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.
About this blog
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.
Really CNN? A study funded by a religious leaning group is to be believed? Your credibility as a news organization is questionable and now this. I found a study that says Martians are colonizing Texas.
I am a ghost boxer. I talk to spirits through a modified radio device called a ghost box. Google "ghost box". If you have the desire you can talk to a ghost by tomorrow using a ghost box. Since I started using the ghost box, I don't live with the *belief* in an afterlife, I live with the ***full knowledge*** that there is an afterlife. Let's see if CNN deletes this comment or allows it to remain.
If you listen to much AM radio, (and what kid really does?) you might actually recognize some of the 'ghosts' as radio personalities randomly sampled by the device.
@ Free It is absolutely not a hoax! They are absolutely lying. This video comes from a religious organization, who is prejudiced against spirit contact.
Now I understand why conspiracy theories gain traction.
If you mean Man's tendency to believe primitive mythology over logical facts I sadly believe your right.
Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
Ah, quoting more writings of man that are not relevent.
Before he created heaven and the earth what did God do in his spare time?
Perhaps, he was thinking about all of us.
Zeus, which earth age are you referring to? First or second? Oh, you didn't know that? LOL
Actually, Gerald, many of the earliest scientific discoveries were made by polytheist Egyptians and Greeks. A lot of middle eastern cultures were highly advanced in mathematics. The Mayans in South America came up with the concept of zero (allowing higher mathematics) without any western influence.
As for catholics, they were far from perfect. Please look up Giordano Bruno, the dominican friar who studies in science ended when he was burned at the stake for refusing to lie about his discoveries.
Poor Giordano, burned at the stake in 1600, by the Holy Christian Inquisition. That’s only 400 years ago.
First off Most if not all children are programmed by there elders of whatever religion they are.For the study to be accurate the children would have to be isolated from any religious influence,to see if they would have an belief in "A God/Gods.I like most children had no choice in what religion to believe in;My family was Catholic,I am now by My own choosing an Atheist !¡
"If evolution is just a theory, religion is just an opinion"
Paleontology, geology, molecular biology all prove that evolution is not a theory, it's a fact.
What evidence might contradict evolution?
"Fossil rabbits in the precambrian" answered J.B.S. Haldane
Yes, and the bones that were found were of apes. So much for your instincts to see past bs.
'bones that were found were of apes'
Of course they were apes, we still part of the Great Ape Family now, that's why we belong to the Primate group. Apes is to humans, what mammals are to dogs, it's a taxonomic grouping of like organisms based on their genetics, morphology, behavior and so on. I guess in your eyes we should stick with the bronze age classification of 'kinds' & very general groupings like 'beasts' and such?
"Children in particular found it very easy to think in religious ways," such as believing in God's omniscience, said Trigg.
Children find it very easy to think anything adults tell them is true. Santa Clause, the Easter bunny, and so on. Nature designed children to be gullible as a scheme to rapidly equip them for meeting the challenges of living in a universe that is out to kill dull witted animals. Old believers have the disquieting habit of dieing off, which means new adherents must be acquired. Since children are the most malleable and defenseless humans in the population, there is a natural dynamic that has been going on for centuries. Adults groom children in order to insure their sect or cult survives. Grooming them means instructing them constantly in pleasant fairy tales about the afterlife they can spend with a powerful loving god. When spreading fairy tale, threaten gullible children with a fate worse than death if they don't go along.
Examine the highly secular societies around the world and you should see far more skepticism and doubt. We must have a close look at where the studies were carried out. This is really shoddy reporting and it smacks of propaganda, not science. Unfortunately, too many people will not question unsubstantiated assertions or are even aware of how propaganda works.
Fundamentalist people remind me of children, with their toddler's-eye view of the Universe, their simplistic black-and-white thinking ("you're either with us or against us"), and their overwhelming fear of The Other (i.e. gays, hispanics, Jews, Muslims, blacks, foreigners in general, progressives, atheists, women – well, just about everyone, really). If being this way is "natural", then it is a form of curse upon humanity.
