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Anti-gay? Anti-Jew? Anti-Muslim? It’s those atheists we trust least

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Some people, for some reason, just don’t like gays. Others have no time for Jewish people. And don’t even get me started on Muslims. But when it comes to being open targets of hostility, consider the poor atheist – apparently among the least-liked people around. That’s what Vancouver’s Will Gervais found in his study on anti-atheist sentiment published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology recently. The University of British Columbia doctoral student’s study was among the first explorations of the social/psychological processes underlying this hostility towards those who don’t believe in a god. Some people, for some reason, just don’t like gays. Others have no time for Jewish people. And don’t even get me started on Muslims. But when it comes to being open targets of hostility, consider the poor atheist – apparently among the least-liked people around. That’s what Vancouver’s Will Gervais found in his study on anti-atheist sentiment published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology recently. The University of British Columbia doctoral student’s study was among the first explorations of the social/psychological processes underlying this hostility towards those who don’t believe in a god. Gervais, who co-authored the study with UBC prof Ara Norenzayan along with Azim Shariff of the University of Oregon, explains:

“This antipathy is striking, as atheists are not a coherent, visible or powerful social group. Where there are religious majorities, atheists are among the least trusted people.”

These study results also suggested anti-atheist prejudice was characterized by distrust, while anti-gay prejudice was characterized by disgust.

In one part of this study, participants found a description of an untrustworthy person to be far more representative of atheists than of Christians, Muslims, gay men, feminists or Jewish people.

Only rapists were distrusted to a comparable degree.

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