Do You Believe In God…?

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1) A Need for Control

Research by Aaron Kay (now at Duke University) and colleagues suggests that when someone is feeling personal uncertainty, or a lack of personal control, they are more likely to believe that God is in control. The basic idea is that people have a need for control, and when they receive this via secular routes (like cops or the government) they do not have the same need to believe that God possesses control. Evolutionary psychologists have made similar arguments, citing data showing that when economic and health security are high, people tend to be less religious.

2) A Need to Cope with Death

Reminders of death increase people’s belief in spirits and the power of prayer. Moreover, having people read that there is life after death (even atheists) reduces people’s psychological distress in response to thinking about death.

3) Suffering

Kurt Gray (University of Maryland) has conducted several studies showing that people believe in God more strongly after being exposed to unexplained suffering. For instance, if people read of suffering that can be explained (i.e., a man loses his job) this would not increase belief in God. However, if people read that am unexpected flood had caused a family to die, this would increase belief.

Ironically, suffering increases theism.

4) A Need for Justice

When people think that a God that can punish is watching them, they behave more morally. Moreover, they also feel less of a need to punish others. It follows from this research (though the study has not been done) that people should have less belief in God (at least his punishing characteristics) when they are feeling like secular sources of authority are providing ample justice. Somewhat supporting this, religious people have less distrust of atheists after watching a video of police effectiveness.

The need to punish others (who have not been punished) is associated with belief in God.

5) Experiential Thinking

There are (at least) two primary modes of thinking and decision making. One is called experiential thinking, in which a person relies primarily on their “gut” or their feelings when making a decision. The other is logical thinking, in which a person makes a decision in a more cold, calculated manner.

Research suggests that belief in God is higher among people who more often think experientially. Moreover, forcing people to think experientially in an experiment heightens their belief in God, compared to people who are forced to think logically.

In other words, people’s natural thinking style could, or could not, lend itself to belief in the supernatural.

 nathan   By Nathan Heflick PHD  University of Lincoln

Like Moses, I’ll keep taking the tablets…

Published by

mike2all

This is the story of what happened to me when anxiety took a grip. I lost my senses, I lost my job, and I lost me. I then turned to writing to find those things that had gone missing. How can you teach when you believe that education is a business that is failing in its primary remit of helping to create a better society? Indeed, how can you teach when you believe that you have nothing of value to pass on? The book/blog is the story of my recovery from the absolute darkness of the early days. It is an Odyssey through my life over the last twelve months and a retracing of my steps to discover how I found myself there. More than all of that, it is a re-evaluation and a rejoicing of all that which I call life. Happy reading and I hope it helps. There is madness, Everyday Madness, and not all of it comes from within.

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