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Atheists as bad as rapists?

There’s a study going around that’s getting a lot of press because of the palpably unjust conclusion that it says atheists are perceived as no better than rapists. I’ve read the paper, though, and I have to say that that’s a slightly misleading interpretation.

The paper is trying to specifically tease apart the causes of anti-atheist prejudice, and it does so with a series of tests. Their hypothesis is that there can be multiple reasons why someone could detest someone else, and they argue that, since religion is used as a test of whether someone is a member of the in-group, that religiosity is used as a proxy signal for trustworthiness.

In sum, according to the sociofunctional perspective, to understand prejudice against a given group, it is necessary to understand the threats that the group is perceived to pose. Independent theory and evidence indicates that under specific conditions, religious thinking promotes intragroup cooperation and trust, and that people use cues of religiosity as a signal for trustworthiness. Combined, these two perspectives suggest that distrust is central to anti-atheist prejudice, an insight that leads to a specific set of hypotheses regarding the nature of anti-atheist prejudice. Alternatively, another cause for hating atheists could be disgust or dislike — that their behavior inspires revulsion, or that atheists are simply unpleasant, unlikable individuals.

So let’s put it in context. This research did not establish a scale of personal attributes that ranked atheists, and found them comparable to rapists; it looked for causes, and used rapists as a category for comparison.

The kind of tests they did were surveys and examination of the likelihood of committing conjunction errors. The way they did this was to tell the subjects (who were all college students, by the way) a story like this:

Richard is 31 years old. On his way to work one day, he accidentally backed his car into a parked van. Because pedestrians were watching, he got out of his car. He pretended to write down his insurance information. He then tucked the blank note into the van’s window before getting back into his car and driving away. Later the same day, Richard found a wallet on the sidewalk. Nobody was looking, so he took all of the money out of the wallet. He then threw the wallet in a trash can.

Then the students were asked whether it was more probable that Richard was either 1) a teacher, or 2) a teacher and XXXX, where XXXX was either a Christian, Muslim, rapist, or atheist. Obviously and logically, the correct answer should always be 1, because the probability that the person will be a teacher and something else will always be lower than the probability that the person will be a teacher.

The answer they found was that people made this error about 29 times more often if XXXX was “atheist” rather than one of the religious groups, and that the responses were not significantly different between “atheist” and “rapist”. There was also a correlation between the likelihood of making the error and how important the subject rated god in their lives.

Don’t get hung up on the comparison with rapists. That was a category simply chosen because it would be unambiguously distrusted. They could have used “investment banker”, too, but then the comparison would be more difficult, because maybe a wealthy conservative college student wouldn’t consider that to be an untrustworthy occupation.

The point was not a comparison with rapists, but a comparison with other possible causes of anti-atheist prejudice. For instance, another group of subjects was told this story, as a measure of unpleasantness of character:

Richard is 31 years old. He has a rare inherited medical condition. This leads him to have dry, flaky skin and produce excess mucus. His skin often flakes off at embarrassing times, and he almost always has a dripping nose and phlegm in his throat. On his way to work one day, Richard was scratching his itchy shoulder. Some of the dry skin that flaked off caused him to sneeze, and some snot ended up on his tie. He failed to notice that the phlegm got on his tie. He wore this dirty tie through an entire work day.

Then they did another conjunction fallacy test, asking whether it was more probable that Richard was 1) a teacher, or a teacher and XXXX, where XXXX was Christian, Muslim, gay, or atheist. In this case, the result was that neither gays nor atheists were regarded as personally more unpleasant or unlikeable.

So the study has good news and bad news.

The bad news is that atheists really are not trusted by the public at large — we do not give off the positive in-group signals expected, so we get relegated to a kind of pariah status.

The good news, I guess, is the reasoning behind that. You’ll often see religious people rail against atheists and tell us how rude and awful and bad we are: take a look at the comments on this article on the study, for instance.

I think part of the issue is that some of the most visible, high-profile atheists we hear about (Dawkins, Hitchens) are vocally of the “THERE IS NO GOD AND IF YOU THINK THERE MIGHT BE YOU ARE AN IDIOT!1″ variety. These are the atheists that get the press, so I can understand the source of the perception.

Or here:

I’ve never met an atheist that wasn’t an ass. I’m not saying they all are. Just those I have known.
They push harder than the Phelps’.

Those people have misinterpreted the study (or more likely, haven’t even read it). It’s actually saying the opposite: people don’t perceive atheists as being unpleasant, they see them as being outsiders. It is specifically tying the prejudice to a judgment about trust, not whether we’re icky rude nasty people.

The message I take away from it is not to avoid the assertiveness associated with the New Atheist movement — although it may highlight those in-group/out-group boundaries, that’s necessary. We aren’t trying to say we are exactly like theists, we need to demarcate those boundaries as part of establishing our identity. What the study does do, though, is affirm that those campaigns to establish the idea that we can be good without god, that we have high moral standards, are even more important, because they go directly to the issue of whether atheists are trustworthy members of the community.


Gervais WM, Shariff AF, Norenzayan A (2011) Do you believe in atheists? Distrust is central to anti-atheist prejudice. J Pers Soc Psychol.101(6):1189-206. Epub 2011 Nov 7.

Comments

  1. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    I read this(very quickly) on Friday, and I have a slight nitpick.

    For many of the experiments, only those who made the conjunction error were counted. This may have biased the sample toward participants who lack education–at least in basic probability math.

    Is this conjunction error a common tool in psychology/sociology? If so, someone must have already thought of this and offered an explanation.

  2. Ewan R says

    Hey, at least now we know that if we have an inherited medical condition we’re officially unpleasant/unlikable according to psychologists.

    Poor Richard.

    (Seeing the wrong wrong message since 1979)

  3. Steve LaBonne says

    I heartily agree with PZ’s point that this study, as correctly interpreted by him, actually demonstrates the necessity of New Atheism. As is well on the way to happening with gay people, the only route to removing a stigma is to “de-other” the stigmatized outgroup by insistently demonstrating how ubiquitous and “normal” its members actually are. Hiding and cringing do nothing of the kind.

  4. says

    [I'm not at my sharpest in the morning and haven't yet read it. That said:]

    I find the method at first glance slightly odd. The combination of the first story and the choices of groups seemed weird, since I didn’t think of rapists as being perceived as generally untrustworthy such that people would distrust them when it comes to car accidents or money, but yeah, I could see it.

    But I think the second scenario should have been something more about personality and behavior (e.g., “Richard entered the bus and elbowed people aside, ate noisily, and disturbed people with his body odor and by spitting while he talked loudly to a passenger next to him”) rather than a strictly physical illness. I get that they were looking for associations that are less fully conscious, but that particular story seems so far from the sorts of revulsion or disgust that people might feel for atheists that it might not capture them.

