How the 2004 Tsunami Affected Religious Beliefs

From Tom Rees of Epiphenom:

Does a traumatic experience encourage people toward religion, or does it have the opposite effect? In a previous post, I ran through the evidence that Americans who had lost a relative in the 9/11 terrorist attacks tended to become less religious afterward.

So what about a different country, and a different trauma? Ajmal Hussain, at the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies in Oslo, quizzed 1,000 Norwegian tourists who were in South East Asia at the time of the 2004 tsunami—a major disaster that killed more than 200,000 people.

The survey was run two years after the disaster, at which time 8 percent reported their religious beliefs had strengthened since before the disaster, and 5 percent reported that their beliefs had weakened.

Those whose beliefs strengthened also tended to report they had pre-tsunami mental health problems, felt that their life was threatened more, that they had lost a family member or close friend, that they had suffered injuries themselves, and that they had experienced post-traumatic stress and post-tsunami adverse life events. However, after putting all the different factors into a statistical pot (including factors like age, sex, and education), only two factors remained important: pre-tsunami mental health problems (which increased the chances of becoming more religious by 80 percent) and post-traumatic stress (which increased the chances by 62 percent).

However, those whose beliefs weakened also tended to report that their life was threatened more, and that they had post-traumatic stress and post-tsunami adverse life events! They also tended to be younger—and both age and post-traumatic stress remained important after adjusting for other factors.

Hussain concludes that living through the terrifying events of the tsunami did not have much effect on the religious beliefs of Norwegians (they were, after all, repatriated within days of the event and, apart from this event, live mostly trauma-free lives).

However, those who were the most traumatized were more likely to change their religious beliefs—but the effect could go either way. To me, this suggests that whether trauma makes you more or less religious probably depends a lot on your cultural background.

Category: Blog Network

Tagged:

2 Responses

  1. BOMBAYMANN says:

    WHY EVERYBODY IS INTERESTED IN THE BELIEFS AND NON BELIEFS OF ONLY WHITES/ANGLO SAXONS WHO HAD TRAUMA?AS IF THE ASIANS AFRICANS DO NOT COUNT?AS IF THE OTHER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS DON’T COUNT?
    FIND OUT HOW MANY OF THE TRUE NATIVES CHANGED THEIR BELIEFS BECAUSE OF A TRAUMATIC EVENT?I AM SURE THAT YOU WILL BE SURPRISED TO FIND THAT NOT MANY CHANGED THEIR BELIEFS AS WHIMSICALLY AS A WHITE MAN.

  2. lololol says:

    Oh Bombaymann, you’re obviously skim-reading or completely stupid. “Ajmal Hussain, at the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies in Oslo”. “NORWEGIAN”, “OSLO”; How many of those “natives” affected by the 2004 Tsunami do you expect to be living in Oslo? Yeah, sure their opinions and shift in religious beliefs are more relevant, however if you have no group to assess it’s not really useful, is it?

Leave a Reply