The role of religion in the domain theory of moral development
Glicksman, Stephen Ian
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Fifty-one Orthodox Jewish adolescents (ages 13 to 18 years) participated in a study in which their understanding of the moral content of religious rules was examined. Subjects were asked to evaluate two moral religious rules, two non-moral religious rules, and two religious rules that appear to conflict with secular moral ideals in terms of rule alterability, generalizability, and contingency on God's word. In addition, subjects were asked to explain the rationale behind each rule. Results showed that, whereas prototypical moral religious rules were viewed by most subjects as generalizable and not contingent on the word of God and prototypical non-moral religious rules were seen as contingent on the word of God and not generalizable to those outside the religion, religious rules that appeared to conflict with secular moral ideals elicited more mixed responses. Most subjects viewed religious rules that were felt to be clearly in conflict with secular moral ideals to be uniquely applicable to adherents to the religion, and judged these rules as immoral if performed by those outside the religious framework. Rationales given for the different rules further support the distinction between moral, non-moral, and conflicting religious rules. These results indicate that religious adolescents recognize and are able to articulate the morally conflicting nature of certain religious rules. Furthermore, these results indicate that religious rules cannot be adequately reduced into the domains of morality and convention as previously argued by domain theorists (e.g., Nucci and Turiel, 1993). Possible explanations for this discrepancy are discussed, as well as implications for future research in both moral and religious theory.