People’s (inconsistent) attitudes about foundational moral beliefs

AbstractThe idea that morality depends on God is an intuitive and widely held lay belief. Does this belief affect people’s intuitions about foundational moral claims (e.g., it is morally wrong to kill someone just for fun)? Here, we discuss data across multiple studies which investigate how considering God’s omnipotence may affect people’s intuitions about basic moral claims. Our evidence suggests that people think it is impossible to alter foundational moral truths—that is, it is impossible for moral wrongs to ever be right and for moral rights to be wrong. Yet, people also maintain that God could change the truth-values of these same propositions, regardless of their own religious views. We discuss the implications of this inconsistency both in people’s moral beliefs and in underlying cognitive mechanisms.

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