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Palomar Observatory

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rapists and the godless

A team of psychologists at the University of Oregon and the University of British Columbia have just published an interesting study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Atheists are the most distrusted people in the world, on the same order as rapists.


The researchers conducted a series of six studies with 350 American adults and 420 university students in Canada, posing a number of hypothetical questions and scenarios. 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.

The researchers concluded that the religious believer's distrust -- rather than dislike or disgust -- was the central motivator of prejudice against atheists.

“This antipathy is striking, as atheists are not a coherent, visible or powerful social group,” said Will Gervais a doctoral student at UBC, whose co-authors were Ara Norenzayan, professor of psychology at UBC, and Azim Shariff, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon.

A recent Gallup poll found that 45 percent of American respondents would vote for a qualified atheist president. That was the lowest response among several hypothetical minority candidates. Poll respondents rated atheists as the group that least agrees with their vision of America, and that they also would most disapprove of their children marrying an atheist.

"Outward displays of belief in God may be viewed as a proxy for trustworthiness, particularly by religious believers who think that people behave better if they feel that God is watching them," he said. “While atheists may see their disbelief as a private matter on a metaphysical issue, believers may consider atheists’ absence of belief as a public threat to cooperation and honesty.”

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Isn't it rather amazing that there is so much distrust and animosity directed to the approximately half a billion humans worldwide who will admit to not having a religious belief system? Could this animus be buried so deep within our genetic coding that it offers a possible explanation for the deep conservative/liberal divide in our country? I don't believe in your god, or any other god for that matter, so that puts me on the same level as a rapist. It is no wonder we have so many problems on this planet. I believe in evolution and I hope that it happens soon.

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On another front, the god fearing are raising a ruckus over in Santa Monica. The city raffled spots at Palisades Park traditionally used for nativity scenes and atheists won all but three of the spots, perhaps an act of god in itself. The Christian group put in one bid and got two spots. The atheist group put in 11 bids and got 18 spots. A Jewish group got one and two other groups received all of the remaining slots for “solstice greetings.” Now you can be greeted by a message like this: "Religions are all alike -- founded on fables and mythologies."Thomas Jefferson. Anyway the devout think that the game has been stacked against them somehow and are crying foul. A display with photographs depicting King Neptune, Jesus Christ, Santa Claus and Satan reads, 'Million Americans know MYTHS when they see them. What myths do you see? American Atheists. Since 1963. athiests.org.'

The incensed churches have started a letter writing campaign for more spots. They complain that the non believers aren't even using all their spots.

"They stole Christmas," one man said.
"We were confined to three booths because, really, a group of out-of-town atheists from out of town manipulated the rules and tried to force us out of the park, and stop this nearly 60-year-old Santa Monica celebration of Christmas," Hunter Jameson, of the Nativity Scene Committee countered.
"Christmas is still in our hearts. Christmas is still here," Jameson added. "We're just praying and working that next year there will be the full 14 booths here as there have been in the past."
The traditionalists are collecting signatures, which they will take to the city, to try to get the 14 booths restored for next year.
For their part, the atheists say they will be challenging that attempt.
They say they may be from out of town, but they do come to Santa Monica to enjoy the park, and they do not believe religious symbols belong on public property.

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