Study: Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief
An exhibit of Rodin's "The Thinker."
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.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Culture & Science

soundoff (3,468 Responses)
  1. Balaam

    C'mon. If you believe donkeys can talk, you can believe anything. Read Numbers 22:26. Shrek is God!

    May 3, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  2. Anti Sarah

    Winner of the 'Well, Duh' award: Study: Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief
    Guess the rock that couldn't be moved was actually the brain that can out think

    May 3, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • hank

      no...the rock that couldn't be moved was the same as the married bachelor, squred circle and other logical fallacies.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  3. godoftrade

    The minute organized religion got this on paper "Fear god, for he is a jealous god" along with their whole imaginary concept of heaven and hell for reward and punishment, was the minute religion was given the upper hand on everything.
    Times change though fortunately, and hopefully all religion will finally come to be what it is, a mythical method for the weak of mind.

    May 3, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • hank

      seems a bit bizarre that the controlling religion of christianity would bother with salvation through grace.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  4. Alex

    Haha! Scientists using test and observable data to prove how little sense religion makes, I love it! +1 to social progress.

    May 2, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  5. Alex

    Haha! Scientis using test and observable data to prove how little sense religion makes, I love it! +1 to social progress.

    May 2, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  6. David Nelson

    The idea that science and religion are not compatible is primarily because academia is so openly hostile to christianity. Science blossomed after the Reformation with the greatest scientist of all time, Isaac Newton, being one of its greatest proponents. Big Science has become its own religion with its own dogmas. If you reach different conclusions than they do, they demonize you. They claim to have missing links to fill in the evolutionary charts, but they only have theories. They have nothing other than a belief. I don't begrudge them their right to fantasize and speculate. I would say more power to them, but they have all the power as is.

    May 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • LinCA

      @David Nelson

      You said, "The idea that science and religion are not compatible is primarily because academia is so openly hostile to christianity."
      Bullshit. They are incompatible because science is based on evidence and logic, and religion is the exact opposite. Every time religion and science produce opposing views, religion is wrong. No exceptions.

      You said, "Science blossomed after the Reformation with the greatest scientist of all time, Isaac Newton, being one of its greatest proponents."
      As long as scientists separate their beliefs from their work, there is no conflict. If they mix their religion into their work, it isn't science.

      You said, "If you reach different conclusions than they do, they demonize you."
      I don't think they demonize anyone. Ridicule, yes; and rightfully so.

      You said, "They claim to have missing links to fill in the evolutionary charts, but they only have theories. They have nothing other than a belief."
      Nothing other than evidence, logic and comprehensive theories, compared to religion which has nothing.

      Also, you may want to read up on what constitutes a scientific theories.

      You said, "I don't begrudge them their right to fantasize and speculate."
      You could have fooled me.

      You said, "I would say more power to them, but they have all the power as is."
      They don't have all the power, just all the evidence.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      Name one thing religion, ANY religion claimed to be true that was later proven to be correct. Just one.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • lol pwnt

      pwnt lol

      May 3, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Science is questions that may be answered, religion is answere that may not be questioned.
      That is exactly right. If you question a particular scientific theory you will be asked for your evidence. If you question some religious "authority" you will told something like; pray harder, you need to just believe, etc.

      Try this experiment. Go to a religious leader and tell that their faith is wrong and some other religious sect is right and observe the response.

      May 3, 2012 at 3:13 am |
  7. Dave

    The opposite of belief isn't atheism, it's agnosticism.
    Atheists "believe" just as much as Theists, since what the hold as "true" cannot be proven.

    In a way I consider atheism even worse than theism, since it feels like many proclaim themselves atheist simply to tick off theists and give organized religions the middle finger.

    May 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "The opposite of belief isn't atheism, it's agnosticism."
      No it isn't. Gnosticism and agnosticism are about knowledge, or the lack thereof. Theism and atheism are about belief, or the lack thereof.

      You said, "Atheists "believe" just as much as Theists, since what the hold as "true" cannot be proven."
      Incorrect. Some atheists may "believe just as much as theists", in that they believe there are no gods, but most atheists simply reject the theists claims. They merely disbelieve.

      While most atheists don't completely reject the possibility that there are gods, they have no reason to believe they do.

      Until there is, at the very least, a rational hypothesis, preferably supported by some evidence, there is no reason to believe a claim is true. All claims about the existence of gods fail this most basic test. That makes belief in gods unreasonable. Worse, most claims about gods include contradictory traits for these gods. That makes belief in them irrational.

      Even those atheists that believe there are no god have the lack of evidence on their side.

      You said, "In a way I consider atheism even worse than theism, since it feels like many proclaim themselves atheist simply to tick off theists and give organized religions the middle finger."
      While there may be some believers that are starting to realize how completely absurd belief in gods and religion are, and are rebelling but as of yet unable to completely shed the belief, most atheists really don't believe the nonsense.

