April 27th, 2012
04:01 PM ET
Study: Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief
By Becky Perlow, CNN
(CNN) - When was the last time you sat down and questioned your decision to believe in God?
According to a new study, that simple act could decrease your religious conviction – even if you’re a devout believer.
In the study, published Friday in the journal Science, researchers from Canada’s University of British Columbia used subtle stimuli to encourage analytical thinking. Results from the study found that analytical thinking could decrease religious belief.
“Religious belief is intuitive - and analytical thinking can undermine intuitive thinking,” said Ara Norenzayan, co-author of the study. “So when people are encouraged to think analytically, it can block intuitive thinking.”
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Some of the more than 650 Canadian and American participants in the study were shown images of artwork that encouraged analytic thinking, while another group was shown images that were not intended to produce such thinking.
One of the images used to trigger analytic thinking was of Rodin’s statue “The Thinker.” A previous study showed that such images improved performance on tests that indicate analytic thinking.
In addition to the artwork images, the religion study used other stimuli to promote analytical thinking.
After exposure to such stimuli, researchers gauged participants’ religious beliefs through a series of questions. Subjects who had performed analytical tasks were more likely to experience a decrease in religious belief than those who were not involved in such tasks. That included devout believers.
“There’s much more instability to religious belief than we recognize,” said Norenzayan, noting that life’s circumstances and experiences, from traumatic events to joyous occasions, can lead people to become more or less religious.
“Religion is such an important part of the world and we have so little understanding of it,” he added. “So regardless of what you think about religion, it’s important to understand it because it’s so important in the world.”
Norenzayan is quick to mention that the experiments did not turn devout believers into total atheists. But he speculated that if people habitually think analytically, like scientists or lawyers do, it would lead to less religious belief in the long run.
Robert McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Culture at Emory University, and author of "Why religion is natural and science is not," found the study particularly interesting because he thought it was difficult to make even a minimal change in religious belief.
“It’s not likely you would argue someone out of a religious belief very often because they don’t hold those beliefs on argumentative or reflective grounds in the first place,” said McCauley, who believes religious beliefs rely primarily on intuitive thinking.
Analytical thinking alone does not necessarily lead to a decrease in religious belief, emphasized Norenzayan.
“There’s a combination of factors [as to] why people become believers or nonbelievers - this is only one piece of the puzzle,” Norenzayan said, explaining that his team doesn’t think analytical thinking is superior to intuitive thinking.
“It makes the story we need to tell about religion and religious belief all the more complicated,” said McCauley. “That’s what great scientific research does – ask more interesting questions.”
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1.Information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
2.The dissemination of such information as a political strategy.
It's "propaganda", you friggin' idiot.
Sorry, I tend to take the comment boards a little too serious.
You just don't know propo english
It's "seriously", fucktard.
No, what I take seriously is some half-wit who never got past community college telling me what I 'should' believe and do.
Lol, broad definitions and narrow implications for the win!
No wonder you don’t believe the Bible, it has a few spelling errors.
Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son,
You will need smelling salts when you run across the one who said "supposably" (different article)!
@ fred, you're such an idiot.
And yes, "supposably" gives me hives.
Hehe, knew you couldn't resist. So predictable.
So the religious think about their religion less than non-believers.
Could've told you that. They understand it less, too.
Agreed. As an atheist, I've read more of the "Holy" Bible than my religious friends.
Well it sure as hell isn't going to increase it.
You mean to tell me that sitting down and thinking through a given belief, and even challenging yourself on several of the belief's points, might make you take a second look at something that you believed to be true just because your mom/dad/preacher-man told you it was true? Whaaaaaa?!
"A FOOL said in his heart, there is no God"
Quoting the Bible to prove a point is useless if your opponents have no belief in the Bible's infallibility.
...and others spoke of talking hearts.
Was the opinion expressed by some guy centuries ago.
"The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish
A. Einstein March 4, 1954"
What a wonderful ....smart fool .....is Mr. Einstein.
The bible also says that calling someone a fool puts you in danger of hell's fire. Another biblical contradiction!
Nothing reveals one's ignorance more effectively than quoting scripture, eh Muneef?
"Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief"
Religion requires ignorance to perpetuate in order to survive.
Now sit back and wait for the faithful to accuse the educated of being elitist thus too good for their god. It's not elitism that makes people turn away from religion – but rather the awareness created by education of religion's flaws.
Each day we learn and/or discover a great number of new 'things'. We demonstrate each day that we don't know all that there is to know about life, the universe, etc. Look around at the amazing complexity of the world that we live in. To pretend that it has become what we see purely through accident or chance would seem to be the fairy tale. Those who pretend that they know all that there is to know, or that at least there cannot be anything greater than man would seem to be the ones deluded by ignorance.
