Highly Religious People Are Less Motivated by Compassion Than Are Non-Believers

“Love thy neighbor” is preached from many a pulpit. But new research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that the highly religious are less motivated by compassion when helping a stranger than are atheists, agnostics and less religious people.


In the study, the link between compassion and generosity was found to be stronger for those who identified as being non-religious or less religious.

“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,” said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a co-author of the study. “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 reputational concerns.”


“Overall, this research suggests that although less religious people tend to be less trusted in the U.S., when feeling compassionate, they may actually be more inclined to help their fellow citizens than more religious people,” Willer said.

Read more . . .

6 thoughts on “Highly Religious People Are Less Motivated by Compassion Than Are Non-Believers

  1. Get in there Madison, atta-boy!
    Tonight at 9PM. Our time (England) :-
    THIS WORLD ‘The shame of the … Catholic Church’ – BBC. 2 9pm. English (or Central European Time) tonight. 02/05/2012
    Uh-oh! ENJOY

  2. Makes sense.

    Catholic church goers give money to charities (and the church) during collections every Sunday. The priest asks them to give and they give. This is admirable and the source of a ton of charitable funds, but the generosity is not triggered by compassion. I’ve asked Catholics immediately after the collection who they just donated to and most of them can’t tell me.

    People who don’t go to church, and don’t have a sense of obligation to give, only give out of compassion.

    • Grundy,

      Churches in general and the Catholic Church in particular, are nothing more than organized tribal cults. They give to their respective tribes as would any primal tribe; however, these modern day mendicants mooch off of their secular brethren through tax-exemptions and other Christian privileges purposefully to give back to their primal tribes. They give not out of a sense of compassion to their fellow human beings, but out of a sense of community to their fellow limited and literal minded tribe members.

      In Reason,

  3. All these polls but how is it I have never been approached for any poll so how can they say these polls represent everyone. No way.

    • justiceforall2,

      It is blatantly obvious that you did not read the article because, assuming that you are rational, had you done so you would not have penned such a flagrant ignorant remark.

      The findings were not solely based on “polls.” In fact, only one-third of the findings were based on a national survey. Had you actually read the article you would have found the findings were based on the following three experiments:

      “In the first experiment, researchers analyzed data from a 2004 national survey of more than 1,300 American adults.”

      “In the second experiment, 101 American adults watched one of two brief videos, a neutral video or a heartrending one, which showed portraits of children afflicted by poverty.”

      “In the final experiment, more than 200 college students were asked to report how compassionate they felt at that moment.”

      That “I have never been approached for any poll so how can they say these polls represent everyone” is like a neon light announcing your ignorance of statistics, nothing I can add to that.

      In Reason,

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