Non-Theists Are No Less Moral Than Theists: Some Preliminary Results

Justin Didyoung, Eric Charles, Nicholas James Rowland


The longstanding stereotype that non-theists are less moral than theists is not empirically supported. To test this commonplace assumption, 114 undergraduate participants were evaluated to draw comparisons about religious identity and altruism levels. Participants were placed into one of two groups, theists or non-theists. The theist group was then further divided: weakly religious, moderately religious, and highly religious. Non-theists and theists as a whole, as well as theist subgroup assessments, were compared. Data were collected through self-report surveys. Additionally, to test moral decision-making abilities, participants answered questions based on situational dilemmas. Using Kohlberg’s coding schema, scores were assigned for the participant’s global moral reasoning rather than for the content of their answers. Using independent groups t-test, ANOVA, and post-hoc tests,our findings suggest no support for the existence of the stereotype that non-theists are less moral than theists. Religious identity did not conclusively determine whether or not an individual was more moral or more altruistic.

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How to cite: Didyoung, J, Charles, E and Rowland, N.J. 2013. Non-Theists Are No Less Moral Than Theists: Some Preliminary Results. Secularism and Nonreligion 2:1-20, DOI:

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Published on 2 March 2013.

ISSN: 2053-6712 | Published by Ubiquity Press | Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.