A new study implies that atheists may be more motivated to help others for reasons of compassion than religious people. The study did not say that atheists are more likely to help than religious people, but it did seem to imply that the two groups help for different reasons.

As usual in studies like this, the word “religion” either goes undefined or is linked to superficial indicators, like whether one believes in a personal God. I think dividing people into any two categories is always suspicious, particularly when the division is based on an emotive word like “religious”. What is important about this study is the reminder that acting from a sense of duty can snuff out our feelings of compassion and leave us acting on autopilot. The study further confirms the belief that the true heart of religion must be love, not belief in God.

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