Give it a rest Richard. Jesus loves everyone. It's just some people hate Jesus. Put the blame where it belongs. Back in your non-believing lap.
You can't make something true just by saying it's true. A few centuries ago theologians were preaching that the sun revolves around the Earth. People who disagreed with them were burned at the stake as heretics.
Brian, maybe your non-believing ancestors believed that but, mine read the Bible.
"It is he that sitteth upon the CIRCLE OF THE EARTH." How did Isaiah know in 700 B.C. the earth is round?
A circle is round but it is not a sphere, which is why people in the past thought the earth was flat. It's amazing how people try and twist things into something it's not.
I thought the difference between a circle and a sphere was pretty clearly taught in most elementary schools. Surely by High School Geometry it must be made absolutely clear. Surely?
HeavenSent: Then why did the Christian church refute Galileo’s very scientific and true observations in the 15th century? He just confirmed Isaiah’s observation of a long time ago. Poor Galileo almost got burnt at the stake for his non-conformity to the church’s dogmas for his observations of god’s heavens…
Believe whatever you want – that's really not the point. If I choose to BELIEVE that the sky is made of tuna fish, well, that's my choice...but it doesn't make it TRUE and I certainly wouldn't try to have text books altered and people persecuted if they refused to make the same CHOICE as me. People believe all kinds of things – It doesn't make them true. Also, quoting Jesus isn't proving a point – if I started quoting Charlie Sheen, would a million people start snorting coke and become street preachers of the Bi-winning Faith? Quoting the bible, the torah, or the quran to someone who doesn't choose to share the same beliefs as you is like me quoting the hobbit...not terribly life changing, but also a good read.
A box without hinges, key, or lid. Yet, inside golden treasure is hid.
Its kind of funny how these religious people in this article who believe in creationism and not evolution are claiming that believe is an instinct. Does anyone else see the irony in this?
Corbinjn, why don't you dig further and find out the scam that the bones that were found were of apes. LOL. What a generation believing lies face value without checking out facts. Talk about making robots.
Jealousy, bigotry and murder are parts of human nature too. Not every thing in our nature inherited from our evolutionary past is good for us or our societies. Religions foster elitism, mistrust of the other, excuses and encourages killing, hatred and bigotry. It a part of our nature which like war must be expunged if humanity is to grow beyond its childhood and reach our full potential. If these defects in our nature are allowed to fester we will be an evolutionary failure. Possibly the first species to suffer the ignominy of not falling prey to the impersonal forces of nature but to our own stupidity. That would be an embarrassment of truly epic proportions.
Frank K, next time I visit the zoo, I'll say hi to your relatives that didn't evolve. LOL. You kids will buy anything.
And you, Heaven Sent show your ignorance with your statement. "Didn't evolve"? Get a high school biology text and educate yourself. Our relatives in the zoo are evolved exactly to the same extent we are, just in different directions, you demonstrate you stupidity by thinking different.
There's a whole lot of time wasted in these forums that could have better been spent jackin off.
I enjoy reading this stuff while jackin off...
You two prove CARNAL is as CARNAL does.
If the human race lasts another 1000 years or so and we still have a habitable planet and technological advances and medical science that extends life indefinitely then the need for god will go away. Technology will eventually destroy god.
Technology destroyed god long ago
Too funny. Teenie boppers or twenty something year olds think they know something/anything.
This is promising news. I like to think that most view themselves as a contributor to mankind realizing there is something much bigger than any of us out there. Religious denomination aside, this principle will teach us humility, respect and just common decency. Without it, we would just be a bunch of narciscists. Christopher Dycha
Cheeseburger can be bigger than all of us.
Cheeseburger cheeseburger cheeseburger.
Or veggie burger if you so decline.
with it we're a bunch of narciscists.
Pho Non, so you're a SNL fan?
