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Atheism is not as rare or as rational as you think

sun rise

The world is on fire
Premium Member
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS BY AN ATHEIST

This article was published last year but I don't remember seeing it discussed here. Personally this article makes a lot of sense. It looks at religion from an open-minded atheist perspective.

Atheism is not as rare or as rational as you think

Many atheists think of themselves as intellectually gifted individuals, guiding humanity on the path of reason. Scientific data shows otherwise.


On closer inspection, religion is not an evolutionary puzzle so much as two evolutionary puzzles. First is the puzzle of faith: the puzzle of how Homo sapiens — and Homo sapiens alone — came to be a religious species. Second, there is the puzzle of atheism: how disbelief in gods can exist within an otherwise religious species. If belief in god(s) is truly an evolved human universal, how is it that millions or maybe billions of people today don’t believe in any? How can a defining feature of our species (which religion most definitely is!) not be a defining feature of our entire species?
...
“Some form of religious thinking seems to be the path of least resistance for our cognitive systems. By contrast, disbelief is generally the result of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions — hardly the easiest ideology to propagate.”
...

Atheism is stigmatized but not rare​

Results like these — people inferring that serial killers don’t believe in God, or assuming that atheism leaves an indelible stamp of immorality even on people’s faces — are the context in which polls of atheist prevalence exist. Poll respondents might be motivated to conceal their atheism, which would systematically downwardly bias our estimates of global atheist prevalence.

In 2018, Maxine Najle and I estimated how many atheists there are in the U.S. using a task that lets people indirectly indicate their atheism to us, without them having to say it. Using this sneaky indirect measurement technique, our best estimate is that 26% of American adults do not believe in god(s) — more than twice as many as Gallup and Pew estimated at the time.
...

Atheism isn’t just for geniuses​

Around 2009 or 2010, Ara Norenzayan and I sought to scientifically test the idea that atheism is underpinned by effortful cognitive reflection...

But the plot thickened. Rigorous follow-up studies repeatedly have been unable to produce similar results to our initial experiments. I have now accepted that the experiments in our initial Science paper were fatally flawed, the results no more than false positives. Beyond the experimental failures to replicate, the correlation between rational thinking and atheism turns out to be both weak and fickle across cultures.
...
Religion is no less an evolutionary product than is a raptor or a ribosome, worthy of the same scientific awe. Through the processes of genetic evolution, we have been endowed with minds capable of imagining gods, and through the processes of cultural evolution, we have evolved intricate structures of beliefs and norms that have helped propel our species to greater and greater cooperative heights. The seemingly bizarre religious rituals that many deride as irrational may in fact be cultural evolutionary tricks that help create cooperative societies.

To me, this intricate cultural evolutionary play is infinitely more fascinating and fulfilling than the shallow, wholesale dismissal of religion offered by vocal public atheists. And to appreciate it, all you need to do is open yourself up to the possibility that over the millennia, religions may have survived and thrived in part because they served an evolutionary purpose. Of course, atheists need not subscribe to a given religious faith to appreciate it; one needn’t accept or praise something simply because it was useful in cultural evolution. But everyone — including atheists, which I am — can have a more mature, scientifically literate, and fulfilling relationship with religion if we are open to the possibility that it doesn’t poison everything.
 

Audie

Veteran Member
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS BY AN ATHEIST

This article was published last year but I don't remember seeing it discussed here. Personally this article makes a lot of sense. It looks at religion from an open-minded atheist perspective.

Atheism is not as rare or as rational as you think

Many atheists think of themselves as intellectually gifted individuals, guiding humanity on the path of reason. Scientific data shows otherwise.

On closer inspection, religion is not an evolutionary puzzle so much as two evolutionary puzzles. First is the puzzle of faith: the puzzle of how Homo sapiens — and Homo sapiens alone — came to be a religious species. Second, there is the puzzle of atheism: how disbelief in gods can exist within an otherwise religious species. If belief in god(s) is truly an evolved human universal, how is it that millions or maybe billions of people today don’t believe in any? How can a defining feature of our species (which religion most definitely is!) not be a defining feature of our entire species?
...
“Some form of religious thinking seems to be the path of least resistance for our cognitive systems. By contrast, disbelief is generally the result of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions — hardly the easiest ideology to propagate.”
...

