A scholar is challenging studies that are saying that religious kids are less altruistic than children who are non-religious.

Terrorism by radical Islamists and the underlying warped Christian fundamentalist beliefs that seemed to motivate the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter; these are the types of events in the news headlines that are feeding the negative idea that religion is a bad thing and it is becoming a “force for ill in the world.”

Jean Decety, a psychologist from the University of Chicago conducted a study that postulated children from religious families are less altruistic than those from families who are more secular. He even took it so far as to vie that his study results revealed the way religion is negatively influencing children’s altruism, challenging the idea that religiosity actually facilitates more prosocial behaviors and calling into question whether or not religion is essential when it comes to their moral development. They suggest that “secularization of moral discourse” does not reduce kindness, and that it actually does the opposite.

Decety is basically basing religion’s role in society as a whole on a study conducted on children ages 5 thru 12 all across the globe. He used a non-representative, non-random sample to “find” that children who were from religious homes were “less likely to share stickers “with another unseen child than the children from the secular homes.” As a response to the study’s “findings,” the Guardian wrote a report: “Religious Kids Are Meaner than Their Secular Counterparts” and the Daily Beast headlined: “Religious Kids are Jerks.”

The scholar asserts that the impulses fueling this type of thinking are understandable to a certain degree. Secular observers frequently view religion as a hindrance to social progression, especially when it comes to issues like gay rights and abortion. But religion is not as negative of a force in our society as skeptics and detractors are trying to suggest.

There has been a long list of researches, studies and other indications over many years proving that religion is clearly a force for positivity, especially in the unity of families and children’s welfare. Average U.S. citizens who attend religious services regularly are less likely to abuse or cheat on their spouses and are more likely to have better marriages and less likely to divorce.

Even data from a general social survey from National Opinion Research Center indicated that U.S. citizens attending religious services often report happier marriages than those who don’t or rarely attend them. Faith looks to be a set positive when it comes to American marriages.

When it comes to children, research also shows that religious parents “spend more time” with their kids.

Deseret News/Brigham Young University American Family Survey shows that parents attending religious services on a weekly basis are more likely to set down to dinner with their kids, do chores with them and attend more outings with them. These have been proven true over and over again, regardless of age, gender, education, financial status, or race. They are also more likely to hug and praise school-aged kids, and religious teens have been found to be more likely to identify with the Golden Rule. Both teachers and parents alike rate religious children on having better social skills, approaches to learning, and self-control than non-religious children.

In a nutshell, contrary to Decety’s claims, faith is definitely a “net positive” for prosocial behaviors, especially amongst children in America.


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