‘Didn’t you know that already?’ he said and laughed again. ‘An intelligent man can do anything he likes as long as he’s clever enough to get away with it.’1
The above passage from Dostoevsky is often cited by religious apologists with the intent to either denounce atheism as immoral, or to suggest that atheists are incapable of accounting for the moral judgments they hold. James Spiegel, in his book The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief, embodies the opinion of a not insignificant number of believers when he says that “[atheism] is little more than moral rebellion cloaked in academic regalia.”2 The Christian apologist Norman Geisler states that although atheists might be able to be good without believing in a god, they could not be good without there being a god.3
In the previous two articles of this series, we looked at the questions of purpose and life after death. While we may have our own personal sense of purpose and meaning, there is no sufficient evidence for thinking that any grand, ultimate cosmic purpose exists. Likewise, we may find some solace in the memories we create and leave behind with loved ones, as well as the release death brings without the anxiety over any eternal consequence, but there is no good evidence of an afterlife. As Dostoevsky ponders through Dmitri Karamazov, if we suppose that there is no God and no life beyond the grave, why should we be moral? Why not just do what we please without concern for others?
While this question is an important one for atheists to answer, it need not apply only to non-theists. Why should any of us be good? Even the theist, it seems, must answer the question of why we ought to care about following God’s will. We all have our personal opinions on what actions are right and wrong, what beliefs are moral and immoral, but these opinions presuppose the moral point of view. Often times, many of us see the rightness of a certain action, but fail to go through with it, inconsistently applying our own values. What we need are not just opinions, arguments, and beliefs within morality, but reasons that motivate us to act morally. Good reasons make otherwise irrational behaviors into rational ones, and if they are of a persuasive sort, they will inspire us to move beyond thinking and into acting.
I. What is Meant By “Moral”?
Before we get to the reasons for being moral, we must first ask what we mean by “moral”. This is not quite the same thing as asking what we mean when we say something or someone is good. Descriptions of the good commonly stem from normative theories, such as that good is understood to be related to things like duty, virtue, or happiness. However, I will not be offering any particular moral theory in this article. When I ask, ‘why should we be moral’, I am not asking how we define goodness, but the broader question of why we should care about any distinctions between good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral. How we interpret certain actions as good or evil is no doubt a question worth considering, but it will not be addressed here. Those who might be interested in that issue may find it useful to peruse some of the sources I will cite, as well as the links to further reading that will be provided at the end of this essay.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines morality, in the normative sense, as “a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons”.4 Unlike the descriptive definition of morality, the normative sense does not entail that this code of conduct be put forward by a society, or that it be accepted by any society. By saying that the code of conduct would, given certain conditions, be put forward by all rational persons, is to say that “no moral agent would ever advise anyone for whom he is concerned, including himself, to act irrationally.” Thus, in the case of harm, we might say that it is moral to avoid causing harm, because we would not advise anyone else to harm us, unless it would prevent some other harm. Notice that this principle can be conceived of as either a duty, a virtue, or as a principle conducive to happiness, and so the question of ‘why be moral’ underlies these normative theories.
The argument I will be making is that we have good reasons for taking up the moral outlook, that these reasons are independent of any god, that the theistic reasons for being moral fail, and that the social sciences help show there is no substantial gap between the moral behavior of theists and non-theists.
II. Reason 1 – Immoral Lives Have a Real Life Cost
Is a life of immorality really more to our interest than a moral life? Actually, this is quite doubtful, despite the flattering depictions of criminals that frequently come out of Hollywood. It’s true that some people do get away with committing heinous crimes, such as theft, rape, or murder, but the extent to which they “get away” is disputable. They may never be caught, imprisoned, or punished in any way by our justice system, yet it’s an altogether different matter to suppose that the perpetrators are truly fulfilled or pleased with the crimes they commit. Guilt, fear of punishment, fear of revenge, and threats from rivals could well haunt their minds. Morally upstanding persons generally will not experience these consequences, which can sometimes last a lifetime for those who choose to engage in horrible behavior for immediate and fleeting pleasures. As philosopher Keith Parsons puts it,
In addition to the psychological turmoil the immoral life may incur, the odds are ever more stacked against escaping punishment for criminal behavior. Advancements in forensic science are increasingly making the so-called perfect crime into little more than a figment of fantasy or a sheer stroke of luck. Networking the world’s databases through the internet has provided an incredible resource for justice departments all across the planet to share information and more easily apprehend suspects. Today technology has come to such a peak that nearly everyone carries a digital camera on them at practically all times, thanks to cell phones, and there is evidence to suggest that these devices have helped to lower crime rates.6 Not only are there the mental and emotional consequences of immoral behavior that one could have to face, but there is less and less of a chance of legally getting away with severe and offensive criminal acts these days. This is compounded by the fact that one may make dangerous enemies living the immoral life, who may seek to mete out their own form of punishment. Thus, another cost of the immoral life is that it can affect our chances of survival.