      Atheists on this comment board tend to be open to rational discussion, and are willing to listen to reasonable arguments, or point out that they aren't.

      May 2, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      Very well put.

      May 2, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • ElmerGantry


      Well stated.

      May 3, 2012 at 3:17 am |
  8. Trebec

    Cool story. Though Jesus is still who I follow.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • JPX

      So you're following an imaginary man? I had an imaginary friend when I was 5. Of course Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief because once you apply basic logic to religion you immediately realize that it's full of contradictions.

      May 2, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  9. mlblogssignedhofbaseballsmuseum

    This is a story that everyone knows already that isn't mentally deficient.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  10. Nii

    OK so you do practise another religion besides Atheism like most atheists I know.
    I meditate. I however do not do transcendental meditation. Don't get me wrong in my first spiritual experience I went through it. I have used it to fight martial arts even.
    I know what it can do!

    May 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Nii

      The voice taught me how to do transcendental meditation. However Judaeo-Xtian meditation is vastly different from this. Instead of silencing the inner voices it seeks to amplify the Divine voice to an audible distinct level. This is also not mystical.
      I was so unreligious but I'm a minister now.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      I'm sure people will jump all over you about this but atheism is not a religion and meditation does not require a deity. It's about emptying your mind, not filling it up with nonsense and illusions.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Nii

      There was a time I felt I waanted to be religious but I didn't know which to take and that long quest ended with me seeking spirituality over religion. Spirituality is just how we were made to be over how we r now.
      Judaeo-Xtian meditation turns Scripture into thought patterns rather than remove it.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Nii, I get where you are coming from. We've had many conversations under one of my other names. It seems you took a detour in your mediation and arrived at a conclusion that is only the mind's way of tricking your into more identi.ty games. I don't know you personally, so I don't want to analyze you or anything like that. You're right about religions and other teachings using meditation to promote their own agendas (whether good intentioned or otherwise). That kind of meditation makes people feel secure and I can understand well the allure of such a thing.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Nii

      The thought patterns as they are developed enables you to hear the divine voice clearer. It is different from mantra chanting. However it is more like positive suggestion. I have been doing it for almost ten years now. Wonderful results. Scripture really does what it was written to do.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Nii

      I cud practise kosher eating and say it is for the health benefits only. However I wud be following Judaism. I do know a lot more atheists. My dad was, though he died xtian. I know how much most atheists are only hostile to ethical monotheistic religions. They synchretize the rest easily.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Nii

      I have seen things in my 27yrs on earth and I found in the long run how much self-love is dangerous. Romance is dangerous too. As thinking patterns are clouded but u feel good. Loving God with all your life has a calming effect. Same with loving ur neighbor as yourself though not to the same degree.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      "Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, As self-neglecting" – Shakespeare

      Personally I love all equally, including myself because I do not draw shard distinctions between myself and "the other." I find this far more beneficial than sending my love to an invisible being to which there is no evidence of existence. Besides, if there is a god, I can be sure that people need my love far more than any god would. To demand otherwise in the face of a suffering population is at best a selfish act. All I can hope is that if there is a god, he would have the wisdom to see what I have seen, and if not, he does not deserve my love or devotion.

      I understand that in your country xtianity is a much different thing than it is, say in America. Much of the atheist anger comes from growing up in this kind of environment and not your kind.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • n8263

      Nii you should read LinCA's comment above. The idea that atheism is a religion is a ridiculous claim Christians often use in an attempt to rationalize their own very irrational beliefs.

      May 2, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Nii

      I also do get why self-love is important but in isolation it becomes selfish. It seems u hve stumbled on the principle of loving your neighbour as yourself. That is so cool. Keep it up. Loving God with all your life is for our(humans) benefit not His. Only recently did I appreciate this.

      May 3, 2012 at 3:39 am |
    • Nii

      It is only when u truly understand Atheism that u wud know what we are talking about. There are irreligious people but these are not counted as Atheists. The idea that Atheism is a religion is an academic one not a pop one.

      May 3, 2012 at 3:46 am |
    • n8263

      Nii you misunderstand atheism if you think it is a religion.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Nii

      The scientists specifically indicated that there is INTUITIVE THINKING just as there is analytic thinking. Every human does 3 types of thinking. Instinctive, Analytic n Intuitive. Each has its own strengths. Most humans do r analytic as this is de most available. Intuitive reasoning isnt easy.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      "Instead of silencing the inner voices it seeks to amplify the Divine voice to an audible distinct level.'


