Tom Jacobs at Pacific Standard reports on research that shows how animosity toward nonbelievers can be reduced by the religious having an imaginary, positive conversation with an atheist. And most of the subjects said they didn’t know any atheists personally:
Those who engaged in the imagined conversation “expressed significantly less distrust toward atheists” than those who simply ruminated about the subject. The researchers conclude this more positive attitude was driven by “more comfort with atheists, and more willingness to engage with atheists.”
Moreover, a reduction in distrust, which the researchers call “the central component of anti-atheist prejudice,” was even found among religious fundamentalists. Perhaps they enjoyed the imaginary give-and-take.
This is encouraging, but just soak in the irony here.
Talking to an imaginary atheist makes a person who normally talks to an imaginary superbeing feel better about atheists.
We’ve been doing this all wrong this whole time. Think of all the social advancement we could have already made if we’d just been make-believe.