    I could be wrong, though. I’ll have to read it to understand their rationale better.

  5. Glen Davidson says

    What’s sort of fun about all of this is that we can be scary, and I believe part of that is because a lot of people fear that we just might be right.

    Being right most certainly isn’t the best way to be likable.

    I think it might be interesting if they’d do a study to see who they trusted with scientific conclusions. For instance, who would they suspect of peddling a quack cure, a Muslim, a Xian, a rapist, or an atheist.

    Glen Davidson

  6. says

    Is this conjunction error a common tool in psychology/sociology?

    I don’t think so. It seems to me photo-word or word-word association studies (Cordelia Fine discusses several) are far more common in this type of research.

    But I could be wrong about that, too.

  7. says

    I’m still going by your post and the article you linked to, but I’m confused. This seems like an accurate description, even though the atheist/rapist comparison wasn’t the point of the research:

    Atheists are distrusted to roughly the same degree as rapists, according to a new University of British Columbia study exploring distaste for disbelievers.

    (Whether this conclusion is justified given the issue AE raises is a different matter.) But there’s also

    “People did not significantly differentiate atheists from rapists,” the study said.

    which, taken out of context at least, does appear to play into what you call “the palpably unjust conclusion that it says atheists are perceived as no better than rapists.”

    And now I’ll try to stop commenting until I read the study. :)

  8. wcorvi says

    I’ll tell you who _I_ don’t trust: The person who sends me an e-mail with the subject, “My dearest friend in Jesus Christ.” You KNOW that’s a scam without even reading the body. I mean, I don’t even KNOW this person, and s/he sent it to millions of people. They are clearly hoping to cash in on the religiosity as a proxy signal for trustworthiness.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is, the various religious sects trust each other a lot more than they trust atheists, but if the atheists were all eliminated, they would turn on each other like jackels.

    It also says something about (many) religious people. Evidently if eternal damnation were eliminated as a possibility, they would discard any semblance of trustworthiness. They are ONLY being good out of fear of the afterlife consequences. That’s the frightening part.

  9. coralline says

    They push harder than the Phelps’.

    People who think that an ess on the terminal end of a word just sorta should be associated with an apostrophe — those are the ones to distrust!

  10. christopherspicer says

    I find it interesting that ‘atheist’ has such a bad rap in society. I know quite a few people that never attend church or don’t bother praying or essentially live their lives like there isn’t a god, but still see atheist as these outsiders/odd types/dangerous. What is the point of calling yourself a Christian or believer in a god if you only occasionally head to mass on holidays or write down ‘Christian’ under the religious category at the hospital as the extent of your religiousity. There are many people who aren’t devout religious types that still seem to see atheist as these outsiders or ‘untrustworthy’ types.

    Which is partly why I don’t even bother to call myself an atheist, even though I haven’t believed in a god since 2008 (after growing up in a conservative Baptist church).

  11. says

    Don’t get hung up on the comparison with rapists. That was a category simply chosen because it would be unambiguously distrusted.

    One would think this was the case if one didn’t know of the existence of MRAs who seem to believe that every rape accusation is a false rape accusation. I guarantee you there are people who think this study is misandrist…

  12. savoy47 says

    I would like to see a “lost wallet” test done at a freethought or other such convention and at a mega church. Which group would report the most found wallets?

    Also, if you pray to a god every day for some needed cash and come across a lost wallet, are you more or less likely to see that found money as an answer to your prayers and keep it?

  13. Randomfactor says

    Isn’t the takeaway here the clear fact that most respondents got the question wrong? Or that the people who got it wrong were most likely to get the question wrong when atheists were a part of the puzzle?

  14. carlie says

    I would like to see a “lost wallet” test done at a freethought or other such convention and at a mega church. Which group would report the most found wallets?

    I don’t like the situation; at church more people would turn it in than they would at other times simply because of the situational triggers (I’m at church, people expect me to act good at church, I’m getting reminded to act good at church). It could tell you about group dynamics and expectations (which might be what you want to test?) but wouldn’t say anything about the likelihood of an individual turning in a wallet based on their beliefs.

  15. says

    “Then the students were asked whether it was more probable that Richard was either 1) a teacher, or 2) a teacher and XXXX, where XXXX was either a Christian, Muslim, rapist, or atheist. Obviously and logically, the correct answer should always be 1, because the probability that the person will be a teacher and something else will always be lower than the probability that the person will be a teacher.”

    Since something like 70% – 75% of Americans self-identify as Christian, wouldn’t the only logical answer be that Richard was a Christian if statistical probability was your only measure? There’s nothing to indicate that he’s a teacher.

  16. raven says

    It does work both ways.

    According to a recent NYT/CNN poll, atheists and Moslems are two of the most hated groups in our society.

    The other two were fundie xians and the Tea Party.

    The conclusion is obvious. We are splitting into two species. I’m sticking to the brainy and benign one.

  17. Cuttlefish says

    Gervais has another publication that speaks to your last paragraph, PZ–the title is “Finding the faithess: Perceived atheist prevalence reduce anti-atheist prejudice.”

  18. syggyx says

    lol, homos are still more unpleasant than atheists.

    [That's it. One more bit of slimy nastiness from you, and you're gone. --pzm]

  19. anteprepro says

    I don’t really see how the linked article got anything wrong, or how any of the other freethought bloggers who have mentioned this already have gotten things wrong either. Atheists are as mistrusted as rapists according to the results. Granted, we are mistrusted by people who don’t know how probability works, or how statistics work, and who probably don’t know that the No True Scotsman fallacy is a fallacy. But, I guess that makes the lengths to which they need to go to assume that the culprit was most likely an atheist that much more galling.

    I think what PZ mentions but I’m surprised he didn’t mention is just how much this shows favorable bias towards co-religionists. It’s insane. Apparently , we wouldn’t even expect much of conjunction error if there weren’t options that people would deem highly representative of immorality (obviously, the rapists and atheists) and very unrepresentative of immorality (the Christians, and Muslims to a lesser extent). I’m wondering just how many of the responses fell into the conjunction error pattern, because that may also be indicative of just how much atheists are thoroughly, illogically distrusted.

    Since something like 70% – 75% of Americans self-identify as Christian, wouldn’t the only logical answer be that Richard was a Christian if statistical probability was your only measure? There’s nothing to indicate that he’s a teacher.

    Yes, statistically, the Christian answer would be the most logical of all of the four secondary options.

