I was intrigued by this study from California educators about morality, but it took me awhile to grasp how it fit in to faith communities.
In thinking about why some people behave morally and others fail to, two researchers are proposing that what they call the "moral self" is key.
An individual's understanding of his or her moral identity, they concluded, determines in many instances whether that individual will behave in moral or ethical ways.
And how is that moral identity created? Well, in many ways over time, but, the researchers said, "Religious traditions that promote reflection on moral issues and foster charitable work also help individuals recognize moral meanings.”
That seems pretty obvious to those of us who have been part of religious traditions for a long time, but, in fact, what we may not recognize is the cumulative effect of being members of a community that teaches and demonstrates moral behavior even when such behavior may not seem to be in the individual's best interest (though it is in the broader community's interest).
Thus you get such concepts as the "greater good" and the "common welfare" versus looking out for No. 1.
I'm not suggesting that you simply must be in a faith community to understand and buy into the ideas that make up your moral identity, but I do think it may be more difficult outside of such communities for individuals to develop a deep sense of what is moral and ethical because in such cases there may well be no collection of people off of which to bounce questions and ideas.
At any rate, have a look at the press release about the study to which I've linked you and see what else you learn there about this study.
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'THEOLOGY' APPARENTLY IS NOT ABOUT FAITH
It's going to be a long, rocky Santorum presidency if he regularly has to stop the next day to explain what he meant the day before, as he just did with his comment that President Obama's agenda is based on “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible.” Oh, no, he said later. He wasn't criticizing Obama's Christian faith. Certainly that wasn't it: “I am talking about his world view, and the way he approaches problems in this country.” Oh, well, then. OK: Here's the rule on the campaign trail: It's OK to criticize someone's theology and complain it's unbiblical and everyone will know it's no criticism of that person's faith. Got that? Me, either.