New Scientist, Wed May 30 2012
By: Andy Coghlan
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People with autism appear less likely to believe in God – a discovery that has strengthened theories that religious belief relies on being able to imagine what God is thinking, a capacity known as “mentalising”.
One of the hallmarks of autism is an impaired ability to infer and respond to what other people are thinking. In a study of adolescents questioned on their beliefs, those with autism were almost 90 per cent less likely than non-autistic peers to express a strong belief in God. The study along with three others questioned hundreds of people about religious belief and mentalisation abilities.
“We reasoned that if thinking about a personal god engages mentalising abilities, then mentalising deficits would be expected to make belief in a personal god less intuitive, and therefore less believable,” says Ara Norenzayan oF UBC and joint head of the investigation. “We found support for this in four different studies.”