Born believers: how your brain creates God

  (06 February 09)
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Born believers: how your brain creates God

When human beings lose control over their lives, they become more prone to superstition, spiritual searchings and conspiracy theories.

Some of these losses of control are self-inflicted: studies show that people in risky professions - deep-sea fishermen and sky-divers, for example - perform a greater number of superstitious rituals than those with safe desk jobs. Others, though, are a response to circumstances. For example, people living in high-risk areas of the Middle East, such as Tel Aviv, are much more likely to carry a lucky charm or avoid walking under ladders. A 2007 study showed that the growth rate of evangelical churches in the US jumps 50 per cent with the downturn of each economic cycle. The global downturn is no different: church leaders (and psychics) are now reporting brisk business.

Uncertain times cause us to cast about more widely for explanations of our circumstances - and rational reasoning, alas, does not always come naturally when we are desperate for answers. It is ironic that science is revealing our modern, sophisticated, scientific world view to have a fragile hold on our minds.

(From a New Scientist editorial)

The full story in the New Scientist (4 February) is HERE.

2 comments

It is not just in times of uncertainty or losing control one turns to faith or religion. these types of explanation form scientists just confirms believers in that we others do not know what we talk about. Humans work hard on finding meaning, explanations, "reasons" for everything around and inside us but since it is far too complicated symbols aso take ite place. and our unice ability for projection and making pictures we see things that seem to be there and that we can tie our own experience and emotions to. that is how religions are created, that is from a daily need not crisis.

Posted by Liv Følling

I'm inclined to agree with Liv here - humans just tend to be religious, crisis or no crisis. Times of crisis may produce particular sorts of religious behaviour, though, such as apocalyptic thinking, elements of which are very common especially in the conservative/charismatic churches: perhaps these come to the fore in hard times. It would be interesting to know.

Posted by Greg

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