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This Is How Having Religious Faith Affects Your Brain

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There has always been a conflict between those who believe in religion and those who believe in science. It has gone on for almost all of time. However, a new study has revealed that while it seems like the root of this argument is just a difference of opinion, it is actually down to the conflict between two different parts of your brain. This is how religion can actually affect your brain.

A Brainy Experiment

Researchers managed to reach this conclusion via thought experiments and eight different questionnaire studies. Each study involved between 159 and 527 adults of all races, ages, and so on. They then took the results of each questionnaire and thought experiment and compared them against each other – those who had no religious belief and those who believed in God or a universal spirit. The results displayed that people who believed in a God or universal spirit used their brain differently to those who didn’t believe in religion. How? They actually managed to suppress the part of the brain that is in charge of analytical thinking so that they could engage the empathetic part of their brain. People who didn’t believe in religion did the opposite to this.

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Goodbye, Analytical Thinking

The results of this study have shown that religion has a major effect on the brain. If you are able to take a leap of faith to believe in something you cannot see – God, or a universal spirit – you are able to push aside all need for analytical thinking, allowing an individual access to a more advanced social and emotional insight. If you are a ‘non-believer’ your brain is better at seeing the ‘reality’ of a situation, an individual who doesn’t believe will be a better critical thinker, but maybe not so good at being an emotional thinker. This doesn’t mean that either person can’t use that side of the brain, just that it is far more suppressed. So, those with a religion can think analytically and those without can think emotionally. It is just far harder to do so, according to the study.

Emotional Thinking vs Critical Thinking

It’s not easy having these two parts of the brain constantly working against each other to suppress each other – and this is why a lot of people can end up confused about religion and the belief in a higher being. While our brains may not be able to provide us with a straightforward answer to the question “Is there a God?”, this research has demonstrated something that our brains can do, without us even realising. Our brains are capable of forcing us to explore and engage with our experiences using both analytical thinking and emotional thinking in order to discuss and consider different thoughts and ideas. It’s a very clever part of the human makeup.

Working Together

The scientists behind the research have wanted to make one thing very clear, however. Whilst they have been examining the effect religion has on the brain, there is no evidence that you can either believe in religion or not. This very experiment has proven that the two parts of the brain do not always have to oppose each other… science and religion can go hand in hand, and indeed they have nearly always done so. Several of the world’s most famous scientists have had their own spiritual beliefs – in fact, 90% of Nobel Laureates from the 21st century do! Science and religion don’t have to be an either-or situation… but religion will always create a conflict in your mind.

It’s an extremely interesting study and one that will probably need a lot more work before it can be taken as fact. However, the next time you think that those with or without a religion are terrible people, realise that it could just be the way their brain is wired; differently to yours.

About the author

Rebecca Walton

Rebecca has always been fascinated with the business and tech world, having grown up with parents in the industry. She has a real passion for science - particularly space and the unknown realms that surround the planet! Rebecca has been writing for different publications for nearly 6 years and is now an editor at Pangaea Express.