Are you a believer?
Well, researchers at the University of British Columbia say belief is not the issue. Their recent study showed that simply thinking about God, whether you believe or not, causes you to be more generous and altruistic.
Azim Shariff and Ara Norenzayan used words games to prime participant's minds with "god concepts."
"This is a twist on an age old question -- does a belief in God influence moral behavior?" says Shariff. "We asked, does the concept of god influence cooperative behavior? Previous attempts to answer this question have been driven by speculation and anecdote."
In the study, participants unscrambled sets of words. One group's words were designed to prime the participant's minds with thoughts of God (spirit, divine, God, sacred, and prophet). The control group's words were unrelated to concepts of God.
The results were impressive. Following the successful unscrambling of words, each group was given ten one-dollar coins. They were then given the opportunity to either keep the coins, or to give some of them away to an anonymous recipient. 65% of the "god concepts" group gave away $5 or more to the strangers; only 22% of the control group did the same.
A second study, using civic responsibility words (civic, jury, court, police and contract), yielded virtually identical results.
What does it all mean?
Well, maybe a little theological debate is good for everyone now and then - especially those in need.