A new study in Psychological Science explores the relationship between religion and support of extreme forms of parochial altruism, such as suicide attacks. The researchers have found that support for such activities is related less to what religion one practices, and more how often one participates in collective religious rituals. First, they surveyed Palestinian Muslims on their attitude towards religion, how often they prayed, went to masque, and whether they supported suicide attacks. The result was that those who attended masque more than once a day were more likely to support such, while devotion to Islam and frequency of prayer did not play a strong role in the opinion. Second, they surveyed some Israeli Jews living in West Bank and Gaza about their synagogue attendance, prayer and support of suicide attacks against Palestinians. Result, 23% of those asked about synagogue attendance supported the attacks, contrasted with 6% questioned about prayer. Lastly, the researchers surveyed six religious majorities – Mexican Catholics, Indonesian Muslims, Israeli Jews, Russian Orthodox in Russia, British Protestants and Indian Hindus – to check the theory across a spectrum of cultural contexts, and again the results showed that support for extreme parochial altruism was influenced by religious services and unrelated to frequency of prayer. This study helps further the understanding of group psychology’s influence on the self-destruction of the individual and revealing of organized religion’s violent origins (see: Rene Girard on the single victim mechanism). The research was authored by Jeremy Ginges and Ian Hansen from the New School for Social Research and psychologist Ara Norenzayan from the University of British Columbia.
Study Suggests Collective Religious Rituals, Not Religious Devotion, Spur Support for Suicide Attacks, PsychologicalScience.org