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Study: Religious Children Meaner, More Punitive

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A Guardian article, Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds, reports, "Religious belief appears to have negative influence on children's altruism and judgments" and punishments for others' actions.

The study, The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children's Altruism Across the World, was published in the scientific journal, Current Biology.

The study, which aimed to test the relationship between religion and morality, of close to 1200 Christian, Muslim and non-religious children, showed that children from religious families are less kind and more punitive than those from non-religious households.

The Guardian article reported,

"Overall, our findings ... contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others," said the authors of study.

"More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that secularisation of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness -- in fact, it will do just the opposite."

It's even worse. The study reports:

"Here, we show that religiosity, as indexed by three different measures, is not associated with increased altruism in young children. Our findings 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. Moreover, the negative relation between religiousness and spirituality and altruism changes across age, with those children with longer experience of religion in the household exhibiting the greatest negative relations."

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and, further,
"A second major finding from these data is that religiosity affects children's punitive tendencies when evaluating interpersonal harm. Interestingly, this result is in sharp contrast with reports that patterns ofmoral judgments made by subjects with a religious background do not differ from those who are atheists. .... Research indicates that religiousness is directly related to increased intolerance for and punitive attitudes toward interpersonal offenses, including the probability of supporting harsh penalties [22]. For instance, within Christianity, fundamentalists tend to be more punitive and advocate for harsher corrections than non-fundamentalists....
The Guardian article adds this interesting perspective,
"The report was "a welcome antidote to the presumption that religion is a prerequisite of morality", said Keith Porteus Wood of the UK National Secular Society.
"It would be interesting to see further research in this area, but we hope this goes some way to undoing the idea that religious ethics are innately superior to the secular outlook. We suspect that people of all faiths and none share similar ethical principles in their day to day lives, albeit may express them differently depending on their worldview."
Years ago, Abraham Maslow looked at religion from the perspective of peak experiences. He characterized them as ""rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter" and hypothesized that the founders of the world's great religions had peak experiences, but he expressed concern about what happens as religion develops into something with buildings, raiments, and rules,etc., saying,
"The paraphernalia of organized religion - buildings and specialized personnel, rituals, dogmas, ceremonials, and the like - are to the "peaker" secondary, peripheral, and of doubtful value in relation to the intrinsic and essential religious or transcendent experience."
And Maslow warned,
"For most people a conventional religion, while strongly religionizing one part of life, thereby also strongly "dereligionizes" the rest of life."
I believe Maslow was referring to giving up the peak experience aspect of religion.
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Maslow refers to "non-peakers" with the following thoughts:
". . I finally began to use the word "non-peaker" to describe, not the person who is unable to have peak-experiences, but rather the person who is afraid of them, who suppresses them, who denies them, who turns away from them, or who "forgets" them.

Maslow said "Spiritual, ethical, and moral values need have nothing to do with any church . . . they are the common core of all churches, all religions, including the non-theistic ones." and "The great lesson from the true mystics {is that} the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's backyard."

Who knows. Currently, 84% of the world's population embraces a religion. Perhaps the future of humanity will not be so religious. Perhaps other ways of sharing values will emerge, ways that do not produce mean spirited, excessively punitive children.

 

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.

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Rob Kall's Bottom Up Radio Show: Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

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