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Questionable Findings

Questionable Findings

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Assemblies of God leaders are refuting the findings of a new study that contends nonreligious children are more charitable than those raised in homes with religious guidance.

Seven researchers contributed to the Nov. 16 Current Biology study. "The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children's Altruism Across the World" examined 1,170 children ages five to 12 in Canada, China, Jordan, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States. Kids studied in the U.S. came from Chicago.

Researchers said they expected to find children reared in religious families to exhibit stronger altruistic behavior, but they contend the opposite proved true. The study is based solely on a "dictator game" experiment. In the scenario, children were told they could keep some of the 30 stickers they received. But under the experiment, time ran out and some children didn't receive any stickers. Researchers concluded children from Muslim and Christian households were less generous in sharing their stickers with anonymous peers.

"Our findings robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from nonreligious households," the report declares.

The study focused on 43 percent of children identifying as Muslim and 24 percent as Christian. The report included no delineation between students coming from Protestant and Catholic, or evangelical and mainline, households.  

"Unfortunately, we did not differentiate between these different denominations," lead researcher Jean Decety of the University of Chicago told PE News on Monday.

If religious kids in the sample are less generous, Assemblies of God children are demonstrating very different behavior. Kids from AG churches from preschoolers through fifth graders  -- the range in the Current Biology study -- donated nearly $6.37 million last year to Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge. That represents a record annual amount for the program that began in 1949.

Also in contrast to the study, which claims youth are less altruistic the longer they are raised in a religious household, annual giving to Speed the Light topped $8 million in 2014, an increase of more than half a million dollars from the year before. STL is a student-initiated ministry among 12- to 18-year-olds started in 1944 that assists missionaries across the United States and in more than 180 countries around the globe.

AG National Youth Ministries Senior Director Heath Adamson attended a youth convention in Illinois over the weekend in which students donated sacrificially to STL.

"I was overwhelmed at the resiliency, determination, creativity, and most of all passion for the lost in these students," Adamson says. "They gave up paychecks for a year, Christmas presents were forfeited, small businesses were started, all for the common goal of seeing the gospel preached throughout the earth."

Adamson says he prays that the DNA in the Fellowship will continue to be a driving passion to make Jesus known across the earth.

"The beautiful detail in this story isn't just that students are raising funds and generously giving, but that their communities are taking notice that there are students all across our nation who care about the needs of others," Adamson says. "If we as Christians could be accused of anything, let it be that we are motivated by the love of Jesus and for our love of people."

U.S. AG General Superintendent George O. Wood also believes the notion that religious kids are greedier to be untrue.

"Every day Assemblies of God children and teens are giving sacrificially to provide access to clean water, protection from disease, access to education, and most importantly, access to the gospel message," Wood says. "Although less than one million in number, they give more than $14 million annually for missions. That is evidence of radical generosity."


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