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Richard Paula and Linda Elder of the Foundation for Critical Thinking assert that, "Most people confuse ethics with behaving in accordance with social conventions, religious beliefs, and the law." They separate the concept of ethics from these topics, stating: The proper role of ethical reasoning is to highlight acts of two kinds: those which enhance the well-being of others—that warrant our praise—and those that harm or diminish the well-being of others—and thus warrant our criticism.
There has been interest in the relationship between religion and crime and other behavior that does not adhere to contemporary laws and social norms in various countries.
Studies conducted in recent years have explored these relationships, but the results have been mixed and sometimes contradictory.
In Christian traditions, certain acts are viewed in more absolute terms, such as abortion or divorce.
In the latter case, a 2008 study by the Barna Group found that some denominations have a significantly higher divorce rate than those in non-religious demographic groups (atheists and agnostics).
Other observers assert that moral behavior does not rely on religious tenets, and secular commentators point to ethical challenges within various religions that conflict with contemporary social norms.
Within the wide range of ethical traditions, religious traditions co-exist with secular value frameworks such as humanism, utilitarianism, and others. Modern monotheistic religions, such as Islam, Judaism, Christianity (and to a certain degree others such as Sikhism) define right and wrong by the laws and rules set forth by their respective gods and as interpreted by religious leaders within the respective faith.Another global study by Gallup on people from 140 countries showed that highly religious people are more likely to help others in terms of donating money, volunteering, and helping strangers despite them having, on average, lower incomes than those who are less religious or nonreligious.One study on pro-social sentiments showed that non-religious people were more inclined to show generosity in random acts of kindness, such as lending their possessions and offering a seat on a crowded bus or train. The overall relationship between faith and crime is unclear.The ability of religious faiths to provide value frameworks that are seen as useful is a debated matter.Religious commentators have asserted that a moral life cannot be led without an absolute lawgiver as a guide.The egoistically motivated prosociality may also affect self-reports, resulting in biased results.Peer ratings can be biased by stereotypes, and indications of a persons group affiliation are sufficient to bias reporting.According to global research done by Gallup on people from 145 countries, adherents of all the major world religions who attended religious services in the past week reported higher rates of generosity such as donating money, volunteering, and helping a stranger than do their coreligionists who did not attend services (non-attenders).Even for people who were nonreligious, those who said they attended religious services in the past week exhibited more generous behaviors.Morality and religion is the relationship between religious views and morals.Many religions have value frameworks regarding personal behavior meant to guide adherents in determining between right and wrong.