Atheists--The Least Trusted Group in America?


Special thanks to Aaron Kinney of Kill the Afterlife for alerting me to this soon-to-be-released study that finds that atheists are the least trusted group among Americans.

In part, it concludes . . .

Atheists are America’s least trusted group, according to a national survey conducted by University sociology researchers.
Based on a telephone survey of more than 2,000 households and in-depth interviews with more than 140 people, researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, homosexuals and other groups as “sharing their vision of American society.” Americans are also least willing to let their children marry atheists.
Perhaps, one of our Christian comment-ers, who love to claim that they are discriminated against in this country, can provide me with some examples of acts committed by atheists in this country that have earned us this reputation. I'm not interested in theories, just some historical atheist actions that demonstrate that we are not to be trusted in this country.

From the way many Christians in this country talk, you would expect that they would be at the bottom of this list or that most Americans wouldn't want their children to marry them more than any other group. It certainly is interesting.

12 comments:

Kaffinator said...

I suppose the restriction "atheists in this country" is intended to exempt American atheism from any comparison with the atheism of Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc?

Incidentally I have to agree with you that people who complain about American Christians suffering systematic discrimination are violently overstating their case.

exbeliever said...

Kaffinator,

Yea, I intentionally limited it to this country, not just to avoid unpleasant comparisons, but rather because Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao were all radical communists and it seems their cruelties owes more to their politics than to their atheism.

Similarly, I think John Calvin's misdeed with Michael Servetus was due more to his politics than his theology.

Daniel said...

Kaff,

It sounds pretty obvious to me that he restricted the question to the subset of atheists that are relevant: the study is only of American perceptions, and his point re the pseudo-persecuted Xians is relegated to those in America [anyone see the shit with "the War on Xians" starring DeLay and Rod Parsley and a few other wingnuts?]

JustinOther said...

Well, of course there's a poor impression of atheists. the christian right has such a noise machine in place that they can spread that propaganda and people believe it.

There is a huge misperception, as we all know, that atheists are hedonistic and have no morals. That, of course, is generally untrue, just as it is untrue that all christians are good and moral people.

Being the minority that we are, it is hard to change that perception in the general population, therefore we are limited to changing the perceptions of those in which we come into contact. It may be a slow process, but over time it will change things.

J.S.Brown said...

Of course only part of the survey in included in the post above, but there is something that sticks out. The question asked to rank in “sharing their vision of American society.” Only 2,000 households and 140 individuals were surveyed. If the estimates about religious belief in the US are accurate, the chance of those tested being religious in some way is very high. Of course atheists are assumed least likely to share thier vision of American society. It's probably accurate.

Lya Kahlo said...

"I suppose the restriction "atheists in this country" is intended to exempt American atheism from any comparison with the atheism of Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc?"

Do theists really still make these comparisons? Isn't a billion debunkings enough?

Lord Timothy said...

If comments from a Christian are allowed on this topic, I would venture that the mistrust is the result of the vocal athiests are rather inflammatory, and use science, and intellectualism (sometimes pseudo-intellectualism) as a hammer with which to beat people over the head with advocating the arrogant idea that if one does not beleive the same as them, that they are ignorant, and uneducated. (now this does not apply to all atheists, but many outspoken ones are this way) A case and point would be both Dawkins and Dennet. I think it is rather unproductive to blame every problem on "christian propaganda" so that self analysis is not needed. It is probably a bad idea.

Daniel said...

Tim,

Good to see you over here from Creationtalk.

I agree that militant atheists contribute to the poor public perception of general atheism, in the same way that militant fundy Xians contribute to the poor public perception of Xians, et cetera for every group.

One thing to consider, though, is the difference in the way atheists handle believers from the vice versa, as was pointed out:
calling someone ignorant and telling them they will burn in torment forever are two quite different things.

