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Researchers claim: Atheists confronting death become more receptive to religious belief

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So there really aren’t any atheists in foxholes?

From “Death Anxiety Increases Atheists’ Unconscious Belief in God” (ScienceDaily, Apr. 2, 2012), we learn,

New University of Otago research suggests that when non-religious people think about their own death they become more consciously skeptical about religion, but unconsciously grow more receptive to religious belief.

The techniques used to study unconscious beliefs include measuring the speed with which participants can affirm or deny the existence of God and other religious entities. After being primed by thoughts of death, religious participants were faster to press a button to affirm God’s existence, but non-religious participants were slower to press a button denying God’s existence.

It sounds like poppycock to us, but including non-religious people (atheists?) in these experiments seems fair enough.

“These findings may help solve part of the puzzle of why religion is such a persistent and pervasive feature of society. Fear of death is a near-universal human experience and religious beliefs are suspected to play an important psychological role in warding off this anxiety. As we now show, these beliefs operate at both a conscious and unconscious level, allowing even avowed atheists to unconsciously take advantage of them.”

Maybe this will make some atheists think twice about setting much store by these kinds of studies.

Apart from that, what’s with “… the puzzle of why religion is such a persistent and pervasive feature of society”? Most people have ideas about why we are here, where we are going, and what we should do in the meantime.  It just means we have a sense of the past, the present, and the future. Only by slyly inserting the assumption that religion is somehow a wrong, strange, or bad idea, could the authors come up with the notion that it represents some kind of a puzzle.

And the human mind is much too complex to be captured by this stuff.

See also: “Neuroscience: “There are now hopeful signs of what might be called a backlash against the brain”

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