Study: Atheists are only as trustworthy as rapists

Well, this is disconcerting:

Religious believers distrust atheists more than members of other religious groups, gays and feminists, according to a new study by University of B.C. researchers.

The only group the study’s participants distrusted as much as atheists was rapists, said doctoral student Will Gervais, lead author of the study published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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.”

Of course, this is pretty much a one-way street. Atheists, not having in-group thinking ingrained in them since birth (or at least having been able to shed much of that type of bad thinking), don’t particularly judge others based on religious beliefs. It just isn’t a great judge of individual character. (Group character, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.)

I think my favorite part of this is how believers give away their dumb reason in this study:

Gervais was surprised that people harbour such strong feelings about a group that is hard to see or identify. He opines that religious believers are just more comfortable with other people who believe a deity with the power to reward and punish is watching them.

“If you believe your behaviour is being watched [by God] you are going to be on your best behaviour,” said Gervais. “But that wouldn’t apply for an atheist. That would allow people to use religious belief as a signal for how trustworthy a person is.”

This issue has been brought up again and again in moral discussions. Atheists will rightfully acknowledge that morality is a subjective concept unique to humans (at least on a deep level) whereas theists will incorrectly claim there needs to be an all-knowing, all-powerful lawgiver in order for morality to even exist (which, incidentally, is known as begging the question). They will say, “If there is no God, then there is nothing that makes murder wrong”, to which the atheist replies, “So if there is no God, you would do exactly whatever you please with no remorse? What a monster.” It’s like a little kid with no control over himself. He’ll behave when mom is around, but the moment she leaves the room, he’s into everything. It’s preposterous.

Now excuse me while I go praise Stalin and murder puppies.

5 Responses

  1. The frequency with which I hear this comment–“If not for God’s punishment, I’d be a serial killer and child molestor”–suggests that many of our fellow citizens are actually barely-contained sociopaths.

    Which is quite the disturbing realization.

  2. Forget whether or not people don’t do bad things because of punishment from God. You are constrained the the very same way. I suspect lots of people don’t do certain things because of fear of judicial punishment.

  3. Maybe I’m a bad secularist, but if it wasn’t for the law I can see myself killing a looooooot of people.

  4. You know in the post apocalyptic movies where the band of survivors meet up and one is a jerk and bullies people? I would shoot him in the back of the head first chance I got.

  5. You better get him in the head. You know what happens if you only wound the guy, right? Shoot him in the kneecap and 45 minutes later into the movie, BAM! There he is, and this time he has a grudge…

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