May 12th, 2011
12:46 PM ET
Religious belief is human nature, huge new study claims
By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
London (CNN) - Religion comes naturally, even instinctively, to human beings, a massive new study of cultures all around the world suggests.
"We tend to see purpose in the world," Oxford University professor Roger Trigg said Thursday. "We see agency. We think that something is there even if you can't see it. ... All this tends to build up to a religious way of thinking."
Trigg is co-director of the three-year Oxford-based project, which incorporated more than 40 different studies by dozens of researchers looking at countries from China to Poland and the United States to Micronesia.
Studies around the world came up with similar findings, including widespread belief in some kind of afterlife and an instinctive tendency to suggest that natural phenomena happen for a purpose.
"Children in particular found it very easy to think in religious ways," such as believing in God's omniscience, said Trigg. But adults also jumped first for explanations that implied an unseen agent at work in the world, the study found.
The study doesn't say anything about whether God, gods or an afterlife exist, said Justin Barrett, the project's other co-director.
"This project does not set out to prove God or gods exist. Just because we find it easier to think in a particular way does not mean that it is true in fact," he said.
Both atheists and religious people could use the study to argue their sides, Trigg told CNN.
Famed secularist Richard "Dawkins would accept our findings and say we've got to grow out of it," Trigg argued.
But people of faith could argue that the universality of religious sentiment serves God's purpose, the philosophy professor said.
"Religious people would say, 'If there is a God, then ... he would have given us inclinations to look for him,'" Trigg said.
The blockbuster study may not take a stance on the existence of God, but it has profound implications for religious freedom, Trigg contends.
"If you've got something so deep-rooted in human nature, thwarting it is in some sense not enabling humans to fulfill their basic interests," Trigg said.
"There is quite a drive to think that religion is private," he said, arguing that such a belief is wrong. "It isn't just a quirky interest of a few, it's basic human nature."
"This shows that it's much more universal, prevalent, and deep-rooted. It's got to be reckoned with. You can't just pretend it isn't there," he said.
And the Oxford study, known as the Cognition, Religion and Theology Project, strongly implies that religion will not wither away, he said.
"The secularization thesis of the 1960s - I think that was hopeless," Trigg concluded.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
It is high time for the Human Race to declare religion in all its forms to be baseless, medieval, mythological bullsh-t, elevate ethical behavior to a science which can be studied and applied, turn churches and mosques into universities or museums, realize we're all going to die and there will be no harps or virgins, and get the f–k on with the serious business of preserving the human race and the planet.
Bravo. But first let's end the tax breaks religions get.
And the kickbacks given to "born-again" believers who are a loyal followers of God, to pave their way to "heaven".
The only experience we share that is the same is death. Everyone has their day to die.
Yes, and it is also human nature to believe in the boogey man.
They mentioned Richard Dawkins in the article. They could have mentioned Bertrand Russel, Nietzsche, H.L. Mencken, etc. We're not all instinctively religious. How explain the atheist? Are we not human?
The confusion, and I hope the article states, is that we find agency in our environment because of our evolutionary path. A false positive error (seeing something when it's not really there) kept us sharp and safe from predators while those that did not respond were eaten and not bred. We see agency as a survival instinct.
If you Google "CNN" the result will show recent postings on CNN. The text linking to this article reads:
"Stupidity is human nature, huge new study claims. – 1 hour ago"
I can't believe this is a simple accident. This has to be coded somewhere. Can other please confirm this finding and what on earth could the explanation be? Does Google think religion is stupid??? lol...
lol. its instinctive to mate with as many as possible. doesnt make it the logical thing to do. gods not real. get over it people. :]
Religion is a fixture; don't even think of getting rid of it. Get over it! -Richard Dawkins
An afterlife is another human desire that is meant to comfort the living, as much as religion is already designed to do so.
I know he is in a better place. That always works well.
"An afterlife is another human desire that is meant to comfort the living, as much as religion is already designed to do so."
Or is life just meant to comfort the dead?
the dead need no comfort, only the living need it... and I just may need it someday, but I choose truth instead of comfort. some people think that there is something magical about being human as opposed to being an animal. Because we are civilized, we deserve an afterlife..... bs!!!!
Wait a second...who is delusional here? You guys who think there is no God b/c if YOU can't see it or YOU can't explain it then it must not be? Having faith in a higher power shows humility and intelligence. You liberals over complicate things to the point that they come full circle and suddenly there is no room left for common sense. How is a baby made?....oh you geniuses can answer that but to explain how a human being is created from nothing inside another human being's body?....no one can explain that. God bless those of you who realize that there is no way there couldn't be a higher power and God bless those of you who are so "smart" you are stupid.
