Study Finds Religious People's Entire Analytical Portion of the Brain Shuts Down Completely

Why It’s Difficult To Be An Atheist From Day One To Death

Ages of Atheism

In the previous article, I explored why children so frequently and easily become slaves to religion and also what we as adult Atheists can do about fostering Atheism in the young (Part One: Childhood).

This article concerns problems with Atheism (and their resolutions) that confront “teens and twenties.” As we all recall, puberty strikes with the ferocity of migraine and then lingers on painfully for years like some sort of post-adolescent arthritis.

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In a very real sense, all teenagers are “born again” when hormones and enzymes restructure every part of their bodies, inside and out.

Rebels: And We Know the Cause 

Until a few hundred years ago, the process of growing up was facilitated by reassuring rituals and by the societal expectation that the transition would be brief, measured in months. 

Unfortunately, children today face a prolonged, unguided journey called the teen years, often lasting several decades in many parts of the world. Starting around age twelve, children are treated like babies but expected to act like adults.

This dichotomy is reflected in the adolescent brain, a work still in progress. The prefrontal cortex (the region that allows us to rationally plan ahead) is not yet sufficiently developed to consistently quell the hedonistic impulses of the hormonally-driven limbic system. 

Adolescents are capable of reason, but their ability to do so is inhibited by impulsive behaviors. Metaphorically, they often can’t hear classical music over rock and roll. 

They are physically mature enough to leave home, but can’t financially afford to do so. They are sexually mature but expected to remain celibate. 

These frustrating physiological and social factors make most teenagers rebel against their parents, and society in general, to one degree or another. 

But this rocky and turbulent playing field is not an even one for Atheistic parents as compared to religious ones. The child of any normative Christian will likely rebel against parental authority by adopting some evangelical or Eastern faith rather than rejecting outright the belief in a supreme being. 

Adolescents brought up with an unquestioning faith in any variety of creators will continue to suffer from religious beliefs that are strongly imbedded into their brains.

Rebellion in the form of worshiping an alternative god does not require any fundamental change in how an adolescent’s brain has been wired in childhood. 

Once a teen becomes an adult, there remains a good possibility of reverting to their original belief system or even becoming agnostic or Atheist. 

On the other hand, the rebellious children of Atheists must reject entirely their parentally-induced disbelief in any god in order to declare independence. This change does require a fundamental rewiring of the teen’s brain and can become permanent if not reversed in a relatively short time. 

A religious person - and even some Atheists - might ask at this point, What’s the harm in a belief in god, either permanent or temporary? 

In brief, as with any other delusion, a belief in a supreme being adversely impacted every decision, every emotion, and every action because, among many other reasons, such a belief distorts, indeed often obliterates, any understanding of cause and effect.

For example, if a person can excuse an act of brutality on the grounds that it was “God’s will,” then there is no reason for such a person to alter their behavior in the future. 

Of course, there are many other events and emotions that precipitate conversion from Atheism to a religion other than adolescent rebellion and biochemically-induced bewilderment. 

But a discussion of these causal factors will be deferred to “Part Four: Until Death Do Us Depart” because such events occur almost randomly throughout our adult lives.

Evolution vs. The Big Brain

One of the few behaviors that are hard-wired into the human brain at birth is that infants believe everything their parents tell them. 

Infants don’t always obey, but they always believe. Fortunately, that same evolutionary process also resulted in Homo sapiens having the cognitive power to override basic evolutionary drives once they enter puberty. 

Almost all mammals evolved so that the young, especially the males, would separate from their parents. This is a result of genetic pressures to maintain diversity within any given species. 

Humans thwart this evolutionary drive because our brains have developed elaborate social structures that are simply “unnatural.” 

In Western countries like Spain, Italy, and most of the continent of South America, this process has gone berserk with many children, especially males, staying with their parents well into their thirties. 

