The Understand Unbelief study, which seeks to research the nature and diversity of "unbelief", found that almost a third of atheists and 45 per cent of agnostics believed in underlying "forces of good and evil", with many believing some events were "meant to be", although they did not believe in the existence of God.
Aaron Edwards, lecturer in theology, preaching and mission at Cliff College told Premier every person is hard wired to seek out meaning in life: "You can see when you observe people, they want something to be true. They want there to be a wider holistic meaning.
"But that [meaning] doesn't have to impact their own lives, so I think that's the key really."
Mr Edwards added that this search for meaning can only be fulfilled through Jesus Christ.
He also said the study shows that people are willing to embrace a faith system and Christians should be encouraged to share the gospel with more confidence.
"We've always had the same challenge of preaching the gospel to those who don't want to believe - the thought that people believe in some abstract supernatural belief is really almost a given," he said.
"We just need to point people to the ultimate fulfiller of meaning in God and in Jesus Christ and in the good news that we have to proclaim.
The report defined atheists as people who "don't believe in God" and agnostics as people who "don't know whether there is a God, and don't believe there is a way to find out".
According to The Times, Lois Lee, senior research fellow at University of Kent's department of religious studies, said: "These findings show once and for all that the public image of the atheist is a simplification at best, and a gross caricature at worst."
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