"Those who pretend that they know all that there is to know, or that at least there cannot be anything greater than man would seem to be the ones deluded by ignorance."
There is something greater than man it's called the universe, doesn't mean we need a god.
Nope. The ones that declare that there "must" be a supreme being for this world to exist are the deluded.
The old God of Gaps (ignorance) fallacy eh Dann?
The default is not that some invisible sky daddy created everything and lack of understanding the natural world does not strengthen your argument.
That's just it. The ones who know that their's in the one True religion are the delusional ones. Science by definition is always open to the fact that we don't know everything. In fact, science is always open to prove something we've always "known" isn't true. Like say that the earth is the center of the universe.
Dann, "To pretend that it has become what we see purely through accident or chance would seem to be the fairy tale."
So, malaria, tapeworms and other devastating parasitic creatures; smallpox, polio and other devastating viruses were created ON PURPOSE? The platypus... ON PURPOSE? The Dodo bird... ON PURPOSE?
Dann, you have things backwards.
Jolt, shhhhh. . . .you'll confuse dann even more if you force him to actually think about it ! ! !
This may be true, but analytical thinking brings me closer to God, Why? Because when it comes down to: How did it all begin I have to go with God.
There are many theories that may seem to say: one thing evolved from another, but when it comes to how did everything get started such as the “Big Bang” theory (or any other theory.): there is nothing, that is: where did all the elements come from to make up the “Big Bang”? The question then becomes: How can anything begin from nothing? Answer: We don't know.
I subscribe to the idea that we—as humans, are not really as intelligent as we like to think; there must be a more superior being that is far more intelligent than we.
Evolution has many unanswered questions; religion only has one: Where did God come from? Answer: We don't know. So, analytically, neither evolution or the belief of a God has a leg to stand on. I'll choose God.
Bo, I'm thinking your mind is so muddled with pro-religion "stuff" that you are not capable of reading this article and coming to a logical conclusion. A scientific study is done for the purpose of coming to an unbiased conclusion about something; you've managed to twist it around to suit your own needs.
Bo sez: "I'll choose God." Of course you will. You won't have to employ those two lonely brain cells.
"So, analytically, neither evolution or the belief of a God has a leg to stand on. I'll choose God."
There is a very good reason why the USA ranks 25th in the world in math and science.......the sentence above explains why..
Dann – your assumption begs the old question... If it takes a god to make something from nothing, it would take a god to make a god". Your thinking is circular logic.
One could come to the same conclusion by realizing that critical thinking among elementary schoolchildren leads to a disbelief in Santa Claus. The same quest for understanding that led primitive societies to invent religion in the first place now allows advanced societies to reject it.
Religious people compose most of "primitive society"
I would imagine the more analytic one is regarding religion the more faith one would have.
You used the word "imagine", so doesn't that pretty much validate what everyone else is saying?
If an all seing all nowing sky daddy created the universe and all in and us .....why would a beliver have to imagine anything...the
big sky daddy would have programmed us all to "worship" he/she/it......but we don't ....why .....cause there is no sky daddy .....
except in your the imaginations of .......belivers.
Well, of course. Religious people like Descartes, Aquinas, Pascal, Newton were certainly not critical thinkers. Perish the thought!
I think you need to read the article again, bub.
That's a good point, but there may be a counterpoint. True, these people were undoubtedly great thinkers and they certainly expanded on humanity's scope of intellectualism and understanding, but we must still acknowledge that their approach to faith was somewhat limited to the scope of their time. It's difficult to say what their approach would be had they lived today. To quote Newton himself, "What Des-Cartes did was a good step.....If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants." Newton probably had ideas in medicine quite contrary to what we know today. That doesn't make us intellectually superior to him, just that we possess more information. The advances that we have made in science and the existence of the atheist and agnostic movements provides an additional option in critical thinking that was not available to previous generations. Similarly, it would be difficult for even a brilliant artist to draw a mountain, had he never seen one. We are all in some way limited to the scope of our human experiences and exposures. Most don't even choose their faith out of impartial selection; it is a product of their upbringing or their environment. That said, everyone who chooses to follow one faith may very well be a heretic or atheist on all others. To most, faith is in many ways a product of our environment, much like many other human attributes.
"Well, of course. Religious people like Descartes, Aquinas, Pascal, Newton were certainly not critical thinkers. Perish the thought!"
All of the above had not seen any "mordern" work of science....ie that of Darwin et al....had they been alive to digest works of Daewin and others post Darwin.....they most certainly would have been in agreement.
