Love thy neighbour, but only if he’s one of us, appears to be the message.
A new study shows that religious people are no more unselfish than non-believers, unless they are dealing with others of the same faith.
Researchers at the Nottingham University Business School carried out a series of behavioural experiments which established that believers of various faiths only acted on their various teachings when they know they are dealing with people who share their beliefs.
Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and non-religious volunteers were put into pairs, and simultaneously asked to decide whether to cooperate with a partner, to win small cash pay-outs.
When played blind, and when religion and ethnicity didn’t match, cooperation averaged at around 30 per cent. Where religion and ethnicity were the same, the rate jumped to 45.4 per cent.
Dr Robert Hoffmann, associate professor of economics and co-author of the study, said: “One would imagine the charity inherent in many well-known articles of faith might have some impact on everyday behaviour. But we discovered no evidence of that.”