    As for the rest of what you say: I think you misread/misunderstood. Assume that you wouldn’t answer rapist/atheist/Muslim. Your only two options are to say:
    1. The person is a teacher.
    2. The person is both a teacher and a Christian.
    Although it is likely that they are Christian, it is still less than a 100% chance. The probability that they are a teacher is a common factor in both options. If there were 5% chance of being a teacher, there would be a 5% of 1 being right, and a 3.75% chance of 2 being right. Option 2, no matter what is is, will never be more probable than option 1, if we use the same format. Option 2 will only be as probable as option 1 if the second attribute has a virtually 100% chance of applying (e.g. the person is a teacher and human).

  20. janine says

    And here is syggyx with a reply that is typical of him. Working hard at keeping expectations low.

  21. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    Since something like 70% – 75% of Americans self-identify as Christian, wouldn’t the only logical answer be that Richard was a Christian if statistical probability was your only measure? There’s nothing to indicate that he’s a teacher.

    Richard is presumed to be a teacher in the context of the test, and the respondent is given no opportunity to suggest he is, for example, a Christian but not a teacher. IANARS (Research Psychologist), but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a reference to this kind of study, and it is in fact quite common for people to make the statistical error that PZ points out in his post. In fact, the study relies on it; if everyone realized that adding a condition can never increase the likelihood, then the only thing one would ever learn from such a study was that everyone realized this.

  22. mikelaing says

    Funny, I have heard this one more than any other: You can’t trust a Christian/Christians. It has happened in average everyday conversations(meaning co-workers, friends, and people in general), and I live in a Christian based recovery program. Granted, my situation here is rife with opportunity for any normal human or bureaucratic shortcoming to get attached to whatever the prevailing hierarchy is composed of. I hear it attached to ethnicity as well, of course(I live in redneck Alberta).

    In the program here, I am also not vociferous about my status, neither do I shy away from explaining my beliefs and rationale when appropriate. Most people just assume I’m Christian by default. I’ve never heard about not trusting atheists here, really, just that we are evil!

  23. says

    Just to point out the highly obvious – this study was conducted on Americans. As such it would appear Americans perceive atheists in this way.

    Even taking into account that this also proved the case for “more liberal, secular populations” can we see this study being repeated in other countries before applying this to the rest of the world.

  24. says

    anteprepro and Hercules – Thank you. You’re right; I hadn’t read the options correctly and realized that Richard is also specified as a teacher in the second one. Even though it says so right there in black and white. Sigh.

  25. jaranath says

    With the information given here, I agree with some others: I’d like to see more variations on the “character” scenario to be sure that’s really what we’re looking at, and not a recognition that physical ailments don’t necessarily correlate with personality.

    That said, this does correlate well with my own personal experience. Those friends and colleagues who’ve learned of my atheism have been remarkably supportive and accepting (at least to my face), and I think that’s because they’ve known me for a long time as “one of them” (and, I’d like to think, as a kind and ethical person).

  26. janine says

    That said, this does correlate well with my own personal experience. Those friends and colleagues who’ve learned of my atheism have been remarkably supportive and accepting (at least to my face), and I think that’s because they’ve known me for a long time as “one of them” (and, I’d like to think, as a kind and ethical person).

    This is why atheists have to be open about their lack of belief, so that atheists cannot be otherized. We cannot settle for “one of my best friends is an atheist”. We have to be just part of the population.

  27. says

    “Since something like 70% – 75% of Americans self-identify as Christian, wouldn’t the only logical answer be that Richard was a Christian if statistical probability was your only measure? There’s nothing to indicate that he’s a teacher.”

    But that would mean that all of those christians would be open minded enough to insinuate that the group that they are themselves part of would be a greater predictor for being a d-bag…no I dont think so…

    I personally doubt that any of these answers are highly predictive of having up to date insurance and the willingness to use it appropriately…I even think its possible (and I dont know this) that atheists vs. theists are perhaps equally as likely to do so if you could control for necessary variables such as income level and citizenship status (aka the ability to actually purchase insurance)….

  28. scienceavenger says

    I’ve never met an atheist that wasn’t an ass.

    Of course, in such a case the definition of “ass” invariably amounts to “someone who doesn’t give god-beliefs more respect than they are due”. In other words, atheists are by definition asses.

    This accounts for pretty much everyone who goes on about how rude Dawkins is. There is simply no way to say “there are no gods” politely per their worldview.

  29. Larry says

    This seems similar to the surveys that ask “Would you be less likely to vote for candidate X, who has equal qualifications as candidate Y but happens to be Z?” where Z = atheist, gay, Muslim, Christian, etc. Atheists tend to be at the bottom of those polls too, along with the Muslim, Mormon, and gay communities. In the most recent poll (this past June), atheists “won”, followed distantly by people who had an affair, gays, Mormons, and pot smokers.

    Survey here

  30. Azkyroth says

    No wonder bigoted motherfucker types are so opposed to billboards proclaiming the basic decency of atheists.

  31. Gregory Greenwood says

    janine @ 30;

    This is why atheists have to be open about their lack of belief, so that atheists cannot be otherized. We cannot settle for “one of my best friends is an atheist”. We have to be just part of the population.

    Absolutely. So long as atheists can be maintained as an abstract ‘other’ then we can be forced into whatever mold the fundies find most useful. We can be blamed for everything from terrorism to earthquakes. It is only when people actually encounter atheists who aren’t the stereotypical baby-eating three headed ogres of theist myth, that actually aren’t that different from them, that we can start deconstructing the negative image that has been built up around atheists in the US.

    Over here in the UK, atheists aren’t usually publically demonised (unless you count occasional visits by Pope Palaptine or the periodic blather of some of the nuttier catholic bishops) like atheists in the US, but atheism is also something that just isn’t discussed overmuch. It is not seen as relevant even though our laws still provide a substantial degree of unearned privilege to theists, and we have the blight of partially government funded ‘faith schools’ in our education system courtesy of Tony Blair.

    Still, a status shunted to the sidelines isn’t as bad as constant public vilification at least.

  32. raven says

    Well look at the bright side.

    When the xians aren’t hating atheists or Moslems, they hate each other.

    We all know the rules. The Catholics hate the Protestants and vice versa. The fundies hate everyone. Everyone hates them back.

  33. anteprepro says

    Ah, PZ didn’t mention something that they allude to in the abstract that might help explain the distrust (I can’t access the article, so I don’t know what they have to say about this in full):

    In addition, results were consistent with the hypothesis that the relationship between belief in God and atheist distrust was fully mediated by the belief that people behave better if they feel that God is watching them (Study 4).

