[noblebeast] The Discovery article makes it pretty clear towards the end that it is not religious belief, but religious activities, that are likely responsible for the cognitive benefits.
[inasity_rules] I am not sure we read the same article. Not to invoke an argument, but the TFA talks about listening to sermons and reading the bible.
Note that "listening" and "reading" are verbs that describe activities, not beliefs. So TFA in fact agrees with nobebeast's interpretation.
It even ends with 'âoeMy personal belief is that having a strong belief is key to getting the benefits,â Fotuhi said.'
So he contradicted himself in the article.
And we might note that both are possible. We have a word for beliefs that have pharmacological effects: "placebo". People tend to think that placebos are ineffective, but a number of studies have turned up cases of placebos having an effect on people who believe that they are actual medicines. In particular, belief that X can have an effect on a specific brain activity can easily lead to X having just that effect on people who believe that it will.
But the real problem with religious beliefs is that they have a history of leading to very negative effects on non-believers who encounter the believers.