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Research: Religious Indoctrination Can Promote Violence

February 25, 2007

The relationship between religious indoctrination and violence has gained renewed notoriety in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Now, in an article published in the March issue of Psychological Science, psychologist Brad Bushman and his colleagues from the University of Michigan suggest that scriptural violence sanctioned by God can increase believer aggression.

The scientists conducted experiments with student volunteers from two religiously contrasting universities: Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam where 50% report believing in God and 27% believe in the Bible, and Brigham Young University where 99% report believing in God and the Bible.

Results of the experiments exposed possible origins of violent fundamentalism and reinforces theories put forth by scholars of religious terrorism—suggesting that prolonged, selective reading of scriptures focusing on violent retribution toward non-believers may encourage extremists to act more aggressively.

From ScienceDaily