Don't like the content of the article so you spout meaningless drivel eh?
Good for you!
Sorry you found it meaningless..not every body grasps the meaning..who grasps the meaning are the people GOD wants to be guided and seems you are not one of them. Good night
Today Republicans swear that they will ban critical thinking.
They're attempting to block access to higher education by way of doubling interest rates on student loans as we speak. They're way ahead of you.
lol – well they've done it in their party. How hard can it be to get the rest of us to go along?
Hahaha... banning critical thinking. Sounds like the Taliban to me.
Allah, please make Muneef stop!
Seems GOD loves you and had made me stop and ordered me to leave this blog subject for the disbelievers to enjoy lying to them selves. Good night
“Religious belief is intuitive – and analytical thinking can undermine intuitive thinking,” said Ara Norenzayan, co-author of the study. “So when people are encouraged to think analytically, it can block intuitive thinking.”
What a load of crap. Religious belief is intuitive? No it's not, it's learned. If you are from the dark ages and can't explain why the sun is warm or why the sky is blue and you don't have the scientific knowledge of "why", then you make some crap up to help you feel better about your fear of the unknown. That's "intuitive" thinking?
“So when people are encouraged to think analytically, it can block intuitive thinking.” Let me paraphrase... if your reasonably educated and not a total idiot, you have a hard time believing in religious fairy tales.
Says the devil-named person himself. Ironic.
I think I love you
It's great that you know everything that there is to know (you'd need this to show that God does not or cannot exist). Would you mind sharing the cure for cancer with the rest of us?
you obviously have a reading comprehension problem
Dann, if your 'god' is omniscient and merciful, why doesn't IT share the cure for cancer with its most beloved creation?
Not true. I am both a physician and a devout Christian. Quit generalizing; it makes *you* look like an idiot.
Sure you are, Catherine. And I'm Prince Phillip.
@ DANN – Well if the all merciful God hadn't created cancer, then we wouldn't need a cure now would we?
Religion IS intuitive (for many) because it's based on a 'feeling' born out of experiences. Most often people say there must be a god because of how amazing and complex the universe is and how that can't be an accident. This is born out of experience that says we only see complex things arise by design. But such a conclusion does not use deductive reasoning. It's _assumed_ there is no other explanation but perhaps there is. Perhaps it is an accident that is a zillion in one chance and the principles that allowed this accident have failed countless times before the big bang and then there were billions of years for things to change so that a few lucky planets had everything right to have life. Deductive reasoning would have to thoroughly rule out all other options but god or prove that god isn't just the likely answer but the definite one. So far all 'proofs' of god merely show that a god would make a plausible explanation.
You raise a good point, but I believe the article is addressing critical thought with regards to the existence of a god, higher being or higher beings, rather than critical thought on the validity of a religion. Contemplating a higher power and contemplating a religion are two separate discussions. This concept is at the center of agnostic thought.
Intuition is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or the use of reason. It's essence is still one that is debated heavily among psychologists, philosophers and scientists. Some approach intuition as that which provides us with beliefs that we cannot necessarily justify. The existence of a god may very well fit into this category.
"It's great that you know everything that there is to know (you'd need this to show that God does not or cannot exist). Would you mind sharing the cure for cancer with the rest of us?"
Danny Boy...How about you answer why your god created cancer in the first place .......we would all like to hear that.
I was an atheist. I THOUGHT about it, and realized that Christianity made sense, and had to be true. So I became religious. Now I am considering becoming a priest, because I thought about religion. And I know many, many people with the same story. So don't tell me that we only believe in God because we don't think about our religious beliefs.
You were an agnostic then fool, not an atheist.
Actually, you're probably a self-hating gay who wants to sequester himself among men and boys.
I would say that you've studied some of its teachings but you probably haven't put them to the test against modern science. . .otherwise you would end up like me, realizing that parts of the Judeo-Christian bible are as false as all of the earlier creation myths other cultures came up with.
@Lucifer- You're calling Michel a fool???? He didn't state he believed in an undefined 'supreme being' but had no reason to worship it (i.e. agnostic). He stated he was atheist, meaning he didn't believe there was a god. He thought about it and now he does believe there is a god. How does that make him agnostic again??
I'd love to see the process by which you came to think that Christianity makes sense, Michael, and which version of Christianity you chose. I went in the opposite direction by looking at Christianity in the historical context of the rise and fall of other religions in human culture and through the hypocrisy and bigotry I saw and still see in many of Christian followers. The more I thought critically about the religion that was fed to me as a child and about other faiths, the more I viewed religion as simply man's attempt to make sense of things that mystify or scare him, such as death and the great mysteries of the universe. Losing my religion has been a far greater loss to me socially, as Christians who claim to have a religion based on love of neighbor have scorned me and made me an outcast. This does include members of my family. What convinced you that the Christian path is the right path, or even that there is any predetermined or divinely influenced path at all?