      So you think god talks to you, why am I not surprised.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Nii, If I truly stumbled on loving my neighbor as myself, then it wouldn't be so common among atheists. Please read the current studies that show that non-religious people show more compassion than religious people. I found my way to love by reason, not some imperative or something I think I need to do to be a good person.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  11. hank

    ugg.... i just told you. necessity vs contingency is a basic philosophical principle. do some research.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  12. GodFreeNow

    @fred and Nii,

    "How can I know the difference between the “voice” of God and self talk if they are not distinctly different? "
    Well, this one's pretty easy. Like I said, put yourself in front of a complex particle physics equation or something completely out of your field and ask the voice to solve it. If like @Nii says, god welcomes doubt (incidentally Nii, I don't know of anyone that believes "faith is absence of doubt" as you put it. That wouldn't even make sense. You have faith BECAUSE you doubt. To not doubt is to know. And that is the realm of evidence. For example, does the theory of gravity require faith on your part?), so... if god welcomes doubt, surely one person in this world of 8billion people could get a solution to this question that is outside of their normal field. Such a result would make people stop and question the validity of the claims of god. Surely if he wants many to follow him, such a test could be performed and the desired result accomplished. The bible is full of righteous men who asked god for proof and he provided it. Are you so much better than these men that you cannot ask it for yourself?

    "How does one empty the new knowledge out of that God box? This was the problem with the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden. Once man tasted that fruit of desire man could never un-taste it. You cannot un-know what you know."

    You are completely wrong about this. I am living proof to the contrary and many people have been doing this very thing through meditation for thousands of years. I wish there were a way for me to convey this one simple thing to you. Emptiness is available to all when you let go of the mind and accept what IS. You are not what you know. You are so much greater than that. Chuang Tzu spoke volumes on "emptiness" hundreds of years before the birth of jesus. One of his famous quotes is, "a bowl that is filled with rice can only be filled with rice, but a bowl that is empty can be filled with anything. Through meditation, you can achieve emptiness and "unknow what you know." When you are empty, you awaken to reality. It is not something that requires faith. It is not something mystical. It only requires discipline and some basic instruction. It is a Knowing of what is. Reality. The voice in your head can be tamed and eventually quieted. If you seek truth, begin there.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  13. religion bores me

    I studies with jehova's witnesses for awhile. I actually enjoyed learning about the bible, and how they interpret it. But their obvious attempts at indoctrination annoyed me, as did their reluctance to give serious responses to questions regarding evolution, prophecy and noncanonical books, and their tendency to take every breaking news event as a "sign of how close the end is". Nice people, but that drove me nucking futs.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • tina

      And that is what JWS are about twisting doctrine, man made rules as if Jehovah only has one name,try telling them that.It's a cult plain and simple.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  14. vic

    Well as long as atheist are relegated to fringes just 6-9% of US population . I don’t see any threat but you have to be on guard.. The worst miseries on humankind were inflicted obviously by atheist - soviet Union, Hitler, Mao-china, and Pol Pot -Vietnam and other atheist Dictators. Atheists can pander their s delusion in a free western societies without any threat or harm, so indoctrination is wrong assumption in free western societies, the very existence of atheist in free societies confirm that ,but the same atheists had denied the right to believers , killing , torturing millions in their experiments in former Soviet.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • momoya


      You do realize that every president so far has been a christian and that christianity represents a huge majority of the population and most politicians and school board members and planning committees and city governments are almost all christian, right??

      Because the way you write, it seems like you think we're going to go from 900 miles an hour in one direction to 4,000 miles an hour in reverse.. Your opinions smack of desperation and fatalism.. Perhaps YOUR knowledge about god is doing just that right now, and you're simply projecting it onto all of your society?? hmmm

      May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • iconoclast1

      Nonsense. At least as many deaths can be attributed to religious groups as anything else. Ever hear of the Crusades? I don't know of any current threat from atheists today, but I am aware of the threat from religious extremists, the Taliban and Muslim extremists for example.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • GodPot

      "and other atheist Dictators"

      So all Dictators are atheist? Or are all atheists wanting to live under Dictatorships? So which is better, one crazy guy in power claiming there is no God and using his power to kill his enemies, or hundreds of thousands of crazy religious zealots using their power to kill their enemies?

      May 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Cyndrome

      Hitler was a Christian- Well, a "positive Christian."

      Both Hitler and Stalin had mustaches too. Maybe their mustaches are to blame? What you are pointing out is a correlation, not causation.

      You cannot prove that atheist leaders become oppressive tyrants by default anymore that I can say masses of devout religious followers lead to unstable nations like Iran and Syria.

      "Atheists can pander their s delusion..."

      Delusion, you say? Because they are basing their beliefs on empirical evidence, or lack thereof, instead of translated stories passed down thru millenia?

