Empathetic folk more likely to believe in God: Is this why less men believe?

Folk who are skilled in “mentalizing” – or as I would term it “Empathy” – are more likely to believe in God according to research reported in the National Post.

The ability to infer the thoughts and feelings of other people is called “mentalizing” and it appears to play an important role in religious belief, according to researcher Ara Norenzayan.

“When people are thinking about God or praying to God, they are trying to understand God’s mind, his wishes and beliefs,” wrote Norenzayan in an email interview.

“When adults form inferences about God’s mind, they show the same mentalizing biases that are typically found when reasoning about other peoples’ minds,” the study authors wrote. Religious believers have an idea of God as an intentional being who responds to human beliefs and desires.

Interestingly the article goes on to explore the negative relationship between Autism and belief in God and we’ve been here before.

There’s also the inference that as men are less empathetic than women this may explain why fewer men believe.

All of this brings up the rather fraught issue of being hard-wired to believe or disbelieve.

Could we posit that atheists are less empathetic? I ask this tongue-in-cheek.

Here are the findings:

A low empathy quotient — a reduced ability to mentalize — predicted a reduced belief in God.

Autistic teens were only 11% as likely as non-autistic teens to believe in God.

Adult men were less than half as likely as adult women to believe in a personal God.


2 Responses to “Empathetic folk more likely to believe in God: Is this why less men believe?”

  1. Dylan Says:

    Oh, not mentalizing! LOL… I’ve just finished an 18-month therapy that revolved around mentalization. I agree, I used to call it ‘being empathetic’, too.

  2. webmaster Says:

    Ah, its that what they termed it in your therapy. I wonder if it’s an American term, especially as spelled with a “z”?

    Some therapy is imported from the US.

    Would you still view mentalizing as empathy, or something deifferent now?

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