University Study Results: Religious Children Less Tolerant, More Vengeful

Children from Religious Households Judge Interpersonal Harm More Severely Than Children from Non-religious Households

Children  raised with religion demonstrated negative tenancies when compared to children raised in non-religious households, challenging the status quo that religiosity encourages positive behavior that benefits both themselves and others around them. This is according to the results of the University of Chicago study, The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World,  by Dr. Jean Decety, Jason M. Cowell, Kang Lee, Randa Mahasneh, Susan Malcolm-Smith, Bilge Selcuk, and Xinyue Zhou.

Published in the journal Current Biology, the study looked at 1,710 boys and girls across six countries, recruiting those volunteer children (by means of their parents) along three dimensions: Christian, Islam, and non-religious. In the end, it produced results that may shock many parts of our religious society.

For example, the more religious children are, the less likely those children will share as compared to the atheist/non-religious children. “Our study goes beyond that by showing that religious people are less generous, and not only adults but children too.” said Dr. Decety.

“Some past research had demonstrated that religious people aren’t more likely to do good than their non-religious counterparts,” Dr. Decety noted. When it comes to punishment, this study showed that children who believe in God were more vengeful than their nonbeliever counterparts, a trait that may be traced to religious children believing in heaven and not worrying about consequences in regards to others on Earth.

Dr. Decety concluded that “… 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. 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—in fact, it will do just the opposite.”

Read the full study here.