“Conflict Changes How People View God” | Psychological Science

“Conflict Changes How People View God

Psychological Science

Nava Caluori, Joshua Conrad Jackson, Kurt Gray, and Michele Gelfand

First Published January 28, 2020

https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797619895286

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797619895286

Abstract

Religion shapes the nature of intergroup conflict, but conflict may also shape religion. Here, we report four multimethod studies that reveal the impact of conflict on religious belief: The threat of warfare and intergroup tensions increase the psychological need for order and obedience to rules, which leads people to view God as more punitive. Studies 1 (N = 372) and 2 (N = 911) showed that people’s concern about conflict correlates with belief in a punitive God. Study 3 (N = 1,065) found that experimentally increasing the salience of conflict increases people’s perceptions of the importance of a punitive God, and this effect is mediated by people’s support for a tightly regulated society. Study 4 showed that the severity of warfare predicted and preceded worldwide fluctuations in punitive-God belief between 1800 CE and 2000 CE. Our findings illustrate how conflict can change the nature of religious belief and add to a growing literature showing how cultural ecologies shape psychology.”

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