Yeesh. Just when I thought we were making some kind of progress (slow but steady wins the race is the saying), something like this crops up, spoils my optimistic mood, and activates my inner curmudgeon:
Atheists are distrusted to roughly the same degree as rapists, according to a new University of British Columbia study exploring distaste for disbelievers.
The research, led by UBC psychology doctoral student Will Gervais, found distrust to be the central factor motivating antagonism toward atheists among the religious.
“Where there are religious majorities – that is, in most of the world – atheists are among the least trusted people,” Gervais said in a release.
“With more than half a billion atheists worldwide, this prejudice has the potential to affect a substantial number of people.”
Researchers believe the negative perception of atheists may stem from some people’s understanding of morality; a 2002 Pew poll suggests nearly half of Americans believe morality is impossible without belief in god.
For one part of Gervais’ six-part study, researchers compared views of atheists, homosexual men and the general population, noting that the first two groups are “often described as threatening to majority religious values and morality.”
Which is disheartening, to say the least. We are an ideological minority, which is why some folks like to suggest we shut our traps – a simple change of mind would help us fit in better. Never mind that discrimination is discrimination, regardless of abstract versus physiological differences. Never mind that we are as underrepresented in government as we are in prison (the former is sigh worthy, the latter YAY!). Or that the majority of criminals are usually fundamentalist delusionists. Or that the Crusades, the Inquisition (Spanish and otherwise), were perpetrated by Christians – let’s amp that one up, and say good god-fearing, praying self-flagellating Christians.
Because really, if you need to have someone (invisible or otherwise) peering over your shoulder and taking notes for future punishments to keep you in line, just how fucking moral are you then? Maybe it’s been done to death on the blogosphere, but it bears repeating. If someone’s invisible friend is suddenly absent (or proven to be absent), and that person became an atheist, just how often do we see headlines where someone has actually run riot with pillaging, rapine and murder? Has this ever happened? The recent stats show that there are approximately 4.7 million of us in America alone. So outside of the usual finger-pointing (“Look! That kid shot people because he didn’t believe! The economic downturn can be blamed on atheists! If there was more prayer in schools, children would be more moral!”), where are the numbers? Where are the press releases? If the scare-mongers are even CLOSE to being correct about atheism being a threat, where is the proof?
The simple answer: it’s not happening. Sure, there is the occasional crime committed by an atheist (we are all human, after all, there’s bound to be someone transgressing), but not even 1% of the approximated 4.7 million are rampaging through the streets threatening society at large. In fact, if we actually look at the drug cartels, the Mafioso, or any of the white-collar criminals of the last decade who stole and scammed millions of people, I’d bet we’re underrepresented there as well. The cartels as well as the Mafioso are predominantly Catholic. The white collar guys are likely Protestant.
It’s this concept of an invisible ledger that keeps track of all injustices that’s the real problem. Most people have this ridiculous idea that at some undefined point in life/time/the universe, all accounts will come due, be balanced, all scars and savagery healed and all bad guys will get their come-uppance. I’ve said it before: it’s a comic book perspective unfounded in reality. A lot of life’s villains died natural deaths in their sleep, and to go about believing that some nosy asshole in the sky’s going to take care of your injuries (real or imagined) is just a fantasy.
The afterlife concept. It’s poison.
Till the next post, then.