Atheism is stigmatized but not rare​

Results like these — people inferring that serial killers don’t believe in God, or assuming that atheism leaves an indelible stamp of immorality even on people’s faces — are the context in which polls of atheist prevalence exist. Poll respondents might be motivated to conceal their atheism, which would systematically downwardly bias our estimates of global atheist prevalence.

In 2018, Maxine Najle and I estimated how many atheists there are in the U.S. using a task that lets people indirectly indicate their atheism to us, without them having to say it. Using this sneaky indirect measurement technique, our best estimate is that 26% of American adults do not believe in god(s) — more than twice as many as Gallup and Pew estimated at the time.
...

Atheism isn’t just for geniuses​

Around 2009 or 2010, Ara Norenzayan and I sought to scientifically test the idea that atheism is underpinned by effortful cognitive reflection...

But the plot thickened. Rigorous follow-up studies repeatedly have been unable to produce similar results to our initial experiments. I have now accepted that the experiments in our initial Science paper were fatally flawed, the results no more than false positives. Beyond the experimental failures to replicate, the correlation between rational thinking and atheism turns out to be both weak and fickle across cultures.
...
Religion is no less an evolutionary product than is a raptor or a ribosome, worthy of the same scientific awe. Through the processes of genetic evolution, we have been endowed with minds capable of imagining gods, and through the processes of cultural evolution, we have evolved intricate structures of beliefs and norms that have helped propel our species to greater and greater cooperative heights. The seemingly bizarre religious rituals that many deride as irrational may in fact be cultural evolutionary tricks that help create cooperative societies.

To me, this intricate cultural evolutionary play is infinitely more fascinating and fulfilling than the shallow, wholesale dismissal of religion offered by vocal public atheists. And to appreciate it, all you need to do is open yourself up to the possibility that over the millennia, religions may have survived and thrived in part because they served an evolutionary purpose. Of course, atheists need not subscribe to a given religious faith to appreciate it; one needn’t accept or praise something simply because it was useful in cultural evolution. But everyone — including atheists, which I am — can have a more mature, scientifically literate, and fulfilling relationship with religion if we are open to the possibility that it doesn’t poison everything.
News of the obvious.
 

Shadow Wolf

Certified People sTabber
and Homo sapiens alone —
We have evidence that its very likely and probably that homos before us were religious, and it just doesn't seem to me our own famioy tree is it. Jane Goodall, for example, is convinced that chimps have religious amd spiritual feelings and experiences, and in general where we think we so special above other animals we learn we just aren't.
But good of an article saying atheists aren't as logical as thought to have such an obvious blunder.
Sneaky questions are also a shame on them.
Sounds like someone just woke up and realized theres a treasure trove of biological studies into what seems an innate drive for religiousness in us.
 

Brickjectivity

Turned to Stone. Now I stretch daily.
Staff member
Premium Member
"What's this rushing up towards me? Its so big and round, so I think I'll call it 'ground'. I wonder if we will be friends?"
:whale:


An irrational person can choose atheism if they like, so there can be irrational atheists. I think most people aren't terribly worried about what they believe and are more concerned with getting on with life. There are babies to birth and to bring to adulthood, and there is fun to be had. There is food to be grown and storage to be readied and warm beds kept safe.

The only question that we can debate is whether atheism is a rational position, and we cannot objectively determine the answer to that without making assumptions; but even then the answer is lost. Toss in the mix of personality traits, and its very difficult to establish who is rational. It is not even the assumptions which determine the outcome of the question "Is atheism a rational position." It is the feelings of the person asking the question.

These feelings allow us to think or prohibit us. They are like switches in our heads. To back this up: I think you will agree that drugs can temporarily affect the decisions a person makes, and head injuries can, too. Equally so a little boost of oxygen or regular exercise can also affect the decision making process. Well...emotions are also able to do that. Therefore we cannot with certainty call anyone perfectly rational. We can call them reliable. We can call them healthy, consistent, capable. We cannot call them perfectly rational.
 

Shadow Wolf

Certified People sTabber
"What's this rushing up towards me? Its so big and round, so I think I'll call it 'ground'. I wonder if we will be friends?"
:whale:


An irrational person can choose atheism if they like, so there can be irrational atheists. I think most people aren't terribly worried about what they believe and are more concerned with getting on with life. There are babies to birth and to bring to adulthood, and there is fun to be had. There is food to be grown and storage to be readied and warm beds kept safe.

The only question that we can debate is whether atheism is a rational position, and we cannot objectively determine the answer to that without making assumptions; but even then the answer is lost. Toss in the mix of personality traits, and its very difficult to establish who is rational. It is not even the assumptions which determine the outcome of the question "Is atheism a rational position." It is the feelings of the person asking the question.

These feelings allow us to think or prohibit us. They are like switches in our heads. To back this up: I think you will agree that drugs can temporarily affect the decisions a person makes, and head injuries can, too. Equally so a little boost of oxygen or regular exercise can also affect the decision making process. Well...emotions are also able to do that. Therefore we cannot with certainty call anyone perfectly rational. We can call them reliable. We can call them healthy, consistent, capable. We cannot call them perfectly rational.
You know what that made me laugh (connecting the first oart to the rest).:tongueclosed:
 

danieldemol

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS BY AN ATHEIST

This article was published last year but I don't remember seeing it discussed here. Personally this article makes a lot of sense. It looks at religion from an open-minded atheist perspective.

Atheism is not as rare or as rational as you think

Many atheists think of themselves as intellectually gifted individuals, guiding humanity on the path of reason. Scientific data shows otherwise.

On closer inspection, religion is not an evolutionary puzzle so much as two evolutionary puzzles. First is the puzzle of faith: the puzzle of how Homo sapiens — and Homo sapiens alone — came to be a religious species. Second, there is the puzzle of atheism: how disbelief in gods can exist within an otherwise religious species. If belief in god(s) is truly an evolved human universal, how is it that millions or maybe billions of people today don’t believe in any? How can a defining feature of our species (which religion most definitely is!) not be a defining feature of our entire species?
...
“Some form of religious thinking seems to be the path of least resistance for our cognitive systems. By contrast, disbelief is generally the result of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions — hardly the easiest ideology to propagate.”
...

Atheism is stigmatized but not rare​

Results like these — people inferring that serial killers don’t believe in God, or assuming that atheism leaves an indelible stamp of immorality even on people’s faces — are the context in which polls of atheist prevalence exist. Poll respondents might be motivated to conceal their atheism, which would systematically downwardly bias our estimates of global atheist prevalence.

In 2018, Maxine Najle and I estimated how many atheists there are in the U.S. using a task that lets people indirectly indicate their atheism to us, without them having to say it. Using this sneaky indirect measurement technique, our best estimate is that 26% of American adults do not believe in god(s) — more than twice as many as Gallup and Pew estimated at the time.
...

Atheism isn’t just for geniuses​

Around 2009 or 2010, Ara Norenzayan and I sought to scientifically test the idea that atheism is underpinned by effortful cognitive reflection...

But the plot thickened. Rigorous follow-up studies repeatedly have been unable to produce similar results to our initial experiments. I have now accepted that the experiments in our initial Science paper were fatally flawed, the results no more than false positives. Beyond the experimental failures to replicate, the correlation between rational thinking and atheism turns out to be both weak and fickle across cultures.
...
Religion is no less an evolutionary product than is a raptor or a ribosome, worthy of the same scientific awe. Through the processes of genetic evolution, we have been endowed with minds capable of imagining gods, and through the processes of cultural evolution, we have evolved intricate structures of beliefs and norms that have helped propel our species to greater and greater cooperative heights. The seemingly bizarre religious rituals that many deride as irrational may in fact be cultural evolutionary tricks that help create cooperative societies.

To me, this intricate cultural evolutionary play is infinitely more fascinating and fulfilling than the shallow, wholesale dismissal of religion offered by vocal public atheists. And to appreciate it, all you need to do is open yourself up to the possibility that over the millennia, religions may have survived and thrived in part because they served an evolutionary purpose. Of course, atheists need not subscribe to a given religious faith to appreciate it; one needn’t accept or praise something simply because it was useful in cultural evolution. But everyone — including atheists, which I am — can have a more mature, scientifically literate, and fulfilling relationship with religion if we are open to the possibility that it doesn’t poison everything.
Well I dont believe that religion necessarily poisons everything, although I do see certain religions as being strongly opposed to science.

I also think the story conflates a position with a people.

People can be highly rational on some positions whilst being highly irrational on other positions.

