Collective religious rituals fuel support for suicide attacks

February 19th, 2009 - 3:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Feb 19 (IANS) Researchers conducted a set of experiments to unravel ties between religion and support for suicide attacks and ‘parochial altruism,’ or sacrificing oneself for the group.
Suicide attacks are an extreme form of ‘parochial altruism’ combining a parochial act (the attacker killing members from other groups) with altruism (the attacker sacrificing themselves for the group).

Psychologists Jeremy Ginges, Ian Hansen from New School for Social Research and Ara Norenzayan, University of British Columbia, found that the relationship between religion and support suicide attacks is real but is unrelated to devotion to particular religious beliefs.

Instead, collective religious ritual appears to facilitate parochial altruism in general and support for suicide attacks in particular.

The researchers surveyed Palestinian Muslims about their attitudes towards religion, including how often they prayed and went to mosque. They found that devotion to Islam, as measured by prayer frequency, was unrelated to support for suicide attacks.

However, frequency of mosque attendance did predict support for suicide attacks. In a separate survey of Palestinian Muslim university students, the researchers found again that those who attended mosque more than once a day, were more likely to believe that Islam requires suicide attacks, compared to students who attended mosque less often.

All participants were then asked if they supported the perpetrator of a suicide attack against Palestinians. Analysis of the responses showed that 23 percent of those asked about synagogue attendance supported suicide attacks while only six percent of those queried about prayer frequency supported suicide attacks, said a British Columbia release.

Psychologists also surveyed members of six religious majorities in six nations (Mexican Catholics, Indonesian Muslims, Israeli Jews, Russian Orthodox in Russia, British Protestants and Indian Hindus) to see if the relationship between attending religious services and support for acts of parochial altruism holds up across a variety of political and cultural contexts.

These results were published in Psychological Science.

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