Sunday, November 8, 2015
Sunday Science Blog
Interesting. Admittedly, this is a small study, but it helps to dispel the stereotypical notion that nonbelievers are without compassion toward others.
Nonreligious children are more generous
"Religious doctrines typically urge the faithful to treat others with compassion and to put the greater good before selfish interests. But when it comes to generosity, nonreligious kids seem to be more giving, according to a new study of 1170 children from around the world.
Children from religious homes—particularly Muslims—also showed a greater inclination to judge someone’s misdeeds as wrong and punish the perpetrators. The study, the first large-scale analysis of its kind, suggests that religion and moral behavior don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand for children. “Our findings support the notion that the secularization of moral discourse does not reduce human kindness. In fact it does just the opposite,” says Jean Decety, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, in Illinois, and the study’s lead author.
Past research has already called into doubt the common stereotype that religious people are more moral than their nonreligious brethren. In surveys, religious people report higher levels of charitable activity. But it’s not clear whether this is accurate or an exaggeration. It’s also unclear whether the altruistic spirit is mostly confined to other members of their religion. In actual tests of generosity, there are also mixed results.
One study found both religious and nonreligious people shared more money with a stranger after reading sentences containing religious words such as “spirit” and “God.” But people were also more generous after reading words associated with secular authorities such as “police.” Another study found that more religious people were just as likely as less religious people to bypass a stranger in distress."
Rosa Rubicondior blog reported on this as well.
Also, an interesting discussion from a 2007 article posted on Patheos:
"...in the dilemma of choosing between good and evil, theism gives us reason to “cultivate the better angels of our nature.” However, any honest assessment of history would conclude that religion makes people bad at least as often as it makes them good. Religion has inspired great acts of charity and selflessness, beautiful music, art and architecture, and countless examples of human kindness and compassion. It has also inspired horrific, bloody wars, brutal inquisitions, tyrannical theocracies, fanatical campaigns of terror, and countless incidents of discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry. Far from being a force that pulls ceaselessly toward the moral apex of the universe, religion is more like a megaphone, amplifying both the good and the bad of human nature in equal measure.
This is not surprising to an atheist, because there is no objectively verifiable evidence of any god who wants people to behave in any particular way. As a result, people can without fear of contradiction invent a god who speaks for them, who confirms all their opinions and prejudices – and this is exactly what all religious people do, the liberal as well as the conservative.
You worried that atheists have no compelling answer to a person who says, “I’m going to do whatever I please.” But religion does not solve that problem. If anything, the problem is far worse when the malcontent is a theist who claims that his desires are not just some idiosyncratic expression of individual preference, but the very will of God. An atheist, at least, has no warrant to claim holy sanction or divine infallibility for his opinions, and in theory can be persuaded by reason. On the other hand, a person who sincerely believes that they are acting in accordance with the will of the creator is immune to evidence, diplomacy, and compromise – as the many religious wars still smoldering after millennia should make abundantly clear."
And finally another discussion from LiveScience on morality, religion, and atheism:
Religion Doesn't Make People More Moral, Study Finds