A study recently published in a psychological journal analyzing political affiliations and the difference between being “spiritual” or “religious” found practicing spiritual exercises, like meditation, might cause political ideals to shift.
The study by researchers at the University of Toronto was teased last year but more recently published in the January edition of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Among many of the observations, the most striking in the study was that immediately after practicing a spiritual exercise participants were found to be more politically liberal.
“There’s great overlap between religious beliefs and political orientations,” study author Jordan Peterson with the university’s department of psychology, said in the press release. “We found that religious individuals tend to be more conservative and spiritual people tend to be more liberal. Inducing a spiritual experience through a guided meditation exercise led both liberals and conservatives to endorse more liberal political attitudes.”
Lead author Jacob Hirsh and his colleagues at the university in three studies analyzed participants political views with relation to whether they were religious or spiritual. According to the university’s press release, the authors found those identifying as religious were more politically conservative, while those who were spiritual aligned as more politically liberal.
The study associated conservatism and religiousness with an importance placed on tradition and liberalism and spirituality with an emphasis on equality and social harmony.
“While religiousness is characterized by devotion to a specific tradition, set of principles, or code of conduct, spirituality is associated with the direct experience of self-transcendence and the feeling that we’re all connected,” Hirsh said in a statement.
As for the study that covered a spiritual exercise, the researchers had some participants watch a meditation video while others did not. All were then asked about their political orientation and to rate their feelings of spirituality. Those who watched the video, compared to those who didn’t, expressed feeling more spiritual. They also favored more liberal political candidates and agreed with what would traditionally be considered more left-leaning ideas, like reduced support for “tough on crime” policies.
“The conservative part of religious belief has played an important role in holding cultures together and establishing common rules. The spiritual part, on the other hand, helps cultures renew themselves by adapting to changing circumstances,” Peterson said in a statement. “Both right and left are necessary; it’s not that either is correct, it’s that the dialogue between them produces the best chance we have at getting the balance right. If people could understand that both sides have an important role to play in society, some of the unnecessary tension might be eliminated.”
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