A new University of B.C. study suggests analytical thinking can be harmful to religious faith.
The psychology report, published today in the prestigious journal Science, reveals that religious belief drops after subjects perform analytical tasks or are exposed to Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker.
However, UBC social psychologists Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan insist they are not debunking religion or promoting atheism. Instead, they are trying to figure out the psycho-logical origins of spirituality.[A]nalytic thinking reduces intuitions of God, of an afterlife and of experiences of divine presence, say Gervais and Norenzayan, whose latest research surveyed 650 people, most from B.C. Some lived in other parts of North America.
The article points out that analytical thinking is not the only thing that affects a person’s spirituality. People may not have the brain wiring to find spiritual concepts compelling, they may live in a secular culture, or they may have no social need for religion.
What do I think about this study? I think it makes sense and I think that the other factors also come into play. Society and culture are very complicated things dependent on MANY factors. But, I do suspect that the religious leaders will use this as another weapon to advocate for less thinking. Ignorance keeps people locked into a repressive society. Remember, churches and rulers, long ago, never wanted people to read. They might get ideas about interpreting things for themselves. Knowledge is power.
This also reminded me of the religious right fearing that their children will go off to college and become atheists. That is, they are exposed to new ideas and taken away from their conservative religious framework. That seems very plausible that they may lose some religiosity in the process of learning how to think about things. (However, I’d bet a lot of them go back to religiosity when they have kids.) That idea about higher learning has prompted the popularity of private religious colleges. I often wonder what they teach there. How awful it must be to be trapped in a mindset where you can’t investigate the bigger things in the world through thinking about them. Tell me not to think? I might as well die. But, that opinion is based on my brain and all the factors that influenced me. Your milage may vary.