Recognizing Psychological Common Ground Could Ease Tensions Among Those with Different Religious Beliefs, says MU Psychologist
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Understanding how thoughts of mortality influence individuals’ beliefs sheds light on the commonalities among different groups’ motivations and could help ease tensions between opposing viewpoints, according to University of Missouri experiments that tested the relationship between awareness of death and belief in a higher power. The study found that thoughts of death increased atheists, Christians, Muslims and agnostics conviction in their own world views. For example, contrary to the wartime aphorism that there are no atheists in foxholes, thoughts of death did not cause atheists to express belief in a deity.
“Our study suggests that atheists’ and religious believers’ world views have the same practical goal,” said Kenneth Vail, lead author and doctoral student in psychological science in MU’s College of Arts and Science. “Both groups seek a coherent world view to manage the fear of death and link themselves to a greater and immortal entity, such as a supreme being, scientific progress or a nation. If people were more aware of this psychological similarity, perhaps there might be more understanding and less conflict among groups with different beliefs.” (more…)