Is belief in heaven good for you? No. Yes. Maybe.

Connor Wood

Devil and angel drawings

One of the oldest stories in the book is the eternal tension between the individual and society. From restraining impulses to maximizing personal happiness, what’s good for the collective isn’t necessarily what’s good for the individual – and vice-versa. In the past couple of years, psychologists studying religion have discovered a fascinating new expression of this age-old tension: belief in heaven is good for individuals, but bad for societies – while belief in hell has exactly the opposite effects. These studies are well-designed and their results are compelling. But they don’t offer any easy answers. [Read more...]

Can animals have spiritual experiences?

Connor Wood


It’s a question many religious parents dread: “When Spot dies, will he go to heaven?” Countless children – and adults – have wondered whether their pets possess spirits, and the debate isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. Still, recent research in neuroscience may shed light on this age-old question by suggesting that many animals are capable of religious experiences, including near-death encounters and profound feelings of awe and oneness. According to these studies, the root of spiritual experiences in humans and animals is a structure shared by both – the limbic brain.

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