So that's... unfortunate.
Many religious people don’t like atheists, and in fact would apparently rate them alongside rapists on levels of trust, suggests a new Canadian study that claims to be one of the first psychological probes into anti-atheist prejudice.
“There’s this persistent belief that people behave better if they feel like God is watching them,” said Will Gervais, lead study author and doctoral candidate in the social psychology department at UBC. “So if you’re playing by those rules, you’re going to see other people’s religious beliefs as signals of how trustworthy they might be.”
I always find it rather creepy when people tell me that the only reason someone would refrain from murder, rape, and so forth is because of the constant supervision of an infinitely powerful being. Seriously? The only reason you don't violently abuse others is because you're afraid of punishment? And somehow that makes atheists- who apparently can and do control themselves in the absence of constant supervision- less trustworthy? Is this really the only world I can live in? Alas, yes, it really is. On the "positive" side, however, it turns out that atheists still come out on top in other respects:
The first study asked 351 Americans from across the country to compare the trustworthiness of an atheist and a gay man, since both represent groups often described as threatening to majority religious values. They rated atheists significantly higher than gay men on distrust, though lower on levels of disgust. [emphasis added]
Okay, great, so in the eyes of many of my fellow Americans, I'm less trustworthy than a gay man, but also less disgusting. So... yay? One shudders to think what these people would make of Stephen Fry. Still, the discussion of this finding by one of the authors is too funny not to share:
“It’s pretty shocking that we get the same magnitude of distrust towards atheists simply because they don’t believe [in God],” said the researcher, who is himself an atheist. “With rapists, they’re distrusted because they rape people. Atheists are viewed as sort of a moral wild card.”
Indeed, one can't help but distrust a rapist because- you know, it's right there in the term- he RAPES PEOPLE. But what do atheists do? Eh... pretty much the stuff everyone else does, but minus the constant references to invisible shit people can't see that sometimes gives rather odd instructions. Like, you know, fly a jet liner into a building or something like that. But wait! There's more:
The levels of distrust were more pronounced among respondents who said they were religious, said Mr. Gervais. One of the studies measured how much people thought believing God is watching makes you a better person.
“That was a really strong predictor of distrust in atheists,” he said.
Those who did not identify as religious were more or less indifferent toward atheists.
Ah, the plot thickens! See, religious people view atheists as untrustworthy because atheists aren't religious. So is this just an outgroup effect? Well, thanks to the story on Jezebel we can find out:
Study authors found that atheists didn't find religious people untrustworthy — says Gervais, "They seem to think that religion is not an important signal for who you can trust."
So, not an outgroup effect. As it turns out, some religious folks are just prejudiced fucks.