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Study: Religious children less likely to be generous

Posted at 7:41 PM, Nov 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-06 18:08:05-05

A study released Thursday in the journal of “Current Biology” claims that children of a nonreligious background tend to be more generous and altruistic than children from religious families.

The study examined the behaviors of 1,151 children aged 5 to 12 from around the world. The examination included children from six countries.

Altruism was measured through several activities, which involved sharing and reactions to social injustices.

Parents were asked to identify the religion of their children, and their level of involvement in religious practices. Nearly 43 percent of the children were Muslim, 27 percent were nonreligious and 24 percent were Christian. The remaining 6 percent were from other religions.

The study showed that Christian children did not differ that much from Muslim children in their altruism. But what the study showed was the two groups of children were significantly less altruistic than nonreligious children in the exercises given to the children. The study also showed that the frequency of religious practices were a predictor on how altruistic a child tended to be.

“Overall, our findings cast light on the cultural input of religion on prosocial behavior and contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others,” the study concluded. “More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that the secularization of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness.”

Americans might disagree with the findings of the survey. A Pew Research Center survey in 2014 found that 53 percent of Americans said that believing in God is essential to morality.

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs.

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