It has been suggested that religious belief (animism; polytheism; monotheism; vague ‘spiritualism’ of the Southern Californian variety; statism of the Northern Californian variety, Golden Bear subspecies…) is built in to the human animal, but this is the first time I've seen an actual experiment:
According to the skin-conductance tests, the atheists found asking God to harm them or others to be just as upsetting as religious folks did. The researchers also compared the reactions of the atheists when making statements like ‘I wish my parents were paralyzed’ and ‘I dare God to paralyze my parents.’ Atheists were, like believers, more bothered by the latter statement, if you believe the skin-conductance tests, even though both declarations would be, in theory, equally empty if there were no heavenly overseer.
I don't see an obvious bug in the methodology and conclusions, as described, and I can't say that I'm surprised by the result. Man is a uniquely rational animal, but reason is always an effort. It isn't only our experiences and biases that conspire to monkey-wrench the operation, but human nature itself.
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Many years ago (pardon me while I adjust my teeth), one very cold winter, I dated (if that's the right word) a nice pagan/wiccan/whatever girl. One day she said something that caused me to blurt, ‘Oh, Thor wears panties!’, to which she reacted in genuine, cringing fear and insisted that I must take must it back RIGHT AWAY! Silly youth accounted, I still don't get it, although I suppose it was no more off-the-wall than my mother's reaction when I doubted – out loud, at the age of twelve or so, oops – the existence of God.
You can see why pagan girl and I didn't work out. Not that we didn't try again some years later. We're idiots, we were.