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Are Atheists More Inclined to Help Their Fellow Man Than Religious People?

Posted by on May. 2, 2012 at 9:04 AM
  • 24 Replies

It’s a finding that most believers will likely find disheartening.Atheists, on the other hand, will certainly relish in the results. According to research published in the July 2012 issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science, atheists are more driven by compassion to help their fellow man than are highly religious individuals.

Robb Willer, a co-author of the study and a social psychologist at the University of Californiadescribed the findings in a recently-released statement.

“Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not,” Willer said. “The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or repetitional concerns.”

At the root of the study is the overall question of whether logic, emotion or other factors serve as motivating forces in the decision to help others. But beyond that, the complex nature of religious adherence — or lack thereof — comes into play.

It is these elements that served as the focal point for study, which was assembled by Willer and fellow academic Laura Saslow. Saslow says that she began thinking more about these issues after a non-believing friend told her he had donated to a Haiti relief project after viewing a moving video clip. Curious about what was driving this act of giving, Saslow set in motion with her team to better understand these elements through scientific inquiry.

LiveScience.com explains the study’s methodology and phases:

In the first study, Saslow and her colleagues analyzed data from a national survey of more than 1,300 American adults taken in 2004. They found that compassionate attitudes were linked with how many generous behaviors a person was likely to report. But this link was strongest in people who were atheists or only slightly religious, compared with people who were more strongly religious. [8 Ways Religion Impacts Your Life]

In a second experiment, 101 adults were shown either a neutral video or an emotional video about children in poverty. They were then given 10 fake dollars and told they could give as much as they liked to a stranger. Those who were less religious gave more when they saw the emotional video first. [...]

Finally, a sample of more than 200 college students reported their current level of compassion and then played economic games in which they were given money to share or withhold from a stranger. Those who were the least religious but most momentarily compassionate shared the most.

by on May. 2, 2012 at 9:04 AM
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12hellokitty
by Platinum Member on May. 2, 2012 at 10:17 AM

I would suggest the reason is Christians are called to help those who despise them.  One recent example is the Christian group who help an Atheist man who had sued the city to take down a Nativity.  Giving based on emotion isn't really that hard.  Giving based on obedience on the other hand often is.

romalove
by Roma on May. 2, 2012 at 10:19 AM


Quoting 12hellokitty:

I would suggest the reason is Christians are called to help those who despise them.  One recent example is the Christian group who help an Atheist man who had sued the city to take down a Nativity.  Giving based on emotion isn't really that hard.  Giving based on obedience on the other hand often is.

Are you called to "only" help those who despise you?  I would think being compelled to help anyone would be in addition to the emotion based giving that some feel.  

An atheist man who wants a nativity taken down from public governmental property does not "despise" Christians, at least not based on that information.  I am very against religious displays on public governmental property and I don't despise Christians.  I am married to a Catholic and his entire family are Catholics, and my best friends are Catholic.


iluv2meow
by on May. 2, 2012 at 10:20 AM

I highly doubt it (regards to the title itself)

babie113
by Silver Member on May. 2, 2012 at 10:31 AM
I agree with the study. I'm a secular Humanist and have seen this first (oh i wont help that guy he looks like a homosexual ) really who cares hes a human ....yeah ive seen this to many times .hand I think Christians (mostly the mega devout) are less likely to help because of their judgements .
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12hellokitty
by Platinum Member on May. 2, 2012 at 10:34 AM


Quoting romalove:


Quoting 12hellokitty:

I would suggest the reason is Christians are called to help those who despise them.  One recent example is the Christian group who help an Atheist man who had sued the city to take down a Nativity.  Giving based on emotion isn't really that hard.  Giving based on obedience on the other hand often is.

Are you called to "only" help those who despise you?  I would think being compelled to help anyone would be in addition to the emotion based giving that some feel.  

An atheist man who wants a nativity taken down from public governmental property does not "despise" Christians, at least not based on that information.  I am very against religious displays on public governmental property and I don't despise Christians.  I am married to a Catholic and his entire family are Catholics, and my best friends are Catholic.


 

To answer your question, no Christians are not called to only give to those who despise them.  I mentioned this part of giving because it's done not based on emotion. 

 

GertieK
by on May. 2, 2012 at 4:59 PM
4 moms liked this

I can give you information on facts.  I work for a food bank.  Our food is distributed through agencies affiliated with us.  Around 85-87% of our agencies are churches.  The rest are secular organizations.  LAst year we distributed 20 million pounds.  That is somewhere between 17 and 18 million pounds of food handled by the churches.  These are generous and loving Christians, and the food is GIVEN with no strings attached, helping anyone who needs help.  I can attest to the fact that there is not one single atheist group among the 330+ agencies.  I am so sick and tired of this crap about how atheists consider themselves smarter, and more gnenerous, and blah blah blah.  The Christians I work with don't toot their horn, they don't make it into a big deal.  They just do it because they know it is the right thing to do.  They do it because as Christians not only are we called to help those who need help, but also because our heart cares.  It makes it easy to do what we know is right.  It isn't drudgery.  It is a joy and an honor.  You can think anything you want, but I know what I see every day of the week.

shannonnigans
by Platinum Member on May. 2, 2012 at 7:32 PM
Quoting GertieK:

I can give you information on facts.  I work for a food bank.  Our food is distributed through agencies affiliated with us.  Around 85-87% of our agencies are churches.  The rest are secular organizations.  LAst year we distributed 20 million pounds.  That is somewhere between 17 and 18 million pounds of food handled by the churches.  These are generous and loving Christians, and the food is GIVEN with no strings attached, helping anyone who needs help.  I can attest to the fact that there is not one single atheist group among the 330+ agencies.  I am so sick and tired of this crap about how atheists consider themselves smarter, and more gnenerous, and blah blah blah.  The Christians I work with don't toot their horn, they don't make it into a big deal.  They just do it because they know it is the right thing to do.  They do it because as Christians not only are we called to help those who need help, but also because our heart cares.  It makes it easy to do what we know is right.  It isn't drudgery.  It is a joy and an honor.  You can think anything you want, but I know what I see every day of the week.




Well this would depend on the definition of facts. I have no reason to doubt anything you have said, but it's anecdotal. That's why we do studies and strive to eliminate bias through sampling, double- blind testing, etc. Unless we know that those who did the study are biased, you cant just dismiss it out of hand. In fact, the reason it's newsworthy at all is because the results were somewhat of an anomaly... One might traditionally expect religious people to be more compassionate; one might also be surprised to find out that there are many compassionate atheists out there, just like there are some real cruel people (priests who actively covered up abuse) whom are religious and whom we expect more from.
erika9009
by Bronze Member on May. 2, 2012 at 7:36 PM

In my humble opinion........Hell no.......  (yes, I intended to us a religious saying, LOL)

The most accepting and generous people I know are religious.  The 2 atheists I know, just seem angry or mad all the time.  They are usually mad at other people too.


____________________________________________________

Erika..

Children are a blessing and are never inconvenient.............

SWasson
by Bronze Member on May. 2, 2012 at 7:36 PM
2 moms liked this

I am not the least bit surprised. As an atheist, I am not concerned with the well-being of anyone's soul, but I am concerned with the quality of their lives.

PurpleCrayonz
by Bronze Member on May. 2, 2012 at 7:47 PM
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I think people are people.  There are generous atheists and generous Christians.  There are selfish Christians and selfish atheists.  I do disagree with the generally held belief that Christians are much more generous and caring, so I'm not surprised that the study does not find that.  I would also presume that the margin of error for the atheist groups is probably larger, as the sample size of the population would be smaller.

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