Many atheists think we’re crazy for believing in a creator. I think it‘s crazier to believe that we’re just lucky that a planet was created and developed into a perfect environment for life at the precise and crucial distance from the sun in a perfect orbit to host life. Then, perhaps an astroid with exactly the right ingredients smashed into the earth, and JUST the right proteins, enzymes, and amino acids came together on their own in the exact required sequence to later form more complex life forms swimming in the oceans until it eventually turned into animals and other living things. I’m overstepping a lot of detail obviously, but this ALL happened by luck, right? I wonder if you run the numbers, what are the chances of striking life, with no divine intervention? I’m guessing the odds are pretty ridiculous. I think it’s ridiculous to believe there is no GOD. I do believe that GOD works through science and nature. I don’t believe everything was created in 7 days. GOD IS everything we know, see, hear, smell, taste, feel, and think, because GOD is the creator……..of everything!
Not luck @ all. Easy. Read about anthropic principle. Just google it.
A perfect enviorment? Diseases, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, cold, famine. You call this perfect? Seems more likely that our existance is a product of the laws of large numbers. With enough galaxies and trillion upon trillion of stars in them a few will produce a couple of planets conducive to life given 14.5 billion years to play with the parts. Your belief in fine tuning is an illusion and very concieted to believe it's all here for our benefit.
Sorry, but believing in what you just described actually does make more logical sense than believing some omnipotent supernatural old man who is omnipresent clicked his fingers over the course of a few days and here we are. Let's not forget how woman was created either; make perfect sense to me!
Look at the sky. Go on, really LOOK at it. Get out a telescope. It's not tricking you; it's just glass. Look. at. how. VAST. it. is. We humans are not even remotely capable of grasping the breadth of all that's out there.
No matter HOW high you set the odds, it WILL happen somewhere in the universe. One in a trillion is still millions upon millions when it comes to games of chance played with the stars. I used to be a young earth creationist, and then I picked up a telescope and grew up. The beliefs of creationists about God playing in the mud are absolutely petty compared to the beauty of reality.
And do people have an innate tendency to believe in whatever nonsense makes them feel better? Probably. They also have an innate tendency to be violent, short-sighted and selfish, but the really great thing about humans is that we can tell the ugly parts of ourselves to go stuff it.
"Faith is an absolutely marvelous tool. With faith there is no question too big for even the smallest mind." – Rev. Donald Morgan
Of course you realize, don't you, that "intelligent design" is not restricted to the "book" religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? It is not an exclusive club; many mythologies espouse creationism, yet Christendom seems intent upon claiming the franchise.
Murph, good post. Remember, 1 day in the Lord's is 1,000 years of man's.
"Remember, 1 day in the Lord's is 1,000 years of man's."
Even if this were so, God would have created everything in (6 days X 1,000 years =) 6,000 of our years? Sorry, but there is zero good evidence for such a young universe.
Free, the Bible says that this world is millions upon millions of years old. This earth age (2nd) is about 14,000 years old. All this is in the Bible if you learn how to cross reference it. There are 3 earth ages and 3 heaven ages. We are in the 2nd earth age, with the 3rd earth age and heaven age coming when Jesus returns. The 1st earth age was destroyed by God when Lucifer rebelled and took 1/3 of God's angels with him, going against God. If you don't know this, I will gladly post the scriptures to read on His truth about life and the hereafter written in His letter He wrote to all of us (the Bible). Other than that you can continue listening to the blind leading the blind. But, those blind folks can't save your soul.
‘true science and the Bible are in perfect harmony. Too bad you non-believers haven't investigated this’
‘the Bible says that this world is millions upon millions of years old. This earth age (2nd) is about 14,000 years old.’
Please don’t speak on behalf of science when you clearly do not know what it states in regards to the age of the earth or the universe. Science has shown through numerous dating methods, which are empirically testable unlike some scribbling in a book, that the earth is 4.57 billion, years old while the universe is 13.75 Billion years old.
