Research shows that anxiety may affect the formation of religious beliefs

Key points

  • A recent study on the role of anxiety in processing supernatural subject information found that people who are anxious are more likely to recall supernatural details.
  • Researchers believe that these findings may help us better understand how religious beliefs are formed.

We know that our emotions affect our attachment and ability to process information. And anxiety is a very powerful emotion. Although attachment to religious beliefs is often regarded as comforting and satisfying various human needs, there are still some mysteries why we do this.

A recent study examined the role of anxiety in processing supernatural information and found that people with anxiety are more likely to recall supernatural creatures. Researchers say this may help explain how religious beliefs are formed.

This survey

The research was published in International Journal of Religious Psychology, Analyzed the results of an online recall test conducted by 972 participants. The test is designed to determine whether anxious participants are better at remembering supernatural factors than non-anxious participants.

To make this decision, the participants were shown a story in which the character has natural and supernatural abilities, such as mind control, immortality, or the ability to foresee the future. Then they were unexpectedly asked to recall the details of the story after this and three weeks later.

To determine the role of anxiety in recall, half of the participants were prompted to view distressing images with relevant potentially threatening text before being told the story or asked to recall details.

Researchers have observed that participants who feel anxious are more likely to remember characters with supernatural abilities than characters without supernatural abilities. Three weeks later, the supernatural aspect of the story has also been better preserved.

The researchers said: “These effects indicate that anxiety should make people tend to pay attention to and remember the concept of God, which some cognitive scientists believe is the sowing of religious belief and devotion.”

Thomas Swan, principal researcher

Our research provides the first details and addresses the criticism of the “terrible god” by discovering that anxious people accumulate supernatural thoughts because They are terrible.

— Thomas Swan, principal researcher

Check comfort theory

In the past, studies have linked anxiety with religious beliefs, claiming that beliefs can provide comfort. However, this “comfort theory” ignores the fact that gods can also punish their followers by submerging the earth or sending them to purgatory after death.

Or, the researchers involved in the study discussed stated that their findings provide insights into how anxiety arouses people’s attention to God, its relationship to faith, and why evil gods still remain followers.

“Our research provides the first details and addresses the criticism of the’terrible gods’ by discovering that anxious people accumulate supernatural thoughts. because They are terrible,” said Thomas Swan, the lead researcher of the study. “Although the comfort theory may be correct in the end, given that such terrible manifestations are either short-lived or strengthened in the minds of believers, our research Shows that this process was disturbing at first. ”

Dr. Jaclyn Bauer

We like to believe that our higher power is full of love and kindness, so when negative things happen to us, it does not suit our psychology. Then we are full of contradictions, we need to understand divisions, evil gods help people understand negative events.

— Dr. Jaclyn Bauer

This will also help explain how believers maintain their faith when experiencing negative events. Psychologist Dr. Jaclyn Bauer, founder and chief executive officer of Virtue Supplements, says this connection can help individuals understand all this.

“We have all had experiences of loss, sadness, depression, and anxiety,” Bauer said. “We like to believe that our higher power is full of love and kindness, so when something negative happens to us, it doesn’t suit our psychology. Then we will be full of contradictions, and we need to figure out the meaning of division, and A malicious God helps people understand negative events.”

Likewise, beliefs can provide a sense of control when life may feel completely the opposite, says psychotherapist and author Annalize Oatman, LCSW.

“It provides a system for understanding this vast, chaotic, and unpredictable world that can provide a sense of control, mastery and effectiveness,” she said. “Religion taps into our emotions by directly responding to universal human survival anxiety and the desire to understand and master the environment.”

Faith and mental health

Our emotional state affects the way we process information. Swan said these findings can help us better understand how our own emotional state affects our attachment to the supernatural or religious beliefs.

He cited some examples, such as Harry Potter’s books, Marvel movies, and the Bible, to reflect on your feelings or experiences the first time you interacted with these materials.

“It is worth considering how these prejudices shape our interests and beliefs,” Swan said. “It may be that anxiety makes the supernatural content of these stimuli difficult to ignore. Once fascinated, faith or at least fanaticism may not lag far behind.”

What this means to you

Paying attention to our emotional state when processing information, especially anxiety, can help us form healthy and positive attachments.

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Research shows that anxiety may affect the formation of religious beliefs
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