Science

New Research Says Religious Children Are Meaner And Less Tolerant Than Secular Kids

I grew up in a podunk town in a podunk state with the only agnostic parents within 100 miles. You can likely understand my lack of surprise to find out that a recent study found religious children were less tolerant, meaner, more punitive, and less forgiving that children who grew up in non-religious households.

Researchers looked at 1200 Christian, Muslim, and secular children from diverse backgrounds. They conducted social experiments with the kids to see how they would react during different scenarios that deal with concepts like sharing and reaction to bullying.


The first experiment was the dictator game, where children were shown a set of 30 stickers and told to pick their ten favorites. The kids were told that the stickers were theirs to keep. But the kids were also told that the researchers didn't have time to play with all the children in the school, so not everyone would receive stickers.

The second experiment was the moral sensitivity task, where a series of short, dynamic visual scenarios depicted physical harm, like pushing and bumping.

The third experiment was maternal education, which is a metric for socioeconomic status. The mothers of the children specified their level of education.

Last was the child dispositional measures, which was a questionnaire of cognitive and affective empathy. This test assessed the level of empathy and justice sensitivity the children possessed.

The report concludes that "robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from non-religious households."

The three key takeaways from the research is that family religious identification decreases the altruistic behavior of children, religiousness predicts parent-reported chuld sensitivity to injustices and empathy, and children from religious households were harsher in their punitive tendencies.

They also found that as children aged, these negative behaviors and attitudes increased. Old children were the meanest and most judgmental. It's worth taking a moment that more than half of the world identifies with Islam and Christianity.

Researchers conclude that religion does not help people become more virtuous and moral. Instead, the opposite is true. Yet according to a 2014 global survey conducted by Pew, most people believe that religion is essential to morality. 10 bucks says all the people who expressed that belief were religious.

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