Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Vail, Kenneth

Subject Headings

Experimental Psychology


The scenario of the atheist in the proverbial foxhole has been a topic of discussion in religious circles for centuries. Building on prior research utilizing terror management theory (TMT), a dual process model of cognition, and previous work suggesting that humans are intuitively wired for teleological and religious concepts, the researchers set out to examine atheist’s religiosity when confronted with the reality of one’s impermanence. To explore this idea, the present experiment recruited a sample of atheists, manipulated their awareness of mortality, manipulated their ability to employ analytic thinking, and measured various intuitive cognitions (e.g., teleological reasoning) alongside religious belief. Results suggest that atheists in the speeded conditions reported higher agreement with teleological items; but the same did not happen for religious items. Additionally, atheists primed with mortality salience (vs. control) reported lower agreement with religious items in the un-speeded condition, but not in the speeded condition; a similar interaction was not observed for the teleology items. Limitations and potential directions for future research are discussed.

Included in

Psychology Commons