Religious people more generous, UBC psychologist finds
Published: Thursday, October 02, 2008
VANCOUVER - Religious people tend to be more helpful and generous than others because their belief in God assumes the existence of an all-knowing "supernatural police" officer who monitors their behavior, University of B.C. psychologist Ara Norenzayan said in an interview Thursday.
The prestigious journal, Science, published an article Thursday by Norenzayan and his assistant Azim Shariff that surveys 30 years of wide-ranging research into the relationship between religion and moral behaviour.
The UBC authors conclude that religious people are on average more ethical than atheists - but only on two conditions.
Religious people tend to behave more ethically on condition they believe it will enhance their reputation among their group, and only when they have been freshly reminded of their belief in God, said Norenzayan.
Emphasizing he is not out to either defend or attack religion but to look at "hard scentific evidence," Norenzayen said he is grateful that the global scientific community has become much more open to researching religious behavior in the past six years.
Norenzayan, who has gained international attention for some of his earlier psychological experiments into religion, said their latest report in Science does not necessarily contradict those who claim religion exacerbates conflict between cultures and traditions.
That's because the UBC researchers discovered religious people are often more generous and helpful (or "pro-social") only to members of their religion, not necessarily to outsiders.
The UBC study shows that, even though religion has been helpful in creating moral behavior, it has no monopoly on producing honest and empathic people.
Norenzayen says the beneficial role that an all-knowing, morally concerned God has played in history is being replaced in some cases by non-religious mechanisms - such as effective policing, courts and social surveillance.
Still, Norenzayan said, religiously-motivated virtuous behavior has played a vital role throughout history in societies that have generally been strongly religious, by encouraging cooperation among large groups of genetically unrelated people.
For instance, Noranzeyen said, recent anthropological studies have suggested there is more cooperation among religious societies than non-religious, especially when group survival is under threat.
Economic studies have shown religiosity increases trust, he said.
And psychology experiments, some conducted by Norenzayen, have shown belief in God reduces cheating and selfish behavior.
I don't know what to say on this article...it explains everything. Why I'm apathetic, sarcastic, unhelpful, argumentative and a total cunt. Should I be finding God? On a serious note the writer is completely ignoring all religious-motivated hate in history in this article....