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Being religious in UK requires more logic, researcher says

by Eno Adeogun

Researchers from Coventry University and Oxford University conducted a brain stimulation experiment on pilgrims taking part in the famous Camino de Santiago and found no link between analytical thinking and supernatural beliefs.

Dr Valerie van Mulukom, co-author of the paper and a research associate at Coventry University told Premier that while the notion that believers of God don't think rationally is rife in the UK, it actually takes more logic to have faith.

She said: "Being religious in the UK is harder, you actually require more analytical thinking because you have to go against the sort of mainstream ideas.

"So you have to be able to hold multiple ideas in your head."

Dr Mulukom said she was prompted to conduct the research as she simply didn't believe there was a link between religious belief and intuition or rational thinking.

She told Premier there have been a number of issues with previous research on the connection.

She explained: "They've only done the research in America and that's the first problem. Because America is very religious, whereas a place like the UK is more secular.

"And they didn't do causal testing of whether analytical thinking leads to religiosity."

Dr Mulukom also said the study - published in Scientific Reports - is the first to challenge a growing trend among cognitive psychologists over the past 20 years that have attempted to show that believing in God is something that comes to us naturally or intuitively.

One of three tests included running a painless electrical current between two electrodes placed on the participant's scalp, to activate a part of the brain that controls inhibitory control. A previous brain-imaging study had shown that atheists used this area of the brain more when they wanted to suppress supernatural ideas.

The results showed that while the brain stimulation increased levels of cognitive inhibition, it did not change levels of supernatural belief.

The researchers therefor concluded it was "premature" to explain belief in gods as intuitive or natural.

The academics found that socio-cultural processes, including upbringing and education have the most influence on why people believe in God.

Listen to Dr Valerie van Mulukom speaking with Premier's Eno Adeodun:

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