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The Natural Pathways to Atheism: Cognitive Biases, Cultures, and Costs

Humanities Department, John Abbott College, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC H9X 3L9, Canada
Academic Editors: F. LeRon Shults and Joseph Langston
Religions 2021, 12(10), 867; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100867
Received: 19 August 2021 / Revised: 26 September 2021 / Accepted: 6 October 2021 / Published: 13 October 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Atheism)
Some recent scholarship in the bio-cultural sciences of religion has argued that atheism, like science and doctrinal theology, is less natural than religion. This scholarship, however, draws on problematic natural/unnatural and nature/culture binaries that denaturalize culture and reify a more basic essence/accident binary. Here, I argue that (1) while the suggestion that religion is more natural than atheism indicates something important, it reinforces assumptions about the naturalness of cognition and the unnaturalness of culture that confuse as much as they explain; (2) a clearer understanding of atheism requires the thorough naturalization of culture; (3) multiple pathways to atheism can then be understood as natural developments of both cognitive and cultural predispositions, and analyzed along continua of religion-reinforcing cultural scaffolding and religion-fostering cognitive intuitions; and (4) finally, I suggest an economic frame for better understanding atheist expressions that construes atheism, despite its relative costs and rarity, as a natural though expensive phenomenon. Because atheist expressions are differentiated by the mechanisms (cultural and cognitive) they utilize to pay the costs of overriding religion-fostering intuitions and religion-reinforcing cultural scaffolding, all atheist expressions are naturalized along with culture; however, the basic insight, indicated by the claim that religion is more natural than atheism, is preserved. View Full-Text
Keywords: atheism; cultural scaffolding; cognitive science of religion; bounded rationality; cognitive variability; economics; religion; content biases; context biases atheism; cultural scaffolding; cognitive science of religion; bounded rationality; cognitive variability; economics; religion; content biases; context biases
MDPI and ACS Style

Daniel-Hughes, B. The Natural Pathways to Atheism: Cognitive Biases, Cultures, and Costs. Religions 2021, 12, 867. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100867

AMA Style

Daniel-Hughes B. The Natural Pathways to Atheism: Cognitive Biases, Cultures, and Costs. Religions. 2021; 12(10):867. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100867

Chicago/Turabian Style

Daniel-Hughes, Brandon. 2021. "The Natural Pathways to Atheism: Cognitive Biases, Cultures, and Costs" Religions 12, no. 10: 867. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100867

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