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How God Works

Pioneering psychology professor David DeSteno demonstrates 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 and rabbis, imams, and shamans to help them deal with issues of grief and loss, birth and death, morality and meaning. In this absorbing work, renowned research psychologist David DeSteno reveals how numerous religious practices from around the world improve emotional and physical health.

With insight and acuity, DeSteno chronicles the lifespan of religious rituals and traditions from birth to death. He explains how:
-The Japanese Shinto rituals surrounding childbirth help insulate mothers from postpartum depression.
-Buddhist meditation reduces hostility and increases compassion when we need it most.
-The Jewish practice of sitting shiva reduces the pain associated with grief.
-The Christian practice of saying grace before meals increases empathy.
-When strangers move in synchrony with each other (a major part of many religious rites), they become more loyal and committed to each other almost immediately.
-The Apache Sunrise Ceremony makes teenage girls better able to face the rigors of womanhood
-And more.

The best part is, you don’t need to be religious to benefit from the treasure trove of wisdom that religion has to offer. Many items in religion’s “toolbox” work on the mind outside of belief. Using cutting edge science, DeSteno shows how to incorporate some 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 a fellow of several prestigious scientific societies. At a broad level, his work seeks to illuminate the mind’s foundations for moral behavior. By studying when, how, and why emotions like compassion, gratitude, and empathy emerge, his research has begun to uncover ways in which these virtues can be amplified to combat the problems of distrust, inequality, aggression, and loneliness that plague society. His work has been repeatedly funded by the National Science Foundation and has been regularly featured in the media, including The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe Atlantic, CBS Sunday Morning, and NPR’s Radiolab and On Point. He is the author of Emotional Success (featured in a viral New York Times Sunday Review piece prior to launch), The Truth About Trust (featured in articles and videos at Harvard Business Review), and coauthor of The Wall Street Journal spotlight psychology bestseller Out of Character. He frequently writes about his research for The New York TimesThe Boston GlobeHarvard Business ReviewPacific Standard, and The Atlantic. David received his PhD in psychology from Yale University.