There is an incredibly large number of different religions and every parent has the right to decide which religion they raise their children with. Some even choose not to raise their child religious. The latter may have significant benefits as shown in a study that was conducted by the University of Chicago. During the study, there was a link found between a non-religious upbringing and kindness. While many people may believe that growing up with a religion and a higher power would be better as religious scripts, such as the bible, teach selflessness and respectfulness. However, the study revealed that those who are raised without a religion are, on average, kinder and show more empathy towards others.
The study, which was led by Professor Jean Decety, looked at the perceptions and behavior of a wide range of children from a total of six different countries, to give a varied and fair sample. The team looked into the children’s likeliness to share, as well as their habits regarding judging others or punishing them for bad behavior. The paper, The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World, was authored by the researchers. They stated that their findings contradict the common belief and popular assumption that children who are brought up with a religion are more altruistic and kind. This has caused the question of whether religion is actually vital for moral development, as it was once thought that it was. This new study suggests that it will in fact, do the opposite of that and an upbringing of non-religious beliefs will lead to a more empathetic attitude.
To get these results, the researchers undertook several different exercises with the children and observed their reactions. One such task is when the children were asked to choose stickers. It sees, simple, right? However, there was a twist. They were only offered the stickers after being told there was not enough to go around. The researchers then observed to the children to see which of them shared the stickers with others. Another exercise which was used is when the researchers showed the children films of kids pushing and bumping other children, to see their responses. Their findings were able to conclude that children from religious households frequently appear to be more judgmental of others’ actions versus children who are not from religious households.
While the Oxford English dictionary defines Altruism as a ‘disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others’, not everyone agrees with this definition. The behaviours of altruism being defined as selfless have bothered both scientists and scholars alike for many years. The ‘Selfish Gene, ’ a book published in 1976, gave birth to the idea that altruism may actually be somewhat selfish on a genetic level. Again though, this is an extremely controversial topic and there simply isn’t enough research to conclusively say altruism is affected whatsoever by genetics.
That said, this study did in fact discover a clear link between altruism and a lack of religion. What does that tell you? Hopefully there will be plenty more research into this area and this is just the start of reversing the widely accepted idea that religious ethics are far superiors to the secular outlook on life. While most people share similar ethical principles, I.e. Regarding violence, theft, etc, a lot of people express them in different ways depending on how they look at the world, and perhaps even how they were brought up regarding their religion.