Distrust Feeds Anti-Atheist Prejudice – New research finds atheists are widely perceived as untrustworthy, which may be a major factor in why they’re disliked more than other minorities.
A landmark 2006 study, analyzing data from a large survey of Americans, found that atheists “are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others from a long list of ethnic, religious and other minority groups.” Writing in the American Sociological Review, researchers noted that “while rejection of Muslims may have spiked in post-9/11 America, rejection of atheists was higher.”
Those with strong religious affiliations find atheists are not trustworthy. An ironic twist of reasoning. It is most organized religions that have escape clauses for immoral behavior. In the U.S. and Europe it is the belief of church hierarchy – those who formalize their church doctrine – that those who sincerely repent, regardless of how heinous the immorality – will be forgiven. In the U.S. Catholics and protestants make up the vast majority of the prison population and are more likely to have been convicted for what are sometimes called mortal sins.
If you believe – even implicitly – that the prospect of divine retribution is the primary factor inhibiting immoral behavior, then a lack of belief in a higher power could amount to a free pass. A 2002 Pew Research Center survey found nearly half of Americans feel morality is impossible without belief in God.
There is no actual evidence backing up the assumption that atheism somehow leads to a decline in morality. In a 2009 study, sociologist Phil Zuckerman argued that “a strong case could be made that atheists and secular people actually possess a stronger or more ethical sense of social justice than their religious peers,” adding that they, on average, have “lower levels of prejudice, ethnocentrism, racism and homophobia” than the much larger population of believers.
He adds that “with the important exception of suicide, states and nations with a preponderance of nonreligious people actually fare better on most indicators of societal health than those without.”
That study is available here – Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions(pdf). A couple of excerpts from that study:
Japan is one of the most secular nations in the world (Schneider and Silverman 2010), where 65 percent of the people are non-believers (Norris and Inglehart 2004; Demerath 2001, 139)
Japan as a case study is interesting because they have such a low crime rate, the nation as a whole has such a strong work ethic and while they have had their political and business scandals, they have very strong sense of honorable behavior. In my estimation higher than that found in the U.S.
When one examines the details of a broad category of non-religious it entails far more than just atheists,
Landscape Survey (2007) found that 5 percent of Americans do not believe in God, with 16 percent of Americans choosing ‘‘unaffiliated’’ as their religious identification. A Survey reports (Baylor Religion Survey 2005) that 4.6 percent of American don’t believe in anything beyond the physical world, 14.3 percent don’t believe in God, per se, but do believe in a ‘‘higher power or cosmic force,’’ and 2.8 percent have ‘‘no opinion’’ when it comes to belief in God. Sherkat (2008) reports that 6.5 percent of Americans are atheist or agnostic, a 2007 Barna survey reports that 9 percent of Americans are atheist, agnostic, or have ‘‘no faith,’’ and a 2008 Harris Poll (Harris Poll 2008) found that 19 percent of Americans are atheist or agnostic – the highest level of non-belief ever reported in a national survey of Americans. Given these percentages, we can estimate that somewhere between 10 million and 47 million adult Americans are atheist, agnostic, or secular.
Unaffiliated and secular describes a lot of Americans – in total there are more Americans under those categories than practice Judaism. They sometimes simply are not interested in formal religion, they may have some general feeling that some entity exists that created the universe and thus existence. It is also possible to be an atheist and to be spiritual. There are eastern “religions” they do not have a deity per se. They strive for morality and enlightenment, but are not concerned with the final judgement of a higher power.
A Ph.D. once told a group of people at a lecture I attended on religion and the study of deviance that he would suggest that atheists not identify themselves as such. If the subject comes up to simply say that your beliefs were a personal matter and you would rather not discuss them. I don’t think he got around so much or his influence extended so far as to have a national effect. Though I think his feelings on the subject have become informally adopted by most non-religious Americans of any category. They have a strong presence on the net, but in real life there is a price to pay.
