Is There A Scientific Explanation For Religious Devotion?

Maybe The Amount Of Attention You Give To Your Faith Is Not Something You Can Control

What does it mean to be devout? The expression is repeatedly used by public officials to describe how committed they are to their faith. It can be used to separate oneself from lackadaisical members. The word sometimes contains an element of superiority: “these people might say they are religious, but I am a true servant of my God.”

But to be devout is not always singularly understood. “Devout” comes from the word devotion which comes from the Latin word for “vow.” To be devout is generally accepted as someone who is wholly dedicated to their faith. How someone can demonstrate this is up for discussion. Some believe it is about following every rule of religious doctrine, no matter how small. Others might say it is based on putting God above all others and requires long periods of personal reflection on how to be more intimately united with God. A key component is always sacrifice: the sacrifice of one’s self and other obligations for your religion.

However, this might not be as much as a personal decision. Science has demonstrated certain humans are more likely to not only accept religion but to become devout. It depends on how you make decisions. There are two types of ways people make decisions. The first is to be deliberate. You make decisions by rationally going through choices and then picking the best option based on criteria you create. The second is intuitive. You decide because it “feels” right. If you are intuitive, you are more likely to be religious. The less rationality you need in making decisions, the more likely you are to believe matters of faith.

It is still unclear if growing up with religion makes someone an intuitive thinker or vice versa. But it does demonstrate devotion might not always be something you can control. You may be subconsciously drawn to a religious lifestyle. However, the findings are not sacrosanct. There are exceptions. But it does beg the question: how much control do you have about your involvement in your religion?

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