How atheists and believers differ in their morality

However, they differed on other widely-recognized aspects of morality: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority, being loyal to one’s group, and abhorrence for disgusting things. In these three areas, believers tended to be resolute, while atheists were more consequentialist, believing that an action could be right or wrong depending upon the outcome.

For example, while a religious person might be more likely to respect an elected leader’s decisions, an atheist might question those decisions depending upon their effect. Moreover, while a believer might express absolute faith in a group member, an atheist would judge them by their character or actions. And while a religious person would likely regard infidelity as inherently wrong, an atheist might judge the act based upon the surrounding circumstances.

Ståhl also probed the root reasons why believers and nonbelievers differ in their moral styles. His surveys suggested that religious people were more exposed to credibility-enhancing displays as youth, seeing others in their community engage in costly behaviors in service of their shared beliefs. On the other hand, atheists tended to grow up in areas with lower levels of threat and uncertainty. Atheists also thought more analytically.