Guest / Limited Access /

Once in a while, we agree with the atheists. The latest occasion is the release of a new study on religion.

In 2007, the John Templeton Foundation made an award of £1.87 million to the University of Oxford for the Cognition, Religion, and Theology Project. The project sought to improve the scientific and philosophical rigor of the study of religion. As the web page announcing the study put it, "Both missions were accomplished with goals exceeded."

The study affirmed the familiar and uncovered a few surprises, such as:

  • "Children and adults have a tendency to see the natural world as having function or purpose—even those with advanced scientific education."
  • "In early childhood we have a natural tendency to attribute super properties to other humans and gods, including super knowledge, super perception, and immortality."
  • "Adolescents and young adults may find religious ideas easier to remember and use than older adults."
  • "Religious beliefs and practices might persist in part because they make us more cooperative and generous with others."

A number of media outlets trumpeted the story, many of them treating the obvious as news. The opening of CNN's story read, "Religion comes naturally, even instinctively, to human beings, a massive new study of cultures all around the world suggests."

Then again, this hasn't been obvious to some. The secularization theory—that as societies modernize and become more scientific, people will become less religious—has held sway for nearly 200 years in Western intellectual circles. Now we have another study from perhaps the most respected academic institution in the world that says religion is not only here to stay, but is built into the very fabric of human existence.

As we might ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Tags:
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedHow Pastors Are Passing the Leadership Baton
Subscriber Access Only How Pastors Are Passing the Leadership Baton
Succession plans can destroy a church. Or help it thrive for years to come. What are the keys to success?
TrendingLet Kelly Gissendaner Live
Let Kelly Gissendaner Live
The Georgia Department of Corrections has done its job. She should not be executed.
Editor's PickThere Are Parables Everywhere You Look
There Are Parables Everywhere You Look
What Chris Hoke’s memoir of ministry to outcasts can teach us about seeing reality in Christ-shaped ways.
Comments
Christianity Today
Good Religion, Bad Religion
hide thisAugust August

In the Magazine

August 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.