Gallup data reveal that adherents of all the major world religions who attended religious services (attenders) in the past week have higher rates of generosity than do their coreligionists who did not attend services (non-attenders). Even for individuals who do not affiliate with any religious tradition, those who said they attended religious services in the past week exhibited more generous behaviors. These findings are based on Gallup surveys conducted from 2005-2009 in 145 countries, which asked individuals about whether they in the past month donated money to a charity, volunteered time to an organization, and helped a stranger. It has long been known that in the United States, religious attendance is associated with higher rates of volunteering and monetary donations, but the global data suggest the relationship exists in almost all countries.
The effects of religious attendance on generous behavior are much stronger than whether religion is important to an individual. Of those who reported that religion was important part of their daily life, 30% said they donated money in the last month, as compared with 29% of those for whom religion was not important. Similar findings exist for helping strangers and volunteering time. In all three cases the differences associated with religion being important to the respondent are smaller than those between religious attenders and non-attenders.
Religion is many things. One of those things is an institutional framework which allows for collective action and communal participation by individuals. Religious institutions seem particularly robust, far more robust than the beliefs which are associated with religious institutions at any given time.