Some brief extracts:
The project involved 57 academics in 20 countries around the world, and spanned disciplines including anthropology, psychology, and philosophy.
It wanted to establish whether belief in divine beings and an afterlife were ideas simply learned from society or integral to human nature.
Professor Roger Trigg from Oxford said the research showed that religion was “not just something for a peculiar few to do on Sundays instead of playing golf”.
“We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that religion is a common fact of human nature across different societies. This suggests that attempts to suppress religion are likely to be short-lived because human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts, like the existence of supernatural agents or gods, and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”
Dr Justin Barrett, from the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind, who directed the project, said faith may persist in diverse cultures across the world because people who share the bonds of religion “might be more likely to cooperate as societies . . . Interestingly, we found that religion is less likely to thrive in populations living in cities in developed nations where there is already a strong social support network.”