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Religious People Love Their Neighbors, Study Finds

Update Date: Jan 25, 2014 07:38 PM EST

A new study has supported the fact that religiousness is related to love of neighbors. 

The research conducted at Baylor University found a positive association between being religious and having loving attitudes toward other racial and ethnic groups. The findings came as they were factoring out the level of right-wing authoritarianism (RWA).

However, the same attitude was missing toward those who violated their values. 

"Until now, we've never really tested whether religiosity is related to love of neighbors" as evidenced by positive or tolerant attitudes toward those of different races, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, said researcher Wade Rowatt, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences in a press release.

The study analyzed data collected from 389 religiously divers adult Americans. They were given 200-questions to answer online. Participants consisted Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and agnostics.

The approach, however, was not accounted for the role of rigid ideologies like right-wing authoritarianism. Instead, they were identified by how strongly they agreed to such statements as "There are many racial, immoral people in our country today, trying to ruin it for their godless purposes, whom the authorities should put out of action;" and how strongly they disagreed with such statements as "Everyone should have their own lifestyle, religious beliefs and sexual preferences, even if it makes them different from everyone else."

"Statistically speaking, right-wing authoritarianism appears to suppress the positive relationship between religiosity and love of neighbor," Rowatt said. "The bottom line is that religiousness is linked with love of neighbor, as measured with surveys. The next step is to observe actual rates of volunteerism and helping to see if what people say and do match."

The study was published in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

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