Taking a closer look at the religion-empathy relationship: Are religious people nicer people?
It has been argued that an empathically mediated kin-specific altruistic impulse is part of the human genetic heritage, and that one of the functions of religion is to extend the range of this impulse beyond the kinship circle. However, it is clear that religion does not always succeed in this. The present study reconsiders the religiosity-empathy relation in a Flemish student sample (N= 375), using the Post-Critical Belief Scale, which allows to distinguish between being religious or not (Exclusion vs. Inclusion of Transcendence) from the way in which religious contents are processed (Literal vs. Symbolic). It is argued that the religiosity-empathy relation should be understood in terms of how people process religious contents rather than in terms of whether or not people are religious. In line with this reasoning, results show that, whereas empathy is unrelated to being religious, it is positively related to processing religious contents in a symbolic way. Social desirability did not influence these relationships.
Duriez, B. (2004). Taking a closer look at the religion-empathy relationship: Are religious people nicer people? Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 7, 249-254.