In fact, it is this "spiritual divide" that I think contributes more to the distrust than anything we do. If you consider me as "hellbound", you innately correlate other very bad things to my character, whether deserved or not. For example, I have never been unfaithful to my wife, and I know many other ministers, including some whose wrong was aired to the congregation, who continue to preach. However, if you lined this person up beside of me, holding his Bible, in his suit and smile, while I stand there, grim-faced [as most atheists are portrayed], holding a copy of Sagan's Demon-haunted World, maybe with a "Born-again Atheist" cap on, and you surveyed the public as to which one of us was unfaithful...

...does public perception mean diddly-squat insofar as validating the truth value of a position? Of course not. Might does not make right. However, might certainly affects our way of life.

I would have to say, Tim, that Xians telling me, on faith, that I am deserving of hell while they are deserving of grace, is quite more arrogant, on a different plane of arrogance entirely, from me telling them they're ignorant.

One can be demonstrated with tests on specific subjects, while the other is just as empirically unfalsifiable as any other theological assertion.

Their "faith" is conflated as virtue, but my condescension is [sometimes] unfairly maligned towards those who refute caricatures of atheism and naturalism.

Lord Timothy said...

Hi Dan, I thought I posted this yesterday, but I guess it didn’t go through.

I see telling an atheist they are going to hell, and calling someone ignorant and stupid as quite the same. A fundy telling an atheist that they will burn in hell, while insulting is a rather empty threat. After all, why fear hell if it does not exist? On the other hand, an atheist generally threatens from an “intellectual hell” which carries more immediate weight than does the former example. Now I cannot speak for everyone, but personally, I do not feel as if I automatically associate certain things with a character to think of someone as “hell bound” other than only that. If there is a spiritual divide of some kind between atheists, and the rest of society, I don't see it as a result of Christian's "labeling," as opposed to a "self-inflicted" (for lack of a better way of putting it) isolation (almost enmity) due to the fact that they (atheists) pit themselves against, and attack the spirituality that the rest of society is greatly influenced by. I agree that atheists are sometimes depicted as grim, and pessimistic, but I have to wonder, is this perception a result of the media, or is the media a result of the perception?

"I would have to say, Tim, that Xians telling me, on faith, that I am deserving of hell while they are deserving of grace, is quite more arrogant, on a different plane of arrogance entirely, from me telling them they're ignorant."

Though I am afraid I may be being baited in some way, I have to agree. I agree it is arrogant for anyone to say that they are deserving of grace. In fact grace by definition implies that one does not deserve it.

"One can be demonstrated with tests on specific subjects, while the other is just as empirically unfalsifiable as any other theological assertion."

What are you referring to here?

I have to admit, at one point in my life, I did have a rather idealistic view of humanists, (too much star trek I guess) but when I met a few, my rather optimistic image vanished. It seems to me atheists are trying to advertise humanism by assaulting other religions or belief systems. That I believe is counter-productive. If Atheism is truly the most rational worldview, people will eventually find it on their own why push them? I would say humanists and other atheists would do better to focus on the merits of their belief system as opposed to attacking other systems of belief. Of course this is from the perspective of a Christian so take from that what you want, it is just how things appear from this side of the fence.

I made a point on another thread about this one. I find it ironic that in the same place you can tell us religious folk how evil we are, yet wonder why no one trusts you. I could probably like anyone go on and on about how atheists in the past have done horrendous acts of violence, and genocide, etc. I doubt though that would influence anyone into coming to the realization that this evil is a human problem and not one generated by “religion” as was argued there. I think though that the post makes a perfect illustration of my point though don’t you agree?

exbeliever said...

Tim,

You wrote: "I see telling an atheist they are going to hell, and calling someone ignorant and stupid as quite the same."

Sticks and stones . . . but hell is eternal torment.

You wrote: "If Atheism is truly the most rational worldview. . ."

Atheism is not a world view; it is a position on theism. Naturalism, materialism, phyisicalism, etc. are world views.

