Poll: Atheists Trusted As Much As . . . Rapists

We have been watching the national and international campaign by leaders against atheists, who appear to be fair game for hateful, ill-informed rhetoric. Even Newt Gingrich (who has been criticized for violating two oaths to God in having affairs while married) has campaigned on the need for any candidate to be faithful. Recent polls show these statements are playing to the majority bias against non-believers. Now, researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon have released the results of a study that shows that religious people would just as soon trust a rapist as they would an atheist or non-believer.

An article published in the current online issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology contains various studies. One study involved a more liberal pool of University of British Columbia students involved a hypothetical of someone leaving false insurance information on cars. “People were far more likely to say he was either an atheist or a rapist and not part of a religious group.” The author noted “[w]ith rapists, they’re distrusted because they rape people. Atheists are viewed as sort of a moral wild card.”

Here is the abstract:

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011 Dec;101(6):1189-206. Epub 2011 Nov 7.
Do you believe in atheists? Distrust is central to anti-atheist prejudice.
Gervais WM, Shariff AF, Norenzayan A.
Source
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia.
Abstract
Recent polls indicate that atheists are among the least liked people in areas with religious majorities (i.e., in most of the world). The sociofunctional approach to prejudice, combined with a cultural evolutionary theory of religion’s effects on cooperation, suggest that anti-atheist prejudice is particularly motivated by distrust. Consistent with this theoretical framework, a broad sample of American adults revealed that distrust characterized anti-atheist prejudice but not anti-gay prejudice (Study 1). In subsequent studies, distrust of atheists generalized even to participants from more liberal, secular populations. A description of a criminally untrustworthy individual was seen as comparably representative of atheists and rapists but not representative of Christians, Muslims, Jewish people, feminists, or homosexuals (Studies 2-4). In addition, results were consistent with the hypothesis that the relationship between belief in God and atheist distrust was fully mediated by the belief that people behave better if they feel that God is watching them (Study 4). In implicit measures, participants strongly associated atheists with distrust, and belief in God was more strongly associated with implicit distrust of atheists than with implicit dislike of atheists (Study 5). Finally, atheists were systematically socially excluded only in high-trust domains; belief in God, but not authoritarianism, predicted this discriminatory decision-making against atheists in high trust domains (Study 6). These 6 studies are the first to systematically explore the social psychological underpinnings of anti-atheist prejudice, and converge to indicate the centrality of distrust in this phenomenon. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved).

Source: Blaze as first seen on Reddit

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52 thoughts on “Poll: Atheists Trusted As Much As . . . Rapists

  1. And I would trust an Atheist quicker than a self professed christian any day of the week….You will be known by your deeds….and what would the boy from Bethlehem have to say about them….turn the other cheek…70 times 7….or take Paul…dust the sand off the sandals…..

  2. “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” – misattributed to Sinclair Lewis

  3. Elaine M.,

    I am sure the Koch Brothers already have an answer for that…

    AN,

    Good Morning to you….and yes…that is a sad…truism…..

    RC,

    Yep…

  4. What rcampbell said. Trustworthiness is not defined by a persons self-adopted labeling even if that label is indicative of a set of values that are unknown. Torquemada was a Christian and he was a mass murderer. Trustworthiness is properly based on individual action and interaction.

  5. Right-wing authoritarian follower personality types almost always wear their Christianity on their sleeves. And RWAs that are Social Dominance Oriented exploit that acceptance of authority to control them.

  6. My wife worked for a social service agency managed by a group of churches. The director a “paper” clergyman (no position in a church) made the statement that only believers could be moral. My wife said that I was an agnostic and one of the most moral and ethical people she knew. That started a slow “shunning” to make her leave the agency.

  7. That started a slow “shunning” to make her leave the agency. -Andy

    Shunning, modern-day witchhunts, bullying, harassment… Good, salt-of-the-earth folks, some of these “religious people”…

    I hope that your wife was able to find another job, Andy. Good for her… for speaking up and bucking these lunatics.

  8. Well, we know that theists in general and Christians in particular are always moral, never murder, rob, rape, steal, lie or cheat so it must be all those atheists that are causing all this trouble – they, after all, are incapable of having any moral compass since that can only come from a fear of some cosmic muffin who loves you sooo much that it will burn you in a pit of fire for all eternity if you do not worship it.

  9. “…a fear of some cosmic muffin who loves you sooo much that it will burn you in a pit of fire for all eternity if you do not worship it.” -Frankly

    lol….. Thanks for laugh, Frankly…

  10. Meh, doesn’t surprise me. As an atheist I trust people based on their actions and my gut feelings (my personal god perhaps?).

    Most people seem to be decent enough regardless of belief.

    Likewise I believe there is a similar spread of theists and atheists who are dodgy.

    I go with that saying: good people do good things, bad people do bad things but to get good people to do bads things you need religion; okay there are exceptions but relion is really good for getting the devote to do just about anything as long as they believe in “a greater good”.

  11. Well I am an absolute believer in God which teaches me that humans can not be trusted because humans are not perfect. I figure that if you have to tell me what a good Christian you are; you probably arn’t. I have experienced some of the worst bigotry and hatred and injustice at the hands of “Good Christians”. What religion a man professes is absolutly no predictor of his charactor. Neither is his belief or disbelief in God. Humans don’t become untrustworthy because they are Athiest. Humans act according to the concept of right and wrong they learn as children. Whatever religion the parents profess. Whatever religion the child professes or doesn’t. But hey; go ahead and trust the very religious professors of virtue and while your at it, you may as well go ahead and trust Lawyers, Insurance Salesman, Cops and; well; Rapists I guess.

  12. >but to get good people to do bad things you need religion;

    Good one.. APA*

    “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities..”

    and as the whole point of ‘religion’ is ‘do as you are instructed’..

    Free Thinkers, OTOH, well, freely think about things.. Go Figure..

    Why is it that say, wolves, don’t eat each other? Is it because they have a god to ‘give’ them morals? Or is it perhaps because genetic continuation of the species requires a species to at least refrain from destroying its own (healthy) members? Whoa! Could there truly be no ‘muffin in the sky’? ;-) Could _this_ be why we (are supposed to) have morals! ;-) Amazing that wolves, unlike some humans, need no religion to remind them of the need for moral behavior..

    I’m good with the wolves..

    enjoy

    *Also Phrased As

  13. Slightly OT & a ‘letter to the programmers’..

    FWIW, I did _NOT_ put little yellow smiley doo-hickies in my previous post. I put a ‘;’, a ‘-‘ and a ‘)’.. and _those_ are what I wanted to appear. That they had no separating characters in no way changes the importance of those particular characters.. nor the significance in their placement.

    Wondering, am I the only one who dislikes having a post “garishly”, ‘edited’?

  14. As an athiest, I distrust people who rape common sense and rationality.

    Frankly-
    Frankly speaking, you have spoken Frankly- and that’s a good thing!

  15. Elaine,

    My mother says she’s Presbyterian and my girlfriend says she’s an Anglican (or Catholic-lite as she she really calls it), but in the final analysis, I think both are closeted Latter-day Brianists based on their copious collection of shoes and regular prayers to some character named “Saint Fendi”.

  16. “As a result, most people in most large, cooperative societies
    in human history have believed in watchful moralizing gods. (as supernatural guarantors of prosocial behaviour among people)” (from the study)

    The theory is that people tend to behave better towards each other if they think a supernatural being is monitoring their actions.

    If one accepts that as the base for the study then one can build upon that base by determining that those who don’t believe a supernatural being is monitoring their behavior, will not behave better and thus are not to be trusted.

    But what if the reality of the situation is and always has been that people who believe a supernatural being is monitoring their behavior don’t behave better. I can give you millions of examples … let’s start with pedophile priests/ministers/pastors and work our way down and up.

  17. “But what if the reality of the situation is and always has been that people who believe a supernatural being is monitoring their behavior don’t behave better. I can give you millions of examples … let’s start with pedophile priests/ministers/pastors and work our way down and up.” -Blouise

    I think that we have to as least consider that many of these folks may, in fact, not believe in “a supernatural being” at all. They may simply have been very adept at finding the perfect cover/arena for their crimes

  18. Gene,

    I wonder which supernatural being was monitoring the guy who declared waterboarding wasn’t torture and then continued to monitor all those individual CIA personnel who did it.

    What supernatural being was monitoring all those bankers and Wall Street people?

    Must have been a pretty lame one ’cause none of those dudes behaved better.

    I wonder if any of them claim to be “supernatural being-fearing” men and women.

  19. I am a life long believer in God and a long-time evangelical — and I guarantee that I would trust atheists, agnostics, and member of probably every faith group before i would ever trust a fundamentalist of any faith group — in fact, I cannot find it in me to trust a fundamentalist believer — they are walking contradictions. Religious Zombies.

    The opposite of faith is not doubt — without doubt, wherefore faith? The opposite is certitude. Fundamentalist, claiming to be the most faithful of the faithful, have no faith — only their certitude.

    A man without doubt is no man — one either acts on his doubt or contrary to his doubt. But to have no doubt? It’s inhuman. I don’t trust Zombies.

  20. Blouise,

    “I wonder if any of them claim to be “supernatural being-fearing” men and women.”

    Without question.

    I recently had a discussion with a former college roommate – a conscientious if not particularly rigorous Catholic. We were discussing the troubles of the world and he remembered a conversation we had in college. He said, “Back in the day you once claimed more people were killed in the name of some God than for any other reason. I thought that was a bit of an overstatement then, but now I think you were right all along.”

