By BJ Bjornson
Nothing like knowing where you stand with people. Some folks at the University of British Columbia decided to do some research to see just how much atheists were trusted as a group. The results are not exactly promising.
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 wish I could say this is a surprise, but then the belief that religion equals morality or, more to the point, that the lack of religion means someone automatically has no moral compass and will commit whatever depraved act their imagination can come up with, is both widely accepted and actively promoted by those who dislike atheists and anyone remotely related to them in wishing to limit the influence religion has on public life.
Needless to say, such an attitude has real world consequences.
That prejudice had a significant impact on what kinds of jobs people said they would hire atheists to do.
�People are willing to hire an atheist for a job that is perceived as low-trust, for instance as a waitress,� said Gervais. �But when hiring for a high-trust job like daycare worker, they were like, nope, not going to hire an atheist for that job.�
Such attitudes make it more clear why the more activist type of atheism is actually important. If you don�t push back against such stereotypes, you risk being relegated to second class status. Remind me to drop a few dollars in support of those �Good Without God� billboards, and hope they don�t get rejected because they�re considered obscene or offensive.
One more thing to note is that the feelings here are not mutual.
The antipathy does not seem to run both ways, though. Atheists are indifferent to religious belief when it comes to deciding who is trustworthy.
�Atheists don�t necessarily favour other atheists over Christians or anyone else,� he said. �They seem to think that religion is not an important signal for who you can trust.�
One of the things that led to my atheism was that the more I learned about particular religions and their beliefs, the more I observed that however much a person professed their belief in whatever dogma they subscribed to, their actions rarely seemed to fit the actual dogma very well, for good or ill. Such was enough for me to learn that religious piety, or particularly the expression of such piety, was no proxy to a person�s morals or trustworthiness.
Now I have to hope that others can learn the same lesson, or at the very least stop making the opposite conclusion about unbelievers.