The old canard that people who do not believe in a "Supreme Being" are untrustworthy, without morals, and unethical has received yet another rebuke.
According to a new study published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Atheists are "just as ethical as churchgoers," and religion is only one way through which people can manifest a moral code. Dr. Marc Hauser of Harvard University reported that his research team was investigating the foundations of moral behavior and religion.
"The research suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments," said Hauser.
Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists, said that the study should help dispel one of the many great lies about non-religious Americans.
"Nearly 13% of the US population, according to surveys, have 'no religion'; that's about 40 million people," said Buckner. "Surveys indicate, however, that a near-majority of people would not support an otherwise qualified Atheist candidate for public office and falsely believe that 'there are no Atheists in foxholes.'"
Both perceptions are incorrect. "At least a few TV preachers and other demagogues almost certainly and knowingly encourage these misunderstandings, intentionally lying to shore up their own power and prestige. Atheists are already serving in government, the armed forces, and the professions (even in the clergy); most just don't openly advertise the fact that they have no religious beliefs," added Buckner.
Dave Silverman, Vice President and Communications Director for American Atheists added that the study discussed whether religion was an evolutionary adaptation which contributed to group solidarity and social cohesion. "It's a fascinating question that may never be resolved," said Silverman. "The point remains, though, that you can, indeed, 'be good without a god. In fact, you can be excellent!' The ethical actions of millions of Atheists, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and other non-religious people are proof of that."
The study is available at http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences