Drawing on a wealth of new evidence, pioneering research psychologist David DeSteno shows why religious practices and rituals are so beneficial to those who follow them—and to anyone, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof).
Scientists are beginning to discover what believers have known for a long time: the rewards that a religious life can provide. For millennia, people have turned to priests, rabbis, imams, shamans, and others to help them deal with issues of grief and loss, birth and death, morality and meaning. In this absorbing work, DeSteno reveals how numerous religious practices from around the world improve emotional and physical well-being.
With empathy and rigor, DeSteno chronicles religious rites and traditions from cradle to grave. He explains how the Japanese rituals surrounding childbirth help strengthen parental bonds with children. He describes how the Apache Sunrise Ceremony makes teenage girls better able to face the rigors of womanhood. He shows how Buddhist meditation reduces hostility and increases compassion. He demonstrates how the Jewish practice of sitting shiva comforts the bereaved. And much more.
DeSteno details how belief itself enhances physical and mental health. But you don’t need to be religious to benefit from the trove of wisdom that religion has to offer. Many items in religion’s “toolbox” can help the body and mind whether or not one believes. How God Works offers advice on how to incorporate many of these practices to help all of us live more meaningful, successful, and satisfying lives.
David DeSteno is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and the author of Emotional Success and The Truth About Trust, and coauthor of Out of Character. He frequently writes for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Harvard Business Review, and The Atlantic. He received his PhD in psychology from Yale University.