Oh...Let's see....After the egg has been fertilised by the sperm, it starts to divide into more cells. This happens all the time it is carried along the Fallopian tube to the uterus. By the time it reaches the uterus the fertilised egg has become a cluster of cells which float in the uterine cavity until it embeds in the wall of the uterus. This implantation in the wall of the uterus is when conception is complete. This is roughly four weeks after day one of the last menstrual period if you have a 28-day cycle.
At five weeks the embryo is the size of a grain of rice (about 2mm long) and would be visible to the naked eye. It has the beginnings of a brain with two lobes and its spinal cord is starting to form. At six weeks of "pregnancy" (three to four weeks after fertilisation) the embryo has a head with simple eyes and ears. Its heart has two chambers and is beating. Small buds are present that will form arms and legs later. The beginnings of the spine can be seen and the lower part of the body looks like a tail.
What cannot be proven does not have to be disproven. (CH)
Drew wrote: "Wait a second...who is delusional here?"
Since you asked... the answer is "YOU"...
Just because we still don't have all the answers to every question, does that mean that there's a "god" that's responsible for everything? If so, which "god" ? Why not any one of all the other "gods" that have been contrived ? Where did he/she/it come from?
And how does believing that an invisible omnipotent being is in control make you any less delusional than the people who wear tin hats and think that aliens are communicating with them?
Drew, please. You use old arguments. If we can't currently explain something, then GOD. At one time, we had no idea of the concept of disease. People thought it was all the hand of god. Nope. Science is a progression of understanding. We will get there. 1-Vast stretch of land 2- flat earth 3-round earth 4-stars! 5-galaxies 6-edge of universe... we will keep making progress in spite of you.
Actually, we can explain that... and it's not from nothing as has been well described by developmental biology. There's the union of sperm and egg, and the genetic material from both to guide development, as well as the nutritive factors from the mother while the fetus is inside the womb... I think you'd have a better argument using the origin of life coming from "nothing," although there's fairly good hypotheses about that (given enough time and external energy – solar, geothermal, etc – non-organized organic matter can settle into stable chemical states such as RNA/DNA). I don't care what you believe, but science can describe many natural phenomena well. We don't have all the answers yet (and we're just messengers of fact, so chill), nor is it a slam on your beliefs. But don't try to shove your beliefs on us, okay?
Which blessed group are you in? I couldn't tell from your post.
Seriously? Have you never taken a Biology class before? Did mom and dad not teach you about the birds and the bee's? Wake up, have faith in humanity and compassion for your fellow man... and most importantly, in YOURSELF! Why pray to a ghost and wait for things to happen, when you can set your own sails and make your own path and spread kindness everywhere you go?
I understand that some people need religion, or mythology to make them feel like they're part of something greater than themselves... and to give them comfort for things that go bump in the night. But how long will it take for human beings to finally stop fighting wars about religion and become one world community? Not in my lifetime I fear.
This won't happen if we continue to believe in the fairy tales that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Susan: I love your description of the fertilization process. Here's my two cents of what I found: Two gametes = one zygote.
Creation of a zygote from the male and female gametes is nonetheless awesome. The intricate “pas de deux” of male and female chromosome strands twisting together to form the double helix of a totally unique DNA molecule has a sensuous beauty that inspires reverence.
Drew: "Having faith in a higher power shows humility and intelligence."
Actually, everybody is born without any beliefs in anything at all, gods or anything else. By the technical definition of atheism (a- without -theos- god -ism belief), we are all born atheists. Somebody has to TEACH you what to believe. If they don't teach you about gods, you'd stay an atheist.
I think the point of the study was that people shouldn't be force to be atheists. That if someone has some religious beliefs they should be free to explore that part of their nature and not be religiously oppressed just because others don't agree with them.
Explore away Ann. But if you tell me you believe in an invisible man that knows what you think and will make you live forever if you telepathically accept him as your saviour, then expect to be mocked.
I believe that the authors confused religion with spirituality, and they are not the same. Religion is man made, and made to suit different cultures and histories. Spiritualism is what comes naturally, it flows from within, from an internal connection to something greater, the energy that flows throughout the universe. Some religious people are also spiritual, many are not, and many spiritual people want nothing to do with religion.
Organized religion is totally just about control. Control the masses through fear and humiliation. Take money from the masses, take their food, take their land. Make them work for you for free. It has ALWAYS been about control and greed based on fear.
