Yeah. Read it and weep those of you in the religion poisons everything mob. The results are in. In America anyway.
Forty percent of worship-attending Americans volunteer regularly to help the poor and elderly, compared with 15% of Americans who never attend services. Frequent-attenders are also more likely than the never-attenders to volunteer for school and youth programs (36% vs. 15%), a neighborhood or civic group (26% vs. 13%), and for health care (21% vs. 13%). The same is true for philanthropic giving; religious Americans give more money to secular causes than do secular Americans. And the list goes on, as it is true for good deeds such as helping someone find a job, donating blood, and spending time with someone who is feeling blue.
No doubt there’ll be a long queue of atheists lining up to debunk this theory on the internet. Because they’ve got so much spare time (since they’re not out and about, you know, helping people.
And the answer to the question of why this is the case isn’t “because we’re told to be good from the pulpit” – no, it’s good old peer pressure, in the form of community.
What is it about friends-at-church that fosters good citizenship? It could be that requests to get involved carry more moral weight when they come from someone you know through your congregation rather than work or your bowling team. Or perhaps religious congregations simply foster peer pressure to do good. At this point, we do not know the precise magic civic ingredient in religious friendships.
Not knowing exactly how religious friendships foster good neighborliness thus leaves open the possibility that the same sort of effect could be found in secular organizations. But they would probably have to resemble religious congregations — close-knit communities with shared morals and values. Currently, though, such groups are few and far between. (Communes might qualify, for example.)