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ToddStark March 28th, 2011 05:13 PM

Strong non-belief as a threat response?
Jonathan Lanman studies the cognitive anthrpology of religious beliefs and atheism. He has an intriguing opinion article in New Scientist where he says: "explaining religion or atheism is less a matter of explaining what goes wrong in otherwise rational minds and more a matter of explaining how different environments affect universal cognitive mechanisms."

Ok, I buy that.

In the process he argues against the "Enlightenment assumption" that beliefs are primarily reasoned from evidence, so, he says, he is interested in distinguishing different forms of atheism especially. "Strong atheism" he says includes a very distinct distaste for religion, and "non-theism" is more like finding anything supernatural to be hard to believe in. Not all that original itself of course, but in making that distinction he also wonders whether it is _threat_ that distinguishes them.

So perhaps Danes, who don't have much to feel threatened from religion seem to emphasize non-theism, whereas in the US where religion has been a frightening political force to atheists, strong atheism has grown. I can think of counter-examples, but also other supporting ones.

I wouldn't be surprised if broad shifts in attitudes could be at least partly explained in terms of threat response action theories.

He posted some of his papers at Academia.Edu -->

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