What about actions that are not pursued by our justice system, but are still regarded as immoral by many of us? Why would it be wrong to cheat on a significant other? In a society where rape is not acknowledged as a legal offense, could we still say rape is wrong? Moral philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong discusses the relevance of harm to moral questions such as these:
The fact that an act prevents harm to another person can be a reason for me to do that act. The fact that an act causes harm to another person can be a reason for me not to do that act. These facts are reasons, even if the other person is a stranger. Crucially, these reasons are not self-interested. They are facts about the interests of other people, not me…
…what reason do I have not to rape? My main reason is not that my act will hurt me. It is that rape hurts the victim – the person who is raped. That reason is enough to show that it is not irrational for me to refrain from rape, even if I wanted to rape, and even if rape were in my own self-interest. Because it harms the victim, I would not be crazy to refrain from doing it. If I choose not to do it because it would harm the victim, then I will not be choosing for no reason at all. In this way, avoiding or preventing harm to others is a reason for me.7
Why should we care not to harm the stranger on the street corner, minding her own business? It’s not just because she could harm us back. It’s also because when we cause harm, we introduce a cost. It may not be a cost to us, but it’s a cost to someone, perhaps more than one person. Consequences have a way of multiplying themselves out, such that societies burdened under a lot of costs will tend to yield more of them. So it’s in the stranger’s interest that we be good to her, just as it’s in our interest that she be good to us and those we love.
Of course, there are some instances where causing harm is acceptable. You may take your child to the doctor for a shot, allowing them to be painfully stuck with a needle. However, we do this to inoculate our loved ones against diseases and viruses which could be far more harmful to them in the long term. This is a reason that makes it rational for us to allow our children to feel the pain of a shot. Unless we have reasons that make it rational for us to inflict harm, it is wrong to cause harm.
The costs of immoral behavior are everywhere: in the news, on television, in our communities, and among our families. If we wish to avoid these costs and live enjoyable and fruitful lives, we should strive to be moral ourselves.
III. Reason 2 – The Moral Life is Beneficial
The moral life has its own consequences. Showing kindness often earns one kindness in return. Doing honest work can lead to a raise. Helping someone in need can foster a new, meaningful relationship. Making a sacrifice for someone else can be noticed and appreciated by others. Though some of these examples are vague, the possibilities are virtually endless, and we all can probably recall times when we have reaped the benefits of maintaining the right path instead of straying down the wrong one. Psychologists have been studying life satisfaction and related concepts like quality of life for decades, and factors that continually seem to play a role in how fulfilling we find our lives are familiar influences like family, social groups, education, acts of kindness, and so forth.8 Immoral and criminal behaviors can negatively affect some of these influences, as Parsons notes above. This all seems to affirm what we’ve long been told, that being good has its own reward.
To be sure, this is not to say that goodness is always rewarded in the ways we’d hope. Testifying against a dangerous gang leader may wind up getting you killed, but if it means incarceration for the gang leader, a law enforcement crackdown on gang violence, the prosecution of additional criminals, and a safer neighborhood, it’s hard to argue that no benefits have come from the decision to testify. Whether or not the benefits of any action will outweigh the costs is frequently a matter for personal reflection, and there is rarely an easy answer. Even so, we ought to bear in mind that we often don’t know the various ways in which our actions will ripple out to influence others for the better. The moral path may appear narrow, but it is still worth embarking on, because what we do know tells us that good deeds can go a long way.
Self-interested reasons are not the only reasons for being good, but if we are to be motivated enough to act on moral prescriptions, we do need self-interested reasons to some extent. As an atheist, I would not find the argument compelling that we should care for the poor because God has commanded it. Since I do not believe in God, one of the premises is not in my interest. However, if we change the argument to say that we should care for the poor because we would appreciate such compassion if we were in their shoes, then I may now have a reason to act. It seems true that any moral statement that is in the interest of no one will be adopted by no one. All moral ‘oughts’ must be appealing to our interests in some degree to compel us to act, even when implying that we ought to observe the commands of a deity.
