It is said that there are no atheists in foxholes, but it might also be true that very few atheists remain that way after a personal encounter with "ultimate reality," or God. According to recent research conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, more than two-thirds of atheists who have had such experiences -- whether spontaneously or induced by psychedelic substances -- change their opinion about the existence of a creator. In addition, most of the study participants, regardless of their original religious beliefs, said that they experienced long-lasting psychological benefits after their encounter with the divine. Such positive effects include finding purpose in life and being happy. The findings were based on data collected from 4,285 people from all over the world, although most of the respondents were white men. Information was collected via two 50-minute online surveys that asked for details about the encounter, which could have been with a "higher power," including God, or with a divine emissary, such as an angel. While the researchers concluded that such encounters usually led to long-term mental health benefits, they also warned that because the survey relied on self-reporting, there could be bias and inaccuracy in the findings.
The basics of non-belief:
- According to the Pew Research Center, 4 percent of American adults identify as atheists, and 5 percent consider themselves agnostic.
- Western Europe has a relatively high percentage of atheists, including the Czech Republic, in which 25 percent of adults say they do not believe in God.
- In some countries, atheism is illegal and can be punished by death, including in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and several other nations.