Study finds atheists are more likely to own cats than Christians

Study finds atheists are more likely to own cats than Christians January 7, 2020

IN an entertaining piece entitled ‘13 reasons why cats are just pure evil‘ Lucy Christie, in 2015, wrote in the South China Morning Post that ‘cats and evil villains go together like milk and cookies.’

Given that many Christians regard atheists as ‘evil villains’ they’ll probably gleefully pounce on a new study to further demonise non-believers. The research in question, published by The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religionclaims that cat owners are church dodgers, while evangelicals are more likely to shun the beasts.

Photo: Barry Duke

When I saw a report about the research in Christian Today, I was reminded of a very devout and superstition Spanish neighbour who stopped speaking to me after she discovered I had a black Persian I’d named Smirnoff. On seeing the cat when she came round to my apartment to borrow a vacuum cleaner she shrieked “el diablo, el diablo” and legged it.

Researcher Samuel Perry, from the University of Oklahoma, said that while over 60 per cent of Americans owned some sort of family pet, previous studies had not considered whether religiosity was a factor in pet ownership or which pet people might own.

Drawing on data from the 2018 General Social Survey, he found that “frequent” worshippers and the most conservative evangelicals reported owning fewer pets.

The abstract for the study – “How Religion Predicts Pet Ownership in the United States” – says:

Although religious tradition and biblical literalism generally do not predict pet ownership, frequent worship attendees and the most conservative evangelicals report owning fewer pets.

Religious characteristics also predict Americans’ ownership of particular pets. Most notably, we find a strong, negative association between worship attendance and cat ownership. We theorize potential mechanisms. On the one hand, certain personality types might simultaneously attract some Americans toward religious participation and away from pets, and cats in particular.

Alternatively, to the extent that pet ownership is a partial substitute for human bonding and interaction, Americans more deeply embedded within a religious community may have less need (or time) for pets generally, and specifically more independent ‘roommate pets’, like cats.

Perry added:

We own pets because we love their company and the special interaction they provide for us. In some ways, pets are actually substitutes for human interaction.

People who are heavily connected to a church or faith community already have plenty of social interaction.

Sky News pointed out that the study of more than 2,000 Americans showed that atheists regarded felines as “god-like” and that:

Those who never set foot in a place of worship own two pets on average, while faithful worshippers have 1.4.

Premier Christian News turned to Samantha Chandler from the Anglican Society for Welfare of Animals for a comment. She said:

I think that is stretching the point a little; I think there is an epidemic of loneliness in this country, caused by a variety of reasons.

There is huge loneliness amongst some of the elderly and also amongst people who work often very hard and very long hours. I think cats, because they are less demanding than dogs, are often preferred by people who work, and people who work very hard and very long hours might actually be less likely to be in church on a Sunday morning because they are desperately needing a lie in so that might have more to do with it.

Writer and atheist Christopher Hitchens said if you feed a dog, they think you are God, while if you do the same to cats, they “draw the conclusion they are gods”.


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  • Dave Maier

    Wow, that’s right! I own a cat (although of course she might not agree …), but I don’t own any Christians.

  • igotbanned999

    Dogs are better, come fight me bro.

  • piyaren

    That was pretty much my reaction to the headline too. Of course, it isn’t even legal to own Christians.

  • One more point in favor of cat people!

  • Dave Maier

    Close quote after “equal,” I take it.

  • thatotherjean

    I suspect that it has something to do with the idea that highly religious people in the United States are very often authoritarians. You can’t tell a cat what to do.

  • Broga

    Yup! Well spotted.

  • Broga

    I have just looked up the quote: “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

    I think “treat” is better. We don’t reciprocate and factory farming treats them with utter callousness.

  • Doggos are alright, too, but they’re super needy.

  • barriejohn

    All cats are atheists, it goes without saying. I mean to say, can you imagine any self-respecting cat deferring to some “superior being” (especially an imaginary one), or allowing itself to be inconvenienced by dietary rules or the need to perform rituals and attend services at set times? Also, churches have doors, so someone would need to be on constant alert to open the door and let them out, only to immediately open it again to let them back in!

  • persephone

    Well, pigs will eat you.

  • thatotherjean

    Atheists? Maybe not. I’m pretty sure that the only concept of a god(dess) that cats accept is Bast. They were worshiped as her avatars in ancient Egypt, and still expect that deference. It frustrates those who do not understand, and who expect obedience from them. They are their own beings, and those who love them seek their cooperation, but let them be themselves.

  • Broga

    Just like people.

  • barriejohn

    But they know that those gods don’t really exist. They’re not stupid!

  • abb3w

    Those inclined to play with the data themselves might go Googling for the Berkeley SDA and its on-line Archive to find a handy tool.

  • Pauli Staalesen d.y.

    … but dogs can be very submissive to their owners … like Christians are to God 🙂

  • thatotherjean

    Lordy, do I know that. We adopted a dog who is the most submissive creature on earth. I don’t know who was responsible for her training, but they should be horsewhipped for creating such subservience. Look at her cross-eyed, and she cringes. Say no to her, and she’s heartbroken. We’ve had her for more than four years now, and she’s a little better than she was, but no wonder that authoritarian, and perhaps religious types, prefer dogs to cats. You can not only tell a dog what to do, you can terrify them into doing it–right up their alley.

  • Old Harry

    Funny how it’s The Dogs of War.

    Religious types seem to love them some Righteous Wars and abysmal Obedience which is necessary for those wars.

  • Old Harry

    It is obvious, just like all the other manure in Churchill’s unending stream of B/S, that Churchill never went wild pig hunting, much less boar hunting.

    Churchill was invigorated by the start of WWI, while the ADULTS around him were saddened.

    That is my impression of the train wreck that was Churchill. Another ‘Bold Man’ in Bacon’s definition of that nearly worthless race.

  • Old Harry

    I have shared a house with cats and with dogs, and I was ‘responsible’ for all, but never thought of myself as an owner.

    The only advantage to the dog is most will bark at an ‘intruder’.

  • Freethinker

    Not sure where you are getting your stats based on the headline. I own multiple Christians and no cats but find them too high maintenance. They tend to fling their shit all over the place, refuse to learn anything new and refuse to play nicely with the other animals. Thinking of just selling them on for medical experiments.