Religion and the morality of mentality

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2001 Oct;81(4):697-710.


Christian doctrine considers mental states important in judging a person's moral status, whereas Jewish doctrine considers them less important. The authors provide evidence from 4 studies that American Jews and Protestants differ in the moral import they attribute to mental states (honoring one's parents, thinking about having a sexual affair, and thinking about harming an animal). Although Protestants and Jews rated the moral status of the actions equally. Protestants rated a target person with inappropriate mental states more negatively than did Jews. These differences in moral judgment were partially mediated by Protestants' beliefs that mental states are controllable and likely to lead to action and were strongly related to agreement with general statements claiming that thoughts are morally relevant. These religious differences were not related to differences in collectivistic (interdependent) and individualistic (independent) tendencies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morals*
  • Religion*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires