Explaining Nordic Atheism

  • van Mulukom, Valerie (PI)
  • Mauritsen, Anne Lundahl (PI)
  • Lundmark, Sara Evelina (Participant)
  • Johnsen, Elisabeth Tveito (Participant)
  • Haimila, Roosa (Participant)

Project: Research

Project Details


Over the last decade, researchers in the cognitive science of religion have started to converge on the idea that religious beliefs are adaptive, and as such, a product of evolved human psychology. This raises the question of how we can explain the presence of atheism around the world — if religious beliefs come naturally and intuitively as an adaptive trait, then whence religious non-belief? We propose, in line with recent evolutionary theories of atheism, that atheistic beliefs, like religious beliefs, are adaptive worldview beliefs made possible by evolved cognitive apparatus, and shaped by one’s local cultural context through cultural learning mechanisms.

In this project, we empirically test this thesis through an examination of the relevant cultural contexts of the Nordic countries. In doing so, we propose new cultural learning mechanisms of belief, and test them together with cognitive factors through a survey with large, representative samples from the Nordic countries, thus providing novel insight into the relative importance of these different transmission factors. Moreover, by employing a worldview approach, atheism will be investigated not just as a lack of belief in God, but also as part of a broader secular worldview. This will further allow us to uncover different types of atheism.
Effective start/end date01/11/202201/11/2023