People are often a mixed bag so I wouldn't expect to see a higher rationality ratio on any individual position.

That does not mean in my view that certain positions themselves are less or even equally rational to the alternatives.

In fact I would even dare assert that some sort of agnostic atheism *is* a more rational specific position even if it doesn’t translate into atheists being more rational on the whole, and I say that as a theist. So to sum up I think the title of the article is false. Atheism is as rational as I think it is, and if it isn't, then the article needs to find flaw in the position, *not* in the people.
 

Twilight Hue

Twilight, not bright nor dark, good nor bad.
I can see how the human brain evolved to accommodate religion as a coping mechanism.

Not everyone needs it of course and having no gods would be preferred to using mental religious crutches to get by in life.
 

Left Coast

This Is Water
Staff member
Premium Member
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS BY AN ATHEIST

This article was published last year but I don't remember seeing it discussed here. Personally this article makes a lot of sense. It looks at religion from an open-minded atheist perspective.

Atheism is not as rare or as rational as you think

Many atheists think of themselves as intellectually gifted individuals, guiding humanity on the path of reason. Scientific data shows otherwise.

On closer inspection, religion is not an evolutionary puzzle so much as two evolutionary puzzles. First is the puzzle of faith: the puzzle of how Homo sapiens — and Homo sapiens alone — came to be a religious species. Second, there is the puzzle of atheism: how disbelief in gods can exist within an otherwise religious species. If belief in god(s) is truly an evolved human universal, how is it that millions or maybe billions of people today don’t believe in any? How can a defining feature of our species (which religion most definitely is!) not be a defining feature of our entire species?
...
“Some form of religious thinking seems to be the path of least resistance for our cognitive systems. By contrast, disbelief is generally the result of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions — hardly the easiest ideology to propagate.”
...

Atheism is stigmatized but not rare​

Results like these — people inferring that serial killers don’t believe in God, or assuming that atheism leaves an indelible stamp of immorality even on people’s faces — are the context in which polls of atheist prevalence exist. Poll respondents might be motivated to conceal their atheism, which would systematically downwardly bias our estimates of global atheist prevalence.

In 2018, Maxine Najle and I estimated how many atheists there are in the U.S. using a task that lets people indirectly indicate their atheism to us, without them having to say it. Using this sneaky indirect measurement technique, our best estimate is that 26% of American adults do not believe in god(s) — more than twice as many as Gallup and Pew estimated at the time.
...

Atheism isn’t just for geniuses​

Around 2009 or 2010, Ara Norenzayan and I sought to scientifically test the idea that atheism is underpinned by effortful cognitive reflection...

But the plot thickened. Rigorous follow-up studies repeatedly have been unable to produce similar results to our initial experiments. I have now accepted that the experiments in our initial Science paper were fatally flawed, the results no more than false positives. Beyond the experimental failures to replicate, the correlation between rational thinking and atheism turns out to be both weak and fickle across cultures.
...
Religion is no less an evolutionary product than is a raptor or a ribosome, worthy of the same scientific awe. Through the processes of genetic evolution, we have been endowed with minds capable of imagining gods, and through the processes of cultural evolution, we have evolved intricate structures of beliefs and norms that have helped propel our species to greater and greater cooperative heights. The seemingly bizarre religious rituals that many deride as irrational may in fact be cultural evolutionary tricks that help create cooperative societies.

To me, this intricate cultural evolutionary play is infinitely more fascinating and fulfilling than the shallow, wholesale dismissal of religion offered by vocal public atheists. And to appreciate it, all you need to do is open yourself up to the possibility that over the millennia, religions may have survived and thrived in part because they served an evolutionary purpose. Of course, atheists need not subscribe to a given religious faith to appreciate it; one needn’t accept or praise something simply because it was useful in cultural evolution. But everyone — including atheists, which I am — can have a more mature, scientifically literate, and fulfilling relationship with religion if we are open to the possibility that it doesn’t poison everything.

I wish I knew what their "indirect" measure of atheism was.
 

Whateverist

Active Member
everyone — including atheists, which I am — can have a more mature, scientifically literate, and fulfilling relationship with religion if we are open to the possibility that it doesn’t poison everything.

There is much more to say and of much more interest than this goes into, unfortunately. As it is this is likely to just elicit more polemics.
 
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