That means your claim that earth is only 14,000 years old is off by a very large margin (326,429 times older than you claim) & your claim for the universes age is off as well by quite a large margin. Apparently science & the bible are not in quite so perfect a harmony, this is why largely ‘faith healing’ has been replaced by actual medicine.
“but this ALL happened by luck, right?”
yea but maybe the “luck” was “God’s intervention”...
Science is not a belief system, it is an investigation system. Beliefs may result, but they are subject to constant reinvestigation, revision, and extension. No one can say I believe, “just because.” Scientists may believe things, and may be subsequently be proven wrong, but all true scientists embrace the efforts of others to prove them wrong, and their battle to prove themselves right (or change their mind on seeing the evidence). This is the opposite of “belief” systems, which rely on “faith.”
rigel54, true science and the Bible are in perfect harmony. Too bad you non-believers haven't investigated this.
Religion, Science, logic, all these things are manmade constructs designed to make sense of our world. We keep making changes to how we explain the world based on the level of technology and "progress" we think we have achieved.
Science, like gods, is not an absolute but is simply a human construct.
Simply put, we see, then we make rules to explain what we think we are seeing.
After reading the posts on this blog I came to conclusion that to stop here with attempt to write things which are of tremendous value, to share them with some who may want to know, it would be like throwing ones pearls to the herd of swine, to be trampled under their feet.... It is enough to make ones soul weep in sorrow to see what this generation of people has become!
.... And then they boast themselves of knowledge and advancement of human race.....!?!
All the achievements of mankind, even if they advanced hundredfolds, can not cover up and hide the depravity and wretchedness of this evil generation.
Oh, but when the one who is soon to come as their savior, to bring them solutions they are awaiting for... when he comes on the world's stage, he will have an army ready to follow him, in him they will believe, trust, and pledge their allegiance......
Recent history contains very sober warnings.... But man never learns from history! And the posts on this blog, as well as on others, really show condition of this generation!
I'm glad that it won't go on like this!.... I'm glad that there is a future ahead, which the One who holds all things in His hand has prepared, and that HE will bring all things to conclusion, even though there must be much suffering before all things are accomplished... But to those who know this blessed hope is just a time-distance away, it's now and will be then, worth it all!
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. You have contributed nothing to this discussion.
the one is which one of the ones?
Always good to have yet another smugly self-satisfied contribution from a religious know-it-all...
Wow. What a pompous git.
Look, just because you believe in your Invisible Friend doesn't mean the rest of us have to. You're welcome to your beliefs, and so is everyone else. It's pretty clear that you don't have much ability to differentiate between pearls and swine.
Amen Prism. I got tired of throwing His pearls to them months ago.
I'm sorry, I must have turned on the religious channel by mistake. I thought this was cnn.com.
asrael, you wrote "Always good to have yet another smugly self-satisfied contribution from a religious know-it-all".
Would you be so hateful to your dentist for learning his medical qualifications to work in that big mouth of yours? Or, a physician for going to medical school? Or, any of the vast fields of higher learning?
A Trekkie may know a lot more about Federation Starships that either you or I, but I doubt that they could seriously convince us that warp engines and transporters really do work, right? Can you prove that the Bible and all the beliefs it generates isn't originally just as much a fiction as Star Trek? You may 'have faith' that it isn't, but you really don't know!
The One? The One ring? You mean, Tolkien was right after all? I knew it.
Free, a few months back a Christian wrote something along these lines (I wished I copied and saved what he wrote because it was good). It went something like this ... I'd rather live my life being a decent person believing in God then to die and find out there wasn't, then I've lost nothing ... then to live my life not believing in God, to die and find out there was. Soul is lost.
