Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists. QRS #2

Here’s a provocative study, conducted by psychologists, that concludes that Americans distrust atheists as much (and actually more) than they do rapists.

I include it in my “questionable religious statistic” category because, well, it’s a real stinker.

It doesn’t work at many levels, including committing a base-rate fallacy.

If your car gets dinged by somebody, it’s much more likely to be by a Christian than an atheist, because there are a lot more Christians in the country than atheists (about 2/3rds of Americans are Christians, about 4% atheists). This is true even if Christians are much less likely to ding your car (which I don’t know to be the case).  But, if it’s between atheists and rapists, we can expect it to be an atheist, again, there are more of them. Several million atheists, but far fewer rapists (thankfully).

It’s a little embarrassing for us in the social sciences that this study got published.

***
“A new study finds that atheists are among society’s most distrusted group, comparable even to rapists in certain circumstances.

Psychologists at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon say that their study demonstrates that anti-atheist prejudice stems from moral distrust, not dislike, of nonbelievers.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” said Azim Shariff, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the study, which appears in the current issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study, conducted among 350 Americans adults and 420 Canadian college students, asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher?

The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher.”

Thanks to David Weakliem for the link…

  • C. Ehrlich

    Suppose they had asked the question this way:

    “…was the driver more likely to be a teacher, a Christian teacher, or an atheist teacher?”

    Any guesses on which would be the most frequent choice?

    • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

      Great example… obviously the correct answer has to be A, but I would be some would say C.


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