In my limited experience, I have noticed among some of the theists I am around that they seem to have an altered sense of empathy in certain cases. When discussing Proposition 8 and the resulting case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, I overheard one of my religious acquaintances say that she just "can't understand why people would have a problem with Proposition 8" presumably because it passed by majority vote by the people. Hearing this shocked me, because here was a sweet girl who does oodles of volunteer work, saying that homosexuals shouldn't have a problem with Prop8 because it was voted on by their peers! I have no issue seeing how homosexuals would l take issue with their rights being put to a vote, but I do have an issue seeing how a normally sweet person can make an exception in their empathy for homosexuals.
This was the only personal experience I have had with this type of “empathy for all but homosexuals” mentality in person, but I have seen plenty of this kind of mentality in message boards. Does a belief system, which many theists regard as central to their whole worldview and life, which stresses infinite pain and torture for small trespasses lead to such mentality? Have any you who were former theists, looking back, seen this kind of exemption in your empathy during that time?
Are there any studies observing empathy in theists versus atheists? And has anyone noticed similar gaps in empathy among their friends and family, or strangers on the street?