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Regular church attenders perform more acts of kindness, study says

CHICAGO (BP)–People who attend religious services weekly perform more acts of kindness each year than those who do not attend services, according to an inaugural national survey of altruism and empathy.

The study, by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found that while people who never attend religious services perform on average 96 acts of helping others each year, people who attend services weekly and take part in other religious activities report performing 128 acts of kindness.

Those acts may include donating blood, giving food or money to a homeless person, returning money to a cashier after getting too much change, allowing a stranger to go ahead in line, offering one’s seat on a bus or in a public place to a stranger who is standing, giving directions to a stranger, or spending time talking with someone who is a bit down or depressed.

The connection between religious observance and charitable behavior was consistent across religious groups such as Protestants, Catholics and Jews in the study, according to a July 25 release from the University of Chicago.

“The connection between good deeds and religion probably indicates that people are reflecting the religious teachings of charity that are central beliefs of most major religions,” Tom W. Smith, author of the study and director of the general social survey at NORC, said in the release. “For most religions, an important part of the belief system is an admonition to love other people and to do good deeds. The people who attend weekly services hear that quite a lot.

“Also, people in a religious congregation are nested in a community that provides them with opportunities to do good deeds and reach out to others,” he said.

The study, called “Altruism in Contemporary America: A Report from the National Altruism Study,” also found that women are more empathetic than men when it comes to feeling protective toward people, being disturbed by the misfortune of others, feeling pity for others and being softhearted in general.

The altruism research was conducted in 2002 and asked questions of 1,366 people age 18 and older nationwide.
(BP) charts available in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Chart titles: CHURCH ATTENDANCE and GENDER AND EMPATHY.

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