A provocative study linking religious disbelief to analytical thinking requires some careful analysis itself, says Philip Ball.
Psychologists Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan aren’t trying to make mischief, but their latest work on the psychology of religious belief is sure to fan the flames of debate.
Their study, published in this week's issue of Science1, offers evidence that when people engage in analytical thinking, they are less likely to express strong religious beliefs. In other words, the more you’re inclined to think a problem through rather than to rely on gut instinct, the less likely you are to capitulate to belief in supernatural agencies.
The authors, who are based at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, are clear that they aren’t pronouncing on the value of religious belief, nor suggesting that such beliefs are inherently irrational (let alone that they’re untrue). 'We’re just saying', they seem to insist.
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Can we be religious AND logical? From The Urantia Book:
1:2.7 The existence of God can never be proved by scientific experiment or by the pure reason of logical deduction. God can be realized only in the realms of human experience; nevertheless, the true concept of the reality of God is reasonable to logic, plausible to philosophy, essential to religion and indispensable to any hope of personality survival.
92:4.3 Evolutionary religion is sentimental, not logical. It is man’s reaction to belief in a hypothetical ghost-spirit world—the human belief-reflex, excited by the realization and fear of the unknown. Revelatory religion is propounded by the real spiritual world; it is the response of the superintellectual cosmos to the mortal hunger to believe in, and depend upon, the universal Deities. Evolutionary religion pictures the circuitous gropings of humanity in quest of truth; revelatory religion is that very truth.
101:1.1 True religion is not a system of philosophic belief which can be reasoned out and substantiated by natural proofs, neither is it a fantastic and mystic experience of indescribable feelings of ecstasy which can be enjoyed only by the romantic devotees of mysticism. Religion is not the product of reason, but viewed from within, it is altogether reasonable. Religion is not derived from the logic of human philosophy, but as a mortal experience it is altogether logical. Religion is the experiencing of divinity in the consciousness of a moral being of evolutionary origin; it represents true experience with eternal realities in time, the realization of spiritual satisfactions while yet in the flesh.