As already stated, though, we can consider the interests of other people. If we think about the state of the poor person, who may be hungry, sick, and homeless, and we recognize how destitute we would feel in that situation, we have a reason to help them out. Our reason might come from a hypothetical scenario we imagine, and it is not absolutely selfless, but it can nonetheless be a reason that moves us to take action. This principle of doing to others as you’d want done to you – commonly known as the Golden Rule – is possibly one of the oldest ethical principles, preserved in one form or another in the teachings of many ancient religions and philosophies.
Part of why we likely find the Golden Rule to be a good rule of thumb is because it intimately references our own feelings and beliefs. Yet these feelings and beliefs can and do often consider other people, particularly those we love and care about. At least initially, we do tend to value other people for our own personal reasons, but the more connected we become, the more we find ourselves making sacrifices for them and acting according to wishes that they have expressed to us themselves. Our interests begin to include what we can do for them, not just what they can do for us. Thus, while it looks doubtful that there are any purely unselfish acts, it seems there certainly are balanced acts of mutual fulfillment, and this is part of what gives the Golden Rule its strong appeal.
The moral life is more fulfilling than the immoral life. Not only do we gain greater life satisfaction by doing the right thing, but we stand a better chance of being helped by others when we are in need, and these both feed into each other. If we want to reap the benefits of the good life, while avoiding the costs of the immoral life, we should strive to be moral.
IV. Reason 3 – A Moral Outlook Gives Meaning to Life
We may have a problem. Psychopaths, it seems, have little concern for the costs or benefits of morality. Neuroimaging reveals that they exhibit “significantly less” activity in regions of the brain that respond to emotional stimuli than non-psychopathic criminals or non-criminal controls.9 Research shows that psychopaths are often unable to recognize expressions of fear and sadness in others, which some suggest explains their habit of pursuing their goals without regard for anyone else.10 It’s unlikely that psychopaths will respond well to our reasons for being moral. What are we to make of this?
A small minority of our world is inhabited by bona fide psychopaths, and a smaller percentage of them commit any of the heinously immoral acts we might have in mind. This fact, coupled with the fact of the brain function abnormalities shown in neuroimaging scans, seems to lead to the conclusion that the views of psychopaths need not be included as serious contenders in moral discourse. The tremendous importance of emotion to moral judgments argues that psychopaths should be considered anomalies in the grand scheme of human morality. That any reasons for moral behavior would not be appealing to these sorts of persons is no more an argument against those reasons than it is to say that the experience of colorblind persons constitutes an argument against the perception of red and blue colors.
On the other hand, we might be able to learn something useful from psychopaths about the value of the moral life. Studies have shown associations between psychopathy and relationship distress, domestic violence, infidelity, and sexual aggression – all components of life satisfaction as reported by non-psychopathic persons. A 2010 study by Farah Ali and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic found a negative association between secondary psychopathy and life satisfaction. Secondary psychopathy is distinguished from primary psychopathy in apparently being based in social environment rather than genetics, and, as the authors note, “unlike primary psychopathy, it is associated with social anxiety, introversion, moodiness and low self-esteem.”11 Not surprisingly, psychopaths of this sort report low levels of life satisfaction. But what about the primary psychopaths? Intriguingly, the study’s authors propose that primary psychopaths may simply be reporting so high in a further effort to manipulate their partners, and their comparative lack of social anxiety may even support this notion.
Why would psychopaths feel unsatisfied in their lives if they basically get to do whatever they please without worrying over the consequences? The renowned ethicist Peter Singer offers some thoughts on this question in a chapter from his book Practical Ethics entitled, “Why Be Moral?”
Human beings survive and reproduce themselves through purposive action. We obtain happiness and fulfillment by working towards and achieving our goals. In evolutionary terms we could say that happiness functions as an internal reward for our achievements. Subjectively, we regard achieving the goal (or progressing towards it) as a reason for happiness. Our own happiness, therefore, is a by-product of aiming at something else, and not to be obtained by setting our sights on happiness alone.
