Religious devotion as predictor of behavior

Robert Lynch, a postdoctoral fellow in anthropology, says the level of devotion one feels toward religious beliefs can predict how that person likely will interact with members of his own group or with members outside of the group. Lynch's latest research paper, "Religious Devotion and Extrinsic Religiosity Affect In-group Altruism and Out-group Hostility Oppositely in Rural Jamaica," published in Evolutionary Psychology Science, suggests that a sincere belief in God—religious devotion—is unrelated to feelings of prejudice. Rather, Lynch's research finds that those whose religious beliefs are extrinsic—who use religion as a way to achieve non-religious goals such as attaining status or joining a social group—and who regularly attend religious services are more likely to hold hostile attitudes toward outsiders.

"It's not the true believers who are the problem," Lynch says. "It's the people who use religion, perhaps in a cynical way, to further their goals."

Lynch says one way to look at the issue is to compare ISIS with Al Qaeda. He says ISIS is mostly composed of former Iraqi generals who served under Saddam Hussein, and they are not particularly religious. Members of ISIS routinely kill members of their own group as well as individuals outside their group (both Sunnis and Shias). One of the main objectives for ISIS is to expand its territory, and it often uses a religious pretext to achieve its goals. On the other hand, Al Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim organization created in 1988 to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, does not typically kill fellow Muslims. Lynch says members of Al Qaeda are true believers who like members of their own group and are not as hostile to outside groups.

Lynch's research is based on a 30-year study of 288 Jamaican citizens from youth to adulthood by Robert Trivers of Rutgers University, a colleague who is studying symmetry (how much an individual varies from left to right) in the island population. Lynch gave the study participants a survey to determine whether religious beliefs were intrinsic or extrinsic, as well as measuring religious devotion and church attendance. He says the findings suggest that the beliefs and social aspects that underlie religion have distinct effects on attitudes within and between groups. His research found that religious beliefs are positively associated with a willingness to sacrifice for one's beliefs and a greater tolerance of outsiders, while the social facets of religion, such as attendance, promote greater hostility toward outsiders.

"Group membership may be enough to produce a particular behavior and the religious beliefs themselves may be irrelevant," Lynch says. "Taken as a whole, these results point to a generally optimistic view of the ability for to generate compassion and a darker view on the social activities that promote cohesion, which may also produce hatred of others."

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More information: R. Lynch et al, Religious Devotion and Extrinsic Religiosity Affect In-group Altruism and Out-group Hostility Oppositely in Rural Jamaica, Evolutionary Psychological Science (2017). DOI: 10.1007/s40806-017-0103-y
Citation: Religious devotion as predictor of behavior (2017, May 24) retrieved 20 October 2019 from
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May 25, 2017
a sincere belief in God—religious devotion—is unrelated to feelings of prejudice.

Which God? The concept comes with strings attached, and if your idea of God is a prejudiced, supremacist, tyrannical dictator then it kinda follows that you would be inclined so too.

See eg. the Calvinist ideas of sin, depravity and salvation, where basically God has chosen a bunch of people from the beginning of time, who will be called by irresistible grace, and the rest are doomed to be sinners, deaf to God's word, whose sin will bring them and their communities to ruin, so they must if they can't be converted or managed, thrown out and excluded.

It's the version of Christianity where if you're one of God's chosen people, everything will turn out alright, and if it doesn't then it's the fault of the sinner next door. It's very popular in the South.

"It's not the true believers who are the problem," Lynch says

But it's the true believers who foster the rest

May 25, 2017
The roots for calvinism go back to the 3rd century with Augustine of Hippo, who made an apology of Christianity by claiming that instead of speeding up the fall of Rome by their dissidence, the Christians instead had caused the prosperity of Rome until the point when sinners took over.

Augustine pushed the idea of Christianity as a world in war, aligned between the city of God and the city of Man (depravity/sin/devil), where peoples, societies, cities, etc. rise and fall as how they align with the forces of God - thus cleverly dodging the complaint over why, if everyone's praying to the same God, some are poor and some are rich, or some lose wars and some win.

His message was: life is a veil of tears and you should really be looking at your afterlife with God - so after Augustine, many Christians ran up the hills and locked themselves in monasteries to pray and basically just to study the bible to the exclusion of all other information. Thus began the dark ages.

Agreed, the worst of all are those pretending and eventually even thinking that they would be religious, while committing atrocities and terror. Actual believers focused on grasping the absurd claims and compliance with the demands of their cult will be sufficiently fearful from punishment for not going wild outside. Just a pity that Robert Lynch did not also study what this devote, servant and no-questions-allowed attitude does with those actually stuck with such a God-belief that narrows down their view of reality and chances for development.

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