The relation between and the intersection of religion and analytic thinking are complex and intransigently debated topic in the both social psychology and cognitive science literature for a decade. Moreover, the idea that religions facilitate acts that cause the negative attitudes toward especially religious out-groups has relatively a long theoretical and empirical history in social psychology (Allport & Ross, 1967; Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992; Spilka, 1986; Whitley & Bernard,1999) and is the main idea behind the evolutionary origins of religion (Atran & Heinrich, 2010; Bering, 2011; Norenzayan & Shariff, 2008; Preston & Ritter, 2013; Rand et al., 2014; Shariff & Norenzayan, 2007; Sosis & Alcorta, 2003) which is generally explained by the concept of cooperation of genetically unrelated people, who will later become an in-group member. Thus, highly religious people are thought to be more prejudiced toward religious out-groups as well as different out-groups defined by ethnicity or sexual orientation than less religious or irreligious people (Rowatt & Franklin, 2004) because their in-group identifications are high.
I address -in this paper- three empirical questions about the connection between analytic thinking, religion and prejudice. 1) Does analytic thinking override intuitive thinking and decrease belief in a personal God 2) Does religion promote prejudice? And 3) Does analytic thinking decrease prejudice? In examining these three questions, I present a three-factor model that explains the connection between analytic thinking, religion and prejudice as the outcome of low-level intuitions which elicit religious belief and prejudice.
The Dual Process Theory
Not surprisingly, in the quotation given at the beginning, Epicurus was fond to prove the non-existence of God through the reason as the Christian Apologetics did but in the opposite way. These attempts belong to the concept of doubt and skepticism which emerges from our slower and more deliberative brain structures also known as System 2. Whereas religious belief is thought to be a little child of intuitive thinking (also known as System 1) -which is one component of the dual process theory of human thinking beside deliberative or analytic thinking- relying on heuristics and effortless choices (Kahneman, 2011), atheism is the child of System 2 (Norenzayan, 2013). Although assumptions given are compelling ones, the amount of empirical backing for this position had been rather scarce.
In a very influential paper, Gervais & Norenzayan (2012) set out to test these assumptions to understand whether one of the pathways which go to religious doubt is analytic thinking by using a variety of well tested techniques including scrambled-sentence paradigm, perceptual disfluency paradigm and visual priming paradigm. In other words, they tested whether subliminal priming of analytical thinking can override intuitive thinking and decrease belief in a personal God. They did a...