Believers rate atheists about as trustworthy as rapists, according to a study in the November 2011 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
A team of researchers led by University of British Columbia psychologist Ara Norenzayan probed the attitudes of several hundred religious believers toward various groups, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, feminists, and homosexuals. Atheists and rapists scored lowest.
Why the bias against atheists? “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,” said Norenzayan in a press release. “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.”
In a June 2011 Gallup poll, 78 percent of respondents said that they would vote for a Mormon in a presidential election, 67 percent for a homosexual, and 89 percent for a Jew. Only 49 percent said that they would vote for an atheist. Still, things are looking up for nonbelievers. In 1958 only 18 percent of Gallup respondents said that they’d vote for an atheist.