    So, not only are these people extremely distrustful against atheists, their reason for distrust is the good ol’ “atheists don’t want to be held accountable/atheists don’t have objective morals/if I were an atheist, I would rape, steal, pillage, and burn” series of memes. Theopologetics has consequences, it appears.

  34. machintelligence says

    It might be the case that the respondents are reading the “and” as an “or”, thus expanding the secondary categories instead of reducing them.
    Also, this looks like the full moon confirmation bias: When something unusual happens, someone says “must be a full moon” but no one ever checks to see if it is true. In the eyes of the true believers anyone who doesn’t worship God is evil (good old two valued logic and false dichotomy again), so people who do bad things must be athiests — but no one ever checks.

  35. says

    This does likely explain why some of the most stupid scams are affinity scams.

    Of course most Xians actually don’t fall for most scams of the fellow Xians, because a sleaze is a sleaze, and not a “true Christian.” But once you get a good confidence trickster who is properly “godly,” the suckers come running.

    Some of those scams never target anybody but the religious, because anyone with the slightest amount of skepticism wouldn’t believe the returns, or buy the fake cars. The people “of faith” will “have faith” in the other, well, fervent believers in evidenceless claims.

    Glen Davidson

  36. says

    Those people have misinterpreted the study (or more likely, haven’t even read it). It’s actually saying the opposite: people don’t perceive atheists as being unpleasant, they see them as being outsiders.

    Yes, but often we’re seen as being outsiders because we want to be immoral. We believe in evolution because we don’t want to admit the “obviousness of design,” we don’t accept the truth of the Bible because we want to have orgies.

    Of course it varies, with the most rabid fundies probably wondering why anyone would speak of rapists and atheists (they’re different?), to many who are suspicious because they’re afraid that skeptics might actually be able to challenge their beliefs/identities.

    It’s just that it’s not that we’re “merely outsiders,” we’re seen by a number of people as being outsiders because we want to be, so that we can do whatever we want to do at the expense of every pious Xian.

    Glen Davidson

  37. says

    I’ve never met an atheist that wasn’t an ass. I’m not saying they all are. Just those I have known.
    They push harder than the Phelps’.

    Translation: I probably know dozens of atheists, but I’ve never actually known anyone who identified herself/himself as one. I do know that Richard Dawkins has said I’m an idiot for believing superstitious nonsense, so I project onto people whose beliefs I know nothing about.

    For myself I’ve only ever discussed my lack of belief with people close to me, most of whom share my lack of belief. At most with god-botherers I say I can’t join them in prayer or I already did my praying. I do feel contempt for the really deluded xians, but I try not to display it, and I have never attempted to de-convert anyone, so pushy I ain’t. On the other hand I know plenty of self-professed xians who tell me they think I’m a good moral person despite my lack of belief in their woo.

  38. DLC says

    Of course . . . everyone knows that Atheists are actually soulless demons who inhabit the earth in order to torment and beguile God’s Children! 11!!

    because, Atheism’s BAD, mmmm’kay ?

  39. What a Maroon says

    It might be the case that the respondents are reading the “and” as an “or”, thus expanding the secondary categories instead of reducing them.

    I think the task is a bit counterintuitive, and tends to lead respondents down a garden path. In daily life I don’t think we’re presented with many situations of the form “Richard did action A; based on that, is he more likely to be X only or both X and Y?” I think it’s more realistic to have a situation like, “Richard is X only; Steven is X and Y; which one is more likely to commit action A?” Or better, “Richard is X and Y; Steven is X and Z…,” where Y and Z are mutually exlusive categories (say, Christian and atheist). You’d still get at bias, but you wouldn’t have the confound of not understanding probability. (Or more to the point, not applying an abstract understanding of probability to a concrete situation; I suspect that most people would grasp the conjunction error fairly quickly if you explain it to them, but they still might not appy it in a constructed situation like this.) Logically, it’s possible that someone who is both X and Y would be more likely to do A than someone who is X only, or who is X and Z.

  40. Sastra says

    Glen Davidson #40 wrote:

    Yes, but often we’re seen as being outsiders because we want to be immoral. We believe in evolution because we don’t want to admit the “obviousness of design,” we don’t accept the truth of the Bible because we want to have orgies.

    Yup — this assumption that atheists reject religion because we want to be immoral goes right along with the unthinking conviction that the existence of God is a pretty obvious fact — so that’s the most likely motivation. Why else reject what we can plainly see to be true? Those Christians and other theists who struggle over “divine hiddenness” and/or grant that atheism is a reasonable position generally don’t ascribe special perverse immorality to atheists. Instead, they think we’ve come to the wrong conclusion.

    It’s important then for atheists to try to remove the stigma against them by publicly presenting the arguments. That way, Christians will no longer believe that the existence of God or the truth of their religion is so clearly true that atheism must perforce be a deliberate rejection of what is known. They’ll see the issue as a rational controversy, not a moral battle, and the divide won’t be so intense.

    Except, of course, that both conservative AND liberal Christians are generally quick to say that what they all really, really hate about atheists the MOST is the way we try to publicly present our arguments. Can’t we just go along with the idea that everyone has a ‘right’ to their religion and leave them alone? Can’t be just keep quiet and blend in and leave off all the ‘intellectualizing?’

    Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. What a surprise.

  41. says

    “So, not only are these people extremely distrustful against atheists, their reason for distrust is the good ol’ “atheists don’t want to be held accountable/atheists don’t have objective morals/if I were an atheist, I would rape, steal, pillage, and burn” series of memes. Theopologetics has consequences, it appears.”

    I would imagine this would be the fundamental rational used to compel a theist to answer the question as such…for average theist folks that are just not into critical thinking much, everyday “joe’s” so to speak…for them, the idea of morality without belief in god or scriptural in a fundamental manner is simply too much dogma to overcome…you would hope though they would give the atheist the benefit of the doubt vs. the rapist…but ya know the rapist could repent and get forgiveness perhaps if they “get saved”…the atheist is hopeless…lol

  42. anteprepro says

    Ellerycurtis:

    for them, the idea of morality without belief in god or scriptural in a fundamental manner is simply too much dogma to overcome”

    That’s a good possibility. Though, glancing at the stunted “Muslim” response, I feel, if you’re right, that there’s a whole ‘nother brand of illogic afoot here. Rhetorical question: Why is it that the people who would answer this way believe that religious dogma in general increases morality, even if it has nothing to do with the brand of God that they believe is the ultimate giver of true moral codes? How does the idea that almost every religion ensures better behavior work consistently with the idea that one particular version of Christianity is the one true religion? And if other religions managed to be right on morality while being wrong on god, why not extend that same possibility to atheists themselves?

