Cooperators, Crusaders, and the Complicit: The Trinity of Religious Moral Character

Samantha Abrams: In our latest paper, my collaborators and I scrutinized past research and developed a framework to understand how religion can encourage a wide array of both moral and immoral behaviors. According to our framework, different aspects of religion motivate one of three moral characters: the Cooperator, the Crusader, and the Complicit. We noticed that findings from prior work on this topic fell into a predictable pattern: religion motivated behavior that benefitted either 1) others indiscriminately, 2) one’s own group over outsiders, or 3) oneself at the expense of all others. Each of the characters in our framework correspond to one of these categories of behavior. Cooperators act unselfishly to help others, crusaders bond with their religious community by harming outgroups, and the complicit use their faith to excuse selfishness.

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