Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Prosocial Moral Worth
Keith Burgess-Jackson points to a study published in the Social Psychological & Personality Science journal titled My Brother’s Keeper? Compassion Predicts Generosity More Among Less Religious Individuals with this short comment.
According to a recent study, theists and atheists are equally charitable. Atheists tend to be motivated by compassion. Theists tend to be motivated by duty. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) would say that only the acts of theists have moral worth. Yet, the authors of the study imply, without even discussing Kant, that the acts of atheists have moral worth.
The link to the mentioned study takes readers only to an abstract (to read the study in its entirety will cost you $25 bucks, and I did not shell out $25 bucks), but I did read the abstract, thoroughly, and will post it here also.
Past research argues that religious commitments shape individuals’ prosocial sentiments, including their generosity and solidarity. But what drives the prosociality of less religious people? Three studies tested the hypothesis that, with fewer religious expectations of prosociality, less religious individuals’ levels of compassion will play a larger role in their prosocial tendencies. In Study 1, religiosity moderated the relationship between trait compassion and prosocial behavior such that compassion was more critical to the generosity of less religious people. In Study 2, a compassion induction increased generosity among less religious individuals but not among more religious individuals. In Study 3, state feelings of compassion predicted increased generosity across a variety of economic tasks for less religious individuals but not among more religious individuals. These results suggest that the prosociality of less religious individuals is driven to a greater extent by levels of compassion than is the prosociality of the more religious.
I’d just like to point out that an individual’s moral worth should most definitely not be measured by whether they have religious leanings, or not. The Bible, which a large percentage of the religious look to for guidance in their lives, is not an instruction book of morals. The revelations contained within the Bible have nothing to do with morality, but rather, with individual radical change of being.