Evidence that humans are predisposed to believe in gods

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A three-year international research project, directed by two academics at the University of Oxford, finds that humans have natural tendencies to believe in gods and an afterlife, Health Canal reports.

The $2.7 million project involved 57 researchers who conducted over 40 separate studies in 20 countries representing a diverse range of cultures. The studies (both analytical and empirical) conclude that humans are predisposed to believe in gods and an afterlife, and that both theologyand atheism are reasoned responses to what is a basic impulse of the human mind.

The researchers point out that the project was not setting out to prove the existence of god or otherwise, but sought to find out whether concepts such as gods and an afterlife appear to be entirely taught or basic expressions of human nature.

The Cognition, Religion and Theology Project, led by Dr Justin Barrett, from the Centre for Anthropology and Mind at Oxford University, drew on research from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and theology.

They directed an international body of researchers conducting studies in 20 different countries that represented both traditionally religious and atheist societies. The findings are due to be published in two separate books by psychologist Dr Barrett, titled Cognitive Science, Religion and Theology, and Born Believers: The Science of Childhood Religion.

Project Co-director Professor Roger Trigg, from the Ian Ramsey Centre in the Theology Faculty at Oxford University, has also written a forthcoming book, applying the wider implications of the research to issues about freedom of religion in Equality, Freedom and Religion (OUP).

Main findings of the Cognition, Religion and Theology Project:

Studies by Emily Reed Burdett and Justin Barrett, from the University of Oxford, suggest that children below the age of five find it easier to believe in some superhuman properties than to understand similar human limitations. Children were asked whether their mother would know the contents of a box in which she could not see.

FULL STORY Humans are 'predisposed' to believe in gods and the afterlife (Health Canal)

RELATED COVERAGE www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2011/110513.html

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