You wrote: "I would say humanists and other atheists would do better to focus on the merits of their belief system as opposed to attacking other systems of belief."

Humanists do have a "belief system." Atheists do not hav a "belief system." Atheism is the absence of belief in one thing, i.e. the existence of a god or gods. Naturalists, materialists, physicalists, etc. have a "belief system."

These legitimate world views do, actually, present the merits of their systems. Atheism has no positive beliefs to posit; it is only the absence of a belief in a god or gods. It must only point out the inconsistencies in theism. It is necessarily negative. We are trying to convince others not to hold a positive belief by showing that there is no reason to hold it.p

You wrote: "I could probably like anyone go on and on about how atheists in the past have done horrendous acts of violence, and genocide, etc."

Then, please do. This is what I asked in this post. I limited it to atheists in this country because that is where the poll was done, and because the examples usually given (e.g. Pol Pot, Stalin, etc.) seem to have something other than atheism in common (i.e. a perverted communism) that appears to be more responsible for those acts than atheism.

I would like to know all the list of atrocities committed by American atheists. List away.

Daniel said...

TIM:
What are you referring to here?
I'm saying you can demonstrate ignorance but not "hellness"

I agree it is arrogant for anyone to say that they are deserving of grace. In fact grace by definition implies that one does not deserve it.
Calvinists say God is just, and God is merciful, and God is gracious. All three of those attributes, they assure me, are coexistent and perfect within God (and only there, and defined there). However, their God decides/chooses/predestines them to heaven and me to hell...soooo, that's why I used the words "they are deserving of grace" [by God's perception]

If Atheism is truly the most rational worldview, people will eventually find it on their own why push them?
First, atheism is one component of your worldview. There are Objectivists, Idealists, Humanists, etc., I feel pretty ambivalent about evangelical atheism. On the one hand, I think some people really will be glad to be shed of fear and guilt and shame, which is about all that keeps many people within religion, especially the ages-old fallacy: "you can't be a good person without X" where X = religion, God, Xianity, Jesus, Allah, Mohamed, etc.

I strongly suggest you read "Breaking the Spell" by Dennett--a very polite/courteous examination of religion as a natural phenomenon. Think about it--does he have to ask for permission to examine religion naturalistically? Of course not, so the book is really a sort of apologia of the practice, mostly for the benefit of thinking religious persons, since he's preaching to the converted insofar as atheists reading the book.

I find it ironic that in the same place you can tell us religious folk how evil we are, yet wonder why no one trusts you.
I think a lot of the distrust is rooted in the fear that an atheist will cause you to lose faith by evangelizing you. i know firsthand this is true with a few former friends of mine. They almost entirely refuse to say anything to me now, beyond, "i'm praying for you," even when I just want to talk sports, etc.

I could probably like anyone go on and on about how atheists in the past have done horrendous acts of violence, and genocide, etc.
True, but I think we have to examine the motives, for any person doing violence, no one really compares to Hitler in terms of perceived evil. However, I'm not about to trot out quotes "proving" Hitler was motivated in large part by Luther's theology, because I don't think that evil logically follows from either theism or atheism. So I guess I basically disregard arguments both ways as some kind of "demonstration" of the relative morality of followers of Jesus or followers of nothing.

I doubt though that would influence anyone into coming to the realization that this evil is a human problem and not one generated by “religion” as was argued there.
I think both good and evil are generated by religion, because people can be good and people can be evil, and religions are written, thought up, and organized by people.

I think though that the post makes a perfect illustration of my point though don’t you agree?
The doctrine of hell reveals a person's perception of "justice" and "God". The main point of the post is that for those who believe God is justified in sending a 4-year old (or 5,6,7,8,9, whatever) to eternal torment (or younger), and the same eternal torment as Hitler (as a campus preacher I had a lively convo with this past week asserted...I had him pretty shaken up at the end) -- that these people have a skewed perception of "deserve" and "justice", and that, if those are their foundations, they extrapolate this to 1 Sam 15:3, Numbers 31:15-18, calling those actions "just" and "deserved". In short, Tim, hell reveals a person's sense of morality, and once revealed, this is often a scary thing to see.

