Religion News in Brief March 10th 2017

Top stories of the week

Dr Eleanor Power of the Santa Fe Institute analyzed how the nature of people's religious practice correlates with the structure of their social support networks in two villages in South India. She wanted to find out if people that show greater religiosity are more likely to undertake acts that benefit others. Pictured is a religious devotee placing red powder on a carving of Kala Bhairava at the temple of Nanjangud, South India
Image Credit: Daily Mail.

Church attendance makes you seem trustworthy and popular

Based on a news report by the Daily Mail, there is research suggesting that going to church can make attendees appear more trustworthy and popular, which seems like an obvious benefit to going to church. However, this is public perception rather than a necessary reflection of a reality, of course.

80% of people identify with a religion, according to Pew Research. Some researchers have looked into the evolutionary benefit(s) to, or from, religious practice. The research began in the early 2000s. At the Santa Fe Institute, Dr. Eleanor Power looked into it.

Power found that “active religious participation may benefit practitioners by strengthening social bonds.” That is, “lab-based experiments have suggested that religious behaviour may increase prosocial qualities like generosity and trustworthiness, few researchers have studied this question in a real community.”


Change in religious demographics in Europe, via baptisms

Image Credit: Erik M. Lunsford.

Patheos – Cranach reported that many, many Muslim immigrants into Europe are converting to Christianity, through baptism obviously, and this is having a noticeable effect on the growth and attendance at churches in Europe: “See this, this, and this.”

“For the last few decades, churches have been almost empty on Sunday mornings. But congregations that have evangelised Muslims are coming back to life.  For example, the Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin, which we have blogged about, used to have 150 parishioners.  Now they have 700.”

That is, this is a phenomenon in major international economic and cultural centres such as England too. There has been an estimation by an Anglican bishop that as many as one out of four confirmations done are performed on Christian converts who used to be Muslims.


Epilepsy-religious experience link draws closer

Science Daily reports that, “A relationship between epilepsy and heightened religious experiences has been recognised since at least the 19th century. In a recent study,

Image result for brain
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

researchers from the University of Missouri found a neurological relationship exists between religiosity — a disposition for spiritual experience and religious activity — and epilepsy.”

Brick Johnstone, neuropsychologist and professor of health psychology, described how past research shows how humans have distinct tendencies towards spirituality. It is natural. So the tendency to religiosity has a semi-firm neurological foundation.

Co-author and assistant professor of religious studies, Daniel Cohen, asked, “If a connection [between the brain and religious experiences]exists, what does it mean for humans and their relationship with religion?” Indeed.


About Scott Jacobsen 318 Articles
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.

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