Many people believe that religion teaches children to be just and moral. Even if adherents dispense with the unscientific dogma, there’s a lingering sense that religious tradition is necessary to hold society together. Jean Decety disagrees. The distinguished neuroscientist recently led a worldwide study which, according to his team, shows the opposite is true: kids brought up outside the faith are more “prosocial” because they are more generous and less punitive than those raised in religious households. Therefore, the authors assert, a secular society will produce kinder people. Cue group hug and drop the needle on John Lennon’s “Imagine.” But what if Decety’s entire approach is skewed by faulty definitions of “prosociality”?
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