‘rather live my life being a decent person believing in God then to die and find out there wasn't, then I've lost nothing ... then to live my life not believing in God, to die and find out there was. Soul is lost.’
oh enough of the Pascal's wager already. It’s too presumptions that the christian god is the only god of all the 1000’s of recorded gods. Worse, it ignores if god can’t distinguish between real sincere belief & hedge betting belief on part of the believer, & then as a result of belief, not actions, acts on punishing or rewarding a person for eternity. What is moral about that?
Yes Glory to the names of God, God is the most Merciful....Fajar Prayers at my end good bye for now and thanks.
How can be merciful god send big tsunami?
If you go to the homepage of the Cognition, Religion, and Theology project, you'd see that the project was funded by the John Templeton Foundation, an organization that makes no attempt to hide its religious purposes in terms of research and funding.
Personally, I think this tendency towards religion is really a social construct created by the combination of baser human instincts: curiosity, socialization, violence, and survival. We attempt to find explanations for observed phenomenon because we are curious. We share what limited knowledge we learn in the absence of science and precision analytical equipment with others because we live in social groups. We kill those who do not accept our explanations because we prefer to socialize with those who are look, act, and believe in the same ideas as ourselves. We continuously pass what we've learned to our offspring and others who are receptive and violently repel those who would seek to challenge our ideas so that the knowledge, and those of us who are helped by it, survive. I believe this to be the true nature of religion as human nature, and as we all must learn to grow out of our instinctive violence in a society of laws, we too must grow out of this so-called religious human nature.
Indoctrination is the thing; If no child was exposed to that, very few people would even thing about magic and wizards, except in movies etc
Also Cancer, what about that; Lets not fight cancer, it's a part of human nature, pedophilia ... part of human nature... What if we let child molesters indoctrinate children.. ops, already being done
You do insist on fighting dirty don't you doctore0? I suppose all the Christians that you posted with on this site haven't written about these wolves that hide in sheep's clothing and now you want to lump all Christians in with your baloney? Speaking of indoctrination, isn't that what you non-believers are doing on this site? Indoctrinating the Blind to follow the Blind?
What brought crises upon mankind is his own Doings, Corruptions and Disbelieve....Mankind were the ones that made changes to environment...their oil drilling and polluting industrial wastes...well try to think of all wrong things we do and what could result from them in return...
Here I have quoted for you few verses from different Quran sura's that speak of that it was we who wronged our selves and not God wronged us;
[2:57] We shaded you with clouds (in Sinai), and sent down to you manna and quails: "Eat from the good things we provided for you." They did not hurt us (by rebelling); they only hurt their own souls.
[3:117] The example of their accomplishments in this life is like a violent wind that hits the harvest of people who have wronged their souls, and wipes it out. GOD never wronged them; it is they who wronged themselves.
[9:70] Have they not learned anything from the previous generations; the people of Noah, `Aad, Thamood, the people of Abraham, the dwellers of Midyan, and the evildoers (of Sodom and Gomorrah)? Their messengers went to them with clear proofs. GOD never wronged them; they are the ones who wronged their own souls.
[10:44] GOD never wrongs the people; it is the people who wrong their own souls.
[16:33] Are they waiting for the angels to come to them, or until your Lord's judgment comes to pass? Those before them did the same thing. GOD is not the One who wronged them; they are the ones who wronged their own souls.
[29:40] All those disbelievers were doomed as a consequence of their sins. Some of them we annihilated by violent winds, some were annihilated by the quake, some we caused the earth to swallow, and some we drowned. GOD is not the One who wronged them; it is they who wronged their own souls.
[30:9] Have they not roamed the earth and noted the consequences for those who preceded them? They used to be more powerful, more prosperous, and more productive on earth. Their messengers went to them with clear signs. Consequently, GOD was not the One who wronged them; they are the ones who wronged their own souls.
You said; "wolves that hide in sheep's clothing and now you want to lump all Christians in with your baloney?"
They have lumped all Muslims as well in their baloney...Just for a few wolves that hide in sheep's clothing !!!
Muneef: Quran is a second hand copy of the Bible, and a very poor one too.