What the atheists really fear


Here it goes: the most recently released research report by the University of Finland suggests that atheists, having challenged God, may have implicitly developed emotional arousal and considerable stresses. And thus the excerpt (from General Discussion section of the report) as follows:


We asked atheists (Studies 1 and 2) and religious individuals (Study 1) to verbally dare God to cause unpleasant events, like murders and illnesses to happen to themselves and their intimates. Atheists did not regard the statements as unpleasant as the religious participants did in their explicit self-report. The impact of conviction was strong as it explained 38% of the variance in the unpleasantness ratings. However, when the participants’ emotional arousal was analyzed by their skin conductance level during their verbal dares, a different picture emerged.
In the first study, reading the provocations addressed to God increased atheists’ emotional arousal more than reading neutral statements about such things as sleep and weather. Second, God statements resulted in equal tension among atheists as reading the offensive statements (e.g., “It’s okay to kick a puppy in the face”). Third, this same pattern of results was obtained for religious individuals. The results indicate that compared to their conviction and responses on the self-report measure, atheists’ implicit reactions to the God statements were more similar to the reactions of religious individuals.
The results raise the question as to whether it was actually asking God to do the awful things that was upsetting, or whether it was contemplating the event itself (e.g., the possibility that one’s parents might be murdered) which was upsetting. Because of the following results, we think the first type of inference is more likely. When reading the God statements in Study 2, atheists experienced greater emotional arousal than when reading the offensive statements. Moreover, when reading the God statements, atheists’ emotional arousal increased as much as did religious individuals’ arousal. Atheists also refused to say aloud the God statements and they felt the need to undo the statements equally often as religious individuals did, although neither group refused to say statements very often or retracted statements very often.
In Study 2, atheists were also asked to say aloud statements that were otherwise identical to the God statements but God was replaced with a wish (e.g., “I wish my parents were paralyzed”). Speaking the wish statements and the offensive statement increased the participants’ SC level more than speaking the neutral statements. Thus, again, it may be that considering the offensive events was unnerving. It is also possible that the atheists implicitly endorsed thought-action fusion, believing that talking about disturbing events increases the likelihood that the event will occur. Nonetheless, as the SC levels also showed that atheists were more affected by God statements than by wish or offensive statements, it may be safe to conclude that atheists were less comfortable with daring God than with daring a more nebulous and impersonal fate or simply contemplating the distressing events.

Source: Big Think’s Ideafeed and Taylor and Francis Online. Read the full report on the second link.


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