“Jerks” may be unnecessarily pejorative, but the “study” did find that “religious kids” showed themselves to be “meaner and less generous” than their non-religious (atheist) counterparts.
Azarian explains the “scientific methodology” behind this "study":
Over 1,100 children, aged 5 to 12, from the United States, China, Canada, Jordan, Turkey, and South Africa were chosen to participate in the study. Most of the children came from Christian, Muslim, or non-religious households. To test whether children raised on religion would behave more morally than non-religious children, they were asked to play what’s called a “dictator game.” In this game, children were shown 30 stickers and told that they could pick their favorite 10 to keep for themselves. The children were then each told that the experimenter didn’t have enough time to play this game with everyone, so some of the children at their school wouldn’t get any stickers. What the results showed was that children from Christian and Muslim households were both significantly less generous than children from non-religious households when it came to sharing their stickers with anonymous peers.
Not only were the religious kids stingy with the stickers, they were mean besides:
The study also showed that children from religious households were more willing to give harsher punishments to people who committed acts that harmed others, like pushing or bumping into another. Although this could be interpreted as showing that religious children are more concerned with justice, it may also demonstrate that non-religious children are more tolerant of others’ behavior, and more willing to forgive. 1
There you have it: in the finest tradition of the social sciences, some absurdly contrived “test” was given to 1100 children from six countries (a group carefully controlled, I do not doubt for one second, for all possibly relevant variables other than religion) and conclusions—totally valid ones, of course—were drawn.
Have I mentioned that I am just a wee bit skeptical of what passes for “social science”? Atheist that I am, my reaction to this particularly nonsensical "study" is Give me a freaking break.
Bobby Azarian does his level best to conclude on a note of pious comity:
Hopefully such findings will help dispel the widely accepted myth that atheists don’t have strong values, or that an atheist president would lack the compassion and ethical code that world leaders require. The truth of the matter is that as science awareness continues to expand, we will see a progressively secular society. As such, it is important that both religious and non-religious people learn to understand each other better and be more tolerant of one another, so that they may work together to achieve common goals. 2
Unfortunately, he can’t resist the temptation to get in one last shot at believers:
But perhaps the best lesson of the study is that it should be your actions that define your morality, and not simply your beliefs.
Wow—actions speak louder than words! We definitely needed a scientific study to figure that one out. Thanks, Current Biology and The Daily Beast, for relaying such fascinating findings; and thanks, Bobby Azarian, for being so simultaneously gullible and condescending—you get to be today’s Shallowest Pundit in the World. You jerk.
1 "Although this could be interpreted as showing that religious children are more concerned with justice..." Ah, but if that were the case, we wouldn't be able to call religious kids "jerks," would we? It's funny how supposedly "objective" and "scientific" results depend so much on somebody's subjective interpretation...
I'm surprised that the researchers who designed the project did not hand out marshmallows to the children, explaining that they (the marshmallows) were the consecrated body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then let the kids have at it. How long can religious children resist the Sacred Marshmallows? Will they attempt to stop the atheist kids from profaning the Holy Confections? Will they make s'mores out of Jesus?
2 Whoever titled Mr. Azarian’s article “Study: Religious kids are jerks” might want to work on understanding, tolerance, and respect.