Following Conflict, a Turn to the Divine

A new study led by Joseph Henrich has shown that the impact of war on religion extends well beyond the front lines. The chair of the Department of Human and Evolutionary Biology, Henrich and a team of international collaborators gathered survey data from several locations around the globe and found that, following the trauma of seeing a friend or loved one killed or injured during conflict, many became more religious. The study is described in a January 28 paper published in Nature Human Behavior. “I became interested in this question through my prior work, which has been focused on how religious beliefs can cause people to cooperate more in a group,” Henrich said. “The idea is that if you can expand the sphere of cooperation, then that group can more successfully compete against others, sometimes even through violent conflict. But this study suggests that this could lead to a vicious circle,” Henrich continued. “If you receive a war shock and become very religious, and then begin to outcompete other groups through conflict, that could result in a runaway effect.”



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