Religious Believers Distrust Atheists As Much as Rapists

Via Radley Balko, a study!

Distrust is the central motivating factor behind why religious people dislike atheists, according to a new study led by University of British Columbia psychologists.

"Where there are religious majorities -- that is, in most of the world -- atheists are among the least trusted people," says lead author Will Gervais, a doctoral student in UBC's Dept. of Psychology. "With more than half a billion atheists worldwide, this prejudice has the potential to affect a substantial number of people."

While reasons behind antagonism towards atheists have not been fully explored, the study -- published in the current online issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology -- is among the first explorations of the social psychological processes underlying anti-atheist sentiments.

"This antipathy is striking, as atheists are not a coherent, visible or powerful social group," says Gervais, who co-authored the study with UBC Associate Prof. Ara Norenzayan and Azim Shariff of the University of Oregon. The study is titled, Do You Believe in Atheists? Distrust is Central to Anti-Atheist Prejudice.

The researchers conducted a series of six studies with 350 American adults and nearly 420 university students in Canada, posing a number of hypothetical questions and scenarios to the groups. In one study, participants found a description of an untrustworthy person to be more representative of atheists than of Christians, Muslims, gay men, feminists or Jewish people. Only rapists were distrusted to a comparable degree. 

I don't think it's mutual. But I'm a disinterested party -- I believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

AlterNet / By Joshua Holland

Posted at December 2, 2011, 10:18am

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