Latest in 'Settled Science'? Religion Makes Kids Less Kind

A recent study conducted by the University of Chicago claims that children who are raised without religion are more altruistic than children raised with it.

The study was conducted on children from six different countries (Jordan, Turkey, Canada, China, South Africa, and the USA). 1170 children ranging in ages from 5-12 years old were examined for the “religiousness of their household, and parent-reported child empathy and sensitivity to justice.” The majority of kids in the study came from households that identified as Muslim (43%), not religious (28%), or Christian (24%).

The study found that parents in religious households reported their children expressed more empathy and sensitivity for justice in everyday life than those in non-religious homes. Also, according to the researchers, religiousness was inversely predictive of children’s altruism and positively correlated with their punitive tendencies. They claim these results reveal a similarity across countries of how religion negatively influences children’s altruism, challenging the view that religiosity facilitates pro-social behavior.

To put that in plain English, the study found that parents of non-religious kids self-reported that their kids shared more stickers and were less likely to think other kids deserved punishment when they engaging in harmful actions, like pushing others.

Professor Jean Decety, who led the study says, “Our findings contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others. In our study, kids from atheist and non-religious families were, in fact, more generous.”

The study also claims that parents in religious households punish their children more severely than those in non-religious homes because parents “favored stronger punishments for anti-social behavior and judged such behavior more harshly than non-religious children. These results support previous studies of adults, which have found religiousness is linked with punitive attitudes toward interpersonal offenses.”

Dan Arel, the author of “Parenting Without God” claims in an article that “Children raised without dictatorship type rules and threats of eternal punishment just seem to turn out nicer.”

Arel also feels that the study proves there is “evidence to the case for a stronger secularization of the U.S. and the world,” but that doesn’t mean religious children can’t “be good people, or grow up to be good people.”

Now might be a good time to read Dr. Theodore Dalrymple’s recent piece at PJ Media about the rise in peer review fraud at scientific journals.

What do you think? Does religion play a role in your child’s morality? Let us know your thoughts and leave a comment.