London, July 15: Are humans programmed to believe in gods and in an afterlife? Forty separate studies (both analytical and empirical) conducted in 20 countries conclude that humans are predisposed to believe in gods and in afterlife.
Both theology and atheism are reasoned responses to what is a basic impulse of the human mind, the studies suggest. Fiftyseven researchers, led by Oxford University experts, carried out the studies for three years, representing a diverse range of cultures.
They wanted to ascertain if concepts such as gods and an afterlife are entirely taught or are basic expressions of human nature, according to an Oxford statement.
The theology project led by Justin Barrett, from the Centre for Anthropology and Mind, drew on a range of disciplines, including anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and theology.
The findings are to be published in two separate books by psychologist Barrett in "Cognitive Science, Religion and Theology" and "Born Believers: The Science of Childhood Religion".
Studies by Emily Reed Burdett and Justin Barrett, suggest that children below five years find it easier to believe in some superhuman properties than to understand similar human limitations.
Children aged three believe that their mother and god would always know the contents, but by the age of four, they start understanding that their mothers are not all-seeing and all-knowing. However, they may continue to believe in all-seeing, all-knowing supernatural agents.
Experiments involving adults, conducted by Jing Zhu from Tsinghua University (China), and Natalie Emmons and Jesse Bering from The Queen's University, Belfast, suggest that people across many different cultures instinctively believe that some part of their mind, soul or spirit lives on after death.