    These are people that don’t so much worship God through religion as much as they simply worship religion itself. They simply can’t fathom people acting morally, save through adherence to their respective religions, and see no problem in accrediting the moral behavior of other cultures to their religions, which they readily dismiss as false.

    Chigau:
    According to PZ’s second link:
    14% didn’t believe in God (but didn’t necessarily call themselves atheists), 67% were Christian. They apparently ranged in age from 18 to 82.

  43. says

    So, pretty much saying many atheists are, to use the primate behavior terminology, “omega males” and “omega females” — basically outcast skeptics challenging the hierarchy? (Although against the powerful rather than the powerless, as rapists do.) Well knock me over with a feather. Next you’ll be telling me politicians are “alpha males”. Will science never cease? :-P

  44. cybercmdr says

    This makes me think about Richard Carrier’s video on Bayes Theorem and how it is essentially the way we reason. Obviously these people who select “Teacher and Atheist” don’t understand statistics, but in their skewed reasoning they must hold a high prior probability that atheists are inherently immoral.
    The question in my mind is why this view seems so universal, since the number of “go to Church every Sunday” Christians is not that high.
    I wish we had a good TV show where the protagonist was an atheist, and was a consistently decent guy. Perhaps a comedy, where the local zealots try to convert him on a regular basis. That would have a greater impact on the average American couch potato than anything we might say. Unfortunate, but given our culture today, it is true. Television: subliminal conditioning for over 60 years.
    Anybody want to put together a web serial on that theme? Might get picked up by a network.

  45. says

    I wish we had a good TV show where the protagonist was an atheist, and was a consistently decent guy.

    Doctor Who?

    In the last season it was explicitly stated that Rory is, and it makes him immune from a psychic alien that uses superstition to drain people of their life force.

  46. says

    I agree, there are some serious methodological issues with the structure of this study. I blame the tendency, at some schools, to assume that rigorous experimental design is something you consult a statistician to accomplish.

    I am, however, interested in the idea behind the study, testing in-group/out group prejudices. A great deal of the work I’ve seen takes a much more sympathetic view of Christianity and/or Christian modes for moral reasoning (religiously based reasoning for the experiment criteria for moral, the assumption that religious persons would score as more moral, etc). Studies which begin to deal with that trend in research in the US are necessary.

  47. says

    I wish we had a good TV show where the protagonist was an atheist, and was a consistently decent guy

    I was about to say “The Mentalist”, but I remembered that his decency is not so consistent. That is, if your definition of decent is “DBAD”.

  48. says

    BTW if you want some truly glorious Atheist might as well equal Rapist, Dean Koontz is truly SPECTACULAR for playing that trope in his villains. My favorite is a random atheist doctor character who refuses to do any actual doctoring because we’re all just meat. This guy had no real point other than to provide exposition and show that atheists are dicks and shows up at the end of the novel. It’s wonderful.

    Also his villain in his Frankenstein novels is evil because he is an atheist and thus can do anything. He kills his wife because she slurps her soup and tortures an autistic child.

  49. jbhodges7 says

    The major point of the article is that atheists are less trusted because
    they don’t believe that they are constantly watched by supernatural
    enforcers of social norms.

    I suggest this reply: People do not become atheists for the sake of
    popularity or emotional comfort. Usually, they become atheists because
    honesty compels.

    That is, people become atheists because they value truth over comfort.
    They accept unpleasant conclusions, such as: there is no afterlife, no
    Heaven, and no guarantee of justice; there is no supernatural loving
    parent to help them in times of trouble. They accept the reality of
    death, and the absence of safety in this world.

    Therefore, we should expect that typically atheists will be honest people.

  50. ericpaulsen says

    Look, the people you revile are the people that you work and live with. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not… fuck with us. – my apologies to Chuck Palahniuk

    Maybe atheists need a sort of ‘it gets better’ campaign, except one that drives home the point that we are everywhere and involved in everything. If we REALLY couldn’t be trusted don’t you think something would have happened by now? I joined the Navy because I truly believed in our Constitution and would have died if necessary to protect it (how sad that domestic enemies are doing far more to dismantle it than any outside forces). I donate money and goods to charitable organizations. I am a friend to almost anyone who can accept friendship regardless of their political affiliation, religious belief, or sexual orientation. I do not consider myself a better person than than my detractors, just no worse. I am atheist and will never be made to be ashamed of that.

  51. says

    Victor “Helios” Frankenstein

    Victor Frankenstein, having applied his own research to extending his own mortality, is now known to the world as Victor Helios. To the public, Helios is a philanthropic millionaire and a beneficiary to mankind. In reality, he has experienced much in two hundred years since he created a man from fragments of the corpses of criminals. However, in secret, Helios has become obsessed with overthrowing true humans, which he refers to as “the Old Race,” and replacing them with his superior creations. After the failure of his first rebellious monster, he put himself through extensive bodily modifications to extend his life span and increase his physical power (the details are unknown, but it is hinted he used a method similar to that which created the monster, possibly replacing organs from healthy victims over the years). This process has left his physical form scarred and deformed. Helios has acquired wealth and power from selling his knowledge to, among others, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and the People’s Republic of China. He respected Hitler and was greatly grieved at the end of World War II. He performed the life-extending surgery for Stalin, which went wrong and led to the dictator’s insanity and assassination by fearful underlings. In modern times, Helios has learned to create genetically-engineered beings, called the New Race, devoid of morality, feelings, and pain, unable to deny his command or attack him. He believes he has given them a perfect existence, but the horror of their protracted but meaningless lives has left many suicidal; a genetically-imprinted proscription prevents them from killing themselves or venting their rage by hurting or killing others. Helios desires to remake the world in the image of Huxley’s Brave New World. Additionally, he is a sexual sadist and a militant atheist. At the end of the third book he was finally killed, with most of the new race dying along with him (The reasoning behind this is that if he can’t become a god, he refused to let his creation to outlast their creator) with only a few remaining. Unknown to all, he had created a clone of himself, who has the same goal as his original but considers himself to be as foolish as the humans he tries to replace. He created a new patch that call themselves the community and after seeing his plans of human extinction come to pass, he intends to kill the community so that he can be the last creature on earth.

    He is naturally extremely arrogant, which has resulted in a degree of carelessness and inability to realize his own failures. For this reason in the second book the programing to prevent killing of humans is breaking, and two of his creations have experienced severe mutations.

    From WIKI.

    What is odd is that Koontz took a source that had some moral ambiguity in it and addressed questions like the nature of humanity, the soul, nature vrs nurture, and actually dumbed it down into black and white good versus cartoonishly evil.

