Natural disasters make people more religious

In New Orleans, making music from hurricane leftovers

Leah Hennessy steps into a telephone booth in the center of the Music Box Village, a permanent outdoor arts exhibition, and lifts the receiver. There’s no dial tone. The booth is an unusual musical instrument, one of the many exhibits that Ms. Hennessy oversees as the venue’s lead creative producer. When she sings “You Are My Sunshine” into the mouthpiece, a horn-shaped speaker on top of the booth broadcasts her voice. The horn starts to rotate like a weather vane in a gale. In a nifty effect, it distorts Ms. Hennessy’s voice so that it warbles like a gramophone record.

If inventor Rube Goldberg were to transform a junkyard into musical architecture, it might resemble the Music Box Village. By day, it is an interactive playground for tourists. By night, it’s a live music venue for…


Natural disasters make people more religious

The explanation for why religiosity increases in the face of disasters could be that people go to church for material aid, that people move in the face of disasters, or that disasters also affect development or other cultural values.

Philosophers once predicted that religion would die out as societies modernize. This has not happened. Today, more than four out of every five people on Earth believe in God. Religion seems to be serving a purpose that modernization does not replace.

New research finds that people become more religious when hit by natural disasters. They are more likely to rank themselves as a religious person, find comfort in God, and to state that God is important in their lives. This increase in average religiosity occurs on all continents, for people belonging to all major religions, income groups, and from all educational backgrounds.

Religiosity has increased nine times more in districts across the globe hit by earthquakes compared to those that were spared over the period 1991-2009. This is mainly because believers become more religious. It’s not that non-believers tend to take up religion in the aftermath of a natural disaster. They also generally do not go to church much more often. Rather, their existing personal beliefs intensify…


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