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drhat77's avatar

Atheists distrusted by other atheists? What do we think?

Asked by drhat77 (6173 points ) January 10th, 2014

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=in-atheists-we-distrust
This seems to go against the thinking that we are more prone to trust like minded individuals. Why is this? I have mentioned in other threads that human brains are hard wired for religious thinking, for better or worse. I can’t quite connect these dots, but I feel they are conceptually close. What does Fluther think?
In ironic relation, I will be away from the internet for 24 hours for Sabbath, so see you then. I can’t wait to see what the thread looks like.

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24 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

Why not? Different branches of Christianity distrust each other, so do different branches of Islam. I imagine it is the same in all cultures.

drhat77's avatar

@WestRiverrat but an atheist may distrust someone else simply because they are an atheist. That seems a bit contrary. And sad, I think.

KNOWITALL's avatar

It kind of stands to reason that if theists are the majority and get little to no press, they will be distrusted or disliked. People in my area tend to associate atheists with (bad, evil, not moralistic, not normal) which I’ve tried to explain here a few times.

I also remember when atheists weren’t allowed at the 9/11 memorial service when all other religions/ groups were. It’s a pretty clear society is prejudiced against them, and I’m not exactly sure why except the anomalies always tend to be on the fringe of society. Like a white wolf in a brown wolf world.

tom_g's avatar

This seems to go against my own experience in a huge way (the bit about atheists trusting theists more), but it is possible that people internalize cultural values. Very strange.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I was going to say, believers distrust believers so much that they split off into hundreds of denominations that are ridiculously hard to tell apart, so why wouldn’t atheists? Also, as an atheist, I dont think that other atheists are automatically like-minded. What if they’re racist or sexist or stupid?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I would have to disagree with that completely. Just because we believe differently about a few things or even major thing’s, I’d trust another theist above most other people if religion was all I based it on.

drhat77's avatar

The study in question showed that even atheists thought that an atheist was more likely to do something immoral. It wasn’t about a specific person who was also an atheist. It was a theoretical person, the only thing specified about them was that they were an atheist.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@KNOWITALL Well, I guess….to me, thinking men are superior or white people are better are not ‘a few things’ and are FAR more important than whether or not someone believes in god (s).

Seek's avatar

There’s one seemingly small detail that I find very significant.

The article says the people identified as “No religious affiliation”.

This does not necessarily mean they were atheists.

“No Religious Affiliation” is going to get you some disenchanted Catholics, some noncommittal deists, that guy who went to Sunday School as a kid but doesn’t go anymore, the “I’m not religious but I’m spiritual” crowd, and the “well, I don’t believe in God or anything, but I’m certainly not an atheist!” group… as well as a bunch of atheists. If the survey didn’t specifically say “atheists”, we don’t know how many of the people who responded “no religious affiliation” were atheist at all.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Not all theists believe those things. Would you leave your kid alone with an atheist just out of prison over a theist who thinks men are superior? I’m not sure what I need to respond to in your statement.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@KNOWITALL Of course not all theists believe any one thing. I was saying the same for atheists, please re-read what I wrote. As for my kid, I don’t leave them alone with anyone really, I trust very few people. I don’t assume anything of people being in prison either (seeing how that whole system is an example of the above racism I really dislike) and that whole scenario, in general, is really a big ‘depends.’ It wouldn’t matter to me that one is a theist and one is an atheist is what I’m saying.

thorninmud's avatar

Atheism, as a conceptual category, isn’t associated with any package of moral values. If I know that someone is atheist, I can’t begin to presume what she thinks is acceptable behavior or not. It’s not that I have a negative view of the morals of atheists; it’s that that information has nothing to do with that category.

If I know someone is, say, a Catholic, I still don’t know whether that person lives by the moral tenets of their faith, but I at least know more or less what they think they should do. That’s at least an indicator, however vague.

Kardamom's avatar

I certainly wouldn’t want to leave my kid with a Catholic priest. Anybody else, it wouldn’t really matter whether or not they were a theist or an atheist, but it would matter how well I knew them. I’d want to know if they actually know how to care for a child, have their poisons and meds locked up, if they know to keep the sharp knives out or reach etc.

