simply telling you that they are at the "conforming" level and have no internalised morality - they can speak for themselves, of course!

The Peck and Havighurst study is fascinating for anyone who wants to understand morality. It is frightening how many people in power are amoral or expedient. It is also clear that those in power (religious or political) want the rest of the population to be conforming, particularly to black and white "morality". The Rational Altruistic person is able to judge morality on a case by case basis based on its effect, not on some set-in-stone rule.

Mon, 02 Nov 2009 12:14:00 UTC | #410596