Atheists may not exist.
This rather shocking statement may seem like a bit of click-bait, but it’s actually the conclusion many scientists — some of them avowed atheists themselves — are starting to buy in to.
According to Science 2.0 writer Nury Vittachi, an examination of several scholarly findings puts forth the theory that even atheists believe in something.
Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.
While this idea may seem outlandish—after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God—evidence from several disciplines indicates that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone.
This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that ‘atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,’ says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. ‘They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.’
Scientists theorize that “we are born believers, not atheists” and that “Humans are pattern-seekers from birth, with a belief in karma, or cosmic justice, as our default setting,” writes Vittachi.
Pascal Boyer from the science journal Nature adds: “A slew of cognitive traits predisposes us to faith,” and that people “are only aware of some of their religious ideas.”
The studies together endorse the idea that our beliefs exist through internal monologue and that “invisible friends” are not something just for children.
Again, from the Science 2.0 report:
As we experience events, we mentally tell a non-present listener about it.
“The imagined listener may be a spouse, it may be Jesus or Buddha or it may be no one in particular. It’s just how the way the human mind processes facts. The identity, tangibility or existence of the listener is irrelevant.
“From childhood, people form enduring, stable and important relationships with fictional characters, imaginary friends, deceased relatives, unseen heroes and fantasized mates,” says Boyer of Washington University, himself an atheist. This feeling of having an awareness of another consciousness might simply be the way our natural operating system works.”
To go along with these findings, a recent Pew study entitled “Religion and the Unaffiliated,” showed that “In the United States, 38 percent of people who identified themselves as atheist or agnostic went on to claim to believe in a God or a Higher Power.”
For more on the idea that atheists don’t exist, check out the full report here.