Under the Hood

Vatican Hosts Atheism Conference To Understand If Universe Is Meaningless

A team led by University of Kent will join a conference in Vatican to present the results of their study that aims to improve understanding of atheism and nonreligion. 

The researchers analyzed the nature and diversity of “unbelief” across Brazil, China, Denmark, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. under the global Understanding Unbelief research program. For the study, the team asked participants about their attitudes to issues like supernatural phenomena, life after death and whether the “universe is ultimately meaningless.”

The results showed that not believing in God does not lead to unbelief in other supernatural phenomena. Majority of atheists in the study admitted believing in one or more supernatural phenomena.

Most unbelievers also promoted objective moral values, human dignity, attendant rights and love for nature. They also agreed with the general population that family and freedom should be the top priorities to finding meaning in the world.

“These findings show once and for all that the public image of the atheist is a simplification at best, and a gross caricature at worst,” Lois Lee, senior research fellow in Kent's Department of Theology and Religion, said in a statement. “Instead of relying on assumptions about what it means to be an atheist, we can now work with a real understanding of the many different worldviews that the atheist population includes.”

He added that the findings of their study should help in changing public and social policies in religiously diverse societies.

“Our data directly counter common stereotypes about unbelievers,” Jonathan Lanman, an anthropologist at Queen's University Belfast, said. 

He noted people commonly view unbelievers as people with arrogant confidence, a very different set of values and a lack of sense of objective morality and purpose. 

“Our representative data across six diverse countries show that none of this is true,” Lanman said. “In a time when our societies seem to be growing more and more polarized, it has been both interesting and encouraging to see that one of the supposed big divides in human life (believers vs. unbelievers) may not be so big after all.”

The Pontifical Council for Culture at Vatican and the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network are co-hosting the atheism conference. 

rome Vatican in Rome serves as the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and home to the pope. Pixabay