      And what about countries that are mostly athiestic/agnostic like Norway, Denmark, and Sweden? You would be hard pressed to say equivalate Stalinist Russia to the serenity of Sweden.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Tom

      Ever heard of a Judeo Christian weapon of mass destruction called "depleted uranium"? Do a Google for it. Then be prepared to see just a drop of the agony it has cased so far because its effects will be visited upon children yet to be born till virtually the end of time itself. And I have no doubt your Jesus and Moses are both looking down with smiles on their faces at what holy work ALL you theist are doing with your prayers to win what ever war you are currently involved in...by any unholy means necessary.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Using the deaths and executions that atheist leaders were responsible for is lazy debating.

      Atheists and Christians, and Muslims, and Buddhists, and Hindus, and Jews have all killed people. If anything I'd point to the fact that many of the religious massacres occured in the name of that religion. Point to any of these killings by nonbelievers who stated that they killed people in the name of non-belief.

      None of these killings can be excused. Neither can they be used to bolster your own world view's validity, because all have sinned.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • The 666 Club

      I'd be pretty embarrassed at the utter drivel you just wrote if I was you. Try reading something other than the bible.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Larry

      Hate to break your heart but all those people you mentioned had some form of religious belief. The problem is people blindly following what their preacher pastor or bishop tells them without actually reading the bible or studying the history of their own religion. If they did so a lot of people would find out what a pile of bs everything theyve been told truly is. the truth was lost long before things got to where they are today all in the name of dividing and controlling people

      May 3, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Scott

      That's quite amusing, especially since Hitler was very much a Catholic. He even wrote in mein kampf about how god was a god of action, using religion to justify his actions.

      The reason some people believe he was atheist was due to propaganda from the allies to drum up support. In reality he was very much a Catholic and I believe he has not been excommunicated to this day.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  15. God's Oldest Dreamer

    PrimeNumber wrote on Tuesday, May 2, 2012 at 8:55 am, stating, "There are plenty of honest atheists out there. But I continue to have the same problem with an atheist's assumptions. He was conceived by a process he did not invent – conception. He developed through gestation, another process he had no control over. Not only did he not decide what would be his gender, but that such a thing as gender itself would exist. He had no say in who his parents would be or even in his general state of mental or physical health. He arrived into space and time in a universe that did not notice him. THe laws of physics and mathematics were already in place without his permission. Myriads of life forms existed with no reference to him. In short, like Adam, he found himself face to face with a universe of endless terror and wonder. And yet, the atheist stands in the presence of this Great Fact, and makes the astounding assertion, " All reality is available to me though my five senses. All things are subject to my capacity to reason.""

    Likewise the honesties of many religious devotees are tenasciously unaccurate but airs to find honest "opinions" in any fold of herded social constructives becomes an issue in finite tuning of one's egoistic knowledges wrapped within serventiled tenasciousness, both bonded with generalized revelations! Inception is yes a concept created and/or evolved! Such an emtionalized triviality for so short an endurance does make wanting subjects of most herds willfulness regards! The gestation or consummation of otherly "life architecturalized objects" such a corn does one's body of a structured design just exactly what? Is there truly a wanting emotional and/or physical need to ingest otherly embodied structures of manifestations' dilemnas? Why should one structure of Life consume another structure of Life in a world ever full of Life Built Structure?

    The Laws of physical consumptions and mathematical tranparencies regarding the finitely smallest parcels of Life Matters are mainframes of semenarial inclusions!

    May 2, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Are you using Google translate to construct your posts? It sure sounds like it.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Reason vs. Faith

      Someone got a thesaurus for their birthday.

      May 2, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  16. jimtanker

    Poo poo!!

    May 2, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  17. n8263

    Analytic thinking decreases religious belief. This should be obvious but some people need studies like this to accept it.
    Our ability to think rationally is the greatest enemy of religion. That is why parents start indoctrinating their children as
    young as possible.

    May 2, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Poo poo paws-N-claws,,,,, indoctrinating what to the youngest? Parents aren't the only sources for the very young to emulate towards! Peers have as much an impact upon an individual and perhaps more! Washing one's brainyard of dusty entrails is good for one's psyche!

      May 2, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • n8263

      Indoctrinating with relgion. Parents understand peers also influence their children which is why they send them to Sunday School and enroll them into religious schools.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • vic

      Atheist did get a chance to create a Godless society with the opium of communism for 70 years , Soviet Union.. How did it go Millions died -killed, tortured in Gulag, camps, Siberia . And a miserable existence for those living. The atheist hate the most is the free will which they allegedly or wrongly claim as indoctrination while in Soviet , spies monitored their subjects 24/7.How easily we forget ??

      May 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      That is a straw man.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Atheist did get a chance to create a Godless society with the opium of communism for 70 years , Soviet Union.. How did it go Millions died -killed, tortured in Gulag, camps, Siberia . And a miserable existence for those living."