Sort of like the insurance industry. Organized religion is just a giant leech on society and ALWAYS has been.
You need to be a better student of history. To make such sweeping claims reveals your ignorance. Using words like "always" gets you into big trouble.
It is hard to accept that when you die, that's it and there's nothing more, but that's the way it is. Y'all that have a hard time with that have my sympathies. Be as happy as you can and make the very best of your precious blink of consciousness. It's pretty awesome.
In the end we are all wormfood and nothing more. No punishment for the wicked no reward for the pure. It really is quite simple. But hey, if believing in an afterlife is what it takes to make you behave, have at it.
well put life on this planet IS like a blink, gone too soon.. but eternity is forever... so why not listen to your conscience that screams Creation..creator...duh!
sounds like mass mental illness
Get back to your cartoons Justin.
Ad hominem fallacy.
both of you
NEED NO GOD.
The countries of cornecn are amongst those where we have the most serious wide-ranging human rights cornecns. It is not an exhaustive list. With our international partners, we continue to lobby the government of Malawi on human rights issues, including urging them to review their laws to ensure the defence of human rights for all, without discrimination on any grounds. The High Commissioner last raised the subject in a meeting with the Malawian Foreign Minister on Friday 15 April.
Everyone is born on the 'fitrah' (natural state)of following one true God and belief in afterlife as a place of consequence to this life. This is the natural state of man till the environment and his upbringing corrupt him. This is as stated in Islam. And this is common to all faiths as they are all from one source.
Hey if this is an Islamic belief it must be true. We see how worldly and wise Muslims are. And that virgin thing, who can deny that?
If you talk to God, you're praying.
If God talks to you, you're schizophrenic.
—Thomas Szasz, psychologist
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.
As the illness continues, psychotic symptoms develop:
• False beliefs or thoughts that are not based in reality (delusions)
• Hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there (hallucinations)
I am encouraged by the new focus on Eritrea in the reropt, which is often overlooked at an international level, despite having arguably one of the worst domestic human rights records, and contributing significantly to regional and international asylum applications as people seek to escape the country out of desperation. Given the FCO's desire to focus on Eritrea and the relative lack of an ability to impact on this situation bilaterally is there any scope for pushing this further at an international level? I particularly welcome your thoughts on the potential of an Eritrea-focused human rights mandate at the UN, given the lack of other alternatives?
People don't want death to be real so they invent the 'afterlife' and tell themselves they will live forever. Ironically, many people die in the service of the 'God' who grants them eternal life.
Hey and my afterlife is the real one, yours is bogus.
You have car, homeowners and life insurance. You can't see them but you believe they are there.
Jesus said it. I believe it. End of story !
Oh boy, Jesus and car insurance. Whoo hoo hoo!
I've got a printed legally binding contract for those. Analogy fail.
Jesus said it. I believe it. End of story !"
I believe it.
Effectively no difference.
And you don't believe what Mohammed said? Why? What about Buddha? And how do you know what Jesus may have said?
Retarded analogy. I know I have car, homeowners, and life insurance because I pay for it every month and have paperwork to prove it – not because I believe it. I am sad for your mental faculties if truly think that was a great point!
You have car, homeowners and life insurance. You can't see them but you believe they are there..... BECAUSE you can test it and prove they are there by making a claim. How many people would believe in these insurances if they filed a claim every night before bed and never got a response from the insurance agency?
Can't argue this rationale!
"You have car, homeowners and life insurance. You can't see them but you believe they are there."
That is just silly it's all on paper or in the computer! LOL!
There's a guy out there selling insurance to those who are going to be taken in The Rapture. It seems that for $135, he will see to it that their pets (left behind) are adopted. What a stroke of genius! Odds of getting paid for the policy 1 :1...odds of actually getting sucked up into the clouds... 1 : mega trillions. Funny thing is he has a booming business.
Amen Mark, the sad thing is, people will deny Christ, even when He returns.. I like how Ray Comfort put it "They are in for the shock of their death!" when they have to stand before Jesus, what are they gonna say then?
Nice, Kevin. The mild and meek Jesus who performed so many miracles is going to slaughter the unbelievers? How very Christian. Wait, I mean contradictory.
Such an interesting strategy to say religion is "instincitve" and thereby placing it in an array of other "instinctive" human behavior.
Looks like the ignorant anti-religionist agenda is pushing into the mainstream more powerful than ever before.
Agree. We Christians are no longer the conformists. We are the minority now and the atheists are now the conformists.