For many religious people, the popular question "What would Jesus do?" is essentially the same as "What would I do?" That's the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.* snip *
The brain scans found the same thing, particularly in a region called the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) that's been linked to self-referential thinking. The mPFC is more active when we think about our own mindsets than those of others. Epley found that it was similarly abuzz when the recruits thought about their own attitude or God's, but lower when they considered the average American.I was going to make a quip about the research appearing in the Journal of Unsurprising Results, but I honestly find that last bit rather startling. According to Epley, people use a different part of the brain to infer what other people are thinking, but use the very same part of the brain to reflect on either their own thoughts or their inference about God. That would seem to suggest that creating God in one's own image isn't just an act of bad faith; it could be exceedingly difficult to avoid.