UK study claims religion does not make people kinder

Christianity

Religious people are no more unselfish than non-believers, a new study claims.

The level of unselfishness among people is often governed by whether they are dealing with others from their own faith, researchers at Nottingham University Business School in the UK have found.

They carried out a series of behavioural experiments which established that believers of various faiths only acted on their various teachings when they know they are dealing with people who share their beliefs.

Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and non-religious volunteers were put into pairs and simultaneously asked to decide whether to cooperate with a partner, to win small cash sums.

The team noticed that there was little difference between levels of cooperation and generosity when people knew nothing of the other person's beliefs and when they knew that they were of different persuasions.

But when told that the other person shared their religion they were markedly more trusting and generous with the money.

"One would imagine the charity inherent in many well-known articles of faith might have some impact on everyday behaviour. But we discovered no evidence of that when we examined what happens when people who are religious knowingly interact with those of a different or no faith," said Dr Robert Hoffmann, an associate professor of economics at the university and co-author of the report.

"When we looked at how religious people knowingly interact with those of the same faith, on the other hand, suddenly their religion started to explain their actions. This leads us to the sobering conclusion that religion doesn't affect people's behaviour in general terms. Rather, it affects how they relate to different individuals," he added.

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