    But that’s the funny thing about belief. It’s a two-edged sword that claims to have only one. While belief can be a transformative and positive force in people’s lives, just so, it can equally be used as a justification and a rationalization for horrible acts. Belief is like any tool ultimately; the utility is in how you use it to enhance or destroy your life and the lives of those around you. Where belief is not like any other tool is that by its very nature – the requisite of faith over proof – it can more easily embrace irrational or outright evil outcomes because it allows ethical abdication of responsibility in both actions and outcomes to a “higher power”. Whenever there is a chance to avoid responsibility, some people will abuse it, whether out of malice, mental illness or mistake makes no difference. Just like mountain climbers say the “climbed it because it was there”, far too many actions people take are done simply because they can without any forethought. By nature we are creatures of immediate gratification. Ethical behavior requires that immediate gratification often be postponed or personal gratification be given up altogether. When we do fail in the duties of ethics, people will more often than not look to blame someone else first rather than accept our role in the disaster. Who better to blame than an invisible power, be it God or the Devil? It’s the ultimate snipe hunt for assigning blame in a causal analysis.

  21. Like Edmund Burke I have never found a way to write an indictment against a whole class of people. Apparently, some of the faithful have no such compunction.

  22. If I had to choose … which, of course, I don’t … I would be more prone to the karma concept.

    Many years ago I had a very good friend who had survived Auschwitz and he told me of his “crisis” of faith and how he had resolved it. He had read of a Jewish man, a contemporary, also dealing with a crisis of faith who, while on an overseas flight, received an epiphany while flying through German airspace. He decided to embrace the idea of karma in that it meant Hitler would have to be born and die a horrific death at least six million times before his karmic debt was paid.

    My friend told me that thought helped resolve his anger at God and he was able to move forward with his life.

    Not having come anywhere close to experiencing the horrors my friend lived with for the years he struggled to survive in the camps, I decided to shut my mouth and “let it be”.

  23. Good point mespo727272 about branding a class of people, according to this study it would seem the majority of theists do just that. That kind of suggests most theists are bigots.

  24. pete,

    I’ve always like the idea of karma because of its symmetry with the law of conservation. In the words of Homer Simpson to Lisa, “We obey the laws of thermodynamics in this house, young lady!”

  25. I would trust an atheist about as far as I could throw a wet mattress up an elevator shaft. It’s always the hateful, extremely religious, argumentative atheists that monopolize the internet, such as YouTube etc… and this doesn’t reflect nicely on the religion of atheism.

  26. FFLP:

    “It’s always the hateful, extremely religious, argumentative atheists …”

    ***********
    Yep, like that mean-spririted Rodney Dangerfield, or the argumentative, George Carlin. That BIll Gates never accomplished much and the 93% of the National Academy of Science who don’t believe are real self-righteous, hateful folks, too. Bottom line is that this sentiment among, shall we say, the least enlightened of our fellow citizens, who cling to foolish delusions that their own church leaders don’t believe in, prevents some of the most enlightened and able-minded people from attaining– or even aspiring to — public office. Jefferson wouldn’t have stood a chance today, neither would Madison. That tells you something about them, but even more about us and the predictament we find ourselves mired in as we look out across that vast wasteland that is our current leadership.

  27. Labeling the religious or atheists as a collective group is as logical as “right wing” and “left wing”.

    To insult and categorize them all based on label is the ultimate example of Godwin’s law, simply turned against a group for convenience. My personal favorite in an argument is the scorning reference to a media personality, with no knowledge of whether or not one is a viewer, or listener, of whatever person or ideology is intended to be put down.

    Or a reference to “Al Gore” or the “Koch Brothers” as if it’s Scientology.

    What a shame an institute of so called higher learning conducted this meaningless survey.

  28. Fruity-

    One of the benefits of being an atheist is that you don’t have to join any organization to become one. No classes, no baptism, no oaths to swear, no services to attend, no holidays, and no pedophile priests. You just turn your back and walk away. My estimate is that 99% of atheists don’t give a rat’s ass about “converting” anyone to atheism. The only time I even think about atheism is when “Christians” try to use government at all levels to impose their bizarre beliefs on atheists and people of the “wrong” religions. Leave us the hell alone and you will never hear a word from us.

    And, by the way, atheism isn’t a religion, it’s an intellectual decision.

  29. As an atheist, I take this poll as just another example of religious irrationality: People that truly believe in God would not claim to be atheists, but evil people that truly do not believe in God would have every incentive to assert that they do. Thus it is reasonable to assume that anybody claiming to be an atheist is telling the truth, but among those that claim to believe in God will be the liars and frauds trying to take advantage of the religious.

