Atheists are no more ‘rational’ than people of faith, studies reveal

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Clay Routledge

By Stephen Lahood —

It is said that atheists are free-thinkers, rational, logical and scientific; people of faith need a psychological crutch, believe fairy tales and superstitions and are anti-scientific.

Have you ever heard that before?

No doubt some disdainful atheist disrespected your faith with a reworking of that line of rhetoric.

Well, it turns out they’re wrong. Atheists are not as freethinking, rational and scientific as they may proclaim.

A host of new psychological and sociological studies have come out that undermine their claims.

The Templeton Foundation

University of North Dakota Psychology Professor Clay Routledge has shown that atheists are prone to “magical thinking” and lead “secret religious lives,” according to research funded by the Templeton Foundation.

Routledge found that many atheists believe in cosmic justice and even that UFOs exist.

“We (atheists) don’t have the rational upper hand we often claim,” noted Dominic Johnson in The Guardian. “Though we don’t believe in a higher being in the traditional sense, we cannot claim to act simply in the realm of science and reason.”

Johnson, an atheist, points to widespread superstition in the United Kingdom despite postmodernism’s attempts to dethrone God. Recent surveys in Britain reveal that 74% of people knock on wood for good luck, 65% cross their fingers and 26% avoid the number 13.

Renowned atheist Richard Dawkins calls the Templeton Foundation funding “atheist bashing.” He’s right to react. Science has been viewed as the ally of atheists. Now science is chipping away at atheism.

Atheists are no more rational than people of faith, studies reveal“Atheists pride themselves on being rational. We believe our beliefs and actions are taken from the world of science and reason. We don’t waste our time on wishy washy notions such as higher forces or supernatural beings. Or do we?” Johnson said in a 2017 video. “Don’t be so smug atheists. You are as irrational as everyone else.”

Yet scholars have arrogantly declared their triumph over God. In such books as Jesse Bering’s Belief Instinct and Michael Shermer’s Believing Brain, faith, they say, is the byproduct of a weak mind; teach people to be empirical and use critical thinking, and the illogical notions of primitive man will go the way of cave dwelling and hunter-gathering.

But that narrative is being upended by objective science.

“Recent studies have shown unbelief to be both correlated with and even mediated by a cognitive malfunction: autism spectrum disorder,” the Templeton website says. “If CSR has shown religious belief to be both natural and normal, is unbelief thereby unnatural; are unbelievers abnormal (and irrational)?”

Stuart Vyse, a behavioral scientist with a PhD, demonstrated on the Skeptical Inquirer website that millennials are flocking to astrology. They eschew church attendance and categorize themselves as “nones,” according to Pew Research.

Lois Lee of the University of Kent

But while traditional faith is declining, superstition is rising.

People who hardly ever go to church are twice as likely to believe in ghosts. They have flocked to “paranormal tourism” (that means, going to haunted houses). An estimated 1,200 haunted houses in America generated around $500 million in yearly revenue, double from 10 years earlier, according to Routledge.

“Many who reject religion are attracted to what I describe as supernatural-lite beliefs,” he says. “Supernatural-lite” means that they believe in outside influence on society, say by aliens, and wrap their beliefs in pseudo-scientific and technological language, Routledge says.

“Science increasingly shows that atheists are no more rational than theists,” says Lois Lee, a research fellow at the University of Kent. “Indeed, atheists are just as susceptible as the next person to ‘group-think’ and other non-rational forms of cognition.”

There are an estimated 1.1 billion atheists and non-believers on the planet. While much scientific study has been dedicated to understand religious believers, atheists have not been studied much at all.

This is where the new research is debunking the myths perpetuated by the atheist purists who crow about their “science and rationality.” Perhaps because the Templeton Foundation has funded such research, the liberal unbelievers have cast doubt on the Foundation.

Tate Williams on Inside Philanthropy labeled the foundation “scary” because of its areas of interest.

“Templeton has a conservative agenda,” Williams writes. “The foundation has a program on free enterprise, and has funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Mercatus Center. This perception has been heightened by the fact that John Templeton’s son Jack Templeton, now president and chair of the foundation, personally supports conservative political causes.”

Science has benefited humans immensely in terms of medicine, technology and longevity. But does science satisfy the existential longing to believe in some sort of higher power?

“It isn’t enough to make life longer, easier, or even more pleasurable,” says Routledge. “People need to feel that they matter, that they are meaningful members of a meaningful social world. Not all beliefs in the supernatural or paranormal help to fulfill this need equally. Our society is becoming not more truly secular but more individualistic and, as a result, more likely to suffer from an epidemic of meaninglessness.”

Steven Lahood studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Los Angeles.