Thomas Alva Edison famously opined that genius is “one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Though the inventor and businessman fell short of self-identifying as an atheist, he also asserted, in a 1910 New York Times Magazine interview, that “Nature did it all—not the gods of the religions.” New research suggests that Edison’s two statements above—and similar others he made—could be more intrinsically connected than it might seem at first sight: people who experience more inspiration in their lives tend to be stronger believers in God.
Research had previously shown that individuals with more analytical cognitive styles are less likely to be believers. The new study, published in Psychological Science by Clayton R. Critcher and Chan Jean Lee of University of California, Berkeley, and KAIST, set out to determine the experimental origins of belief in God. They conducted a series of studies in California and Korea, to test the hypothesis that feeling inspired encourages a belief in God, and that it does so because “inspiration offers a transcendent experience that produces feelings of connection to something greater than the self.”
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