There’s a trend in sociology within the last century or so, arguing for or against what’s known as the Intuitive Belief Hypothesis. While psychology has been contributing to the debate only for the last two decades. The thinking is that religious thought is intuitive, non-analytical, and so our natural thought pattern. As we get more analytical we get less religious, the hypothesis states.
This recent Oxford and Coventry University study however denies the hypothesis, saying that we’re not naturally inclined to spirituality. Instead, religious believe they contend, is attached neither to analytical nor intuitive thinking. Instead, it originates from the nurture side of human experience, through upbringing and socio-societal connections. Researchers conducted three separate studies to reach these conclusions. Their findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Previous research has found that those who hold strong religious beliefs are more intuitive. But once they acquire more analytical thinking patterns, their ferventness lessens or drops off. Two of the three were pilgrimage field studies.
Researchers evaluated those walking the Camino de Santiago, or the “Way of St. James.” This journey entails traversing a system of medieval walking paths starting at the French Pyrenees Mountains and terminating in northwest Spain at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This is thought to be the final resting place of St. James. The trek takes 30 days to complete. The third study was a neurostimulation experiment, performed by scientists at Oxford.
A pilgrim rests in front of the Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Credit: Getty Images.
Previous studies focused on analytical thinking, researchers point out. Here, they decided to evaluate what role intuition plays in spirituality. Previous work also used a “culturally limited sample,” mostly US and Canadian college students. This one drew from a diverse population.
Other work also assumed that “intuitive-analytical systems work together in a hydraulic-like way,” as this study’s authors wrote. “This might explain the evidence suggesting that supernatural beliefs might coexist with logical, scientific knowledge, or why studies of tribal societies have…
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