'Releasing' people from Catholic guilt increases generosity towards church, research shows

Dec 06, 2012

People who recall being absolved of their sins, are more likely to donate money to the church, according to research published today in the journal Religion, Brain and Behavior.

Researchers from Royal Holloway and the University of Oxford assigned participants two . In the first, they were asked to privately recall a sin that they had committed in the past, while in the second, they recalled attending for this sin or imagined doing so, if they had not confessed in reality.

Each participant was also given an opportunity to donate to a local by placing some money in an envelope. For some participants, this donation was collected before they recalled being absolved of the sin, whereas for others the donation was collected afterward.

The results showed that recalling (or imagining) absolution strongly increased church donations, with the effect more pronounced in participants who believed in divine judgment and engaged in such as reading the bible or praying.

Dr Ryan McKay from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway said: "Recent evidence has suggested that people are more likely to behave prosocially, such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating and volunteering, when they feel guilty. This raises the question of whether of absolution, in which people are absolved of their sins and released from guilt, would actually make people less prosocial.

"However, the results of our study suggest the opposite - that 'releasing' people from their sin has a positive prosocial effect. This indicates that the Catholic ritual of confession is an effective means of promoting commitment to the church"

Many other religions feature the concept of absolution in varying forms, such as Prāyaścitta in the Hindu tradition and Istighfar in Islam. The researchers are now keen to see if similar results would be seen beyond . The research is part of a wider project on 'Ritual, Community and Conflict' supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

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User comments : 3

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hemitite
2 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2012
"'Releasing' people from Catholic guilt..."
Nice 'editorial' headline there.
dan42day
2.7 / 5 (3) Dec 06, 2012
Hey, what ever works! Western religion is all about separating gullible people from their money!

kochevnik
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2012
They should start selling tickets to heaven again.