The psychopath’s life can now be seen to be meaningless in a way that a normal life is not. It is meaningless because it looks inward to the pleasures of the present moment and not outward to anything more long-term or far-reaching. More normal lives have meaning because they are lived to some larger purpose.12
In other words, it is a life of values and concern for others that may give us a sense of meaning. Although religion often purports to provide these things, they may be found by other means, according to Singer. “If we are looking for a purpose broader than our own interests,” he says, “something which will allow us to see our lives as possessing significance beyond the narrow confines of our own conscious states, one obvious solution is to take up the ethical point of view.” To suggest that something is right for us seems to further suggest, at the very least, that it would also be right for others like us. In this respect, morality appears to encourage that we consider others and our relationships with them, rather than pursue nothing but our own wishes in blind selfishness.
It’s no coincidence that the two preceding articles in this Big Questions series have spoken so much about loved ones and other people as making up a great part of what gives purpose to life and what can console us in the face of death. As I’ve stated before, our lives have meaning because of what we choose to do with them. This applies to moral decisions as well. By deciding to be good, we work for something beyond ourselves. It doesn’t take a god for this to be true, but only a recognition of what morality is and the reasons we have to be moral.
V. Theistic Reasons to be Moral
We now come back to the question with which we began this article. If there is no God and no afterlife, won’t we be allowed to do whatever we want? In fact, we have always had that allowance. The real pause for thought is whether or not it would be wise of us to take it. I have given what I believe to be three very meaningful and practical reasons for not taking it, for choosing to live the moral life. These reasons are readily available to theists as well as atheists. But what about the exclusively theistic reasons for being moral?
Can the threat of hell be a reason? Technically, yes, but it’s not the type of reason we’re looking for. Suppose that you are trying to teach your son not to hit your daughter. Will it be effective to tell him that you plan to lock him in a cellar unless he stops hitting her? Yes, your son will have a reason not to hit his sister, but it won’t be a good reason, because it won’t teach him to care about her. Threats of force or violence don’t actually tell us anything about what is being commanded, except that we will be punished if we disobey. A command could even be arbitrary – neither praiseworthy nor condemnable – and still be accompanied by a threat, which tells us that threats are not justifying reasons for us to be moral.
What about the promise of heaven? Again, this might be a reason, but it doesn’t look like a good reason. William Lane Craig and other apologists are fond of asserting that all will be made right by God in the end, that “evil and wrong will be punished and the righteous will be vindicated.”13 However, this is not what Christian theology or the Bible teaches. Matthew 12:31 says that “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” What is meant by “every sin” except that every rapist, murderer, thief, genocidal maniac, and child molester will be forgiven if they only sincerely turn to Jesus? And what righteousness is vindicated if every philanthropist, educator, loving parent, and peaceful altruist can be damned if they neglect to turn to Jesus? The only reasons offered by this view are reasons for obedience, not reasons to be moral.
Of course, for William Lane Craig and other Divine Command Theorists, morality is framed in terms of commands that should be obeyed, and so this is not seen as such a problem. Craig attempts to explain why God’s commands oblige us to follow them:
Someone might demand, “Why are we obligated to do something just because it is commanded by God?” The answer to that question comes, I think, by reflecting on the nature of moral duty. Duty arises in response to an imperative from a competent authority. For example, if some random person were to tell me to pull my car over, I would have absolutely no legal obligation to do so. But if a policeman were to issue such a command, I’d have a legal obligation to obey. The difference in the two cases lies in the persons who issued the commands: one is qualified to do so, while the other is not.
Now, similarly, in the case of moral obligations, these arise as a result of imperatives issued by a competent authority. And in virtue of being the Good, God is uniquely qualified to issues [sic] such commands as expressions of His nature.14
Does this actually provide us a reason to be moral?
Legal duties exist because we have seen fit to organize our societies around certain norms for reasons of safety, civility, and similar concerns. Law enforcement officers possess authority only to the extent that they enforce the rules we’ve agreed upon as a society. If tomorrow we decide to legalize every drug in America, DEA officers will become obsolete, along with the rules they once enforced. At the heart of it, duties do not have force because of some “competent” authority figure, they rather have force because we recognize their authority over us. In other words, we recognize reasons for consenting to the obligations put on us by the rest of society. If we don’t, we may act to change them, and some of us may simply break them. Thus, we are left asking what reasons we have to acknowledge the obligations put on us by Dr. Craig’s God.
