Does God exist? This question continues to cause debate and scrutiny in nearly every corner of the globe.
Most atheists, when debating with the religious, demand hard proof that a higher power exists -- a tangible evidence that believers simply cannot provide. Meanwhile, the faithful often point to a "gut feeling" in explaining their belief that a god (or gods, even) oversees the universe.
It is these internal emotions that many atheists scoff at, as they contend that an individual's feelings cannot serve as a substitute for viable proof.
Interestingly, a new Harvard University study is saying that "gut feelings" may play a very important role in determining who goes to church and who doesn't. The study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, has found that the more instinctive or intuitive an individual is, the more likely he or she is to believe in God.
On the flip side, others who extensively think details over and over again in their minds may, in fact, be less likely to believe. UPI provides a comprehensive explanation of these two opposing thought processes:
Amitai Shenhav, a doctoral student of Harvard University in Boston, explained intuitive thinking means going with one's first instinct and reaching decisions quickly based on automatic cognitive processes, while reflective thinking involves the questioning of first instinct and consideration of other possibilities -- allowing for counterintuitive decisions.
"Some say we believe in God because our intuitions about how and why things happen lead us to see a divine purpose behind ordinary events that don't have obvious human causes.
This led us to ask whether the strength of an individual's beliefs is influenced by how much they trust their natural intuitions versus stopping to reflect on those first instincts."
In order to investigate how intuition plays into belief (or unbelief) in God, the researchers reached out to 882 American adults through an online survey. The survey, which focused upon their belief in God, was followed by a three-question math test. As it turns out, those who spent more time reflecting on each question -- relying less on intuition -- got the answers correct.
Here's the interesting part when it comes to belief: The people who went with their intuition on the test were one and a half times more likely to believe in God when compared to those who actually got the questions right. The Harvard Crimson explains:
The study found that intuitive thinkers not only tend to believe more strongly in the existence of God, but their faith also grows more certain over time. Alternatively, reflective thinkers become less certain of the existence of God over time.
In the end, researchers plan to continue investigating how genes and education influence thinking and they contend that neither intuition nor reflection is superior.
While atheists may contend that believers don't think deeply enough and are, thus, hoodwinked into believing in a higher power, the religious could respond by stating that non-believers overanalyze and often miss the signs and symbols that are directly in front of them.