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Did belief in ghosts help kick-start civilization?

In a remote highland region of south-eastern Turkey lies the remains of what is possibly the world’s old temple. Dating to 11,000 years ago, it predates even the rise of agriculture – as far as we can tell, it also predates the first complex societies. Now, not all religions are the same. Some (a minority, [Read More...]

Researchers around the world have found that subliminal reminders of religion can have some fairly profound effects (for example, encouraging honesty, obedience, revenge and staying power – and, as we saw in the previous post – even risk taking). But is this specifically about religion? Perhaps being reminded about god makes people virtuous – but [Read More...]

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A team from Stanford University Graduate School of Business has just published a nice series of studies showing that priming people with the idea of god can increase their appetite for risk. Over at the Friendly Atheist, Rachel Ford did a good write up…

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A team from Stanford University Graduate School of Business has just published a nice series of studies showing that priming people with the idea of god can increase their appetite for risk. Over at the Friendly Atheist, Rachel Ford did a good write up…

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Conventionally, religious affiliation is supposed to reduce the risk of suicide. In fact, the worldwide data show a rather patchy picture, probably because the effects of religion on suicide risk depend on the social context. One of the godfathers of the sociology of religion was a guy named Émile Durkheim. At the tail end of [Read More...]

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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...]

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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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