Nav: Home

Religious believers think God values lives of out-group members more than they do

April 06, 2020

Washington, DC - Belief in all powerful supernatural entities that police moral behavior between people has been shown to promote prosocial behavior between co-religionists. But do these effects extend to members of different religious groups? In a new paper, which will appear in print in an upcoming special issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science, Michael Pasek, Jeremy Ginges, and colleagues find that, across religious groups in Fiji and Israel, religious believers see God as encouraging people to treat others in a more universal, or equal, manner.

The studies reported in this paper are part of a broader project, led by Ginges and funded by the Templeton Religious Trust and the U.S. National Science Foundation, that investigates the effect of religious belief on relations between different ethno-religious communities.

Whether exemplified through the crusades, the Holocaust, or modern persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China, religion is often implicated as a source of intergroup conflict. This leads many to believe that religious diversity makes societies less cohesive.

"Contrary to popular opinion, our findings suggest that, at least in some contexts, religious belief can attenuate, as opposed to promote, religious tension," says Pasek.

The team, led by researchers at The New School for Social Research and Artis International, conducted three preregistered studies, comprising two field studies with Christians, Hindus, and Muslims in Fiji (727 people total), and one online study with Jewish Israelis (539 people).

In every study, people were asked if a passerby should sacrifice his life to save five individuals trapped in a burning house. In one scenario, the trapped people were of the same religion as the passerby. In another scenario, the trapped people were from a different religion than the person passing by. For each scenario, study participants also indicated which action they thought God would prefer.

Across studies and religious groups, the researchers found that when participants did not uniformly think that out-group members should be saved, they thought that God would be more likely than them to want an in-group member to sacrifice his life to save out-group members. Moreover, when people showed a preference for saving in-group members more than out-group members, they thought that God would be less likely to endorse such in-group favoritism.

Findings replicate and extend a study by Ginges and colleagues from 2016, shedding new light on how people view God's moral preferences.

"In our previous research, we found similar beliefs among Muslim Palestinian youth, who thought that Allah would be more likely than them to want an in-group member to save Jewish Israelis. Our current work shows this belief is also held among Christian, Hindu, and Jewish populations," says Ginges.

According to Pasek, "this suggests that the potential for religious beliefs to promote intergroup cooperation is not just limited to members of proselytizing religions, like Christianity and Islam."

This work also helps to confront an ongoing challenge in psychological research--the overreliance on samples from WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, and democratic cultures).

As Pasek explains, "A key contribution of our research is that it extends knowledge to understudied populations, like indigenous Christian iTaukei in Fiji, helping psychologists build theories that generalize beyond WEIRD contexts."

Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Related Religion Articles:

How religion can heighten or help with financial stress
Researchers found that some people experience financial stress due, in part, to their religion's demands on their time and money.
Religion associated with HPV vaccination rate for college women
A survey of female college students finds 25% had not been vaccinated for HPV and religion may be a contributing factor.
Rise of religion pre-dates Incas at Lake Titicaca
An ancient group of people made ritual offerings to supernatural deities near the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, about 500 years earlier than the Incas, according to an international team of researchers.
Sociologists study the impact religion has on child development
Do children raised by religious parents have better social and psychological development than those raised in non-religious homes?
Research: Religion affects consumer choices on specialty foods
People with strong religious beliefs are more likely to buy fat-free, sugar-free or gluten-free foods than natural or organic foods, according to new research that could influence the marketing of those specialty food products.
Drug use, religion explain 'reverse gender gap' on marijuana
Women tend to be more conservative than men on political questions related to marijuana.
UTSA researcher studies the impact religion has on sleep quality
Christopher Ellison, in The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Department of Sociology, Terrence D.
Some black and Latino Christians rely on religion for healing
Christians who are comparatively well-represented in the medical field, like Korean-Americans, understand the relationship between faith and health differently than those who are not, like African-Americans and Latinos.
Portland State study points to connection between religion and risk
Research co-authored by Portland State University finance professor Jing Zhao found that the religious beliefs of the population in counties where hedge funds are headquartered influence the riskiness of hedge fund managers' portfolios.
Internet use may prompt religious 'tinkering' instead of belief in only one religion
Internet use may decrease the likelihood of a person affiliating with a religious tradition or believing that only one religion is true, according to a Baylor University study.
More Religion News and Religion Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.