The devil and the forces of evil originated in the human imagination as a spiritual explanations for the contagious nature of the disease. (Credit: DeAgostini/Getty)
Where is the spiritual concept of evil come from? A possible explanation for this may be people’s attempts to understand and cope with infectious diseases.
The linking of the disease, and their symptoms may be mysterious and evil forces, a practice that came into being within the traditional belief systems of the prior in the middle of the 19th century, when germ theory was introduced, the scientists reported in a new study. Germ theory, proved that microscopic pathogens, rather than by evil spirits were the cause of the disease.
However, the connection between the religious beliefs of right and wrong, and in the presence of an infectious or contagious disease is ravaging the present day, the researchers found. They found that, in geographic areas with a high incidence of the disease, the people also proved to be the stronger the beliefs about the agents of evil, such as demons and witches.
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In the past, many of the cultures and societies of Africa, Asia, Europe and North America have used supernatural forces to explain and to guide them in their response to the disease. A notable example was the increase in witch hunts in the middle ages in Europe, when the continent was ravaged by the Black Death, the researchers reported.
This approach had a practical side: people who are Ill — evidence from a so-called bad influence, it would have to be isolated, ostracized, or even killed, resulting in the protection of others against the spread of pathogens, according to the study. In turn, in environments where infectious diseases were common, it would reinforce the conservative ideology, which, following a strict practice of shared rituals, and avoidance of strangers.
Like spiritual beliefs, the evil was more likely to be in the region of a higher load of pathogens, “suggesting that, historically, these convictions have evolved to explain the effects of the pathogen,” lead study author Brock Bastian, an associate professor in the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne in Australia, told Science in an e-mail.
“It opens up new insights into the origins of religion as a belief system that has been developed in order to explain natural hazards or events,” Bastian said.
Witches, the devil, and the evil eye
In order to test the hypothesis, the researchers conducted surveys, and consulted with the archiving of the data, and to assess the levels of belief in the devil. They have been more than 3,000 college students from the university’s 28 member countries, and to examine whether or not the participants believed strongly in the evil eye is the ability of an individual to cast a curse by a malevolent glare”), of witchcraft, of the devil, and not of the forces of evil. Archiving of data is out of around 58,000 people in about 50 countries, collected between 1995 and 1998, focused on the question of the subjects of the belief in the devil. In their evaluation, the scientists noted the individuals’ social class, education level, political preferences, and strength of religious practice.
The researchers also examined the global history of infectious or contagious diseases, for the comparison of the patterns of geographic trends in the spiritual beliefs of the evil.
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They have been taught that in places where infectious or contagious diseases in the past have been distributed, “people will be more inclined to believe in the devil, and the evil effect of the evil eye, and witches, which is a channel of evil,” according to the study, which was published on Oct. 30 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“We have found consistent evidence for the historical pathogen prevalence is associated with an increased tendency to believe that there are evil forces at work in the world,” the researchers reported. The correlation between the belief in the devil, and the historic and widespread disease were the most powerful in Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Philippines; all of these correlations were the weakest in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Sweden, the scientists found.
The description of the disease, the harm would not have promoted behavior, which is the infection and reduces outbreaks, to the benefit of the overall health of a community, the researchers said. Faith-based systems, with a strong sense of good and evil as well as the active forces, as a result, an advantage is provided to people who live in areas of the world where there is a risk of contracting an infectious disease was very high, the scientists added.
When such sentences are embedded in a culture, their influence can linger on for generations to come. Even today, when scientific explanations for the disease, “such thinking remains evident in many modern societies, in which health complaints are sometimes attributed to the will of God or the work of the devil and all the spiritual remedies do exist,” the authors wrote.
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Originally published on Live Science.