What's the Big Idea?
"I dare God to make someone murder my parents cruelly"
"I dare God to make me die of cancer."
These statements, when read aloud by religious people and atheists alike, induced feelings of nervousness, according to a University of Finland study. In fact, atheists and religious people found the experience equally stressful.
Why is this?
The Finland researchers offered a number of different possible explanations. For one thing, while atheists may not explicitly fear God, they might believe implicitly. The exercise may also have been stress-inducing because atheists may have at one point in their lives believed in God or are close to people who are believers. On the other hand, the essential absurdity of the exercise may have caused "dissonance-related affect."
What's the Significance?
We experience emotions all the time that conflict with our core beliefs.
As the authors of the study write, "the results imply that atheists' attitudes towards God are ambivalent in that their explicit beliefs conflict with their affective response."