Religious belief is human nature, huge new study finds – CNN Belief Blog


Through Richard Allen Greene, CNN

London (CNN) – Religion comes naturally, even instinctively, to human beings, suggests a massive new study of cultures around the world.

“We tend to see a goal in the world,” Roger Trigg, professor at the University of Oxford said Thursday. “We see the agency. We think something is there even though you can’t see it.… It all tends to build up to a religious way of thinking.”

Trigg is co-director of the Oxford-based three-year project, which incorporated more than 40 different studies by dozens of researchers looking at countries ranging from China to Poland and from the United States to Micronesia.

Studies across the world have yielded similar results, including a widespread belief in some kind of afterlife and an instinctive tendency to suggest that natural phenomena occur for a purpose.

“Children in particular have found it very easy to think religiously,” such as believing in the omniscience of God, Trigg said. But adults also jumped first for explanations involving an invisible agent at work in the world, according to the study.

The study says nothing about the existence of God, gods, or an afterlife, said Justin Barrett, the project’s other co-director.

“This project is not intended to prove that God or that gods exist. Just because we find it easier to think in a particular way that it is in fact true,” he said. declared.

Atheists and religious people could use the study to make their views known, Trigg told CNN.

Famous layman Richard “Dawkins would accept our conclusions and say we have to get out of it,” Trigg argued.

But believers could argue that the universality of religious sentiment serves God’s purpose, the philosophy professor said.

“The religious would say, ‘If there is a God, then … he would have made us want to seek him,'” Trigg said.

The best-selling study may not take a position on the existence of God, but it has profound implications for religious freedom, says Trigg.

“If you have something so deeply rooted in human nature, to thwart it is to kind of not allow humans to achieve their fundamental interests,” Trigg said.

“There is a strong tendency to think that religion is private,” he said, arguing that such a belief is false. “It’s not just a bizarre interest of a few, it’s basic human nature.”

“It shows that it’s much more universal, widespread and deeply rooted. You have to take that into account. You can’t just pretend it’s not 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 it was hopeless,” Trigg concluded.

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