DoctorE

There is no god, only religion

Highly religious people are less motivated by compassion than are non-believers

Posted by Mr DoctorE on May 2, 2012


“Love thy neighbor” is preached from many a pulpit. But new research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that the highly religious are less motivated by compassion when helping a stranger than are atheists, agnostics and less religious people.

Study finds highly religious people are less motivated by compassion to show generosity than are non-believers

In three experiments, social scientists found that compassion consistently drove less religious people to be more generous. For highly religious people, however, compassion was largely unrelated to how generous they were, according to the findings which are published in the most recent online issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The results challenge a widespread assumption that acts of generosity and charity are largely driven by feelings of empathy and compassion, researchers said. In the study, the link between compassion and generosity was found to be stronger for those who identified as being non-religious or less religious.

“Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not,” said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a co-author of the study. “The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns.”

Compassion is defined in the study as an emotion felt when people see the suffering of others which then motivates them to help, often at a personal risk or cost.

While the study examined the link between religion, compassion and generosity, it did not directly examine the reasons for why highly religious people are less compelled by compassion to help others. However, researchers hypothesize that deeply religious people may be more strongly guided by a sense of moral obligation than their more non-religious counterparts.

“We hypothesized that religion would change how compassion impacts generous behavior,” said study lead author Laura Saslow, who conducted the research as a doctoral student at UC Berkeley.
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2 Responses to “Highly religious people are less motivated by compassion than are non-believers”

  1. Grundy said

    Makes sense. Catholic church goers give money to charities (and the church) during collections every Sunday. The priest asks them to give and they give. This is admirable and the source of a ton of charitable funds, but the generosity is not triggered by compassion. I’ve asked Catholics immediately after the collection who they just donated to and most of them can’t tell me.

    People who don’t go to church, and don’t have a sense of obligation to give, only give out of compassion.

    Like this

  2. *study paid for the American Atheist Association

    But in all seriousness, most Christians don’t necessarily find generosity to be a virtue; it’s hard work and earning your keep that is a virtue.

    Like this

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