Britain is turning into a country of non-believers – with nearly half of us identifying as non-religious, according to a new study.
Whether non-believers describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or something different, they behave differently from believers – in a surprisingly large number of areas.
American research by Pew showed that atheists are more likely to be left-wingers, and more likely to support ‘progressive’ measures such as gay marriage.
But how else do atheists differ from believers? Recent research has highlighted some key differences.
People who don’t believe in God are more intelligent
People who don’t believe in God are more intelligent – and this is borne out by dozens of scientific studies, involving thousands of American volunteers.
In 2013, a team led by Miron Zuckermann of the University of Rochester reviewed scientific literatore on religion and intelligence – and found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of 63 studies
Even in extreme old age, intelligent people are less likely to believe in God.
Atheists ‘think like psychopaths’
Atheists tend to think in the same, cold-hearted manipulative way as psychopaths – and religious people are more caring, but less able.
Researchers from Cape Western Reserve University in Ohio conducted eight linked experiments to investigate how atheists and believers differed in the way their brains operated.
The researchers now believe that there are two ‘networks’ in the brain – one devoted to cold, analytical thinking and one towards more social, ‘moral’ thinking.
Atheists ‘push aside’ the more social way of thinking – and in the process become more prone to self-centred, impulsive behaviour, typical of psychopaths.
Religious people push aside analytical behaviour – meaning that, as previous studies have shown, they tend be less intelligent.
Atheists have been around for far longer than you think
University of Cambridge academic Dr Tim Whitmarsh claims that atheism flourished in societies like ancient Greece and pre-Christian Rome – societies with many Gods.
Not only that, it wasn’t seen as immoral, he says in his book Battling the Gods.
Whitmarsh says, ‘We tend to see atheism as an idea that has only recently emerged in secular Western societies,” Whitmarsh said.
‘The fact that this was happening thousands of years ago suggests that forms of disbelief can exist in all cultures, and probably always have.’
Religious children are actually less kind than atheist children
Many parents believe that a religious upbringing will help their child become a good, moral person – but that might not be the case.
University of Chicago researchers put 1,170 youngsters from Christian, Muslim and atheist backgrounds through psychological tests.
They found that religious children were less likely to share, and more likely to judge and punish others – based on a game where children were offered the chance to share stickers with others.
Interestingly, religious parents BELIEVE their children are empathetic and sensitive – but it is not true.
Atheists are better at solving problems
Religious people and other believers in the supernatural (yes, that’s you, astrology fans) are less likely to understand ‘how the world works,’ according to a Finnish study.
Researchers asked 258 volunteers about their religious belief – and found that believers were less able to solve simple physical problems, such as rotating objects mentally.
They were also less scientifically knowledgeable – and a little prone to thinking that objects such as flowers are able to think.
For instance, believers are more likely to agree with statements such as, ‘stones feel the cold’.