Even in those Western cultures where parents physically send their children off to boarding school, expect them to get a job shortly thereafter (if not before), and frequently move out of and away from the ancestral home into early retirement, the Western way is to keep children psychologically and even financially dependent on their parents for twenty or thirty years. 

The composite result is that parents are faced with teenagers and grown children who are resolutely rebellious yet reluctantly dependent.

What is a good Atheistic parent to do when faced with a grown child who’s suddenly and mysteriously chosen god over logic?

What We Can Be Done?

So there you are sitting in your living room, chatting with friends and family. You discover that your son, daughter, niece, nephew, or neighbor’s teenager has renounced Atheism and believes in some species of god. What do you do? 

As Thomas Paine said, “To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.” 

This concept will be explored further in the next issue’s article, but for now, it is sufficient to note that faith is not touched by direct attack. 

Indeed, studies have shown that the entire portion of the brain devoted to analytic thought actually shuts down completely while in a state of religious contemplation or ecstasy. Logic, however, must arise from inside a person’s own brain in order to have any impact.

Just like the physical barrier that keeps harmful clots and chemicals away from the brain, so also does the religious brain have a soft-wired net stretched across its cognitive superhighway. 

If the argument is ineffective and forcible intervention is deplorable, how can a good Atheist proceed? As is always the case, first be prepared.

Learn about the process of conversion from both sides by reading two books, one by a Christian who converted to Atheism, the other by an Atheist who converted to Christianity

Two good sources are Why I Left the Ministry and Became an Atheist, by G. Vincent Runyon, and Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. 

Being now well versed on the topic, give a copy of each book to your wayward child, relative, or friend. If there is any chance of reason prevailing, the content of these books will motivate the person to discuss with you the factors that led to conversion from Atheism. 

If they occur, such conversations should be merely inquisitive and non-judgmental, although you may be able to manage some reminiscing about your recollections of this person’s earlier Atheism. 

Unfortunately, in this video/virtual reality world, reading is out of fashion with many young people. Ancient wisdom can still prevail. 

As in Aesop’s fable of the mother crab telling her offspring not to walk sideways, people still do learn by watching the behavior of others that they respect. 

When a teenager sees you acting with charity, love, and forbearance without any divine guidance or invocation of divine intervention, they may gain or regain an understanding that god is an unnecessary appendage to leading a good and successful life. 

These efforts may go unrewarded or you may succeed. But then, perhaps it’s “god’s will” after all? This question is the genesis of “Part III, Days of Whines and Bosses,” which will explore defending Atheism in adulthood against a hostile world…and preserving it for yourself as well.


James Luce

The author of Chasing Davis, An Atheist’s Guide to Morality Using Logic and Science. After four years as a criminal investigator in the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations, he spent 25 years as a trial lawyer.


  1. B.J. Casey, “The Adolescent Brain,” Weill Medical College of Cornell University and California Institute of Technology, 2008,
  2. See, for example, “New Clues on Rewiring Your Brain,” Psychology Today, March 28, 2012; the Pew Forum’s US Religious Landscape Survey at; and
  3. A recent example is a comment by Republican Richard Mourdock of Indiana, the defeated candidate for US Senate. He said that when a woman is impregnated by a rapist “it’s something God intended.” Historically, we find thousands of examples of “brutality is God’s will” during the Inquisition and other pogroms.
  4. Read Runyon’s essay on the subject at library/historical/vincent_runyon/left_ministry.html


Comments will go through moderation before appearing, and are subject to our community guidelines, which can be viewed here

  1. This is pure B.S. Do you seriously think Newton & Kepler etc all had a section of their brains shut down. Then, if I follow your 'logic' the counter arguments exists and whatever section they used, shut down in your minds. Secondly, science evolved from religion. This is laughable. And your 'moderator' will delete this comment with the part of his brain that has switched off. lol

  2. If you know who David Berlinski is (not a Christian and not an idiot) you may listen to him and activate that part of your brain that creates these rubbish articles based on zero research. Next time, publish the PHD info on your 'research'. You've wasted 10 minutes of my life!

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