After a terrible flight over China, I had horrible flying phobia for years. To calm myself on flights, I felt that if I were to forcibly visualize (imagine) the future scene of me de-boarding at the airport to which we planned on arriving, then such visualizations would drastically improve, if not guarantee, the chance of my safe arrival. It was almost like I felt that I wouldn’t be able to imagine my arrival it if it weren’t going to actually happen. Additionally, I felt that I had the magic power to make it happen by the brute force of imagining it. Part of me knew this was ridiculous nonsense but another part of me fully believed it. So of course I did it. What did I have to loose? In fact, I still kind of do it on flights to this day. And look, to-date I have always arrived safely. 🙂
Tom Reese at Epiphenoma describes a study that explores what sort of people, like me, actually believe that their thoughts can make an event happen. In cognitive science this is called “Thought-Action Fusion”. The studies compares Protestants with Atheist/Agnostics and shows that Protestants are much more prone to this cognitive bias.
Tom concludes his fine article by saying, “I suspect that the reason I am an atheist is that this way of thinking about the world just seems downright alien to me.”
But I am an Atheist and I have this strong cognitive bias. In fact, I have a whole bunch of posts describing my superstitious tendencies. But though I do agree with Tom that such a bias can be a risk factor to becoming a believer, it may only be a risk factor toward being a certain type of believer. When I was a believer, I noticed many believers had no such magical thinking. And, as my story shows, even some atheists have this tendency. But I would suspect that “Natural born” atheists may be much less inclined toward “Though-Action Fusion”. Tom Rees may be a Natural-Born Atheist.
- Thought-Action Fusion is a cognitive bias available to Theists and Atheists alike.
- Just because you have Though-Action Fusion tendencies doesn’t mean you have to indulge them!
- So, you don’t have to cure a Christian of their superstitions in order for them to become an Atheist, they just have to be a significantly unattached to their superstitious tendencies . This concept will be part of my developing series on “How to Cure a Christian“.
Question to Readers: Do any of you do “Thought-Action Fusion”? (please read Tom’s article for examples)
Related Post of mine:
- No Atheists in Crashing Planes: A cultural Buddhist’s reflex during a near disaster. A story from the flight I mentioned above.