  52. jbhodges7 says

    Given that atheism is an unpopular position, one which inspires distrust
    and hostility from the majority, anyone who is OPENLY atheist, “out of
    the closet”, is even more likely to be an honest person.

  53. Rich Woods says

    @Ing #55:

    He kills his wife because she slurps her soup and tortures an autistic child.

    Well I’d kill my wife if she tortured an autistic child!

    ;-)

  54. says

    @Rich

    DOH!

    It’s also an example of Kinky sex people are eviiiiiiiiiiiiiiil. Good wholesome characters in Koontz have good wild, but straight vanilla sex. Evil people have kinky sex because they are so depraved.

    The novelization of The Carnival which he has disowned, has some truly epic levels of slut shaming. Rape comes up disturbingly frequently for the author who is supposed to be the lighter happier version of Stephen King.

  55. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I wish we had a good TV show where the protagonist was an atheist, and was a consistently decent guy.

    I think the Gil Grissom character on CSI might have fit that description.

  56. Rich Woods says

    @Ing:

    I’ve only read half a dozen of Koontz’s novels. As much as I liked the clever expression of some ideas within them (often some apparently supernatural agent being uncovered as a scientifically advanced one), the protagonists he deployed just became too flat and too similar from book to book. I stuck with King.

  57. says

    @Rich

    Which is funny because King is the one who is stereotyped with just having a stock cast he reuses XD

    That said I might recommend Watchers as a legit good book.

    Ones with hilarious atheist characters include his Frankenstein trilogy, Corner of his Eye, Door to December.

  58. says

    Gervais did another study to test how distrust of atheists could be reduced. I mentioned this on TET last night. Here’s the abstract and a bit of discussion from TET:

    +++++
    Abstract: Atheists have long been distrusted, in part because they do not believe that a watchful, judging god monitors their behavior. However, secular institutions such as police, judges, and courts are also potent sources of social monitoring and prosocial behavior in large parts of the world. Reminders of such secular authority therefore could reduce believers’ distrust of atheists. As hypothesized, both watching a video about police effectiveness (Experiment 1) and subtly primed secular authority concepts (Experiments 2-3) reduced believers’ distrust of atheists. In addition, we tested three distinct alternative explanations. Secular authority primes did not reduce general prejudice against outgroups (Experiment 1), specific functionally-relevant prejudice reactions such as viewing gays with disgust (Experiment 2), or general distrust of outgroups (Experiment 3). These studies contribute to theory regarding both the psychological bases of different prejudices and the psychological functions served by gods and governments.

    http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~will/Gervais%20Norenzayan-%20Gods%20&%20Governments-PsychScience.pdf

    +++++

    [Bill D:] Would a fair one-sentence summary of the abstract @104 be…

    People crave rules and authority; the more confident they are of secular authority, the less they feel they need gods.

    …or is it more complicated than that?

    Bill: I think it’s the contention of the Norenzayan crew that demonstrating fear of the local deity is a signifier that one can be trusted. Since atheists don’t do that, who is to keep us in line? Reminding people that there exists a powerful secular force, capable of keeping atheists in line, makes it seem that it’s safe again to trust us.

    (I don’t think flexing Leviathan’s muscles is enough to make atheists; we’ve had plenty of force in the USA for a long time. Where we differ more obviously from irreligious Europe is our lack of economic welfare.)

    This study is just finding a way to make theists trust atheists more than they do.

    It doesn’t present a very easy option for the anti-authoritarian atheist, although I suppose anybody can find some pleasant Rawlsian notions about the rule of law, a few of which can be mouthed without vomiting.

    the experimental primes they used were
    1: a video of the Vancouver police chief’s 2010 year-end report
    2: ten scrambled sentence tasks, five of which contained one of these words: civic, contract, jury, court, police
    3: same as 2

  59. says

    So long as atheists can be maintained as an abstract ‘other’ then we can be forced into whatever mold the fundies find most useful. We can be blamed for everything from terrorism to earthquakes. It is only when people actually encounter atheists who aren’t the stereotypical baby-eating three headed ogres of theist myth, that actually aren’t that different from them, that we can start deconstructing the negative image that has been built up around atheists in the US.

    In a thread about DADT being repealed, I commented that some of the fundies are probably angry about it because it’ll mean a lot of fine, morally upstanding soldiers will come out of the closet and reveal that homosexuals are (gasp!) civilized human beings, not devils conspiring in the shadows.

    Atheists are pretty much in the same situation. The more we assert our existence and show our humanity, the harder it’ll be for fundies to shove us back into the shadows with all the other scapegoats.

  60. Rich Woods says

    @Ing:

    Yeah, King does repeat the child-hero and the good cop characters, but that’s half a dozen out of 40+ novels. Maybe it’s just that I’ve read an atypical selection of Koontz novels and wondered why so many heroes/heroines had become independently wealthy by their mid-30s!

    Watchers was good, though I think my favourite was the time-travel one (can’t check the shelves for the title ‘cos they’re all still boxed up). I really liked the ending of that (though that kid was too clever by half!).

    Anyway, we’re getting off-topic. Good talking to you.

  61. says

    @Nerd, #63:

    Grissom was more of a deist, actually; he does state in one episode that he believes in God, but given his insistence that “evidence doesn’t lie” it’s safe to assume he doesn’t believe in divine intercession. It’s also clear from repeated statements that he is a lapsed Catholic.
    There’s an episode from season 8 called “Go To Hell” where a preacher, who does exorcisms, asks if he believes in a “separate, living evil.” Grissom tells a story of a primitive man on the savannah, who sees movement out of the corner of his eye. He thinks “hyena,” and runs away. Another primitive man thinks “only the wind.” As Grissom says, “we carry the genes of the ones who ran.”
    I suspect with a little more talking to, such a person might come around.

  62. anteprepro says

    Ah, interesting. Thanks for the full article, ahs.

    Apparently, I misread: I thought that each individual was given four choices, with rapist and atheist being among them. Apparently only one extra demographic choice was offered, based on experimental condition. That changes the offensiveness of the results slightly (because the people who chose “atheist” didn’t choose atheist over Christian, Muslim, or rapist as more representative of criminal behavior. It’s just that those that saw “atheist” as their only other option were more motivated to think it was representative of criminality than those that saw Muslim or Christian. Which is still pretty terrible on its own, but still…)

    Anyway, the part were they look at what contributes to this distrust is on page 10:

    Finally, we tested whether data were consistent with the hypothesis that the relationship between belief in God and atheist distrust was mediated by supernatural monitoring concerns. As expected, belief in God predicted stronger endorsement of the prosocial effects of believed supernatural monitoring (  .48, p  .001). In a model with belief in God and supernatural monitoring concerns predicting conjunction errors for the atheist target, an increase of one standard deviation in supernatural monitoring concerns (controlling for belief in God) increased the likelihood of committing the conjunction fallacy by a factor of 2.50 (95% CI of the odds ratio  1.22, 6.07, p  .02), but belief in God no longer significantly predicted conjunction errors (p  .40). Bootstrapping analysis revealed that data were consistent with supernatural monitoring concerns fully and significantly mediating the relationship between belief in God and conjunction errors (95% CI of the indirect effect  .07, 1.84). As in Study 1, however, we acknowledge that meditational analyses using only measured variables cannot establish causal relationship

  63. Synfandel says

    janine wrote:

    This is why atheists have to be open about their lack of belief, so that atheists cannot be otherized. We cannot settle for “one of my best friends is an atheist”. We have to be just part of the population.

