Cool new research in religion

scientific study of religionIf you ever want to get seriously frustrated, I suggest getting advanced graduate training in religious studies. Why’s it frustrating? Because everyone thinks they understand religion already. Seriously, biologists don’t sit down next to strangers on airplanes, let slip that they’re biologists, and then find themselves subjected to a 10-minute lecture on their seat mate’s poorly informed ideas about cellular signaling pathways. But the equivalent happens to people who study religion all the time. You say, “Oh, I study ritual and religion,” and the guy next to you goes silent for a second, then leans forward to tell you in somber tones that religion is nothing but a tool for the rich to control the masses.* Or else he’s an Evangelical who thinks that he’s not religious – no, he has a personal relationship with Jesus, and that’s not religion at all. So in a world of people who think that their opinions about religion are just as good as actual knowledge, it’s relieving to be reminded that some people actually study religion. Here’s a look at three recent studies that use data, not opinions. [Read more…]

How much are your sacred values worth?

Connor Wood

Value

The best things in life can’t be bought…but everyone has his or her price. The age-old wisdom about values and money can be contradictory. Fortunately, new research from both sides of the Atlantic helps clear things up – scientists using brain scanning technology have found that people will give up some values for money but not others. The values that people won’t sell light up regions of the brain associated with rules, not with utilitarian choices, implying that those values aren’t the products of mere cost-benefit analyses. Some “sacred” choices and values, it seems, just aren’t for sale.
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