Muslims and Christians less generous than atheists

Scientists tested the generosity of children of different faiths, and found that religious children aren't necessarily the most altruistic

Photo: Alamy

Think a religious upbringing necessarily entails positive personality traits, such as generosity? These scientists may have just proved you wrong.

Jean Decety, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, collaborated with researchers in Canada, China, Jordan, South Africa and Turkey, as well as with fellow Americans, to look at children aged between five and 12 and their families.

Each child was provided with 30 stickers and told that they could keep 10 of them.

They were then asked to play something called a 'dictator game'. Once a child had made his selection he was told that there was not time to play the game with all the children at the school, but that he was allowed give away some of his ten stickers to a random schoolmate who would not otherwise be able to take part.

He was given some time to think about this, and after his decision was made, scientists charted whether he gave away stickers, and if so, how many he gave away.

They found that children of non-believers were more generous than children of believers.

They gave away an average of 4.1 stickers. Children from a religious background gave away 3.3.

This effect remained regardless of a family’s wealth and status, a child’s age or the nationality of the participant.

However, they also found that children from religious families were more sensitive to injustice than children from non-religious families.

When asked, religious parents reported their children to be more sensitive than non-believing parents did.

The children came from 1,170 families, and the researchers focused on one child per family.

510 identified themselves as Muslim, 280 as Christian, 29 as Jewish, 18 as Buddhist and 5 as Hindu. A further 323 said they were non-religious, 3 were agnostic and 2 ticked the box marked “other”.


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