    This is true. We need to be unabashed about being atheists, but we must also be careful not to be in people’s faces about it. Otherwise we will make the same sort of impression as in-your-face religious people make. It wouldn’t help our cause any more than it helps theirs.

  64. Synfandel says

    Glen Davidson wrote:

    …we don’t accept the truth of the Bible because we want to have orgies.

    How can you not be in favour of orgies?

  65. calliopejane says

    Is this conjunction error a common tool in psychology/sociology?

    Social & cognitive psychology researchers have a varied collection of tools that are attempts to get at attitudes that people will not admit to because of social-desirability concerns, or that they won’t even admit to themselves and are truly subconscious. This conjunction-error test is one of them. Here’s another one that you can take yourself: implicit association tests (from Project Implicit at Harvard).

    None of these tools is perfect, but they do seem to capture some information about subconscious/unexpressed attitudes. As is the case with nearly all research, and especially when researching something as varied and inconsistent as human psychological processes, no one study provides a 100% definitive conclusion by itself. We can become more confident in a “fact” if multiple studies with varied methodologies begin to point to the same conclusion. And now I want to start looking for whether any of the other hidden-attitude tools have been brought to bear on attitudes toward atheists, but I must resist that impulse and continue to work through this awful pile of student papers (only took a break here for eating something).

  66. says

    This is true. We need to be unabashed about being atheists, but we must also be careful not to be in people’s faces about it. Otherwise we will make the same sort of impression as in-your-face religious people make. It wouldn’t help our cause any more than it helps theirs.

    Meh.

    I don’t see that being up in people’s faces has really hurt the evangelical Christians in any way. People say they’re unpleasant and everybody professes to disliking them, yes, but they’re very financially successful, nobody disregards their constitutional rights, and they’re largely viewed as trustworthy.

    I think it’s possible for atheists to be both liked and respected, and I think we’re probably on the path to being disliked and respected, but ehfuckit that’s where the momentum is headed, and I can settle for being disliked and respected.

  67. says

    Trying to clarify Antiochus Epiphanes’s comment:

    This may have biased the sample toward participants who lack education–at least in basic probability math.

    It probably does mean that math skills are confounding, though see #68 for another demonstration of the validity of this distrust/disgust distinction, not relying on math skills.

    What’s interesting to me is that there most people can avoid the conjunction error most of the time — as low as 3.4% of people made it in study 3 when basically asked whether atheists are disgusting — but the error explodes when they’re asked whether atheists are untrustworthy.

    It’s not like there’s this huge population of people who will make the conjunction error in just any ol’ conditions. They almost all get it right when the question doesn’t appeal to their prejudices.

  68. says

    chigau,

    Who are all these “people”?
    Didn’t they have any atheists in the study?

    They probably did.

    Furthermore, belief in God predicted the likelihood of conjunction errors in the Distrust Atheist condition. A separate logistic regression analysis was conducted with belief in God (standardized) predicting the likelihood of committing the conjunction error, given the Distrust Description and the atheist target. An increase of one standard deviation in belief in God increased the likelihood of committing the conjunction fallacy by a factor of 2.49. A similar analysis revealed that belief in God did not predict the likelihood of errors in any other conditions; this is unsurprising given the near-floor level of conjunction errors.

  69. enkidum says

    This is late, but FWIW I work down the hall from Norenzayan. I asked him what he thought about this post, his response:

    Yeah, I agree with [PZ] totally. I don’t know why the media got hung up on the rapist comparison. That’s not at all the point of the studies. the rapist condition was included for methodological reasons to compare atheists to the very low end of factual trustworthiness. We were shocked to find no difference. Oh well.

    One thing you might want to explain to readers is that what the media reports say is not necessarily what the researchers mean or say. The media often spin things in ways that were not intended at all by the researchers. In the UBC press release, there was one sentence where we said we found that distrust of atheists was comparable to distrust of rapists. That became the title of a lot of media reports, and the main story. It’s always a good idea to check the original source and not jump into conclusions from a 500 word media coverage of research.

  70. says

    anteprepro,

    These are people that don’t so much worship God through religion as much as they simply worship religion itself. They simply can’t fathom people acting morally, save through adherence to their respective religions, and see no problem in accrediting the moral behavior of other cultures to their religions, which they readily dismiss as false.

    This may be right, but we should also consider Noahide doctines, that most people on Earth are worshiping the Yahweh god without realizing it. Many American Christians like to imagine especially that African and Native American high gods are in fact Yahweh himself, revealed to them before the tower of Babel (or after? I’m not sure how it works).

    Also, the modern Roman Catholic Church has heaps of this logic, about how everyone worshiping any morality-inspiring god is in fact still in contact with Yahweh though they don’t realize it. This is Vatican-approved, canonical stuff.

    The religions are false, of course, because they’re not worshiping Jesus properly. But they are all derivations of the original religion as revealed to Adam and Eve, and God will recognize the people’s attempts to be moral and give praise to their creator.

  71. says

    The major point of the article is that atheists are less trusted because
    they don’t believe that they are constantly watched by supernatural
    enforcers of social norms.

    I suggest this reply: People do not become atheists for the sake of
    popularity or emotional comfort. Usually, they become atheists because
    honesty compels.

    I see some real potential in a Youtube meme of atheists making short videos explaining primarily this. Not “why you should be an atheist too” and not “why we’re right” (nothing wrong with those messages, it’s just that they’re already well covered)

    but just “why I had to be honest with myself and acknowledge I had no reason to believe in God, and why I had to be honest with my friends and family by telling them I was an atheist”.

    (Avoid words like “admit” as they suggest wrongdoing. Go with “tell”. Or “witnessing” if one wants to be cute.)

  72. says

    It nicely explains why the accomodationists try to be as christian as possible…

    I’d like to see this done in other countries. Ask people if they like others who are actively denying and insulting their faith and the answer is hardly going to be surprising.

