Researchers have debunked age old myths. They have provided conclusive proof that a religious upbringing causes selfishness in kids.
It might seem to be common sense that kids who are brought up on religious guidelines end up being more self-sacrificing and selfless in their behavior. But actually the reverse is true.
Those children in secular households are usually more giving and tend to share their possessions. This flies in the face of our so-called conventional wisdom. It has been thought that morality is an adjunct of religion and spirituality.
When it came to generosity and magnamity, the less holier kids tended to naturally be more willing to help others and show some courtesy and good behavior. Over 1000 children were studied by a neuroscientist from the University of Chicago. The findings of his study were published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on November 5.
His original objective was not the study of the kids’ moral behavior. He just wanted to measure the empathic drive in different cultures and milieus. The children were made to play a “game of dictatorship”. Thus was supposed to measure the level of altruism in them.
Each kid was given 30 stickers and told to share them as he or she pleased with other kids. The choice lay entirely with the kids and the ultimate goal was a generosity score.
The children were in their prepubescent stages and they came from the USA, Canada, China, Turkey, South Africa and Jordan. The majority were either from Christian or Muslim households. Those from Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and agnostic backgrounds were not included.
The children that hailed from secular households were more likely to share the stickers. And the Muslim kids were less generous than their Christian counterparts. However, this second fact was not so statistically important.
What was of key significance was that all three groups, that is Christian, Muslim and secular, tended to become less and less generous as they reached adulthood. And the religious groups were the least generous.
Also the reactions of various kids on issues having to do with meanness were measured. A video clip of someone doing mild harm to others was made and shown to the kids. They were asked to rate it on a scale.
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The Muslim kids judged the actions as very mean and wanted the punishments to be severe. The same went for the Christians. The secular children were not so judgmental and neither were they so in favor of harsh and draconian punishments. It just goes to show that religious fundamentalism teaches its followers to blindly judge others without any consideration of their circumstances.