One of my closest friends, keeps pit bulls. One of her dogs killed her little pug dog. As much as I love my friend, I would never let her babysit one of my kids.

whitenoise's avatar

I would say that this research may be very succeptible to cultural setting.

In the US everyone is being told that atheists are evil… Also those not asociaated with a religion are exposed to that ‘propaganda’. They may not even know what an atheist is…

I doubt that this research would yield the same results amongst atheists that know of themselves they are atheists and that live in, for instance Europe. Or in the Middle East for that matter.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I don’t trust or distrust anyone based on their faith or lack thereof. You prove yourself to me or disprove yourself to me. I don’t care if you believe differently from me. I value you as a person. I’ll respect your faith as long as you respect mine.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Adirondack I agree. I do admit that until fluther I had some misconceptions, too.

fundevogel's avatar

In the article it mentioned people that don’t identify wth a particular religious group admitting distrust in atheists. That is not at all the same as saying atheists admitted to distrusting other atheists.

Not sure how far I’d trust the study as it basically forces people to choose who they distrust most for reasons that are ultimately irrelevant. If you’re smart enough to recognize religion just shouldn’t be a fatorn in the judgement at hand too bad so sad, we’re still forcing you to pick a multiple choice option that assumes you’re incorporating religion into your assumptions about trustworthiness.

SwanSwanHummingbird's avatar

This seems like it should be published in the Non-Scientific Journal. There are so many things wrong with the assumptions and coorelations made from the data, it makes the point moot.

As I have always thought, science is affected by politics just like everything else.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Most atheists are atheists because they are skeptical. Skeptics don’t trust anyone on face value, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise—and they shouldn’t, if they are true skeptics. They are going to come off more distrustful than non-skeptics in any study like this. But are “distrust” and “skepticism” synonymous? I agree with @SwanSwanHummingbird. This is horseshit. And it smells like horseshit with an agenda.

whitenoise's avatar

@SwanSwanHummingbird and @Espiritus_Corvus

The article that scientific American is citing was published that way… Did you read that article?

I agree that this article seems to be to coarse in its conclusion to be applied to ‘people in general’, however I think your remarks are uncalled for regarding the quality of the research, unless you read the article published by the researchers.

Paradox25's avatar

The article doesn’t mention atheists distrusting other atheists. The closest it gets to stating that point is when the article brings up about people with no religious affiliation distrusting atheists in general, just like the religious folks. The reasons for this are likely due to the fact that non religious people who do not identify as atheists still usually either believe in, or are open to the possibility of an afterlife or higher power, but usually accept no religious dogmas. Many of those types of people are either usually spiritual but not religious, have new age beliefs, are deists or are agnostics.

The article had also stated that people of different belief systems are likely to distrust each other too. Obviously there’s much more going on here then simply religionists believing that others are more likely to commit crime if they don’t believe in Divine punishment, which the article doesn’t really follow up on. It’s of little surprise that many religionists distrust and even hate each other, so this verifies my latter point in my opinion. I also find this odd when you consider that religious believers commit more crimes by far proportionally than secular minded people.

I find it ironic though, because I know quite a few atheists online in my email group, many being scientists, who are the biggest crusaders for pushing for the survival hypothesis to be accepted in mainstream science. Michael Roll, an atheist, is one of the biggest afterlife crusaders that I know of, and we regularly share emails. There are defintely many atheists who disagree with each other on many topics though, just like religionists and theists.

whitenoise's avatar

In the country I live, locals distrust each other more than wetern expats…. Go figure…

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@whitenoise I not only read the article but I read the abstract to the study cited, but I couldn’t find the study protocol itself—and until I can, I stand pat. This isn’t the first time SA has published trash. It’s not the SA our fathers read.

drhat77's avatar

Thanks all. Especially thanks to @Seek_Kolinahr for pointing out that areligious=\=atheist.

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