Here is an article which shows that people with firm religious convictions have less activity in a part of the brain associated with anxiety when getting questions wrong in a test.
On a monitor, subjects see a colour spelled out in letters that either correspond to or contradict the meaning of the word – for example, red spelled out in red letters or blue spelled out in yellow letters, for instance. Volunteers must press a button to indicate the colour of the letters.
The students with strong religious beliefs, as measured by their agreement with statements such as “My religion is better than others” or “I would support a war if my religion supported it”, exhibited less ACC activation than students with less fervent beliefs.
Having read the article it seems to me that it’s simply a case of, people who are generally less anxious and less worried about getting things wrong, are less likely to have doubts about their faith too. I don’t see any reason to think that one causes the other but rather that they are probably just both aspects of the same confident personality.
As an anxious, neurotic person, I kinda envy people like that. I’ve met plenty of them. I suppose at one time I might have thought they were more mature, had a stronger faith, and so on, and aspired to be more like them. Now I think it’s probably just a basic personality difference. Many people – believers and non-believers alike – may look down on me for my religious ambiguity, but I don’t look down on myself, and I’d like to hope God wouldn’t. It’s the way I’m wired.
We just have to take what we can get. I enjoy pondering and if it’s prompted by underlying existential anxiety that is only abated by deep reflection and searching, it doesn’t feel like much of a burden to bear. The worst of my anxiety is when I deny myself this opportunity. Mainstream religion tends to have that effect.
I wouldn’t rule out being religious again, but I’d probably be non-denominational. I admire people that march to their own drum and I hope one day I will have the courage of my convictions to do that, in work, as well as in spiritual practice.