Moral Identity versus Moral Reasoning in Religious Conservatives: Do Christian Evangelical Leaders Really Lack Moral Maturity?

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Research using moral dilemmas has consistently found religious conservatives make poorer moral decisions than liberals. A sample of 104 Evangelical Christians leaders were found to score poorly in moral reasoning using this approach, but were also found to have high moral identity. Their moral identity correlated highly with self-reported moral behavior, yet their moral decision-making did not, suggesting moral identity is more salient than decision-making in their moral development. A subsample of 10 who scored low on moral decision-making but high on other moral indicators was qualitatively found to have a sophisticated morality based on different assumptions than used in past research. These findings are discussed in terms of bias in past research using moral dilemmas that denigrate religious conservatives.

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