Does religion affect behavior? Associations of religious beliefs with aggressive and prosocial behavior: The possible mediating role of empathy
Abbeelen, J. van den
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Christianity dominated societies in Western-Europe and USA for centuries, but ever since the 1950’s it is past its heyday. This process should be considered rather alarming, because research on religiosity has shown its beneficial effects on behavior. The present study examines whether two types of religious beliefs are associated with prosocial and aggressive behavior. Besides, it is investigated whether empathy mediates the relation between religious believes, prosocial and aggressive behavior. The sample of the present study consists of 128 female and 40 male participants, ranging from 18 to 26 years old. The Prosocial Tendencies Measure assesses the prosocial tendencies of individuals. To measure aggressive behavior, the participants complete the Proactive/Reactive Aggression questionnaire. Two types of religiosity are distinguished: ‘traditional religious beliefs’ and ‘spiritual beliefs’. Different scales of the Revised Paranormal Beliefs Scale measure traditional religious beliefs and spiritual beliefs. Church attendance and frequency of praying are also used as indicators of traditional beliefs. For measuring empathic tendencies, the Dutch version of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index is used. Results support the prospect that traditional religious beliefs are positively related to prosocial behavior. There is no evidence that either traditional religiosity or spiritual beliefs are associated with aggressive behavior. Empathy is only found positively related to prosocial behavior. No support is found for a mediating effect of empathy.