Religion and Human Rights (30): Religion, Charity and Cooperation

I’m often very critical of the role of religion in politics and of the harm it can do to human rights, I can see its benefits. One of the benefits is that religious people are more generous and give more to charity. However, the following quote tells another story:

This paper examines the supernatural punishment theory. The theory postulates that religion increases cooperation because religious people fear the retributions that may follow if they do not follow the rules and norms provided by the religion. We report results for a public goods experiment conducted in India, Mexico, and Sweden. By asking participants whether they are religious or not, we study whether religiosity has an effect on voluntary cooperation in the public goods game. We found no significant behavioral differences between religious and nonreligious participants in the experiment. …

In a dictator game, Eckel and Grossman (2004) examined differences in the amount and pattern of giving to secular charities in response to subsidies by self-identified religious and nonreligious participants. The results indicate no significant difference in either the amount or pattern of giving. Tan (2006) used the dictator game and the ultimatum game and similar to Eckel and Grossman (2004) he found that religiosity as a whole yields no significant influence in the experiments. Second, one paper has focused on whether religiosity affects cooperation. Orbell et al. (1992) used the prisoner’s dilemma game to test the hypothesis that religious people are more cooperative. They conducted their experiment in what was considered more religious and less religious towns. They found no general relationship between religious affiliation and cooperation. …

We arrive at the following observations. There are no significant differences between religious and nonreligious participants regardless of what country we are studying. Hence, in line with previous experimental results, we found no supporting evidence for the hypothesis that religiosity enhances cooperation. (source)


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