Nav: Home

Injuries and loss of life boost religious faith after disasters

June 05, 2018

Weather-related disasters can make people more religious but it depends on the toll they inflict, suggests new UBC research. If a disaster injures a significant number of people, it can strengthen religiosity among those who are already religious. But if a disaster inflicts mostly economic damage, the opposite effect applies.

"It's generally assumed that disasters can intensify religious preferences or practices," said study author Oscar Zapata, a postdoctoral researcher in UBC's school of community and regional planning. "My analysis suggests that it depends on the frequency of disasters in that region and the specific impact of the disaster."

Oscar Zapata

Using data from an international survey conducted annually between 1995 and 2012, Zapata evaluated the responses of 12,333 Canadians to two questions: "Do you believe in God?" and "How often do you attend religious services?" He then compared their answers with records of natural disasters, like avalanches, wildfires or blizzards that occurred in Canada during the same time period.

Eighty-two per cent of survey respondents said they believe in God, with the majority reporting that they are either Roman Catholic, Protestant or Christian Orthodox. Using statistical analysis, Zapata found that among the believers of God, religiosity increased following disasters that injured a significant number of people: for every one per cent increase in the number of injured due to a climate disaster, attendance at religious services increased by close to four per cent.

Disasters with largely economic impact did not have the same effect. With every one per cent increase in the number of disaster events, belief in God among survey respondents dropped 26 per cent. And for every one per cent increase in the economic cost of a natural disaster, the probability of believing in God dropped two per cent.

"In other words, economic losses caused by natural disasters had much less impact on religious beliefs or practices compared to human losses," said Zapata. "This might be because people can recover from financial losses and they can rebuild homes as long as they have emergency funds or insurance. It's losing people they know that seems to drive people to religion to ease their pain or stress."

He cautioned that the analysis is uniquely applicable to Canada, which has good infrastructure and strong insurance systems that lighten the financial burdens of disasters. "It would be interesting to compare the results with countries that experience more weather-related disasters or have weaker infrastructure and insurance markets."

Future studies could also look at the specific channels through which climate-related disasters affect religious preferences, he added. "Do people become less religious as disasters and material losses increase in number because they have more scientific information that links these disasters to human-induced climate change? Or do climate disasters reaffirm religious people's beliefs that disasters are acts of God and that God will protect them? We need to do more research to understand these mechanisms."

"Turning to God in tough times? Human versus material losses from climate disasters in Canada" was published in April in Economics of Disasters and Climate Change (link https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41885-018-0029-2). To obtain a copy of the study or to speak with the researcher, contact lou.bosshart@ubc.ca
-end-


University of British Columbia

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.