Is Atheism 'Normal'? Reflections from the Cognitive Science of Religion - Dr Kelly Clark
From the Agency Detection Device (ADD) to Theory of Mind (ToM), the cognitive faculties involved in the production and sustenance of religious belief are well known: regardless of the extra-mental reality or otherwise of the objects of religious belief, to have such belief is natural and normal, across a wide range of definitions of these terms. Unbelief, however, has not received nearly so much attention, a fact that may be due to the explicit or implicit treatment of religious belief as a deviation from a state of natural cognitive innocence, comparable to a malfunction or mind-disease, or a deficiency incompatible with rational human perfection, once superstition has been banished. Paying careful attention to range of positions that could be characterized as ‘atheist’, I summarize new research that has examined cognitive capacities or deficiencies that correlate with a professed stance of unbelief. Is atheism, then, rational? Are atheists ‘normal’?
KELLY JAMES CLARK, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. Dr Clark has held visiting appointments at Oxford University, the University of St. Andrews and the University of Notre Dame and has lectured extensively in United States, Europe and the Far East. He works in philosophy of religion, ethics, science and religion, and Chinese philosophy. He is the author, editor, or co-author of more than twenty books and author of over fifty articles. His books include Return to Reason, The Story of Ethics, When Faith Is Not Enough, and 101 Key Philosophical Terms and Their Importance for Theology.