Make people uncertain then remind them about God, and they become more fearful of sin

There's plenty of research about suggesting that feeling uncertain can increase the strength of belief in god in different ways. But what's not clear is whether belief in god reduces the ill effects of uncertainty, or is a response to it. One theory is that a belief in God provides a kind of reassurance, which reduces anxiety.The research is by no means clear-cut, however. Some research has found the opposite (see: God prompts can scare us into trying to do the impossible). That's a sign … [Read more...]

Patheos Atheist LogoLike Epiphenom and Patheos Atheist on Facebook!

Subliminal religious prompts might not make people nicer after all

Back in 2007, right when I was starting this blog, a ground breaking study revealed an extra-ordinary finding. What the researchers had discovered was that just giving people subliminal reminders of religion was enough to make them be more generous in a something called the dictator game.The really extraordinary thing was that the same effect was seen in both religious and non-religious people.When I blogged about it at the time, I was a little sceptical about that. It seems that … [Read more...]

Patheos Atheist LogoLike Epiphenom and Patheos Atheist on Facebook!

Ask students about religion, and they’ll tell you they drink less

Religious people tend to drink less than non-religious people. We know that because, well because when you ask them, that's what they tell you.But here's the thing. We know that what people tell interviewers can vary with the circumstances that they find themselves in. Indeed, it can vary quite a lot from reality.People don't exactly lie. It's just that how they remember what they do is influenced by their own self image. If they see themselves as a non-drinker, then they might excuse … [Read more...]

Patheos Atheist LogoLike Epiphenom and Patheos Atheist on Facebook!

Surprisingly, belief that God is in control increases support for government welfare programmes

There's an enduring puzzle about religion and government, and it's about what effect religions have on government welfare policies. That's down to an intriguing observation: that more religious countries tend to have a weaker welfare state.Quite why this is so is a matter of dispute. After all, given religion's association with altruism, you might expect that religion to encourage people to be in favour of having the state give a helping hand.One possibility is that if people feel like … [Read more...]

Patheos Atheist LogoLike Epiphenom and Patheos Atheist on Facebook!

Religious authority increases the number of donations but decreases the value

In a run-down market place in Kabul, Afghanistan, groups of men hang around hoping that someone will offer them a job for the day. But today is different. Today they get an unusual offer.Somebody is willing to pay them a whole days wage (about $9) just to fill out a survey. Of course, many agree, and are taken by bus to the survey station. Once the survey is complete, they get handed their money in a blank envelope.Before they go, a guy comes in and makes an appeal to their charitable … [Read more...]

Patheos Atheist LogoLike Epiphenom and Patheos Atheist on Facebook!

Secular community groups are just as effective as religious ones in stimulating concern for others

Researchers around the world have found that subliminal reminders of religion can have some fairly profound effects (for example, encouraging honesty, obedience, revenge and staying power - and, as we saw in the previous post - even risk taking).But is this specifically about religion? Perhaps being reminded about god makes people virtuous - but if that's right, how come the effect seems to work just as well on atheists?Nicholas Thomson, at the University of Durham in the UK, wanted to … [Read more...]

Patheos Atheist LogoLike Epiphenom and Patheos Atheist on Facebook!

When you think about spirits, do you see ghosts?

Humans are finely honed for spotting intentional agents in our environment. Meaning that if you hear a rustling, or see a branch move, you're instantly on the alert in case it is another person (this effect is has a name: 'hyperactive agency detection').You can see why evolution would have favoured that. Better safe than sorry, right? The result is that it's not uncommon to see humans when there's nothing really there. Ghosts, anyone?But not all humans are equally sensitive to that … [Read more...]

Patheos Atheist LogoLike Epiphenom and Patheos Atheist on Facebook!