Michael, my experience is similar to yours. The more that I ask questions and seek for answers the stronger my faith becomes.
You mean the basic teachings of Christianity make sense? Like don't kill each other. Don't steal from each other. Treat people with respect? The basic teaching of every religion out there? Agreed, they basically make sense. What does not make sense is attributing these very human beliefs and tenets to a specific deity.
There may be some God like being up there that we cannot understand, but to think that you or anyone else has figured out which exact one it is based on books written by other humans does not make any sense.
@DeeCee – Which scientific test disproves a Biblical teaching exactly???
@Jason – I'm sorry people professing to be disciples of Jesus Christ have failed to live by his teachings. Have failed to speak to you and treat you as someone having value in God's eyes. Have failed to apply the very things they profess to be studying. I mean that. It's saddening to hear of another person jaded by people failed to have true faith. If they had true faith in Jesus' teaching's and example they would not have been unloving and cruel to you.
Semantics... Atheists don't just start believing in fairy tales. Agnostics inherently believe in some fashion.
Should have used more than a single name to identify my posts... apparently CNN will allow the same name to be used by different people on a thread. I've only replied to Michael's post. No other 'Chris' comments were made by me.
Wow Mikey....first a non beliver ...then a beliver then a teacher to the faithful .....next step.....must be you become a god....sounds like Mormonism....
It is Allah who subjected to you the sea so that ships may sail upon it by His command and that you may seek of His bounty; and perhaps you will be grateful. 45:12
And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth – all from Him. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. 45:13
All praise to Allah and his prophet Mohammad the pedophile
Ah, the ol' violent-themed farity tale. Peace be to you, "my brother".
Strange I thought nobody can believe in the Devil with out believing in GOD the creator of all...! Any way if you are what you say them be prepared for He'll the welcomes you gladly...!
The revelation of the Book is from Allah , the Exalted in Might, the Wise. 45:2
Indeed, within the heavens and earth are signs for the believers. 45:3
And in the creation of yourselves and what He disperses of moving creatures are signs for people who are certain [in faith]. 45:4
And [in] the alternation of night and day and [in] what Allah sends down from the sky of provision and gives life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and [in His] directing of the winds are signs for a people who reason. 45:5
These are the verses of Allah which We recite to you in truth. Then in what statement after Allah and His verses will they believe? 45:6
Do us all a favor: drive to a desert, wrap yourself in explosives, bend over, and depress the trigger.
Haha. Seems you are familiar with bending down...!
Hey Muneef.....ever wonder what the fate is or was for all the people who lived and died "before" your magic prophet came along to enlighten mankind? Maybe you are like the christians and have a really good answer for that.
I believe they were mostly Pagans with few Jews and fewer Christians...
Indeed, We sent down to you the Book for the people in truth. So whoever is guided – it is for [the benefit of] his soul; and whoever goes astray only goes astray to its detriment. And you are not a manager over them. 39:41
Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that do not die [He takes] during their sleep. Then He keeps those for which He has decreed death and releases the others for a specified term. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. 39:42
Or have they taken other than Allah as intercessors? Say, "Even though they do not possess [power over] anything, nor do they reason?" 39:43
Say, "To Allah belongs [the right to allow] intercession entirely. To Him belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. Then to Him you will be returned." 39:44
He brings the living out of the dead and brings the dead out of the living and brings to life the earth after its lifelessness. And thus will you be brought out.
And of His signs is that He created you from dust; then, suddenly you were human beings dispersing [throughout the earth].
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. 30:21
And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge. 30:22
And of His signs is your sleep by night and day and your seeking of His bounty. Indeed in that are signs for a people who listen. 30:23
And of His signs is [that] He shows you the lightening [causing] fear and aspiration, and He sends down rain from the sky by which He brings to life the earth after its lifelessness. Indeed in that are signs for a people who use reason. 30:24
And of His signs is that the heaven and earth remain by His command. Then when He calls you with a [single] call from the earth, immediately you will come forth. 30:25
And to Him belongs whoever is in the heavens and earth. All are to Him devoutly obedient. 30:26
And it is He who begins creation; then He repeats it, and that is [even] easier for Him. To Him belongs the highest attribute in the heavens and earth. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. 30:27
Blah Blah Blah....~2000 year old drivel for sheep herders.
Mr. T Ate My Balls – internet 1999