Why Do We Believe in Religion and the Supernatural?

By Xuan Zheng (https://www.flickr.com/photos/68002200/4001633830/) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Do We Understand the Physical World?

It is well-known that people in Europe and America are increasingly becoming secular. Many describe themselves as “religious nones.” The non-religious includes individuals who believe in astrology, paranormal, or tarot reading. Scientists have tried to understand why belief in the supernatural is so widespread. Those who believe in religion carry a visual attention bias and those in the supernatural lie in fallacies.

The study conducted by Annika Svedholm-Hakkinen and Marjaana Lindeman on this issue took part in Finland with 258 participants. The participants were asked a series of questions on the subject of an omniscient God and beliefs in paranormal phenomena such as precognition and telepathy. Those who took part completed questionnaires and online tests which tapped into their psychological traits and demographics. The study revealed that most of the believers are women and intuitive thinkers. Believers rarely think analytically.

This study was unique in its approach to investigate the capabilities of the participants when it comes to comprehending the physical world. The study found that supernatural beliefs had no relation to school science grades of the participants. The researchers also scored on another factor which they termed “physical capability” which had an inverse correlation with the strength of supernatural beliefs. Physical capability was dependent on multiple measures; the ability to match the rotated images, solving physics-based and mechanical problems, scientific knowledge, and the proclivity to attribute sentience to entities which exist in the real world.

The researchers found non-materialists concentrate on thought more than on the physical world. They reported, “supernatural beliefs may thus reflect a broad, hyper-mentalistic cognitive phenotype, opposite to the hyper-mechanistic phenotype. Extreme forms of hyper-mechanistic phenotype can be found among individuals with Autism spectrum disorder.”

Others harbor reservations with the findings. They point out that the analogy is not correct as someone can shuttle between a believer and an atheist multiple times during a lifetime.

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