      Really so the fact that Christians came to America killed millions, upon millions of Indians, stole their land and created miserable existence for the few hundred thousand left. Then proceeded to build a country found in greed and corruption creating slums for the workers to live in.... how soon American Christians forget their own history. DUH! We are still suffering today from all the greed and corruption that continues how do you think we got in this miss!

      May 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • momoya


      You're not reasoning with logic.. Can YOU find the flaw in your thinking?. If you have trouble, I'll revisit this post tomorrow and show you.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • YeahRight

      crap that was suppose to be mess not miss. LOL!

      May 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • GodPot

      My 3 year old was going through one of her cloth books as she learns to read and on the last page the heading is "My Favorite Holidays" which then lists and shows a picture of Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and then down in the lower right corner was Hanukkah. Why does my 3 year old need to have all of that shoved into her brain but Christians get all butt hurt if they hear about books like "My two dads"?

      May 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • karek40

      The study is flawed, the sample of individuals had little to no analytical background. 1. You cannot get something from nothing. 2. Look around you, what you see is ordered. 3. What ordered it must be more complex than what is ordered including ourselves. It is not random. Having used explosives I can tell you you will never gotten order but more disorder from the (small bang). When God concentrated enough energy at one point to create all the mass in the universe, he caused it to have order, not randomness. (the big bang)

      May 2, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • momoya


      1. "Something from nothing.". Non-believers don't know what caused the universe to expand, but they don't say it came from nothing.. Nothing" may not exist; it doesn't seem to, anyway.. You can have a vacuum with no gas, but the container is still full of all sorts of quantum fluctuations; it's not "empty" or "nothing.". So far it seems that the only way for "nothing" to exist would be to literally have "nothing" at all.. No way to measure, no container, no tools to check–nothing.. Nothing probably doesn't exist and never has..

      2. Human brains evolved to recognize pattern; thus, we see it everywhere–even when the "pattern" is just an optical illusion–in fact, that's the very reason that optical illusions happen.. We see the illusion because the "order" the image wants us to see is not the actual "order" of the illusion's design..

      3. Order does imply complexity, and existence is complex; no it is not "random.". The biological and chemical processes we use seem ordered because of the way our minds work, but that order simply tells us something about how we "read" our universe and act within it.. The more science we do, the more we can explain the apparent order around us by that order relying upon more fundamental order (molecules>chemicals> elements>atoms>electrons-up&downquarks>quantum mechanics & unknown).

      3"b". Explosions.. You seem to be hinting at a specific law of thermodynamics.. A closed system cannot have an increase in order, true, but an open system can and does.. The earth and its evolutionary processes are not a "closed system" because it gains energy from the sun.. (The sun all by itself is a closed system and indeed, most of its energy is "wasted" in the sense that it does not heat or energize other planets with the majority of its output).

      4. You bring god into the mix without exhausting all other possibilities and with no validly logical reason to do so.. Also, it really doesn't help you as it merely moves the mystery back by one factor.. My stance/atheist: We don't know what caused the initial expansion of the universe; Your stance/believer: We know what caused the initial expansion of the universe: God; but we don't know what caused god to be or to act to expand the universe.. My explanation is simpler, and yours doesn't help us understand anything.. My position is more honest because it doesn't require belief without evidence as yours does; therefore, my atheistic stance is more reasonable and more logical–regardless of whether or not your "faith" is correctly placed.

      May 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • momoya


      May 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Scott

      Ty momoya, I love Qaulia Soup.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  18. rocketscientist

    This is yet another psychological study that seems to lead to an obvious conclusion. I've asked my wife, a former psychologist, why they do these things at all. She even thinks a lot of these studies are a waste of time.

    I won't contest the studies findings. Like I said, they're pretty much what I would expect. That said, I don't think that analytical thinking always and necessarily conflicts with religious beliefs. There are plenty of examples of famous physicists, doctors, engineers, etc., who are religious. I have a PhD in AE and I'm a practicing Catholic. I actually think it's good and healthy to examine ones beliefs in the light of science and reason. Faith should never be easy. We all have brains and I think we should all use them (although there are some people who post here that don't seem to be doing that).

    May 2, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      "There are plenty of examples of famous physicists, doctors, engineers, etc., who are religious"

      This just shows how indoctinating small chirldren is very effective when coupled with the further reinforcment through adulthood. It is not any more surprising than the study you poo-poo.

      May 2, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • J.W

      I like how you added in the little bit of name calling at the end there by calling him a poo-poo. I don't know why atheists feel the need to do this.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • EnjaySea

      Wait, J.W., you are kidding and know that he was using poo-poo as a verb, right?

      Not to say that there aren't plenty of atheists and believers alike who use name-calling as a way of letting off steam during the course of their posts.

      I have to hold back myself, and make sure that I reread every comment I make before clicking the Post button to make sure I haven't accused, insulted, or demeaned the person I'm responding to. As much comical fun as that might be to call names, it never furthers one's cause in the course of a debate.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Dave

      he was referring to the post 'poo pooing' the study. not calling him a juvenile name. Good Day Sir!

