Does Living Through the Trauma of War Make People More Religious?

Study shows connection with war and religiosity

In a world where religion is often at the center of conflict, it is interesting to consider whether there is a correlation between religion and war. Specifically, researchers have pondered if the experience of war makes people adhere to religious beliefs. According to an article published in Nature: Human Behavior, it seems as though there is a connection with war and religiosity .

The article, titled War Increases Religiosity by Joseph Henrich, chairman of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology of Harvard University. The study took “survey data from 1,709 individuals in three post-conflict societies – Uganda, Sierra Leone and Tajikistan.” Each of these areas has been involved in severe conflicts for a prolonged period, featuring aggression and negative outcomes related to war.

The study looked at each of these areas that had conflicts in the following order: Sierra Leone Civil War: 1991-2002; Uganda Lord’s Resistance Army battles 1986-2006, including ongoing battles, and violence today.

According to the outcome of the survey, people who had experienced violence, death, injuries, or kidnappings occur in their circle of friends and family were more likely to turn to religion. For Sierra Leone, individuals were 12 percent more likely to turn to religion, whereas Uganda has a 14 percent increased likelihood. In Tajikistan, people were 41 percent more likely to turn to religion than those who had not witnessed violence.

This extended Christians and Muslims the primary religions in the regions that were examined during this study. However, there could be increased applicability across several religions, given these interesting results. Another interesting facet of the religious study found that these effects lingered in the area following the end of the violence.

The study found that “These effects on religiosity persist even 5, 8 and 13 years post-conflict” which shows that there is a long-term effect on the areas that are affected by war. The reasoning behind this increase in religious beliefs is linked to many things. But one common factor is that people turn to the rituals of religion, find safety in their communities, and look for meaning in their troubles. All of these tend to point people towards religion.

It is important to remember that the study is far more expansive than the pieces viewed here. The research in its entirety reveals more detailed motivations for religion and further implications on the data gathered.


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