Psychological researchers call it moral disengagement. They are finding that ignoring morality not only gives human beings an evolutionary advantage, but in some cases it requires the religious or philosophical sanctification of pernicious actions.
The innate human ability to disconnect morally has made it hard for researchers to find an association between people’s stated convictions and their behavior: preachers can commit sexual crimes; prostitutes may live otherwise exemplary lives; well-trained soldiers can commit atrocities….Now, psychologists at Stanford have shown that prison staff members who work on execution teams exhibit high levels of moral disengagement — and the closer they are to the killing, the higher their level of disengagement goes….
“You have to sanctify lethal means: this is the most powerful technique” of disengagement from a shared human moral code, said Dr. Bandura, who has expressed serious moral reservations about capital punishment. “If you can’t convince people of the sanctity of the greater cause, they are not going to carry the job out as effectively.”
So it’s not so much that religious and spiritual beliefs are suspended when acting out of moral disengagement… rather, they are simply shifted. Our philosophies and theologies change focus, allowing us access to new rationales that justify our violation of our own moral code. Ironically, we may even perceive a violation of our morality as an action with greater sanctity and righteousness than actions that conform with our own moral standards.
Among other things, this research is yet another blow to rationalists and religio-rationalists who insist on thinking of human beings as logical bio-machines in a carbon bag, despite all rational evidence otherwise. How long can people go on pronouncing that the answer to the world’s problems is in getting people to reason better and have more rational, substantive dialogue with finely honed arguments advanced to support their moral suppositions? Couldn’t we solve the world’s problems by giving deductive logic textbooks to the Muslims? How long will people go on with their rationalistic biases, despite growing evidence that people can shift between coherent reason and insidious rationalizations with the ease of pressing a button on a remote control? Probably as long as those folks stay stuck at the rationalist level of development, that’s how long.
Via The Revealer.