Progressives are tremendously excited about a study that purports to show that kids raised religiously are less nice than atheist children:
According to a new study published in the journal Current Biology, children that come from non-religious households behave significantly more altruistically than those from religious households, as measured by greater acts of generosity towards others.
Over 1,100 children, aged 5 to 12, from the United States, China, Canada, Jordan, Turkey, and South Africa were chosen to participate in the study. Most of the children came from Christian, Muslim, or non-religious households. To test whether children raised on religion would behave more morally than non-religious children, they were asked to play what’s called a “dictator game.” In this game, children were shown 30 stickers and told that they could pick their favorite 10 to keep for themselves. The children were then each told that the experimenter didn’t have enough time to play this game with everyone, so some of the children at their school wouldn’t get any stickers. What the results showed was that children from Christian and Muslim households were both significantly less generous than children from non-religious households when it came to sharing their stickers with anonymous peers.
The findings not only show that religious kids aren’t more altruistic than non-religious kids; it suggests that not being religious may actually increase moral behavior. To most this would seem counterintuitive. The authors of the study have an explanation that involves an interesting phenomenon called moral licensing. The term refers to a sort of mental glitch—whereby doing something that enhances one’s positive self-image makes them less worried about the consequences of immoral behavior. For instance, research has shown that men who report being very opposed to sexism later go on to hire men for what would traditionally be considered a man’s job. They do this because they feel that since they are not sexist—at least, in their own minds—a decision to choose a male over a female can’t be immoral.
The study also showed that children from religious households were more willing to give harsher punishments to people who committed acts that harmed others, like pushing or bumping into another. Although this could be interpreted as showing that religious children are more concerned with justice, it may also demonstrate that non-religious children are more tolerant of others’ behavior, and more willing to forgive.
Please, please let me count the ways in which I part ways with what I perceive as a ridiculous excuse for science.