Well it’s official – religious kids are badder than other kids. Or at least it’s as official as the latest research from the University of Chicago says it is. The study’s report can be found here and its findings indicate, as it says, that the link between religiosity and morality is a contentious one.
The study concludes that religious children are less altruistic than non-religious ones. Newspapers have been reporting this with interest as has The Australian here in Oz. Their article, headlines irenically: “Religious Children meaner than agnostic and atheist kids, study finds” quotes the study’s author:
“Religion and morality are two different things,” said lead author Jean Decety, a Chicago University neuroscientist.
“Past research has demonstrated that religious people are no more likely to do good than their non-religious counterparts. Our study goes beyond that, showing that religious people are less generous — not only adults, but children, too.”
Leaving aside the fact that the gospel seems to attract the really, really bad, and is repugnant to the moral (chief of sinners, not many good, not many noble etc, etc), it’s just a relief that researchers with an axe to grind have learned something over the past sixty years, and haven’t singled out Jews this time.
The article explains the research:
In the study, more than 1100 kids aged between five and 12 were asked to share stickers with anonymous schoolmates. The subjects lived in North America, the Middle East, South Africa and China, and included Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus. Those from agnostic and atheist households consistently proved less likely to keep the best stickers to themselves.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I got one of those SMILE JESUS LOVES YOU stickers at Sunday School for reciting “an eye for an eye” or “vengeance is mine” or some such, it would take more than the pleading look of some atheist offspring to pry it from my cold dead hands.
The article goes on:
He attributed the findings to a phenomenon dubbed “moral licensing”, where people’s perceptions that they were doing good — in this case, practising religion — exempted them from the obligation to perform other worthy deeds. “Apparently, doing something that helps strengthen our positive self-image also makes us less worried about the consequences of immoral behaviour,” he said.
Mind you, the unspoken religiousness of the human condition means no one gets left out surely!
Hey I may sleep around a little, view late term abortions as somehow liberating, be loud, obnoxious, self-focussed, but I recycle and drive a Prius. Moral licensing does’t end at the church, synagogue or mosque, that’s for sure.
Maybe for the sake of the good of our culture we should consider how to re-educate the children of religious parents away from such non-altrustic belief systems. More grist for the mill anyway.
Dr Decety concluded his comments by lifting his eyes towards heaven and praying: I thank you that I am not as other men…”