If a person thinks of “what might have been” if an important event would have turned out to be bad, it increases that person’s belief in God, a new study says. The study shows how the believers confirm their persuasion via cautious and rational cognitive processes. “I became intrigued by the question of how people perceive God as an active, trustworthy and giving influence in their everyday lives,” said lead study author Anneke Buffone from the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
“Why is it that the vast majority of Americans and many people across the globe, perceive a divine or spiritual influence in their lives, even in modern world where many mysteries of the past have been scientifically explained,” Buffone added.
The paper was published in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science. The team’s focus lied on counter-factual thinking in order to examine these perceptions.
The researchers specifically explored the downward counter-factual thinking. Their first study was based on 280 undergraduate students who were asked to write an essay highlighting an important positive or negative life event from their past.
The students answered questions related to their strength of religious belief including the influence of God, faith and behaviour.
The counter-factual thinking, according to the results, leads the believers to belief that the event that occurred had some source, in this case God, and it did not happen merely by chance, and this leads to an increase in religious faith.
Another study was conducted on 99 non-college participants who went through similar essay and questionnaire process. The results replicated the first study.
“From a scientific standpoint this work helps explain how religious conviction can prevail despite a lack of concrete, physical evidence for religious claims.”