Believers come in lots of varieties: some are very serious, and very cerebral — they are all about believing the right thing; some believers are emotional and very superstitious or have lots of paranormal or mystical experiences; some believers might as well be unbelievers but doing religion for them is the civil thing to do. Actually, most believers are some sort of mix of all those three tendencies.
Likewise, non-religious folks come in many flavors. One self-label I have heard some atheists use almost as a badge of pride is “natural atheist“. Let me define it here for this post’s purpose:
Natural Atheist : an atheist who has never embraced a religion as an adult.
UnNatural Atheist: an atheist who once embraced a religion as an adult.
OK, I know there are issues with my definitions: “once”, “embrace”, “religion” and “adult” are all fuzzy terms. But for the purpose of this post, I am going to have to take a leap of faith that my readers won’t have too much trouble understanding my intent without debating these points.
I am an “UnNatural Atheist”: I have full heartedly embraced religions as an adult though I am not at all religious now. And I am starting to think we UnNatural Atheists have something to brag about too. 🙂
Over at Epiphenom, Tom Rees reviews research showing that believers in the paranormal (a type of religiosity), are more likely to detect agency where it does not exist: see faces in clouds, see animals in the woods that aren’t there, etc… That may seem bad, but on the flip side, that hyper-patternicity allows those religious folks to detect of real agency where a skeptics may miss it — they can avoid the bears or killers in the woods. Further, it seems that magical thinking also contributes to greater creativity.
As I said, I am an UnNatural Atheist whose former religiosity was largely the mystical, magical, paranormal kind. And though I’ve left those circles, I still clearly carry with me some of the benefits. But the benefits are not from the religion — but from the mind that made me susceptible to religion – my mind. I haven’t lost that mind. I still have naturally high settings on my hyper-patternicity and magical thinking rheostats. How about you?
Questions to readers:
- For Religion-Free Folks: Are you an UnNatural or Natural Atheist? What do you think are the shortcoming of either category?
- For Theists: Do you like my intro paragraph? Do you think categories such as Natural vs UnNatural Believers could be helpful?