    That being said, i’m betting Pyramid Schemes probably have a field day with the local churches.

  73. says

    It nicely explains why the accomodationists try to be as christian as possible…

    How do you figure? / What do you mean by “trying to be as Christian as possible”?

    There’s no experimental data suggesting that the general population distinguishes between different types of atheists.

    Ask people if they like others who are actively denying and insulting their faith and the answer is hardly going to be surprising.

    This isn’t really what the study is about. Liking and trusting are different things.

    I trust a lot of people who I dislike or even hate. I like some people who I distrust.

  74. Ben says

    PZ,

    I heard Shariff give a lecture on this very topic last Friday. Paul Kurtz and CFI organized a conference for various researchers to present their findings on the scientific study of religion. It was in honor of “Breaking the Spell”, and indeed Dennett himself was the keynote speaker. It was held in Buffalo, so I had the honor of attending as it is an easy drive from northeast Ohio. There were excellent talks there by Shariff, Andy Thomson, Greg Paul, and others, and of course Dennett himself did not disappoint.

    The only thing I’d like to add to your summary of the paper is that Shariff seemed to be making the argument that the reason for the distrust is a sort of projection by religious believers. He argues that most religious people feel compelled to be good, out of fear of the ever-watchful eye of God. It is projection by the religious, because they assume that anyone who believes that there is no God will do anything they can get away with, just because they can. That is the reason for the distrust. At least, that’s is what I took from his talk. Maybe this part of the argument wasn’t as explicit in the paper, and I was just inferring my own conclusions apart from what Shariff himself was saying.

  75. says

    How do you figure? / What do you mean by “trying to be as Christian as possible”?

    There’s no experimental data suggesting that the general population distinguishes between different types of atheists.

    I mean they are playing to the “in crowd”, so they can be liked. Which manifests as distancing yourself from your allies and bending over backwards to please these people for (IMHO) little gain. In other words (IMHO), they aren’t “building bridges”, just playing nice so people will like them.

    I trust a lot of people who I dislike or even hate. I like some people who I distrust.

    I don’t like people i don’t trust. I can’t also like someone and not trust them. That is a bizarre concept to me. We will have to agree to disagree.

  76. says

    >“Princess Alice is watching you”: Children’s belief in an invisible person inhibits cheating; doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2011.02.003

    +++++
    Effects of eye images on everyday cooperative behavior: a field experiment doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.10.006

    Abstract: «Laboratory studies have shown that images of eyes can cause people to behave more cooperatively in some economic games, and in a previous experiment, we found that eye images increased the level of contributions to an honesty box. However, the generality and robustness of the eyes effect is not known. Here, we extended our research on the effects of eye images on cooperative behavior to a novel context—littering behavior in a university cafeteria—and attempted to elucidate the mechanism by which they work, by displaying them both in conjunction with, and not associated with, verbal messages to clear one’s litter. We found a halving of the odds of littering in the presence of posters featuring eyes, as compared to posters featuring flowers. This effect was independent of whether the poster exhorted litter clearing or contained an unrelated message, suggesting that the effect of eye images cannot be explained by their drawing attention to verbal instructions. There was some support for the hypothesis that eye images had a larger effect when there were few people in the café than when the café was busy. Our results confirm that the effects of subtle cues of observation on cooperative behavior can be large in certain real-world contexts.»

  77. says

    I mean they are playing to the “in crowd”, so they can be liked.

    In what way are they “trying to be Christian” though?

    Which manifests as distancing yourself from your allies and bending over backwards to please these people for (IMHO) little gain. In other words (IMHO), they aren’t “building bridges”, just playing nice so people will like them.

    That may well be, but it really doesn’t have anything at all to do with this study. So I was wondering how you came to the conclusion that “It [this study] nicely explains why the accomodationists try to be as christian as possible”, and it turns out you had no reason whatsoever, you just wanted to make an unrelated comment with a misleading segue. That’s fine. Thanks for clearing up my confusion.

  78. says

    I don’t like people i don’t trust. I can’t also like someone and not trust them. That is a bizarre concept to me. We will have to agree to disagree.

    Yeah, your way of looking at it is odd to me too.

    For example, there are a lot of commenters around here who I dislike intensely, but I would not worry about asking them to hold $1000 for a few weeks for me. They have broad reputational concerns which don’t depend on dislike of a single person.

    (Not arguing, just clarifying why I said what I said above.)

  79. chigau (違う) says

    I know people that I like but do not trust and others that I trust but do not like. It seems quite natural.

    I want an omega female t-shirt or perhaps steel-toed boots.

  80. zb24601 says

    From time to time, I hear someone say something like “I can’t trust an atheist.” I respond with “You probably already do, you just don’t know they are an atheist.”

  81. says

    Are we all over-thinking this? Could this just be a case of tribalistic “Just like me”? To step out of the quagmire of religion for a moment if we hold that religion is not special (which I hope we all do) could this trust/distrust hold for other social groupings?

    As a conjecture consider a fan of football team A and three strangers. Who would they be inclined to trust more –
    1. A fan of team A;
    2. A fan of another team;
    3. Someone who not a fan of any team.

    In simplistic terms one could state that Stranger 1 is ‘just like me'; Stranger 2 is ‘quite like me'; and Stranger 3 is ‘not like me’ with corresponding levels of trust/distrust.

    At a root – I’m a good person. They’re not like me. Therefore they are a bad person. Everything else becomes high-level rationalisation.

  82. mikecline says

    I can see it now. This question asked to a group of anybodies.

    Who is more like President Obama?

    a)Ronald Reagan
    b)Danny Glover
    c)Mr. Ed

    The results would confirm that actors are all equally evil.

  83. says

    In what way are they “trying to be Christian” though?

    Poor choice of words. Take my explanation to be the more accurate of my thoughts. It was only an offhand poke at accomodationism originally and I didn’t think about it too hard.

    I’m pretty easy going, so i either like, or am ambivelant about most people. Generally the only way you will cause me to dislike you is through some kind of betrayal. By the time someone HAS pissed me off that much, I wouldn’t turn my back on them, never mind loan them money. If it’s just people being annoying, i walk away and don’t waste my energy on them.

  84. says

    Good synopsis!

    A clarification (apologies if someone else already has in the comments): PZ notes that the participants were all college students. They were for the detailed later portions of the study, but the first section, which established a general anti-atheist prejudice, and distrust as a source of that prejudice, was directed at a demographically diverse US population (mean age = >40). For those without subscription access, the manuscript can be read here: http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~ara/Manuscripts/Gervais%20et%20al-%20Atheist%20Distrust.pdf

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