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Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 12:23 UK
Programmed to believe in God?

A cross and a candle
Do humans believe in a psychological bond with God?

Humans are pre-programmed to believe in God from birth, according to a professor from Bristol University.

Professor Bruce Hood's study suggests that people automatically believe in God to give them a better chance of survival.

From his research he thinks that magical and supernatural beliefs are hardwired into our brains from birth and that religions are therefore tapping into a powerful psychological force.

Professor Bruce Hood from the department of Experimental Psychology says: "Religions are clearly cultural and are passed on from story telling, but they often have components which appeal to the supernatural nature of the world."

A study into the way children's brains develop suggests that during the process of evolution those with religious tendencies began to benefit from their beliefs - possibly by working in groups to ensure the future of their community.

Professor Hood added: "The idea suggests a special object or sacred object has some kind of power or energy inside them.

"You would not want to wear Fred West's jumper because it's something which has come into physical contact with someone who's evil. It's hard coming up with an explanation for these gut reactions."

Professor Hood also claims adults also have a belief in voodoo magic.

"For example, cutting up a photograph doesn't actually harm the object, but if you get people to cut up pictures of sentimental objects then they show an arousal measure in their body, which reveals they're quite anxious about this, even though they know it won't cause any kind of problem."

The professor will present his findings at the British Science Association's annual meeting this week.

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