Religion may have evolved because of its ability to help people exercise self-control

Self-control is critical for success in life, and a new study by University of Miami professor of Psychology Michael McCullough finds that religious people have more self-control than do their less religious counterparts. These findings imply that religious people may be better at pursuing and achieving long-term goals that are important to them and their religious groups. This, in turn, might help explain why religious people tend to have lower rates of substance abuse, better school achievement, less delinquency, better health behaviors, less depression, and longer lives.

Full Story: Physorg

(Thanks Cliff!)

9 Comments

  1. “This, in turn, might help explain why religious people tend to have lower rates of substance abuse, better school achievement, less delinquency, better health behaviors, less depression, and longer lives.”

    LOL, is he serious? It’s funny then that countries which are predominantly atheist have less crime, less violence, less murder, better employment and better education…

  2. Hmm. I don’t know how one would differentiate self control from peer pressure and fear of punishment. Certainly, having a conceptual framework for why a particular act is “good” or “bad” could help one moderate one’s own behavior, but many religions have placed this in a punishment context. …so it could also be said that religions may have evolved to help people control other people.

  3. Comment from the source article: “Sad. What crap is being published these days. You can just feel how desperate he is to shape his theories around his beliefs.”

    From the source article: “This, in turn, might help explain why religious people tend to have lower rates of substance abuse, better school achievement, less delinquency, better health behaviors, less depression, and longer lives.”

    Compared to atheists? This is false information. The exact opposite is true in most cases.

  4. Trevor – your source(s) proving the claim that “religious people tend to have lower rates of substance abuse, better school achievement, less delinquency, better health behaviors, less depression, and longer lives” is false?

  5. I think it’s that religions (when they work properly) give people a better understanding of self (as well as self-in-the-world), rather than teaching (or forcing) any kind of self-control.

    Science, with it’s insistence on an objective viewpoint, has a harder time giving people an understanding of their own place in the world.

  6. Klintron:

    Thanks for asking for my sources. I will do my best to provide them.

    “Most studies indicate that the non-religious make up about 12-15% of the world’s population, with actual atheists compromising about one quarter of that number.” [wikipedia] Atheists are going to be a smaller percentage of everything when compared to theists. So yes, if one makes a table of theists with and without problems and atheists with and without problems, number of theists without problems is a higher percentage than atheists with problems. I suggest that is what the author of the source link is doing: tricking readers by comparing absolute numbers with percentages.

    One measure of substance abuse and delinquency is incarceration. Atheists make up between 8%-16% of the population of the USA but only 0.21% of prisoners. Thus atheists have a lower percentage of substance abuse and delinquency problems than theists.

    “Research has revealed a positive correlation between IQ and education, as well as a negative correlation between education and religiosity.” [PDF]

    For life expectancy and health behaviors, compare these tables of atheist and Muslim demographics with this table of life expectancy by country. The more atheists (numerically or percentage) in a country, the longer they live. The fewer atheists (numerically or percentage) in a country, the shorter they live.

    “The group with higher levels of religious well-being were 1.5 times more likely to have had depression than those with lower levels of religious well-being.” [Temple University]

    I welcome further criticism. – Trevor

  7. Of course, the real problem here is causality. Is a group different because of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) or did it adopt its beliefs (or lack thereof) because it was different? For example, are people with substance abuse problems more likely to become religous? (note the relationship of AA process to conversion experiences).

  8. Causality is an entirely distinct issue, agreed.

    Also, longevity etc. is no indication of the truth or falsehood of atheism.

    But the claims of the original article remain false.

  9. whats the propaganda doing on my technoccult?

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