There are seven billion people in the world. Two billion of them are Christians. Another 1.5 billion follow Islam. Hundreds of millions follow Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and a number of other organized religions. In America alone, 75% of the population identifies as Christian, while only 4% of people identify as Atheists – or having no belief in deities.
And those 4% are apparently about as trustworthy as rapists to the 75% – at least, that’s what a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says (Link to a PDF of the full study here). The research was aimed to determine how society at large feels toward atheists; whether society trusts atheists; and how much. The results were surprising: Among societies with a religious majority, atheists are among the least trusted people, on an equivalent with rapists.
Yes, rapists. One part of the study described to participants an individual who committed selfish and illegal acts whenever they felt like it – such as backing into someone’s car in a parking lot and pretending to leave insurance information but really leaving nothing, or finding a wallet full of cash then stealing the money and throwing the wallet in the garbage. Participants were then asked whether they thought it more probable that the man was a teacher, or was a teacher and a Christian, a Muslim, a rapist, or an atheist. Participants felt it was highly unlikely the man would be a Christian. On the other hand, they felt it highly believable that a rapist or an atheist would behave this way.
Perhaps the results aren’t entirely surprising – only 45% of Americans said they would vote for an atheist to be President, while 72% would vote for someone on his third marriage. But still, to attribute “trustworthiness” to a belief system is fundamentally disturbing – especially given many of the sins “Christians” are accused and convicted of every day. Where does this unreasonable fear come from?
Photo Credit: TheOwl84 on Flickr