Religion, Altruism, and Prosocial Behavior: Conceptual and Empirical Approaches

Elizabeth Midlarsky, Anthony S. J. Mullin and Samuel H. Barkin

in The Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199729920
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Religion, Altruism, and Prosocial Behavior: Conceptual and Empirical Approaches

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This chapter examines two important aspects of human functioning: altruism and religion. Beginning with older, more philosophical and rhetorically based discourse on the link between the two phenomena, definitions of altruism and religion are discussed and reviews of the empirical research conducted separately on each are presented. We then address the question: What empirical evidence exists about the manifestations of these phenomena and the extent to which they are related to one another? The complex, multifaceted nature of both altruism and religion are acknowledged, and we argue that cross-disciplinary approaches are needed for progress to be made. At the same time, we note that both altruism and religion are powerful enough to have both salutary and toxic effects that make it critical that they be the focus of research efforts. Suggestions for future research are then offered.

Keywords: altruism; religion; religiosity; prosocial behavior; sociobiology

Article.  8288 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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