Empathy, religious faith and health

 

Sir, – Dr Jacky Jones cites no sources for the claim that “empathy and religion are incompatible and the Catholic Church is partly responsible for the lack of empathy in Irish people” and presents it as a foregone conclusion (“The Irish are great sympathisers, but poor empathisers”, Opinion & Analysis, June 29th).

However, it is anything but. Numerous studies point to a positive association between religious beliefs and empathy, such as Lowicki and Zajenkowski’s study which was published this year in the peer-reviewed journal Personality and Individual Differences, and which indicated a positive association between religious belief and empathy.

Dr Jones is entitled to her opinion that empathy and religion are incompatible. To present it as an incontrovertible fact, however, is not wholly supported by existing research. – Yours, etc,

MARTIN TIMONEY,

Kailua,

Hawaii.

Sir, – “Empathy and religion are incompatible and the Catholic Church is partly responsible for the lack of empathy in Irish people”, writes Jacky Jones. That is quite a claim.

I would have thought that empathy is close to the heart of all religious belief and practice. That individuals or groups at times fail to practise empathy does not justify such an extraordinary claim. That so many Irish people do practise empathy in daily life, many from a religious motivation, is palpably evident.

Let me strive to be empathetic and say no more. – Yours, etc,

Rev M BENNETT NAVAN,

Navan,

Co Meath.