Although charity is a tenet of any of the world's major religions, atheists and agnostics were more likely driven to be generous out of compassion than the faithful, according to a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science in 2012.
Researchers made this determination through a combination of analysis of national survey data, as well as two experiments wherein participants' generosity toward strangers or the less fortunate was tested.
As University of California - Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer summarized the study's results: "Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not. ... The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns."