We’re Even Better Than #1!

Earlier today, I posted this image showing how the “religiously unaffiliated” were more supportive of same-sex marriage than any other religious demographic:

Many commenters were quick to point out that the “unaffiliated” include plenty of religious “independents” — those who believe in god and who may oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons, but who don’t identify with a particular label — and those people may actually be lowering our percentage.

Is there any truth to that?

David Byars looked into the most recent data available (2010) and found that 80% of atheists/agnostics supported same-sex marriage.

So I present to you this revised chart:

Much better!

16% of atheists/agnostics still oppose it… who knows what’s up with that. But our demographic is more supportive of marriage equality than every other group surveyed.

That’s something to be proud of.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://garicgymro.wordpress.com garic gymro

    I would like to think that some of that 16% are just opposed to marriage period. I’m not especially pro or anti marriage, but I feel much more comfortable with people who are against it for everyone than people who think only straight people should get to do it.

    • Conspirator

      I sort of see the point people are making that are anti-marriage in general, but would they really answer a survey about gay marriage with “no” because they are opposed to all marriage even though they know that the survey will represent them only as being against gay marriage?  That’d be kind of silly.  

      For instance, I’m pro-choice, but if you ask me if I’m pro-abortion, well no, of course not, but I feel that people should have safe, legal avenues to obtain an abortion and it is not for others to judge why they want it.  But if someone were to ask me in a survey if I was pro-abortion or pro-life, I’ll say pro-abortion because I don’t want to tilt the numbers in favor of what they are obviously angling towards.

      • http://garicgymro.wordpress.com garic gymro

        Yeah, as I say, I would like to think that explains some of the 16%. I’m not sure how likely it is though!

        I also don’t think the abortion analogy quite fits. I was thinking of people who aren’t even really pro-marriage-choice. People, in other words, who think that even people who want to get married shouldn’t (e.g. because doing so legitimises an oppressive institution). I don’t agree with them, but, as I say, I like them better than the people who think some people should get to marry, but not others.

        • Conspirator

          That’s what I’m getting at with my abortion analogy.  Would those anti-marriage people not see that there is not an answer that really fits their views on the survey?  It’s not like the survey said “Should gays be allowed to marry?  Yes, No, No one should”.  It’s favor or oppose.  If you say you’re opposed that means you’re being counted as a bigot.  

          And I really doubt there’s a sizable percentage of anti-marriage people anyways.  How many of those would actually vote against gay marriage strictly because they are opposed to marriage for anyone?  I’m guessing that percentage comes out to about none.  

          • http://garicgymro.wordpress.com garic gymro

            The thing is that people do often give misleading answers. Or answers get interpreted misleadingly. In the referendum on the Welsh Assembly, many people apparently voted “No” because they wanted a Parliament, not an Assembly. Even more people apparently abstained on the same grounds. But the No votes tend to be interpreted as being anti-devolution, while the abstentions tend to be interpreted as reflecting apathy. In the case of this particular survey, abstention would have been a better choice for the anti-all-marriage crowd, but — because abstention tends to be interpreted as “don’t know” or “don’t care” — a lot of people don’t like abstaining on questions where they have strong views, even if they have no choice but to have their answer misinterpreted.

            And I know people who, I *think*, would vote against gay marriage because they’re anti-marriage. But I’m not certain, and I agree that it’s unlikely to account for more than 1% of the atheist/agnostic responses. So I think you’re quite right there. But I made that clear in my previous comment: I would *like* to think that this explains some of the result, but I’m not sure that it does.

      • Anonymous

        I’ve heard from various libertarians who proudly report having voted against gay marriage because they perceived legalizing gay marriage as enlarging government’s scope.  Amusingly, despite the accusations libertarians regularly hurt at liberals on this, I’ve never seen a liberal support gay marriage for the express purpose of enlarging government’s scope.

        • keddaw

          The argument is not necessarily that it increases government scope but that since marriage confers various legal and tax benefits then increasing the number of people who can access them unfairly and disproportionately harms those who cannot: singles, polyamorous, anyone ideologically against marriage, commitmentphobes etc.

          It is entirely possible to be 100% against discrimination of gay people but against state sanctioned gay marriage.  I happen to be one of those, but given how such surveys are interpreted I am struggling to decide what I’d actually answer given the limited choice of options.

          • Travshad

            How can you be “100% against discrimination of gay people” and yet still support discrimination against gay people in atleast one area (marriage equality)?  Allowing marriage equality for gay people, doesn’t further discriminate against singles, polyamorous, etc. They are still discriminated against the same regardless of whether gays can marry.

            If you don’t support marriage equality, than by definition you support some discrimination against gays.  I don’t see the logic in your “100%” claim.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Married atheists/agnostics are significantly more likely to oppose gay marriage than unmarried atheists/agnostics.

      Which, I admit, may not directly rebut the point, if you want to argue they’re the ones who most clearly understand why marriage is a bad idea….

  • http://www.suburbansweetheart.com/ Suburban Sweetheart

    Nice! 

  • TiltedHorizon

    Much better than 66% , still some work to do though.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    16% of atheists/agnostics still oppose it… who knows what’s up with that.

    Old people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

      Aye. I do know some atheists/agnostics who still oppose it for silly reasons, like homophobia or due to being brought up in a conservative household, but at least they don’t have a holy sand manual to facilitate and justify their stupid beliefs. I think they are easier to reason with.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      GSS by cohort seems consistent with that; it shows a trend, even controlling for political views.

  • Conspirator

    While atheists/agnostics tend to be more open minded, they don’t necessarily have to be, and are not always rational.  When I was younger, and we’re talking 20 years ago, I had already stopped believing in religion but still thought it was a bad idea for gay couples to adopt.  I thought it would be hard on the kids growing up, and that they’d be shunned and/or picked on by their peers.  I realize now that may still be the case to some extent, but that problems lie elsewhere, and not with the gay couples.  So it could be that some people still just look at it that way, or consider homosexuality as unnatural.  

    • Anonymous

      When I was younger, and we’re talking 20 years ago, I had already stopped believing in religion but still thought it was a bad idea for gay couples to adopt.  I thought it would be hard on the kids growing up, and that they’d be shunned and/or picked on by their peers.  I realize now that may still be the case to some extent, but that problems lie elsewhere, and not with the gay couples.

      Not to mention the fact that this same argument used to be used against interracial couples having children.

      It’s such a patently specious argument……putting the blame for society’s bigotry on the victims of said bigotry, with the objective of continuing the bigotry!

  • Thomas Farrell

    Honestly, I’m surprised that the percentage among atheists is only 80%. I’ve only ever met two atheists who were obviously anti-gay, and they were being roundly chewed out by others for it.

    I wonder how that 20% justifies its bigotry.

    • DJ Newton Rudd

      Non-support for gay marriage is not the same as bigotry toward gay people – I find it telling that the way most people discuss LGBT/queer issues like this is with the assumption that we (LGBT/queer people) are not actually a part of the discussion. There are plenty of us who resent the gay marriage brigade’s co-opting of the LGBT Rights movement, we are NOT homogenous, we are politically, ideologically and yes, even religiously diverse. I like to think that similarly, there are enough atheists who likewise question and reject the institution of marriage…. bashing atheist dissenters for not ‘towing the party line’ reveals a mindset just as dogmatic as that of the religiously motivated. Disagreement should be celebrated – at least there’s a chance that when people are arguing they are thinking about the issues at hand.

      • Travshad

        I don’t intend to “celebrate” disagreement that supports government discrimination against myself or others.  The pro-marriage equality movement has not “co-opt”ed the LGBT Rights movement (notice the recent passage of federal hate crime laws, hospital visitation rights not related to marriage, and the repeal of DADT). 

  • Theo Bracco

    Atheist  doesn’t necessarily mean you are LGBT&Etc.-friendly  or “progressive”.
    I happen to know some conservative people who are atheists, and oppose gay marriage on the basis of “useless to continuation of the species”. I always counter that with:
     ME: – What about sterile couples?
    CA:- They could adopt.
    ME:- So gay couples.
    CA:- They’re deviants/perverts/psychologically damaged/child molestors.
    ME:-(roll eyes)I have to look that way now… (turn 180º around to face sanity)

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I’ve seen atheists argue with Darwinism and evolution. Saying that gay couples  don’t procreate and are thus an evolutionary dead-end. Never mind that there are hundreds of animal species with homosexual behavior – sometimes to extremely high degrees.

      Some of the usual Christian arguments about the most desirable family structure or child rearing also work from a purely secular point of view to some degree. But they can be debunked with scientific studies as well.

      • http://twitter.com/Grikmeer Rob Grikmeer

        I always respond to that by pointing out two separate Natural Selection based arguments which support the usefulness of homosexuality. Then I usually get told to shut up, or to stop being a dick.

    • TiltedHorizon

      Theo,

      I think you turn away too early. I have the same kind of friends, the Catholic in name only types who only go to Church when needed (funerals, weddings, etc). They no longer argue with me on this subject.

      CA: They’re deviants….
      ME: Which describes anyone who deviates from accepted norms, like single parent households, should a child in need stay in need because the parent to be does not fit your perception of a nuclear family?