Craig can say that God is the Good, but this simply puts us back at square one. Why follow the Good? In the case of the policeman, we can imagine reasons we might obey his commands, such as wanting to avoid punishment, but we have already explained why this won’t suffice as a reason to obey God. Other reasons like wanting to set an example or help foster a moral society are reasons which are independent of the policeman and his commands, just as they can exist independently of a god. It will be no use to point to the ideas of God creating us, making us in his image, or dying on the cross, either, since it does not follow from these that we have any particular obligations to such a being.
It appears that theism by itself cannot give us justifying reasons for being good. This is not a trivial problem for those who insist that only their theistic worldview can provide the right foundations for morality, like Dr. Geisler, who was referenced above. If the only reasons for being moral are secular reasons, then the atheist has all she needs to answer Christian critics like Spiegel and Geisler. Since the three reasons I listed are independent of whether any god exists, we can have cause to be good even if we inhabit a godless universe. Apologetic arguments for objective moral duties desperately grasp for moral obligations that are binding on all persons at all times in all places and in all circumstances, but this could well be an unrealistic expectation of morality, and, more importantly, we have been given no justification for why we should obey these allegedly binding obligations. Even if we suppose that non-theistic ethics really isn’t capable of obliging such a broad and comprehensive spectrum of persons to certain values, it does not follow that no atheists can be moral unless God exists. If we have rational reasons for being good that are independent of God, we are able to be moral without God, even if those reasons are not embraced by everyone, or may not apply to specific kinds of people like psychopaths.
VI. What the Data Shows
It’s one thing to say that atheists can be moral without there being a god, and it’s another thing to look at how atheists behave in our world, especially in relation to believers. Some of the world’s prominent billionaires, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, are atheists who have given generously to charitable causes. There are non-theist groups like the Council for Secular Humanism, EARTHWARD, and Atheist Volunteers that do humanitarian and charity work. Atheists have been social and political reformers, too, like Asa Philip Randolph, who was a central figure in the African-American civil rights movement, and Henry Stephens Salt, who campaigned for animal rights, prison reform, and school reform, and introduced his friend Mohandas Gandhi to the inspiring writings of Henry David Thoreau.
A 2005 study by Gregory S. Paul analyzed 18 different democracies, concluding that more atheistic societies have lower rates of murder, suicide, sexually transmitted disease, abortion, and teen pregnancy.15 This study has made the rounds on many atheist outlets, where it is sometimes used as evidence for the harm that can come from religious belief. However, Paul’s research has been critiqued for relying on too small of a sample size, as well as drawing a conclusion that overlooks the predictive relationship between socioeconomic status and religiosity (Paul concedes to the latter in a 2010 follow-up on his original study16). Religion has been shown to thrive in poor, economically disadvantaged regions which are prone to higher rates of violence, crime, inequity, and disease. While the Paul study does show that atheistic societies can be moral, it should not be relied on to argue against religion or for the superiority of secular morals.
Interestingly, most psychological and sociological research shows negligible differences between atheists and the religious when it comes to moral behavior. Hauser and Pyysiainen found no difference in how believers and non-believers respond to unfamiliar moral dilemmas.17 Mazar et al. primed subjects with either the Ten Commandments or a signed statement of academic commitment to the local university honor code before putting them in a situation to see if they would cheat.18 Subjects primed with the signed statement proved as likely to not cheat as those primed with the Ten Commandments. Similarly, Shariff and Norenzayan primed subjects with either religious language (God, spirit, divine, sacred) or civic language (justice, court, police, contract) prior to a “dictator game” where the subjects would give money to an anonymous stranger.19 The study found that those primed with civic language were as likely to give generously to the stranger as those who were primed with religious language.
Some studies, though, do appear to show some differences between theists and non-theists. Laura Saslow and her colleagues conducted three studies, the results of which all show higher levels of compassion influencing prosocial behavior in the less religious than among those who are more religious.20 Divorce rates are also lower for atheists than for religious believers.21 On the other end, studies have shown religious people to be more charitable than the non-religious, although, as James Peron at the Huffington Post points out, even donations to strictly religious organizations are typically included as charity, which off-sets the numbers.22
Unfortunately, the data on the intersection of theism, atheism, and morality, is often abused to assert the superiority of one side over the other. While there are some interesting differences supported by some studies, there are also flaws in research used by both theists and atheists, and at present the best data seems only to go so far as to show that each side can respond just as appropriately to moral concerns. It appears that on the whole, atheists are no less moral than religious believers and religious believers are no less moral than atheists. This won’t surprise Christian theists like Matt Slick, who believes that atheists can be moral people because “they have the law of God written on their hearts”.23 Yet such an unverifiable claim can only be upheld by faith, and the world would arguably appear no different to us on the view that morality is independent of God than it would on this faith claim.
