Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Atheism and analytic thinking


Liberal Studies Department


Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


Recent atheistic attempts to explain religion away have relied on work in the cognitive science of religion. Unbelief, however, has not received nearly so much attention. One common claim is that atheism is the result of careful, reflective, evidence-sensitive, analytic thinking, while theism is based on hasty, sloppy, evidence-insensitive, intuitive thinking. A recent study, Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief by Will M. Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, published in the prestigious journal, Science, makes just such a claim. I critically analyze Gervais and Norenzayans study that suggests that atheism is associated with analytic thinking whereas religious believers are more likely intuitive thinkers. I argue that, like religious belief, there are many cognitive and cultural paths to atheism and that the study's claim that analytic thinking promotes religious disbelief is, at this point, unfounded.

Conference Name

Cognitive science of religion, philosophy and theology

Conference Location

Oxford University

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