Analytical Thought Claimed to Reduce Religious Beliefs

A new study published in Science Magazine concludes analytical thought reduces religious beliefs. The study showed participants intuitively attractive questions for which the intuitive answer is wrong. The participants were then asked about their religious beliefs. The result showed that those that indicated stronger religious beliefs were more likely to give the more intuitive answers. They were then given stimuli that encouraged either analytical or intuitive thought. They were then retested on religious beliefs and those encouraged intuitive thought expressed increased strength in religious beliefs while those encouraged either analytical thought expressed less. The conclusion was that concludes analytical thought reduces religious beliefs. However there are a number of problems with these studies.

The first problem is that the questions on religious beliefs were vague general questions. Some religious beliefs are more intuitive while others are more analytical. For example new age is almost entirely intuitive being based largely on practices like meditation. On the other hand Christianity is more analytical in that it is based on historical events such as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. There is no consideration in these studies of such differences and the specifics of what participants believed and why.

The second problem is that there is no correlation of individuals given between the different methods. This is important because such a correlation should show who is more likely to be affected. For example it could show that more analytical people are less affected by the stimuli than more intuitive people or the exact opposite. The point is that no such correlation is given so there is no way to know how individual responses correlate across each method.

While these studies are interesting they are way too broad and lack consideration of factors that could have affected the results.


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