VII. Final Thoughts
Can we be good without God? I think there are reasons that can inspire us to live the moral life whether or not any god exists, and I’ve covered three of them here. Research from the social sciences indicates that non-believers act just as morally as believers do, generally, and with the insufficiency of theism’s reasons for being moral, I find that we have good grounds for believing God to be unnecessary to our discernment of the practical importance of adopting the moral life. This should be no cause of religious angst, though, but a cause for joyous collaboration. Helping others, from all walks of life, to see the value in being good is a cause worth coming together to achieve. It is a peculiar sort of belief that will sacrifice such a project at the altar of dogma and the narcissistic need to be the one and only authority on the good.
Next in the Big Questions: What is Truth?
For more on a non-theistic perspective on ethics and morality, see the article on The Moral Argument for God, as well as the Secular Web’s entries on Morality and Atheism and Secular Humanism. Other recommended readings would be Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik Wielenberg, Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier, Morality Without God by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and The Atheist Ethicist blog run by Alonzo Fyfe.
1. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Andrew R. MacAndrew (1983), p. 788.
2. James Spiegel, The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Moody Publishers, 2010), p. 16.
3. Norman Geisler, Can Atheists Justify Being Good Without God? NormanGeisler.net. Retrieved Aug. 26, 2013.
4. Bernard Gert, The Definition of Morality, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ed. Edward N. Zalta (Fall 2012). Retrieved Sept. 4, 2013.
5. Keith Parsons, Seven Common Misconceptions About Atheism, Infidels.org (1998). Retrieved Sept. 2, 2013.
6. Klick et al., “Mobile Phones and Crime Deterrence: An Underappreciated Link,” Research Handbook on the Economics of Criminal Law (2012).
7. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Morality Without God (Oxford, 2009), p. 116-117.
8. For examples, see Buchanan & Bardi, “Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction,” Journal of Social Psychology (May-Jun 2010), 150(3):235-7; Cheung & Chan, “The Effect of Education on Life Satisfaction Across Countries,” Alberta Journal of Educational Research (April 2009), 55; Lim & Putnam, “Religion, Social Networks, and Life Satisfaction,” American Sociological Review (2010), 75(6) 914-933.
9. Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape (Free Press, 2010), p. 97.
10. Ibid, p. 99.
11. Ali & Chamorro-Premuzic, “The dark side of love and life satisfaction,” Personality and Individual Differences 48 (2010) 228–233.
12. Peter Singer, “Why Be Moral?” Moral Philosophy: Selected Readings ed. George Sher (Harcourt, 1987), p. 270-271.
13. William Lane Craig, “Opening Statement” in Is Goodness without God Good Enough? ed. Garcia and King.
14. William Lane Craig, Does Theistic Ethics Derive an ‘Ought’ from an ‘Is’? ReasonableFaith.org. Retrieved Sept. 2, 2013.
15. G.S. Paul, “Cross-national correlations of quantifiable societal health with popular religiosity and secularism…” J. Religion Soc. (2005), 7:1–17.
16. G.S. Paul, “Religiosity tied to socioeconomic status,” Science (2010), Feb 5;327(5966):642.
17. Philip Ball, Morals don’t come from God, Nature (Feb 2010). Retrieved Sept. 3, 2013.
18. Mazar et al., “The dishonesty of honest people: a theory of self-concept maintenance,” J. Mark. Res. (2008) 45:633–44.
19. Shariff & Norenzayan, “God is watching you: Priming God concepts increases prosocial behavior…” Psychol. Sci. (2007) 18:803–9.
20. Saslow, “My Brother’s Keeper? Compassion Predicts Generosity…” Social Psychology and Personality Science (Jan 2013) 4.1, 31-38.
21. McKinley Irvin, 32 Shocking Divorce Statistics, McKinley Irvin (Oct. 2012). Retrieved Sept. 3, 2013.
22. James Peron, Are Conservatives Really More Charitable? Or Just More Religious? Huffington Post (2012). Retrieved Sept. 3, 2013.
23. Matt Slick, Can atheists be ethical? Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. Retrieved Sept. 3, 2013.