In 1966 George Tamarin conducted the following study. He presented more than a thousand Israeli schoolchildren, aged between eight and fourteen, with the account of the battle of Jericho from the Book of Joshua:
Joshua 6:16 through 6:24
Joshua said to the people, "Shout; for the LORD has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction . . . But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD." . . . Then they utterly destroyed all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword . . . And they burned the city with fire, and all within it; only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.
Tamarin then asked the children a simple moral question: Do you think Joshua and the Israelites acted rightly or not? They had to choose between:
A (total approval)
B (partial approval)
C (total disapproval)
66% answered A, 26% answered C, and only 8% answered B. Of the people who answered 'A', they gave explanations of which the three below are typical:
"In my opinion Joshua and the Sons of Israel acted well, and here are the reasons: God promised them this land, and gave them permission to conquer. If they would not have acted in this manner or killed anyone, then there would be the danger that the Sons of Isreal would have assimilated among the Goyim."
"In my opinion Joshua was right when he did it, one reason being that God commanded him to exterminate the people so that the tribes of Israel will not be able to assimilate amongst them and learn their bad ways."
"Joshua did good becasue the people who inhabited the land were of a different religion, and when Joshua killed them he wiped their religion from the earth."
The justification for the genocidal massacre by Joshua is religious in almost every case.
Tamarin also ran a control group for the study. He took a different group of Israeli schoolchildren and gave them the same text from the Book of Joshua, but with Joshua's name replaced by 'General Lin', and Israel replaced by 'a Chinese kingdom 3,000 years ago.' Now the experiment gave the opposite results. Only 7% approve of General Lin's behavior, and 75% disapproved. In other words, when their loyalty to Judaism was removed from the calculation, the majority of children agreed with the moral judgements that most people would share, that Joshua's action was a deed of barbaric genocide.
So we see clearly, in this case, that instead of providing a superior moral code for people to aspire to, religion is instead used as a justification for any barbarity up to and including genocide. When their religion is removed from the equation, they find genocide to be bad. When their religion is included, they can overlook almost any barbarity committed in its name. And you see that borne out in this very forum. Christians have no problem condemning genocide committed by Hitler, or Stalin, but it astounds me how far they will bend over backwards to try to justify all the genocide in the bible.