Toronto: Anxiety and uncertainty can drive
people to become paranoid and more radical in their religious beliefs, a new research has suggested.
Researchers, at the York University in Toronto, who
carried out a series of studies into the causes of religious
extremism, found that people wish to die for their faith when
they were in anxiety-provoking situations.
For the research, more than 600 participants were placed
in anxiety-provoking or neutral situations and then asked to
describe their personal goals and rate their degree of
conviction for their religious ideals.
This included asking participants whether they would give
their lives for their faith or support a war in its defence.
Across all studies, anxious conditions caused
participants to become more eagerly engaged in their ideals
and extreme in their religious convictions, the ScienceDaily
In one study, mulling over a personal dilemma caused a
general surge toward more idealistic personal goals, while
struggling with a confusing mathematical passage caused a
spike in radical religious extremes in another.
The scientists also found that uncertainties over
relationships caused the same religious zeal reaction in
Professor Ian McGregor, who led the research, said that
a psychological phenomenon called "Reactive Approach
Motivation" is behind the findings.
He said: "Approach motivation is a tenacious state in
which people become `locked and loaded` on whatever goal or
ideal they are promoting.
"They feel powerful, and thoughts and feelings related to
other issues recede.
"By simply promoting ideals and convictions in their own
minds, people can activate approach motivation, narrow their
motivational focus away from anxious problems, and feel serene
as a result."
The researchers also measured superstitious beliefs of
the participants and their deference toward a controlling God
in order to distinguish religious zeal from meeker forms of