On Twitter, Atheists Swear a Lot More Than Christians Do

I recently posted about a study done by University of Illinois psychologist Ryan Ritter (published in Social Psychological and Personality Science) in which his team compared atheists and Christians on Twitter to discern any differences. You can see my analysis of the paper here.

One of the visuals I mentioned was this one:

I thought that was fascinating. According to the graphic, Christians used the word “know” 211 times per 100,000 words, compared to 198 times per 100,000 words for atheists. Meanwhile, atheists used “thought” more than Christians did (59 times per 100,000 words compared to 44 times per 100,000 words, respectively).

We don’t have context for those words, but it’s interesting to consider why this might be the case. (More on that in a moment!)

Ritter has now created visualizations allowing us to see where there are other language differences between the two groups, and these are even more entertaining than the previous image.

It turns out we’re prone to using the word “like” while Christians are way more likely to use “love”:

When it comes to religion-based words, Christians love to talk about Christianity (Jesus/Lord/Bless/Church) while atheists talk about religion as a concept (religious/belief/morality)… and the bad aspects of it (like “Hell”):

Finally, in what may be my favorite image *ever*, it turns out atheists swear a hell of a lot more than Christians do:

As I said before, there may be a good reason for this. Atheists (or at least those people likely to follow prominent atheists on Twitter) tend to tweet about things they’re pissed off about, especially regarding religion. Christians (or those who follow prominent Christians on Twitter), on the other hand, like to tweet about church and God and other fucking shit like that. (Dammit!)

Not that Ritter was suggesting this, but I don’t think this says anything about the nature of Twitter or the differences in beliefs between atheists and Christians. It’s not that Christians are good and atheists are bad.

It’s just that, online, conversations about atheism tend to revolve around the problems with religion while Internet Christians talk a lot about God and their churches. If atheists were in the majority, you might very well see Christians venting their frustrations on Twitter.

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.