The other campus preachers three or four weeks ago were the screaming angry types, and I made them read the above passages to the crowd, and I spent only a few moments after that pointing out their sense of morality [as was self-evident to everyone there] was poor, indeed. A few people came up to me as I was leaving and thanked me for dispelling the tension that was building [lots of angry people just asserting, "you're not right!"].

Lord Timothy said...

Then, please do. This is what I asked in this post. I limited it to atheists in this country because that is where the poll was done, and because the examples usually given (e.g. Pol Pot, Stalin, etc.) seem to have something other than atheism in common (i.e. a perverted communism) that appears to be more responsible for those acts than atheism.

Atheism is a necessity of communism, thus I have a hard time believing that atheism is as morally superior as you claim.

I would like to know all the list of atrocities committed by American atheists. List away.

Here start with this, do a google search on church burnings.


Dan,
I'm saying you can demonstrate ignorance but not "hellness"

Oh in that case, this can only go to further my other point then that it is rather an empty threat.

Calvinists say God is just, and God is merciful, and God is gracious. All three of those attributes, they assure me, are coexistent and perfect within God (and only there, and defined there). However, their God decides/chooses/predestines them to heaven and me to hell...soooo, that's why I used the words "they are deserving of grace" [by God's perception]

I go to a completely Calvinist church, though I am not a Calvinist myself, as long as I have attended there I have heard over and over that we (the elect) are not deserving of the grace given, even in God’s eyes. As for what I see as inconsistent theology, I do not feel obligated to respond to for their sake.

First, atheism is one component of your worldview. There are Objectivists, Idealists, Humanists, etc., I feel pretty ambivalent about evangelical atheism. On the one hand, I think some people really will be glad to be shed of fear and guilt and shame, which is about all that keeps many people within religion, especially the ages-old fallacy: "you can't be a good person without X" where X = religion, God, Xianity, Jesus, Allah, Mohamed, etc.

Atheism is a component, fine, but if it is the most rational position then people will be drawn to it, is that better? As per Christianity the idea is you can’t be a “good person” period. On the other hand, it has the power to remove shame, and guilt if it is truly followed, I do not believe religion is about shame and guilt, but doing away with them.


I strongly suggest you read "Breaking the Spell" by Dennett--a very polite/courteous examination of religion as a natural phenomenon.

Alright but don’t expect me to deconvert.

I think a lot of the distrust is rooted in the fear that an atheist will cause you to lose faith by evangelizing you. i know firsthand this is true with a few former friends of mine. They almost entirely refuse to say anything to me now, beyond, "i'm praying for you," even when I just want to talk sports, etc.

That may be another component as well, at least in some circles, in my neck of the woods so to speak it does not seem that anyone fears atheists.

I think both good and evil are generated by religion, because people can be good and people can be evil, and religions are written, thought up, and organized by people.

I will agree that religion can be used as a tool for good or evil.

The doctrine of hell reveals a person's perception of "justice" and "God". The main point of the post is that for those who believe God is justified in sending a 4-year old (or 5,6,7,8,9, whatever) to eternal torment (or younger), and the same eternal torment as Hitler (as a campus preacher I had a lively convo with this past week asserted...I had him pretty shaken up at the end) -- that these people have a skewed perception of "deserve" and "justice", and that, if those are their foundations, they extrapolate this to 1 Sam 15:3, Numbers 31:15-18, calling those actions "just" and "deserved". In short, Tim, hell reveals a person's sense of morality, and once revealed, this is often a scary thing to see.

Could it not be though that they trust (have faith in) God to be moral despite what appears to be a problem? Somehow I doubt that any of them like to burn children.