The researchers conducted a series of six studies with 350 American adults and nearly 420 university students in Canada, posing a number of hypothetical questions and scenarios to the groups. In one study, participants found a description of an untrustworthy person to be more representative of atheists than of Christians, Muslims, gay men, feminists or Jewish people. Only rapists were distrusted to a comparable degree.
“Outward displays of belief in God may be viewed as a proxy for trustworthiness, particularly by religious believers who think that people behave better if they feel that God is watching them,” says Norenzayan. “While atheists may see their disbelief as a private matter on a metaphysical issue, believers may consider atheists’ absence of belief as a public threat to cooperation and honesty.”
Source: Science Daily
While DN typically steers away from religious issues, this one has do to with perception, and, frankly, how utterly wrong-headed people’s perceptions can be. I urge everyone to read this article, it may affect your family relationships, your friends, politics, community issues, and just generally how people can get along (or why they don’t).
What I can not fathom is why religious=trustworthiness after all the scandals and lies exposed by religious institutions and those of proclaimed religious beliefs.
There is almost too much to say on this infuriating issue. I’ll not go there. But, it’s important to think about and, remember, actions can change people’s minds.
Update 12-6-11: But here is another take on this study. Maybe it’s been overemphasized.
…it could be the case that it only takes a little distrust to show as much of an effect as the measure will show, so different levels of distrust are going to look the same past a certain point. Without reference to a group we know are more distrusted than atheists and rapists to compare the bars to, we can’t know whether atheists and rapists are actually comparably distrusted.