Morality Without Religion

Norman Jenson at One Good Move:

Many of those who view themselves as religious are suspicious of those who aren’t. They believe you can’t be moral without religion. It is a stupid view and one that I believe is false on its face. Peter Singer and Marc Hauser, have written an interesting article (pdf) on the subject that points to some empirical evidence that supports the view that religion is not necessary to live the so called ‘moral life’.

Consider the following three scenarios. For each, fill in the blank with morally “obligatory,” “permissible,” or “forbidden.”

1. A runaway trolley is about to run over five people walking on the tracks. A railroad worker is standing next to a switch that can turn the trolley onto a side track, killing one person, but allowing the five to survive. Flipping the switch is ____________.

2. You pass by a small child drowning in a shallow pond, and you are the only one around. If you pick up the child she will survive and your pants will be ruined. Picking up the child is _________.

3. Five people have just been rushed into a hospital in critical care, each requiring an organ to survive. There is not enough time to request organs from outside the hospital. There is however, a healthy person in the hospital’s waiting room. If the surgeon takes this person’s organs, he will die but the five in critical care will survive. Taking the healthy person’s organs is _________.

When 1500 people answered the questions there was no statistically significant difference between those with religious backgrounds and those without.

More here.