Are Evangelicals More Altruistic than Other Groups?

We have hard data about just how much altruism is practiced by Americans from all religious affiliations.

One of the hymns that always sticks me with was written by Catholic priest Peter Scholtes, entitled “They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love.” This song was almost always accompanied by the pastor exhorting us to not just speak the love of Christ, but also show the love of Christ in how we serve those around us.

I’m no theologian, but I do know that Protestant Christians believe that salvation comes by the grace of God alone, but that if the love of Christ dwells within believers, then they must bear “good fruit.”

James succinctly states it: “Faith without works is dead.”

So, we should expect evangelical Christians to show their faith to those around them as a means of evangelism. Social science has a term for this concept as well, it’s called altruism. The term has a variety of meanings, but the one that is the most relevant to this discussion comes from psychologists who believe it is “acting out of concern for another’s well-being.”

It’s engaging in activity that will benefit others more than it benefits oneself. I think everyone agree that the world will be a lot better place if we all acted altruistically just a little bit more.

Fortunately, now we have some hard data about just how much altruism is practiced by Americans. The General Social Survey asked respondents about acting in selfless ways in a number of scenarios both in 2012 and 2014. Here are the eleven situations that were asked about on the GSS: gave blood, gave food or money to a homeless person, returned money after getting too much change, allowed a stranger to go ahead of you in line, volunteered for a nonprofit, gave money to a charity, offered a seat to a stranger, looked after …

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