A number of scientists in recent years have stated that atheists might not actually exist, and that a belief in God is naturally ingrained into all people, prompting a recent article that is stirring discussion around the world.
Last week, Nury Vittachi published a story entitled Scientists Discover That Atheists Might Not Exist, And That’s Not a Joke. In the article, Vittachi cites the works of several researchers, such as Graham Lawton and Pascal Boyer, who argue that belief in God is naturally ingrained into every person.
“Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged,” Vittachi writes.
“Of course these findings do not prove that it is impossible to stop believing in God,” Vittachi notes. “What they do indicate, quite powerfully, is that we may be fooling ourselves if we think that we are making the key decisions about what we believe, and if we think we know how deeply our views pervade our consciousnesses.”
Even self-described “atheists,” Vittachi explains, are unable to easily separate themselves from beliefs in the supernatural.
“The difference between the atheist and the non-atheist viewpoint is much smaller than probably either side perceives,” he wrote. “Both groups have consciousnesses which create for themselves realities which include very similar tangible and intangible elements. It may simply be that their awareness levels and interpretations of certain surface details differ.”
“We might all be a little more spiritual than we think,” Vittachi concluded.
Though atheists may not be pleased with Vittachi’s reasoning, other scientists have come to similar conclusions.
“When people no longer believe in god, it doesn’t mean they don’t have intuitions that are powerfully connected to the supernatural,” Ara Norenzayan, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, wrote in an article for New Scientist. “Even in societies that are majority atheist, you find a lot of paranormal belief.”
Likewise, Pascal Boyer at Washington University in St. Louis argued that “a slew of cognitive traits predispose us to faith.”
“For the time being,” Boyer stated, “the data support a more modest conclusion: religious thoughts seem to be an emergent property of our standard cognitive capacities.”
Though many people today deny that God exists, Boyer says this belief is fundamentally opposed to humans’ natural dispositions.
“By contrast, disbelief is generally the result of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions—hardly the easiest ideology to propagate.”
These scientists’ assertions—that atheistic beliefs run contrary to human nature—may support what Christian apologists have been teaching for years. In an article entitled Is There an ‘Ultimate Proof of Creation’? Christian astronomer Dr. Jason Lisle argues that everyone, including “atheists,” intuitively understands that God exists.
“Many Christians are under the mistaken impression that critics of the Bible would believe if only they had more evidence of the biblical God,” Lisle states. “But this just isn’t so. According to Romans 1:18–20, everyone has an innate knowledge of the God of creation.”
“The problem is not that people lack evidence; the problem is that they ‘suppress the truth in unrighteousness.’ They deny what they know in their heart of hearts. The key to success in apologetics is not necessarily to give people more evidence, but to expose their suppressed knowledge of God.”