The following is an extract from: "Why We Believe in god(s): A Concise Guide to the Science Of Faith." The author is psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson, JR., MD.
“The human ability for self-deception is crucial to religious belief. If many believers could see their own minds more clearly, they would see that self-deception plays a role in their acceptance of faith.
Maybe there are ONLY atheists in foxholes. If the faithful truly and fully believe in a protective deity, why would they dive into a foxhole to protect themselves from the bullets whizzing by? A part of their brains knows damn well that if they do not protect themselves, the bullets will hardly discriminate between those who claim faith and those who reject it. They may say and think they believe, but their instinctive actions expose the lie.
Why do the faithful buy health insurance? House insurance? Most people live their lives as if there is no god. We stop at red lights, we put our children in car seats, and we act responsibly to protect our safety and the safely of those we love.
If a person is religious, he is an atheist in relation to others’ gods and the gods of history. He also will almost invariably live as an atheist in relation to his own worshipped deity.
We expect others to live as atheists too. We want them to stop at red lights and not assume we drive under divine protection. We in the West have become so used to religious people NOT really, truly, and fully believing what they say they believe that we are startled when, as on 9/11, we encounter people who really do believe their religion and put their beliefs into murderous practice.”