Growing up I had the privilege of occasionally visiting a theme park in my home state (Adventureland, for those familiar with the state of Iowa). One of my favorite activities was to go into a room that was filled with carnival mirrors.
I would stand in front of these different mirrors and see myself with a distorted reflection. Some of these reflections made me look tall, others made me look short and stout, and some even changed the shape of my face and head. All of these mirrors started with reality but reflected something that was not a true representation of what stood before them.
These mirrors were fun to look at for a time, but I would not want to install one in front of my bathroom sink lest I adopt a warped perception of reality.
I recently read an article that seems to indicate a prolonged period of time looking into a carnival mirror. This article is titled, “Children Raised Without Religion Are Kinder And More Empathetic, Study Finds.” I want to highlight a few “distortions of reality” that the article seems to be pushing.
The first distortion that I noticed is the article comes from the premise that religions are equal on the basis of morality and what is defined as kindness. The article states:
“The research involved nearly 1,200 children between the ages of 5 and 12. The children were from a variety of different cultures, including children from the US, Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, and South Africa. Of those who participated in the experiment, nearly 24% were Christian, 43% Muslim, and 27.6% non-religious. Children who were Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic or other less ubiquitous religions were not statistically significant enough to have their results included… The results of the study “robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from non-religious households,” according to the researchers… The study also found that religious children are more likely to be judgmental and punitive towards other children.”
As stated above, the study from which this article is based focused on Christians, Muslims, and “non-religious.” The article did not define who these non-religious were, if they were atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, or simply people who are non-practicing of their religion; this means I cannot speak to the standard of morality or kindness for this “non-religious” group specifically, but I do believe in general we assume they differ from Christians and Muslims.
The morality and kindness greatly differ between Christians and Muslims. For example, in Surah 9:30 it says, “The Jews call ‘Uzayr a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say, Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! They” Surah 8:12 says, “Remember when your Lord inspired to the angels, ‘I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike them upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.’”
In these two passages we see that Muslims are told that Allah’s curse will be on Christians and Jews and that they are supposed to cut the heads off of those who are unbelievers.
You will not find these types of passages in the Bible. In my estimation, this points to how intellectually dishonest the study actually is.
Not all religions are created equal and certainly Islam and Christianity are not equal. If you recall the statistics, 43 percent of those who participated in the study were Muslims. Islam is not known for its kindness in its teachings. This clearly had a great impact on the study.
Also, it is noteworthy that Christians were in the minority for the study. This is problematic to gain an accurate conclusion as Christian’s are the largest religion on the earth (by nearly a ten-point margin).
The next distortion I noticed is actually in the title of the article. Let me ask a question to help you understand what I mean. How do they objectively define kindness?
To objectively define kindness, one would have to believe in an objective morality and stick to that standard. By what standard are they defining kindness? A Christian, for example, believes it is kind to tell someone about the eternal danger they are in if they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Someone who is non-religious or of a different religion might consider that rude and unkind. From the onset of the study it was set up against who are religious. A subjective standard for kindness shows people doing what is considered “politically correct” much more than it can actually reveal kindness.
The last distortion I want to point out are the percentage breakdown of the subjects studied. The article says, “Of those who participated in the experiment, nearly 24 percent were Christian, 43 percent Muslim, and 27.6 percent non-religious.”
This seems harmless enough, but this doesn’t accurately represent reality in the world. If you look at the list of religious populations from 2012, 33 percent are Christian, 24.1 percent are Muslim, and 16 percent are a conglomeration of non-religious.
This study cannot truly be trusted because its participants are completely disproportionate.
For more accurate results, the study should have attempted to get a one-third split between those represented or should have tried to match the actual breakdown of religions in the world. At best this study, due to the listed breakdown of the participants, could only make a case that Muslim children are less kind than non-religious children.
Ultimately, kindness is meeting the true need of the individual.
It is not kind to buy an alcoholic a drink no matter how much they desire one.
For this principle it is only those who are religious can truly be kind. Those who are religious can look past the immediate need and give what is needed for eternity. This is true kindness.