This Just In: Religion Doesn’t Make You More Generous

In a study conducted by Nottingham University Business School, researchers tried to answer that age-old question: Does religion make you nicer? (I know, I know, I spoiled the ending in the title.)

The study was performed as follows:

A team of behaviour experts asked a group of Malaysian people with different religious backgrounds to take part in a series of tasks involving sharing money with other participants.

In one task people were given an imaginary sum of money and given the option of sending some to another participant.

They were told that whatever they did not send they would be able to keep but also that the participant could [choose] to send some of it back — which would then be tripled.

They had to judge how “generous” to be.

Participants included Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and non-religious volunteers.

For the first round, participants didn’t know what religions the others were as they decided how much money to give away.

Turns out, across the board, there was no difference in generosity between the various religions (and non-religions).

However, when the participants were told who was what religion, there was a difference:

[W]hen told that the other person shared their religion they were markedly more trusting and generous with the money.

So, it turns out people are nicer to others if they are from the same “tribe,” so to speak.

While this doesn’t surprise me in the least, I would like to offer up this improvement to the oft-quoted Bible verse:

Love thy neighbor as thyself… so long as it has been established that thy neighbor believes in the same imaginary God as thyself.

(image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Jeremy for the link!)

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.