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Social and Psychological Bases of Ideology and System Justification$
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John T. Jost, Aaron C. Kay, and Hulda Thorisdottir

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195320916

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320916.001.0001

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No Atheists in Foxholes: Motivated Reasoning and Religious Belief

No Atheists in Foxholes: Motivated Reasoning and Religious Belief

Chapter:
(p.241) CHAPTER 10 No Atheists in Foxholes: Motivated Reasoning and Religious Belief
Source:
Social and Psychological Bases of Ideology and System Justification
Author(s):

Robb Willer

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320916.003.010

Recent research has focused on the motivational bases of political ideology. It is plausible that similar factors may drive the formation of religious ideology. Although explanations of the existence of religious beliefs in terms of their satisfaction of psychological needs date back centuries, limited empirical research links motivated reasoning to religious belief. This chapter reviews existing research on the role of motivation in the formation of religious belief systems, specifically research on the relationship between fear of death and afterlife belief. The results of two original, experimental studies are presented, investigating the hypothesis that fear of death leads to greater religious belief. The results of these studies suggest that a more parsimonious motivated reasoning account may explain the relationship between fear of death and afterlife belief better than one based on terror management theory. Taken together, findings support the notion that some religious beliefs can be usefully explained in motivational terms.

Keywords:   atheism, faith, motivation, religion, terror management theory

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