Morality and religion: a study of moral judgments of orthodox Christians and nonbelievers in Russian culture



Morality and religion represent an important part of human social behaviour. This work is focused on studying whether and how characteristics of moral judgments may differ in individuals who believe or do not believe in god, and what role religious experience and religiosity level may play in the formation of moral judgments. We analysed responses of 266 participants of an internet-based study, who categorised themselves either as Orthodox Christians (n=130), or nonbelievers (n=136). The participants were asked to assess moral permissibility of harmful prosocial actions in a set of moral scenarios. It has been shown that in general individuals, both believers and nonbelievers deliver comparable moral judgments. However, the orthodox participants judged less permissible to sacrifice one person to save more people’s lives, i.e. their judgments were less utilitarian. Religiosity level did not correlate with any of the characteristics of moral judgments. The results are discussed in relation to evolutionary functions of morality and religion as well as the role of religion in the formation of individual experience in the sociocultural environment

General Information

Keywords: morality, religion, culture, individual experience, moral judgement, moral dilemma

Journal rubric: Cognitive Psychology

Article type: scientific article


For citation: Arutyunova K.R., Agarkov V.A., Alexandrov Y.I. Morality and religion: a study of moral judgments of orthodox Christians and nonbelievers in Russian culture. Eksperimental'naâ psihologiâ = Experimental Psychology (Russia), 2016. Vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 21–37. DOI: 10.17759/exppsy.2016090103. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Karina R. Arutyunova, PhD in Psychology, Associate Researcher, V.B. Shvyrkov Laboratory of Neural Bases of Mind, Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Vsevolod A. Agarkov, Research Associate, Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, e-mail:

Yuri I. Alexandrov, Doctor of Psychology, Head the Laboratory of the Institute of Psychology RAS and Head. the Department of Psychophysiology State University of Humanitarian Sciences, Institute of Psychology Russian Academy of Science, head Laboratory of Neurocognitive Research of Individual Experience, Moscow State Psychological and Pedagogical University (FSBEI HE MGPPU), Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Education. Member of the editorial board of the scientific journal "Experimental Psychology", Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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