Tests reported at The Economist show that when we concern ourselves with ‘moral cleanliness’ we encourage greater immorality.
A study just published in Psychological Science by Simone Schnall of the University of Plymouth and her colleagues shows that washing with soap and water makes people view unethical activities as more acceptable and reasonable than they would if they had not washed themselves.
It’s somewhat hard to explain.
Dr Schnall found that “washing with soap and water makes people view unethical activities as more acceptable and reasonable than they would if they had not washed themselves.”
When feeling unclean beforehand, people make decisions which are more ethical. She’s noticing that feeling disgusted or wrong triggers increased ethical behavior – to right the wrong.
But, if feeling clean beforehand, i.e. through religious purification, we become less alert about what’s ethical or moral. When we’re feeling “pure, washed, clean, immaculate and pristine”, we condone a more relaxed attitude to morality.
After all, Pontius Pilate washed his hands.
I posted a year or so ago, Who’s using Google to search for sex?, that Google Trends will show that ‘sex’ is the top search term in nations that are the so-called bastion of morals, and ‘sex’ is high on the list in religious pockets in the West.
Reminding me of Karl Jung, we can’t fix or repair what we can’t see or admit. If we keep ourselves in the dark, we learn nothing about our shadows. Lit only by moral code, a culture fails to acknowledge its nature but fuels its passion nevertheless.