Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Atheist Divorce

Evangelist, Ray Comfort has a great sense of humor, as is demonstrated in the title of his book, God Doesn't Believe in Atheists. As it turns out, a study done by the University of Helsinki, of Finland, suggests he's right.
"We examined whether atheists exhibit evidence of emotional arousal when they dare God to cause harm to themselves and their intimates. In Study 1, the participants (16 atheists, 13 religious individuals) read aloud 36 statements of three different types: God, offensive, and neutral. In Study 2 (N D 19 atheists), 10 new stimulus statements were included in which atheists wished for negative events to occur. The atheists did not think the God statements were as unpleasant as the religious participants did in their verbal reports. However, the skin conductance level showed that asking God to do awful things was equally stressful to atheists as it was to religious people and that atheists were more affected by God statements than by wish or offensive statements. The results imply that atheists’ attitudes toward God are ambivalent in that their explicit beliefs conflict with their affective response." 
Do not presume to think that this means the researchers will be "finding" God or reconsidering methodological natural evolution (as expressed by Phillip Johnson in, Reason in the Balance, to distinguish the secular ideology that relegates God to the church house, forever banishing him from the scientific study of the origins of life and the beginning of the universe), after all, this is not Moody Bible Institute or Dallas Theological Seminary that were talking about here. 

According to the researchers: 
"There is a strong tendency in the current work on supernatural beliefs to suggest that religiosity is natural. Belief in a supernatural, intentional agent is assumed to be a cognitive default, a byproduct of evolutionary adaptations for social cognition that are present in all humans. Accordingly, Bering has argued that atheism is only skin deep: whether or not people consider themselves to be atheists, their verbal self-description may have little bearing on their implicit supernatural beliefs."
Belief in God is "natural," it is a "cognitive default," it's "implicit." The fact that the researchers presuppose naturalism just makes the claims of the study all the more interesting to me. On occasion I play the "devil's advocate" with antagonistic pseudo-evangelical atheists, by pointing out the fact that if evolution is true, than religion and religious belief is the product of evolution, and is therefore completely normal and even natural. Then I go on to argue that any attempt to discourage belief in God is an attempt to counter evolution. My final thrust is to point out that they are acting inconsistent with their views regarding natural evolution. It's a matter of cognitive dissonance. Taken into account with the study, this also implies that for the new militant atheists, their antagonism toward belief arises out of emotion, rather than bald faced facts and/or good will, as many like to use as a pretense. 

Often times this leads to the issue of whether or not religion and/or religious belief (i.e. belief in God) is a beneficial "adaptation," which generally ensues into a dialogue about the impact that Christ has made in people's lives and how that plays out in the real world. For this pragmatic argument to work, we who profess faith must pay more than mere lip service to our King. We must demonstrate his love to the world, practically and honestly, and that includes antagonists. The fact is, many, too many, believers have fallen to the way side, abandoning the faith because of a lack of grace and love in the lives of fellow believers, especially close friends and mentors. We cannot merely use the parable of the sower to excuse our own negligence. In the end, it will be your life rather than scientific data that will draw people to Christ (John 17:18; John 20:21). 

Marjaana Lindeman , Bethany Heywood , Tapani Riekki & Tommi Makkonen (2014) Atheists Become Emotionally Aroused When Daring God to Do Terrible Things, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 24:2, 124-132, DOI: 10.1080/10508619.2013.771991