  30. Wow! Really trust?! Let’s not 4get RELIGION fanatics were responsbile for 9/11, witch-hunting, ethnic cleansing, pedophila, the delay of medical breakthroughs, women right’s violation…..I’ll stop now cause I’m now ranting, More BLESSED are the hands, than the lips that pray.

  31. The opposite of faith is not doubt — without doubt, wherefore faith? The opposite is certitude. Fundamentalist, claiming to be the most faithful of the faithful, have no faith — only their certitude.

    A man without doubt is no man — one either acts on his doubt or contrary to his doubt. But to have no doubt? It’s inhuman. I don’t trust Zombies.

    ___________________________________________________________

    Your whole post is quite brilliant, Oro.

  32. Most people do not trust Atheists because of their belief system. For example, they are dishonest when it comes to them not admitting that their position is a faith based one, they have no moral authority and consider evil a human construct. For a person to claim to be an “atheist” they would have to be all knowing, thus they set themselves up as god..which is delusional. Another reason for the distrust is that ATHIESTS refusal on their part to admit that an atheistic position is anti scientific, i.e. you cannot have everything come from nothing..a basic scientific principle. Not to mention the anti religious bigotry that comes from Richard Dawkins, and the marching orders to “ridicule and show contempt” concerning religious people. So why would Anyone trust someone like that!? A rapist is a bully and some one who just takes to feed their own selfish desires…and that is the perception of an atheist.

  33. Rick:

    Well Rick I agree with one of your foolish misconceptions in your comment but perhaps not in the way you’d imagine. “For a person to claim to be an “atheist” they would have to be all knowing, thus they set themselves up as god..which is delusional.” I suppose that rule applies to all people claiming to be all knowing about anything. Most fundamentalist Christians I know claim to know everything about their religion and everyone else’s, too. That’s why they like theirs so much. That would then be “setting themselves up as a god which is delusional.” Now, If they don’t know everything about their religion as compared to all the rest, why are they always lecturing others about how wonderful their religion is? Since they don’t know, maybe it’s not so wonderful, and sincerely claiming it is wonderful would make them, well, delusional. Along with being delusional, if they are trying to convince others of things they aren’t certain of themselves that would make them arrogant. Now if they aren’t sincere then trying to convince someone of something you don’t believe yourself makes you disingenuous. So I thank you for pointing out — and proving — that fundamentalist Christians are either delusional false gods on the one hand, or delusional, arrogant, and/or disingenuous, on the other.

    Bravo.

  34. First of all, I do not find it surprising that people trust rapists. More than half the time, people trusts rapists MORE than they trust the VICTIMS of the rapists who are claiming that they have been raped. If one is to presume that the victims of the rapists are not themselves ALSO rapists, this would easily put rapists into the category of trusted people. So maybe another group of genuinely UNtrusted people should be used in the study if we want to get valid results.

    And now over to this “whether atheists can be trusted” question, quote:

    “ATHIESTS refus[e]… to admit that an atheistic position is anti scientific, i.e. you cannot have everything come from nothing..a basic scientific principle. Not to mention the anti religious bigotry that comes from Richard Dawkins, and the marching orders to “ridicule and show contempt” concerning religious people. So why would Anyone trust someone like that!? A rapist is a bully and some one who just takes to feed their own selfish desires…and that is the perception of an atheist.”

    OK, there are some basic problems with this line of reasoning.

    1. Atheism, like Theism, is about belief, NOT about proof. Nobody who holds the belief that there is a god that is actually a trinity of three godlike entities (a father, a son, and a holy ghost) should be required to PROVE that theory to believe it, and the belief in that theory is not an independent measure of the person’s credibility or trustworthiness.

    2. “You cannot have everything come from nothing” is not actually a basic scientific principle. I don’t actually know what it IS but it is not a basic scientific principle. Obviously, within the scientific knowledge that we already have, using the scientific method that we have been using, and with the data we are able to collect, we can say that “you cannot have a human person come from no biological parents” and we can say that “you cannot have a living animal spring from inanimate matter” and so forth, but beyond that, we just don’t have tools or data to get to “You cannot have everything come from nothing” and to my knowledge, this has not been written down as any sort of basic scientific principle, at any time in history.

    3. As to “marching orders to ‘ridicule and show contempt’ concerning religious people,” if there are such marching orders (I haven’t looked into this at all and it’s a safe bet to say that I never will), they have no effect whatsoever on whether or not atheists are to be trusted. If, for instance, an American President were to give so-called “marching orders” for Americans to believe that a certain non-American government were amassing weapons of mass destruction, necessitating immediate self-defensive armed conflict, that would not, to me, automatically bring down the credibility of the average American.

    But anyway —

    Believing that a something called god came from a nothing without name, and that the something called god then did and does everything else there is to do (and more, ad infinitum) is fine; some of the people who do it are quite credible and others are not, and that always remains to be seen, and is measured by assessing their conduct, including but not limited to speech.

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