Two new studies from the University of New Hampshire Crimes against Children Research Center suggest that concerns about teen sexting may be overblown. One study found the percentage of youth who send nude pictures of themselves that would qualify as child pornography is very low. The other found that when teen sexting images do come to police attention, few youth are being arrested or treated like sex offenders.
It has been a couple of years since I did a post about a few cases of sexting that became notorious simply because the police and prosecutors got involved. I thought it was a little heavy-handed of the schools and police to burden a 15-year-old with a sex offender record just for texting. The reason sexting has not become a bigger problem is that the village – teen cohorts – probably with those notorious cases now the stuff of high school mythology – has determined there are way too many repercussions that could fellow the perpetrators through life.
“Lots of people may be hearing about these cases discovered by schools and parents because they create a furor, but it still involves a very small minority of youth,” said lead author Kimberly Mitchell, research assistant professor of psychology at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center.
a detachment of the first south carolina (colored) federal volunteers. The engraving is said to be based on a sketch by an artist that was there. Colonel Oliver T. Beard wrote a report on his activities and that of his “colored’ soldiers”. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver T. Beard, Commander, Forty-eighth New York Infantry – Beaufort, S. C. – November 22, 1862
‘On the 18th, accompanied by the U. S. gunboat Madgie, I proceeded to the mills located on Doboy River, Georgia. On reaching the mills I found it necessary to reconnoiter the land adjacent thereto. To do this it was necessary to cross a narrow causeway, leading from the mill through a swamp to the main highland, a distance of about 450 yards. This highland was heavily wooded, except on the summit, which was cleared and occupied with houses. My men (34 in number) had no sooner passed across the causeway and through the wood to the clearing beyond than they were fired on by the enemy who were posted in the thicket in front and on both sides. At the first fire one man was dangerously wounded and a momentary panic seized the men; but it was only momentary. They speedily rallied and opened a brisk fire on the places occupied by the concealed enemy. This fire they kept up with great regularity and coolness until ordered by me to retire to the end of the causeway. They retired, firing as they went with a slowness and deliberateness that could not have been surpassed by veteran troops. Three others were severely wounded while they were retiring. When my men reached the end of the causeway I had the bow gun of the Darlington directed on the wood, after which the fire of the enemy ceased, though numbers of them were seen during the two days and nights we remained.”
…When it is remembered that these men never had arms in their hands until four days before they started on the expedition I think you cannot fail to give them great praise for standing a galling fire from a concealed enemy so bravely and for holding the causeway referred to during the two days and nights required for loading two large steamers with valuable property in the face of an enemy. To do this, my men worked day and night without intermission; and, though short of provisions, I heard not a murmur.
On the last expedition the fact was developed that colored men would fight behind barricades; this time they have proved, by their heroism, that they will fight in the open field.”
I heard or read somewhere that the white woman who was captured by native Americans in the TV show Hell on Wheels may have been inspired by Olive Oatman. The character in the show certainly has the same tattoo. The main character seems to have inspired by at least a little by the graphic novel character Johan Hex. There is a good book about Oatman available on-line from the University of Nebraska – The Blue Tattoo – The Life of Olive Oatman(pdf). The following is from this review of the book,
Within a week, both parents and three of their six children would be dead after a massacre. The eldest son was seriously injured and left for dead. The Yavapai Indians, who had killed the family, abducted the two middle daughters Olive and Mary Ann. The girls remained with the tribe until the Yavapais sold them to the Mohaves a year later. Mary Ann died of an unknown illness exacerbated by famine while with the Mohaves; Olive lived with this tribe for four years before they returned her to the white world when the US Army ransomed her and threatened war. During her time with the Mohave, Olive was tattooed on her chin. The tattoo was series of short and long bars in blue ink. Precise and neat, the marks remained long after her repatriation as an indelible mark of her life in captivity.
[ ]…In many ways, Olive’s celebrity was secured as an outsider, if not an outright freak. She inspired a host of other women to tattoo themselves and make their own fame with fabricated captive stories. In her later years, Olive left the spotlight and sought anonymity. Oatman’s rise on the wave of popularity and deliberate retreat as it began to recede are food for thought in a celebrity-obsessed culture.