Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Anti-Atheist Prejudice & Katherine Hepburn

"I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for people."
Katherine Hepburn

Considering religion as a conditio sine qua non for moral living can lead to negative sentiments, the marginalisation and even persecution of non-believers. In a poll, only 45% of US-Americans responded that they would vote for a qualified presidential candidate if he or she were an atheist. It was the lowest percentage a hypothetical minority would get - the willingness to vote for African American, Jewish or female candidates was much higher. Atheists were also the group most people disapproved of their children marrying.

Religiosity seems to be viewed as a guarantee for trustworthiness - the most valued trait  in other people - by religious believers. In a "trust game", religious participants transferred more money to religious partners even if their religions differed. Denying the existence of gods, based on these findings, means being less trustworthy.

In their study, Gervais et al. examined religiosity and trustworthiness and came to the conclusion that distrust is a central factor atheists are confronted with. The authors compared anti-atheist prejudice with anti-gay prejudice which both tend to be characteristic of highly religious groups. The profiles differed as distrust was more central to anti-atheist prejudice than to anti-gay prejudice.

Gervais, W. M., Shariff, A. F. & Norenzayan, A. (2011) Do You Believe in Atheists? Distrust Is Central to Anti-Atheist Prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(6), 1189-1206;
photographs of Katherine Hepburn via and via and via and via