      May 2, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      I said he was poo-pooing the study. Read his post and then read mine. If I was calling him a "poo-poo" I would have used a comma, you poo-poo. (just an example, don't get your undies in a bundle)

      Reading comprehension must not have been a strong point for you OR you are so obviously biased that you perceived what you wanted.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • J.W

      Well I apologize I misread the sentence. It could have been read either way. You should have just found a better verb to use.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • momoya

      It's an easy mistake to make, JW.. After all, Dan Sav.age only described the behavior of some folks (he never named names or specified any student(s) at all), and he had to apologize for that description as if it was specific name calling.. So it happens all the time to most people and most of the time people just go along with it as in Sav.age's case.. No biggie, but thanks for the acknowledgement.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • ElmerGantry


      No Truth, Just Claims did not use name calling. He did not call the commentor a poo poo, he said the the commentor poo poo'ed the study as in dismissing it in an off handed manner.

      Comprehension is not one of your skills, eh?

      May 3, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Which God?

      Hmmm... your PhD lets you blow up baskeballs and to fill you students heads with air-y-fairy-mumbo-jumbo. Stick to running track:at least your circular logic knows which way its running.

      May 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  19. PrimeNumber

    There are plenty of honest atheists out there. But I continue to have the same problem with an atheist's assumptions. He was conceived by a process he did not invent – conception. He developed through gestation, another process he had no control over. Not only did he not decide what would be his gender, but that such a thing as gender itself would exist. He had no say in who his parents would be or even in his general state of mental or physical health. He arrived into space and time in a universe that did not notice him. THe laws of physics and mathematics were already in place without his permission. Myriads of life forms existed with no reference to him. In short, like Adam, he found himself face to face with a universe of endless terror and wonder. And yet, the atheist stands in the presence of this Great Fact, and makes the astounding assertion, " All reality is available to me though my five senses. All things are subject to my capacity to reason."

    May 2, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • n8263

      Analytic thinking decreases religious belief. That deserves repeating.

      May 2, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Sumo

      You say Atheists claim that "All reality is available to me though my five senses", but this is a straw-man and a half! I'd challenge you to find any Atheist with half a brain who is willing to stand by such a silly assertion.

      May 2, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      First if you a going to claim god made me and all the good things possible in my life you have to blame god for birth defects, downs syndrom, ect. ect. ect. You can't have it both ways. If he made all the good things he is responsible for all the bad things and that makes him a pri.ck not worthy of worship even if you believe that god exists.

      Second, you say " All reality is available to me though my five senses. All things are subject to my capacity to reason."

      No, all reality may or may not be available to me. We are still finding out. You on the other hand are asserting there is a reality beyond our senses, and how would you know that? What did you use to figure that out? Don't even think of saying the bible as I don't trust bronze age medicine, so I don't trust bronze age theology either. You not only claim there is a reality outside of what we can perceive you make the further claim that you know what it is, and then you insinuate we are arrogant for only accepting what has been proven to be real. Your level of arrogance is astounding.

      May 2, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • n8263

      My previous response was not meant to be a reply to this. Prime, I have never heard an atheist claim "All reality is available to me though my five senses." All our knowledge ultimately comes through our senses and ability to reason, but that does not mean that everything can be known.

      One of the most common things I hear atheists do is admit what they do not know. In fact the only people I have ever heard to claim they "know" for fact the truth about God are religious people.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • LinCA


      I find that most atheists are honest to a fault. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of theists. To remain a theist in light of the evidence, or lack thereof, they have to lie (at least to themselves).

      The problem that you have isn't with the atheist's assumptions, but with what you assume atheists assume. Most atheists I know don't assume they know. Most don't even claim that there are no gods. Most simply claim that they don't believe there are any, for the simple reason that there isn't any evidence to support their existence.

      You seem to think that humans are somehow special. You seem to think that there must be some grander plan for us. You seem to assume there must have been a reason. Thinking humans are "special" and a belief in gods go hand in hand. You seem to be unable to accept that humans may not be special, hence you believe there must be a god that made us special (or you assume there is a god that created us and therefor we're special). But you, and virtually all theists, assume there to be something for which you don't have the slightest shred of evidence.

      There is no reason to assume that we are special. There is no reason to believe Earth is the only place where life evolved. The hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars, many with planets, puts the likelihood of life elsewhere somewhere between "not impossible" and "very likely". I don't claim to know, but I find it extremely unlikely that we are somehow special.

      Your "problem" goes away if you let go of those unfounded assumptions. Humans are probably just another group of mammals, and nothing more. We ended up where we are because the sequence of events just happened to be in our favor. The universe, our solar system and Earth weren't created for us. We merely happened to develop here because the conditions were right. Had the conditions not been exactly as they were, we probably wouldn't have been around to know the difference.

