A new report has found that children from religious households are meaner than their secular counterparts. These findings were the result of an international study conducted by seven universities across six different nations. They were described in a paper titled "The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World," published in Current Biology last week. The study is meant to challenge the idea that believing in God is necessary for having a sense of morality (which 53% of adults believe to be true).
Researchers got to the conclusion by putting children ages 5-12 together in groups and making them participate in two different experiments. The first experiment involved giving them stickers but telling them there were not enough to go around for everyone. Whether or not they shared was then observed. The second experiment involved gauging childrens' reactions to a video of children "pushing and bumping" one another. In both experiments, the students from religious households were "less altruistic than children from non-religious households," while the children who had been exposed to religion the most "exhibit[ed] the greatest negative relations."
There are some minor but important clarifications to the study's conclusions. According to the report, "[t]he numbers of Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic and other children [observed] were too small to be statistically valid," so the study really found that secular children are "nicer" than just Christian and Muslim children, not religious children as a whole (Christians and Muslims make up about two thirds of all religious people in the world, however).
The countries studied were the U.S., Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, and South Africa, so the findings only hold water if you consider this grouping to be representative of the world's religious population, and if you accept that the experiments represent these children's kindness as a whole, because correlation does not mean causation.
Specifically, the study found that children from religious backgrounds were "more judgmental," "more punitive," and "less altruistic," than non-religious kids. Muslim kids considered "interpersonal harm" to be meaner than the Christian kids perceived it. They did, however, exhibit more punitive behavior than their Christian counterparts. On the other hand, the parents of the religious children were more likely than secular parents to consider their children to be "empathetic" and "sensitive."
Richard Dawkins is probably having an orgasm right now.