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Is belief in moral progress a substitute for religion?

There’s a well studied phenomenon called Terror Management Theory which basically says that, when people are reminded of their own death, their beliefs change in certain predictable ways.  People cling more strongly to beliefs that make the future seem more controllable and comfortable – and that includes turning to religion (see: Religion, Patriotism and Death). [Read More...]

A survey of supernatural beliefs across cultures around the world has found that beliefs involving hazards and harms were about 50% more common than beliefs about benefits, opportunities and other good things. Daniel Fessler, at the University of Calif…

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The period between the 5th and the 3rd century BCE was a fertile time for the world’s religions. In India, Buddhism and Jainism began to take hold. In China, Confucianism and Daoism likewise attracted mass appeal. And Europe saw the golden age of Greek philosophy. What these movements have in common is that they all [Read More...]

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There’s a popular model of personality that splits it into five components: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. And it’s well known that, while atheists tend to score high on openness, they tend to get low scores on conscientiousness and agreeableness. Back in 2010, Vincent Saroglou and colleagues assembled data from all the [Read More...]

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Another year over, and one which saw this blog move to a new home here on Patheos. Welcome to any new readers out there, and let’s get stuck in to the annual round up of the stories from 2014! There was some great research published this year on why people turn to religion (or turn [Read More...]

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Recently, Dr. John Wentworth, professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argued that regardless of future advances, science will likely never discover whether the supernatural exists. He said,”almost always, our research raises more questions than it answers, therefore the question of God’s existence just isn’t scientifically testable.” If you are religious, how does [Read More...]

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Studying links between religious belief and crime is notoriously difficult. On a crude level, people in prisons in the USA are more likely to be religious than the general population. Of course, there are any number of confounding factors that could be…

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Humans are finely honed for spotting intentional agents in our environment. Meaning that if you hear a rustling, or see a branch move, you’re instantly on the alert in case it is another person (this effect is has a name: ‘hyperactive agency detection’). You can see why evolution would have favoured that. Better safe than [Read More...]

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There’s a strand of thought that says that belief in the supernatural is founded upon a misunderstanding of how the world works (see: You either believe in it all, or you don’t). On the other hand, there’s another perspective that says the cognitive problem is with the atheists. Belief in gods, according to this school [Read More...]

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Almost all cultures have some kind of supernatural beliefs. But it may surprise you to know that belief in moralising supernatural beings, who care about whether mortals do good or bad, are far from universal. That’s fascinating, and it begs the question: “why?”. Why do some cultures bother to believe spirits who watch over us [Read More...]

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