      Gods and religion are only needed if you need to believe, or need to convince someone else, that people are special. Gods are useful to provide "answers" for difficult questions. Gods are useful to establish hierarchy. Gods are useful for crowd control. If you can provide answers and convince people that you somehow communicate with a being that controls their destiny, you wield power over them. But, once people see through the bullshit stories, you lose that power.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Nii

      NO TRUTH
      U make a false claim that de poster called atheists arrogant. De fact is humans have an intuitive 6th sense which transcends de 5 rational senses. Science is based exclusively on this. As de report asserts religion is based on de 6th. No correlation. U can't use science as religion.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • YeahRight

      "U make a false claim that de poster called atheists arrogant. De fact is humans have an intuitive 6th sense which transcends de 5 rational senses. Science is based exclusively on this. As de report asserts religion is based on de 6th. No correlation. U can't use science as religion."

      LOL! Guess you didn't read up on the tsunami in Thailand did you? It was the animals that sensed that something was wrong and ran up the hill, very few animals died It was the stupid humans that didn't have the 6th sense that died. LOL! Now...if humans really did have a 6th sense then shouldn't their gods have warned them? LOL! Plus the 6th senses you are referring to has been proven to be a chemical reaction in your brain. 😉

      May 2, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      "De fact is humans have an intuitive 6th sense which transcends de 5 rational senses. Science is based exclusively on this."

      Another claim, "we have a 6th sense". Prove it. Then you say science is based on a 6th sense that science has never shown to be real. More claims.


      The assertion of arrogance is very obviously implied. Use your 6th sense I am sure you will 'see' it.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • n8263

      Intuition is not a "sixth sense" and these studies do not call it that. Intuition is a cognitive shortcut for situations where we do not have the time or desire to fully reason through everything.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Nii

      PrimeNumber did not imply you were arrogant. However if your obvious position when reflected back to u as "arrogant" then u know what to do.
      The intuitive sixth sense exists and enables a man to have dreams, predictions and prophesies. It is not prompted by laziness. Neither is it instinct.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Nii

      Science is based on the five rational senses and religion on our sixth intuitive sense. Animals obey their instincts much more readily. We somehow try the intellectual approach. However for u to choose which approach to obey is based on intuition. An animal can but we cant. This is original sin.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • n8263

      I can understand why a religious person would want to believe a "sixth sense" exists, even though there is no rational basis to do so. Mostly because they want to rationalize their belief system in something greater. You do not need reason to back your views if you can just "feel it," right?

      Of course through reason we know that intuition is not universal and therefore not a reliable source of truth and that is why religious people repress rational arguments when it conflicts with their happy little delusion.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Nii

      The Trinitarian concept of the human personality is well established. Intellect is not thought of as superior to intuition scientifically but its rather the other way round. De aim of human spirituality is to develop intuition to overcome intellect and instinct in decision making. This is EQ theory.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Nii

      The fact that psychologists do not use spirit for the personality but rather Superego or they use Alterego for the sub-conscious instead of heart and Id for instinct instead of flesh does not make them more valid than the Bible's antiquated terminology.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Nii

      Intuition is universal and that explains why religion is so widespread. The ability to develop the EQ through exercise of the sixth sense is what is hard. This is what spirituality aims at. There are books which aim at spirituality even among Atheists. Religions are factional. spirituality is not.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Nii

      Lying to yourself that there is no intuition is no longer valid but is there a sixth sense. Yes there is. The psychologists in the article readily said that belief is intuitive. How does the brain absorb it then into intuition? Thro de 6th sense. They also distinguish intuitive n intellectual tot.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • n8263

      I did not say that some people lack intuition. It is a simple cognitive shortcut.

      Intuition is not universal because the results are totally inconsistent around the world. Science is universal, it is reproducible. The same people can perform the same scientific tests and observe the same results all over the world. People come to wildly different conclusions when they rely on intuition. It is inconsistent and not a reliable source of truth.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      " All reality is available to me though my five senses. All things are subject to my capacity to reason."
      Of course as many have already pointed out, no one is making that claim and if they are, it's a mistake in reasoning. There are some simple errors in logic to even making a statement. Atheist believe in natural selection, and the maturation of knowledge by way of collectivism and social, intellectual and technological development over time. We all know that we know more than previous generations and so to state that what we know is all we know would be in error.
      Second, any brief look into psychological studies would show how absolutely unreliable our 5 senses are as well as our ability to interpret what we see. This is why we developed the scientific method to test and prove false or true, our assumptions. Taking that in the the realm of physical science will prove the senses even more unreliable as we have instruments that can detect things that our 5 senses never could such as ultraviolet waves or magnetic fields. (more on this in #4)

      Third, those of a scientific mind are very cautious about jumping to conclusions, particularly concerning the question "Why?" We mostly leave this to the realm of philosophy and have an understanding that this question is extremely amorphous and difficult to reach any finite conclusions (unless you're a religion). Reasoning people tend to focus rather on the question "How?"

