How fear and anxiety leads to more religion by Tomas Rees
On 14th April, Tomas Rees gave a presentation (see above video) to Dorset Humanists entitled 'Fear and God'.
In the talk he reviewed many of the studies he’s covered on his blog, looking at how and why fear and anxiety provoke religious responses, and the link between unstable and dangerous societies with greater levels of religion (The main talk runs for 50 minutes, with another 20 minutes of questions at the end). He’s posted this talk on his blog and we reproduce the presentation here too.
If you enjoyed this talk and want to find out more, please visit Tom’s blog at Epiphenom for a wealth of additional information: http://epiphenom.fieldofscience.com. Tom is also a founder member of Humanists4Science, along with Dorset Humanists’ Chris Street.
'Anxiety a major cause of religion’
“Religious nations have higher infant mortality, more murders, worse corruption, more cases of AIDS, and higher levels of abortion” At our April meeting, Dr Tom Rees gave a very illuminating presentation on what makes people more religious.
Experimental research has found that loneliness, reminding people of death and making them more anxious makes people more religious. Muslims have very high death anxiety because of a vivid belief in Hell. It was reassuring, however, to learn that reminding atheists about death makes them less religious.
Anxiety increases our ‘pattern-seeking’ behaviour – it makes people more inclined to ‘see God’s hand’ in everyday events. If the government is not in control people want God to be in control. The least religious people are those who enjoy good health, stable employment, are well-educated and who haven’t experienced war. Peaceful, trusting, urbanised countries have the most atheists and are the least religious. Religious societies have the lowest ‘social capital’ (social cohesion, co-operation and so on).
Tom offered two explanations as to why the United States is so religious. One reason its vigorous free market in religion and a second reason is its high income inequality and lack of social security which increases anxiety which, in turn, makes people more religious.
Tom claimed that state-sanctioned religion makes people more cynical about religion. If you get rid of state religion countries become more religious. If you want to reduce your blood pressure, however, religion can help.
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