It is interesting when self-perception differs from reality. I think that we all do this on some level, but a new study reported by the PsyPost shows that our atheistic friends seem to believe they are truly open-minded, but they actually display more intolerance to different ideas than the Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews examined in this study from the Catholic University of Louvain.
I know that some of you are going to immediately write off this study because it is from a Christian university, but this was an article published in the peer-reviewed journal, Personality and Individual Differences.
The study measured three dimensions of closed-mindedness. On one dimension, religious believers were rated as more dogmatic or closed minded. “The Christian participants, for instance, were more likely to disagree with statements such as ‘There are so many things we have not discovered yet, nobody should be absolutely certain his beliefs are right.’”
This is not necessarily surprising. Most religious believers by definition of being religious believers have a system of beliefs that they live by. Therefore, there is a certain level of commitment that you would not find in an agnostic for example. Most religious believers again have reasons for believing what they believe, so they believe that they have discovered truth. Obviously, all of them cannot be true simultaneously, but it is not surprising that religious believers indeed have something that they believe in.
Speaking then about the measures where the atheist community rated as more dogmatic or closed-minded, “Atheists tended to show greater intolerance of contradiction, meaning when they were presented with two seemingly contradictory statements they rated one as very true and the other as very false. They also showed less propensity to be able to imagine arguments contrary to their own position and find them somewhat convincing.”
This is not necessarily surprising either. Atheists believe that they have found the truth that there is no God, so when any type of religious believer suggests that there might be some type of supernatural dimension to our world, they have to take the strong position that that religious belief is strongly false. The only way atheism holds true is if it is contradictory to every other religious belief on the planet, so this is really not all that much different than the above finding regarding Christians. Atheists have a belief system, and they have to aggressively hold to that belief system and contradict every other belief system in the world or else their beliefs are false.
This goes hand-in-hand with the idea that atheists have a hard time believing that opposing beliefs can be somewhat convincing. As a Christian, I don’t believe in New Age spirituality, but I do see how this type of amorphous religion can be convincing. I understand how it is an attractive belief system especially in a generation that doesn’t want to commit to absolute truth. I obviously do not hold to New Age spirituality, but I understand how people want to believe that and how attractive it can be.
Because I have a belief in the supernatural, at least I have some vague similarities to all other religious believers on the planet. Obviously we do not believe in the same God or gods as the case may be, but I at least understand how that may be plausible. Atheists need to take a strong position that no supernatural being of any type can exist, and in order to believe that, they cannot admit that any type of argument is plausible or else they have open the door for evidence that they outright reject by virtue of being atheists.
We, as Christians, have Truth that we hold to because we find it to be true, and atheists have a very hard time acknowledging that there might be any other type of truth beyond their own according to this study. There really is not all that much difference, but think back to my post on Monday. People believe that religion does all kinds of harm because it is supposedly intolerant and closed-minded. I think that this survey shows what should be obvious to everyone. We have a desire to find truth, and when we find it, we hold to it strongly. Even atheists are not as open-minded as they believe they are often times.