Regardless of affiliation, religious people were more likely to act in a generous manner toward strangers when asked to think about their God. The level of giving increased equally regardless of whether the stranger was a member of the same religious group or not.
University of Illinois
University of Illinois Chicago social psychologist Michael Pasek and colleagues conducted field and online experiments involving more than 4,700 people from diverse ethnoreligious populations in the Middle East, Fiji, and the United States to examine whether a commitment to one’s God facilitates altruistic behavior towards only members of the same religious group or also towards members of a different religion. Participants, who were Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews, were given the opportunity to share money with anonymous people from different religious groups. The study found that participants showed more generosity toward strangers when prompted to think about God, and their giving increased equally regardless of whether recipients were members of the same or different religious groups.
The findings challenge the common notion that religion promotes intergroup conflict and suggests that belief in God, which is a crucial aspect of most world religions, may sometimes promote more positive intergroup relations. However, the results do not imply that such beliefs always encourage harmony. The study highlights the potential for cooperation across religious divides when individuals are prompted to think about their God.
As a psychiatrist, this study offers valuable insights into the complex relationship between religion and prosocial behavior. It indicates that prompting individuals to think about their God can encourage generosity and cooperation across religious divides, potentially counteracting the divisive aspects of religion. By harnessing the power of belief, we may be able to foster greater understanding, tolerance, and collaboration among diverse religious groups, contributing to the well-being of individuals and societies as a whole.
Dr Oliver Henry Thompson, MD, Cure of Mind