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December 01, 2011

How Low On The Totem Pole Are Atheists? Study Claims The Religious Rank Atheists Down With Rapists

Could this possibly be true?

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.

Okay. Alarm bells already going off. 1, it's a "study." Yeah. "Studies" seem to be created chiefly to be linked in Cosmpolitan magazine lately.

2, it seems designed to discover that what it has already determined must exist -- "anti-atheist prejudice."

3, I figure all of the people doing this study are among the new class of Evangelical Atheists who are all butthurt that their idea for a new alternative Christmas, celebrating the day God was not born, to be called "Regular Sunday," isn't catching on.

But, for the sake of me posting something in this two hour slot, let's just go along with it.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon conducted a series of studies that found a deep level of distrust toward those who don’t believe in God, deeming them to be among the least trusted people in the world — despite their growing ranks to an estimated half billion globally.

“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.”

That doesn't sound like science. That sounds like a personal anecdote.

The research began a few years ago, when a series of polls revealed atheists to be some of the least liked people in areas with religious majorities, which is to say, much of the world. In one poll, only 45% of American respondents said they would vote for a qualified atheist presidential candidate and overwhelmingly preferred to vote for African American, Jewish and female candidates. Americans also rated atheists as the group that least agrees with their vision for the country and the group they’d most disapprove of their child marrying.

This is a funny statement. It's almost like they're saying, "Seriously, you trust us less than those darkies and sheenies? Come on! At least we're white!"

The resulting paper, published in the current online issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, includes six studies all designed to measure people’s perception of an atheist’s trustworthiness. 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. MThey rated atheists significantly higher than gay men on distrust, though lower on levels of disgust.

What? This seems like a very strange way to do things. "Compare atheists to gays"?

Again with the "Are you kidding? At least we're not homos!" stuff.

Okay, are you ready for this? Here comes the "science."

The second study recruited 105 UBC undergrads —they purposely targeted a more liberal sample from a less-religious nation — to test whether distrust of atheists is more pronounced than distrust of other groups, including Muslims. The students read a description of an untrustworthy man who pretended to leave insurance information after backing his car into a parked vehicle and were asked to say whether it was more likely the man was either a Christian, Muslim, rapist or an atheist. People were far more likely to say he was either an atheist or a rapist and not part of a religious group. They did not significantly differentiate atheists from rapists, something Mr. Gervais found disconcerting.

1, it doesn't seem odd to me that Christians would assume he's not a Christian. It may be irrational, but it is perfectly understandable to assume that "Someone Like Me" wouldn't be up to some funky business.

2, they can't say "Muslim" because that's racist, man.

3, I have no idea why they'd say the driver is just as likely to be an atheist as a rapist, except that... as a matter of strict logic, the driver is far more likely to be an atheist than a rapist, because, in civilized countries, atheists constitute about 5% of the population and rapists constitute something like one one hundredth of one percent.

So, like, if you ask me who's more likely to find my lost wallet and not return it, an atheist or a rapist, I'm going to go with "atheist" myself.

Plus, it's just intellectually disjointed. When you say "rapist," the image you immediately put into my mind does not involve road accidents. Seriously, this actually makes me start thinking there's going to be a follow-up question in which a rapist is more obviously implicated.

Like: "Now imagine the vehicle he's driving is this one. Now who do you think is driving?"

This is a frankly bizarre method of measuring things. It's so contrived it seems purpose-built to deliver a specific "poor me" conclusion.

Mr. Gervais Seems To Be Working On His Own Bugaboos And/Or Building a Cottage Industry: His bio:

My research draws upon a wide variety of subfields within psychology, including social cognition, prejudice/stereotyping, reasoning, evolutionary psychology, and cultural psychology.

To me, some of the most interesting questions about human psychology involve supernatural thinking: Why do people tend to hold unverifiable supernatural beliefs? What cognitive, evolutionary, and cultural forces facilitate belief in counterintuitive supernatural agents? How do beliefs about supernatural agents in turn affect cognition, evolution, and culture? Why do some people believe in gods? Why do other people not believe in gods? What are the psychological causes and consequences of religious (dis)belief? Why are atheists disliked?

I actually looked that up because he shares a surname with a famous atheist -- Ricky Gervais. No sign they're related, apart from that. This dope grew up in Colorado.

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posted by Ace at 06:59 PM

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