A bit of a controversial study has found that religious children might actually be more selfish than kids who grew up in secular families.
- Researchers conducted a study on over 1,100 children, between the ages of 5 -12 years old
- They were from six countries, with 43% Muslims, 24% Christians, 28% atheists, and the rest from other beliefs
- Non-religious children were more generous, followed by Christians, and then Muslims
- Non-religious children also believed in the same punishments as Christians, but judged actions less harshly
A new research conducted by scientists at the University of Chicago surveyed and observed a number of 1170 children, between the ages of 5 to 12 years old. They examined their behavior and answers through various tests. Each group of children either believed in a particular religion or were brought up by atheistic parents.
Within the study there were children from six different countries, specifically the United States of America, Canada, China, South Africa, Turkey, and Jordan. Among them, 43% were Muslims, 24% Christians, and 28% atheists. There were also smaller numbers from families with other beliefs, such as Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or agnostic.
According to lead author of the study, professor and neuroscientist Jean Decety, the aim of the study was to find “differences in empathy or sharing depending on the culture”. This was due to the fact that previous researches demonstrated that religious people aren’t more likely to do good than non-religious counterparts. This study shows the same, if not that the case is a bit worse for children.
The researchers conducted a simple test, by giving each child 30 stickers and asked them to choose how many they would share with others within their school. The study focused on altruism, defined as “actions that benefit the recipient at a cost to the donor”. The premise was that if religion promotes morality, including altruism, empathy toward others and a sense of justice, then religious children would be more selfless.
Their findings proved the contrary. Secular children shared more stickers than religious children. It was found that while all groups became marginally less altruistic with age, non-religious children were the most generous, followed by Christians, and then by Muslims.
Another experiment was performed on the same children. They were shown videos of interpersonal harm, such as shoving or bumping others. The researchers then asked them to rate the level of ‘meanness’ and attribute punishment. Muslim children judged them as the highest level of meanness and believed in harsh lessons.
While Christian and secular children saw to the same kind of punishment, the religious ones view those actions as much meaner than their non-religious counterparts.
The study has shown that religious children may just be less moral than kids growing up with atheistic parents. Why? One important factor could be psychological. It’s an unconscious way of measuring bad for good. Those with religious affiliations, for example, may justify doing something ‘wrong’ by doing something ‘good’ in return, such as praying.
According to Decety, this could be attributed to many actions that are not socially acceptable. Racism, sexism, or reprimanding those who do not share their beliefs, are a few examples. Decety stated that while there’s commonly a positive association between religion and morality, it might indeed just be the exact opposite.
Image source: rantsandrage.com