      CA:  But they are perverts.
      ME: So you are telling me billion dollar sex industry is being kept afloat by homosexuals? (If they are close friends I usually remind them of their own proclivities) You have likely just eliminated yourself from the right to be a parent.

      CA: But they are psychologically damaged
      ME:  Like the psychological damage these Children endure each day as potential parents are dismissed and denied for reasons which have nothing do do with their ability to raise loving children?

      CA: They are child molesters.
      ME: Yet the vast majority of known child molesters are White, Married & Religious much like yourself…. are you saying I should not let you babysit my children?

    • Erik

      There have been papers published trying to explain the evolutionary advantage of homosexuality. It would have to be considered an altruistic act, I’ll have to find a link.

      • Erik

        Turns out that in human populations sampled, homosexuals weren’t more altruistic than heteros. http://www.springerlink.com/content/j750525j872k7456/
        But there are possible other explanations, for example, genes associated with homosexuality also associated with increased female fecundity.  So maybe the genetic element is selected against in males and selected for in females and therefore persists.
        http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/271/1554/2217.short
        I don’t know if that will sway your friends.

    • Anonymous

      Continuation of the species isn’t the reason we have marriage anyway. Marriage is not necessary for procreation, and it probably inhibits procreation more than it helps, actually. What it does do well is provide a stable environment for children to be raised. But, if that were the only reason for marriage, then gay couples with kids should be able to get married, and straight couples without kids shouldn’t be able to.

      Anyway, there’s lots of public policy reasons for recognizing marriage, and I’ve never heard a single good reason why the societal benefits of marriage would flow only from heteros marrying and not gays.

  • Marella

    I agree with Rev Ouabache, old people. My 82 year old mother is an atheist but she’s against gay marriage because it makes her feel icky. If I talk to her about it I can bring her round but then she springs back to her original  stance a few days later. New ideas are hard when you’re old.

    • Anonymous

      Personally, the older I get, the less I see why I should care what two strangers do in private with their various bodily appendages and orifices. It just takes too much energy getting worked up about stuff like that.

  • Mark Floden

    I think you should expect a range of views among atheists.  Since freethinking is akin to independent mindedness and making up your mind for yourself. I would be more concerned if on any particular controversy there was a consensus. So maybe this just shows a healthy lack of group think.  Atheists are diverse. Ayn Rand was an atheist as are many humanists/socialists who would find little in common with her philosophies.

    • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

      Atheism is not necessary the end product of sophisticated thinking and stuff. Some people are just atheists because “religious people are stupid” or “I don’t care”.
      People who oppose LGBT rights are plainly wrong and stupid and we shouldn’t celebrate these views as “lack of groupthink” and a wonderful manifestation of individual thinking.
      It’s stupidity, plain and simple.

      • Mark Floden

        wow there is some open mindedness for you. If you don’t agree with me you are wrong and stupid.. 

        • Mark Floden

          I am totally ambivalent as to what gay people do. It is not something that impacts upon my freedoms. I don’t think that it is an issue anything like slavery. However, I do reserve the right to think for myself. I may even agree with you on the gay issue or not.If that , in your opinion, equates to wrong and stupid then so be it.  

          However IMHO, people who are told what to think and accept it without discussion or ‘controversy’ are sometimes wrong and even when they are right they are often stupid..

          Militant LG advocacy can sometimes have a sanctimonious,  dogmatic hysteria about it,  don’t you think? Kind of reminiscent of religion. 

        • Travshad

          It is not whether you agree with everything someone says, but there are questions in this world that have a right and wrong answer.  Not supporting equal rights for all people is wrong.  If you hold those beliefs it is a valid judgement that you are stupid (unable to intellectually understand the issue).  It is not “open mindedness” to think that all sides to an issue are valid, that is in Morva Adam’s word “stupidity, plain and simple.”

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          You appear to be confusing an assessment of observed correlation with an assessment of directional causation.

    • Anonymous

      There’s only a controversy because there’s not consensus. Do you believe that slavery should be against the law? Do you believe that a person should be able to marry regardless of the sex or gender of their prospective spouse? Do you believe that any random person should legally be able to rape any other person? Should employers be allowed to discriminate with respect to hiring and benefits on the basis of skin colour? The answers to these questions should not be controversial, and consensus does not constitute “group think” — unless you want to include all clearcut moral issues under the same banner.

  • Charles Black

    The fact is until gay marriage is allowed, homophobia will still occur.
    Which means we must still continue the campaign for = love.

    • Anonymous

      Same-sex marriage isn’t a cure for homophobia

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    I bet the percentages are even better among the subset of atheists/agnostics who read your blog!


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