That’s according to an Oxford University study:
Humans are naturally predisposed to believe in gods and life after death, according to a major three-year international study.
Led by two academics at Oxford University, the £1.9 million study found that human thought processes were “rooted” to religious concepts.
But people living in cities in highly developed countries were less likely to hold religious beliefs than those living a more rural way of life, the researchers found.
The project involved 57 academics in 20 countries around the world, and spanned disciplines including anthropology, psychology, and philosophy.
It set out to establish whether belief in divine beings and an afterlife were ideas simply learned from society or integral to human nature.
One of the studies, from Oxford, concluded that children below the age of five found it easier to believe in some “superhuman” properties than to understand human limitations.
Children were asked whether their mother would know the contents of a closed box. Three-year-olds believed that their mother and God would always know the contents, but by the age of four, children start to understand that their mothers were not omniscient.
Separate research from China suggested that people across different cultures instinctively believed that some part of their mind, soul or spirit lived on after death.
The co-director of the project, Professor Roger Trigg, from the University of Oxford, said the research showed that religion was “not just something for a peculiar few to do on Sundays instead of playing golf”.
“We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that religion is a common fact of human nature across different societies,” he said.
“This suggests that attempts to suppress religion are likely to be short-lived as human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts, such as the existence of supernatural agents or gods, and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”
Dr Justin Barrett, from the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind, who directed the project, said faith may persist in diverse cultures across the world because people who share the bonds of religion “might be more likely to cooperate as societies”.
“Interestingly, we found that religion is less likely to thrive in populations living in cities in developed nations where there is already a strong social support network.