      Fourth and finally, to say 5 senses is already misleading as there are 8billion people on the planet all with their own 5 senses. People that read data or study the universe around us are not monolithic deities pronouncing their findings to the world, to which everyone must bow. It's a collective interpretation and is subject to error. This is why there are systems of measurement we use to judge the accuracy of our interpretations. Particle physics has a strict definition for what may be called a discovery – the "five sigma" level of certainty, or about a 0.00003% chance that the effect is not real.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Cq

      Would this "sixth sense" be the same thing that addicted gamblers call upon, and lose their shirts to? Doesn't sound very reliable to me.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      If you can prove humans can have reliable prophecies and predictions of a paranormal sense James Randi has a MILLION DOLLARS that can be YOURS. Can you prove it or are you just making another baseless claim?

      Basless claim......

      May 3, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Nii

      The sixth sense is not a paranormal function of the human brain but pretty normal. Giant leaps in science have come by it. Also, we dream and the come true. I have had such dreams b4. I have prohesied b4. I did not control it. I really do not know how to control mine. Some do.

      May 3, 2012 at 3:53 am |
    • Nii

      A lot of people can sense the presence of another in the vicinity without necessarily seeing them. It is not a gambling tool. it seems to think. Intuitive thinking but still thinking.

      May 3, 2012 at 3:55 am |
    • Cq

      What science has proven that we have this "sixth sense"? There have been experiments that suggest that we can "feel eyes watching us" without actually seeing, or hearing anybody close by, as in the case of someone hiding, but that isn't what you're talking about, is it?

      Of all the dreams that seem to come true how many do you think don't? Almost all, right? The ones that seem to come true are the only ones memorable enough to register with you, and the important thing to remember is that they only come close to making some kind of sense. When we dream we sometimes play out scenarios to situations that worry us. Possibilities of what might happen. It shouldn't be surprising that some of the things you predict (predict by reasoning) might happen in dreams play out closely to what actually happens.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      You keep making claims but have nothing to back it up.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  20. reaper062289

    To the ancient men, who wrote the books and established all of our monumental religions of today, anything that came down from above the clouds was divine. Think of the period all of these books, all of our "divinity" comes from. Modern science, critical thinking, astronomy, a circular earth; these ideas didn't surface until the 1400's, at least 1000 years after the newest passages from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism; the only ones we collectively don't call cults or just plain crazy. We are stumbling upon more and more evidence of intelligent life across the stars by the day. We don't know about intelligence but we have already found plenty of cellular life everywhere. If the possibility of intelligent life exists in our universe other than our own, I think it is more than reasonable to believe that we were given our beliefs by some other life that used to interact with us on a regular basis until we drove them away. Civilization was TAUGHT to us and we were expected to worship our mentors. All we have left of an ancient alliance is books of the way men interpreted it. Now, our beliefs have spiraled out of control by centuries of stretching and manipulating the truth to the point that the entire globe has fell into sectarian violence over who has the "true" god.

    This belief sounds more logical than anything I've heard from Jews, Sunnis, Shiites, Hindus, Catholics, Mormons, Baptists, Pentecostals, Buddists, Scientologists, or Satanists, and that's just to name a few types of people I've talked to on the matter.

    The truth is it is all based on speculation and fear of the unknown. Until humanity can grasp that fact, we will never stop seaching for an answer, and we will probably never find it. It's no use destroying the planet and our own future in the name of this god or that, based on speculation, however far back in our history it's grounded in.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      reaper, I can agree with much of what you say. But not all of it. It seems to me that the religion can be a curtain that hides very important phenomena. Specifically, human nature and human folly. When at the mercy of the human condition, there is NOTHING which cannot be distorted and mishandled. People who listened to the Sermon on the Mount would go directly home and beat up their wives. People will ruin each other over religion. Scientist have been known to ruin each others' reputations to get the glory or a grant. In WW2, the Allies killed 400,000 civilians when they bombed Dresden – without reference to religion. What is wrong with humanity? The great religions have made the longest running attempt at answering this problem.

      May 2, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Nii

      I won't pamper you at all! The logical proposition is also unfortunately not the most helpful. The human condition is as a result of its intuitive consciousness. An intellectual being other than us would then not have these problems if it can't emote. It won't understnd us just as a computer cant.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      reaper062289,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      Religions are made-manifestations of Creation's laments!

      May 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • hank

      "Modern science, critical thinking, astronomy, a circular earth; these ideas didn't surface until the 1400's"

      Yowza...... I think you should read more and speak less.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.