Religion the opiate of the poor?

Nicholas C. DiDonato

Karl Marx saw religion as an opiate of the poor: it soothed them so that they did not rise up against their capitalist oppressors. For Marx, this short-term relief hardly outweighed the long-term cost of poverty. It turns out that Marx may have been right. Research by political scientists Frederick Solt, Philip Habel, and J. Tobin Grant (all from Southern Illinois University) suggests that greater economic inequality correlates with greater religiosity, a correlation which they argue stems from the rich using religion to discourage wealth redistribution.

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Prisoners who attend religious services have fewer disciplinary problems

Nicholas C. DiDonato 

Civil authorities have long wondered what leads some prisoners to reform themselves and go on the path towards good citizenship, while others become lifetime prisoners through repeated offenses. While any answer to this question involves many variables and dimensions, religion’s role continues to be a matter of great dispute. Seeking a balanced analysis, criminologist Kent Kerley (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and colleagues argue that after controlling for demographics, criminal history, and self-control, frequent attendance at religious services predicts reduced prison deviance.

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Is religion disappearing?

Jonathan Morgan

Modern_religion

This question fuels a persisting debate at the heart of the sociology of religion. Does modernization lead to secularization? Any answer to this question demands explanation. If modernization causes religiosity to fade, then why? If not, then how are we to understand the seemingly common trend of religious influence diminishing in the wake of modernization? Over the past decades the theory of secularization has fallen to the wayside, but two political scientists, Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, are amassing a prodigious body of data that brings the debate back to life. With the World Values Survey, they suggest that religion fades not necessarily as a country develops economically, but as a country becomes more existentially secure.

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God spot in the brain? More like God spots

Nicholas C. DiDonato

God_spots

Neurologists have long wondered whether a particular part of the brain can help explain a person’s experience of God. Stanley Koren and Michael Persinger, for example, famously developed the “God helmet,” a device that stimulated what they called “the God spot” and so induced its wearer to feel the presence of God. (Interestingly enough, the device had little effect on the popular atheist writer Richard Dawkins.) However, neuropsychologists Brick Johnstone and Bret Glass (both University of Missouri) challenge the plausibility of the “God spot,” arguing that spirituality involves many areas of the brain.

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Religion: is it sexist?

Nicholas C. DiDonato

Sexism

For many in the West, religion seems to oppress women. Conservative Christians not uncommonly reject the idea of female clergy, educators, and leaders. While this may (all too) roughly characterize Christianity, the question remains as to whether other religions fare any better. Drawing upon world-wide data, covering most of the world’s religions, Stephanie Seguino (University of Vermont) indeed found a correlation between how one views the importance of religion (whichever religion that may be) and one’s attitudes about gender inequality.

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Political views may affect how we pray

Jonathan Morgan

Old_lady_prayer

On the brink of election season, it’s sometimes easy to imagine that liberals and conservatives inhabit different worlds. But does this mean that they also pray differently? Past research has shown that personality is directly linked with both political worldview and religiosity. This connection is examined more closely by new research on how liberals and conservatives pray. They differ, but not as we might expect.

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Medicine and religion – Part II

Connor Wood

Physician_prayerIn December 2011, the Journal of Behavioral Medicine dedicated an entire issue to studies focusing on religion, spirituality, and health. Many of these papers attempt to correct shortcomings in the previous religion-health literature, including a lack of good theoretical grounding and lack of longitudinal, or long-duration, research methodologies. This is Part II of a two-part article summarizing and reviewing the studies from this issue. [Read more...]

Religion and personality

Nicholas C. DiDonato

religious_personality

Envision the typical religious believer. What personality traits come to mind? For some people, religious people epitomize ignorance, intolerance, and stubbornness; for others, they personify love, grace, and forgiveness. Of course, simply asking how people perceive a certain group in no way indicates whether they accurately perceived said group. An empirical approach is needed. Taking up this challenge, psychologist Vassilis Sarogloul (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium) argues that the fundamental personality characteristics of the religious, regardless of culture, are Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. [Read more...]


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