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Atheism and Inferential Bias

Kelly James Clark


While the cognitive science of religion is well-trodden ground, atheism has been considerably less scrutinized. Recent psychological studies associate atheism with an intellectual virtue, inferentiality (Shenhav 2011; Norenzayan, Gervais, and Trzesniewski 2012; Norenzayan and Gervais 2013; Pennycook 2012). Theism, on the other hand, is associated with an intellectual “vice”, intuitive thinking. While atheism is allied with the attendant claim that atheism is the result of careful rational assessment of the relevant evidence, theism is considered the result of a lack of reflection on the relevant evidence (or careless disregard of the evidence). Atheism, then, is rational, but theism, then, is irrational. In this essay, we will assess the import of these studies and the attendant claims that these differences in thinking styles entail differences in rationality.


Atheism, Inferential Bias, Intuition

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