March 30, 2012

Nicholas C. DiDonato 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… Read more

March 28, 2012

Connor Wood You’ve felt it before: the embarrassed, self-conscious realization that you’ve just committed a major error, made a mistake when you should have been performing better. We all experience this unpleasant feeling. Measuring electrical activity in the brain, researchers call it “error-related negativity,” relating it particularly to a part of the midbrain called the anterior cingulate cortex. New research indicates that religiousness may reduce activity in this part of the brain, physiologically buffering people against their own mistakes. Most… Read more

March 26, 2012

Jonathan Morgan 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. (more…) Read more

March 23, 2012

Connor Wood For the scientifically literate, few things are as confusing as the persistent, even rabid refusal of millions of Americans to accept the theory of evolution by natural selection. How, the science-minded want to know, can these blubbering know-nothings ignore the vast body of evidence that supports Darwinism? How is it possible for them to trust a millennia-old Hebraic tribal legend over the hardworking efforts of countless brilliant scientists? Are they simply that stupid? The viscerally satisfying answer to… Read more

March 21, 2012

Connor Wood Do you remember what you were doing when you heard about the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001? How about the details of the pastor’s outfit at your wedding? Memory is powerfully affected by the contexts and circumstances within which we form our memories, but perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the rites and rituals that undergird religion. István Czachesz, a researcher the University of Helsinki, Finland, thinks that affecting… Read more

March 18, 2012

Connor Wood Long-term meditators know that meditation can change people’s experience of the world, usually for the better. Highly experienced practitioners of meditation often report greater feelings of equanimity, patience, and compassion for others – even at times when they’re not meditating, such as during the workday or at dinner with family. Now researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany say they have an explanation for the new states of consciousness that arise as a result of meditation –… Read more

March 16, 2012

Connor Wood Human life depends absolutely on cooperation. Unlike other animals, we don’t have big fangs, sharp claws, or leather-thick hides. Instead, we have our ability to work efficiently with each other. In modern industrial civilization, we take this flair for cooperation to the next level, depending each day on thousands of strangers to bring food to our cities, keep the roads clean, and mine coal to power our homes. And it just might be religion that makes this all… Read more

March 13, 2012

Connor Wood In Europe and North America, most religious people are Christian. This means that debates between theological liberals and conservatives in these countries are often about things like the divinity of Christ, the validity of other world religions, and the existence of Hell. But a team at Boston University has been researching patterns in ideology that transcend just the Christian tradition, and contemporary Buddhism offers a powerful example of how conservative/liberal differences play out in non-Christian faiths. A series… Read more

March 10, 2012

Connor Wood Religions make some pretty outrageous claims. Many traditions assert that angels have visited important people here on Earth. Most insist that life after death is real. But one fact about religious claims that’s often lost in contemporary debates is that even the wildest religious propositions don’t just come from out of the blue. They often arise, as theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher pointed out, from religious experiences. And researchers from Israel and Switzerland think that many of these experiences may… Read more

March 9, 2012

Connor Wood You come home from a long day, tired and worn out. The boss chewed you out, so you’re also anxious and blue. You flop down in your recliner, reach for the remote – and feel the familiar, loving nuzzle of your faithful dog. It’s a heartwarming image, but does your dog’s concerned-sounding whining and extra attentiveness really mean he feels empathy for you? New research – and one local news story – hint that the answer may be… Read more

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