So, how was it for you? For me, 2012 was quite a tough year, for personal reasons, which is why the blog has been a bit sparse of late. On the plus side, that means only 70 posts to recap this time!
But that’s still quite a haul of great research into religion and non-belief, and one that shows some interesting changes in research focus. In particular, we’re now seeing more research than ever into non-belief, and also into the nuances of how particular ways of thinking are linked to different kinds of belief.
So let’s get going! How thinking styles affect belief – and non-belief
Researchers are also becoming increasingly sensitive to the reality that religion is a very diverse beast. Take hyperactive agency detection (HAD), which refers to the way we are prone to see invisible spirits at work in the world around us. Research this year showed that the link is not to religion in general (since people with low HAD are equally likely to be religious), but specifically to a sense of connection or oneness between self, God, and/or the physical world. Meanwhile, other research has shown that there is no such thing as a 'god spot' in the brain. Instead different parts of the brain linked to religious practice, spirituality, and fundamentalism.
Religion seems to be something of a double-edged sword when it comes to health. Data from Norway found that regular churchgoers had lower blood pressure. But data from the USA educated people who go to church often are actually more likely to die young!
Analyses of worldwide opinion polls suggests that there’s no overall trend. What there does seem to be is a balancing out, with highly religious countries becoming less religious, but with a trend towards more religion in the highly secularized West.
It also seems that there has been a rise in state support for religion in the West, especially increased state funding for religious enterprises.
Well, that was 2012, and you can find summaries here for 2011, 2010, and 2009.
So here’s to 2013. I have a number of great studies already lined up to blog about, when I get the time. Hopefully, I’ll be posting at least once a week from now on, more often if I can. So stay tuned!