The Forgiveness Instinct

According to mounting data, the religiously faithful take more satisfaction from marriage and life in general.

To that list of community benefits, one might add self-control, according to New York Times science reporter John Tierney, who references research by University of Miami psychology professor Michael McCullough. In his column, Tierney also distinguishes between religious belief and loosely held ideas about spirituality.

The key is not certitude but practice:

'Brain-scan studies have shown that when people pray or meditate, there’s a lot of activity in two parts of brain that are important for self-regulation and control of attention and emotion,' he said. 'The rituals that religions have been encouraging for thousands of years seem to be a kind of anaerobic workout for self-control.'

McCullough is the author of a new book, Beyond Revenge, the Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct, another popular entry into the growing body of work on the biology of altruism, justice and well being.

Happy New Year everybody!