A new study reported in Nature: Human Behaviour shows that even atheists have a bias against atheists in judging how a person will act. The study examined how people around the world, even in atheistic cultures, judge the actions of atheists as opposed to religious people.
The study was conducted by an international team of researchers led by an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. The study using people in 13 countries gave a hypothetical situation and asked people what they would conclude about the person in the story.
Participants in the study filled out a questionnaire to identify if they had any religious affiliation as well as asking their age and ethnicity. The questionnaire had a description of a sociopath who tortured animals as a child, and later killed five homeless people he abducted from poor neighborhoods in his home city and buried their remains in his basement. The participants were divided into two groups that were each given two choices of what they concluded about the man in the story. For the first group, the choice was either: 1) the man is a teacher or 2) the man is a teacher and does not believe in any gods. The two choices for the second group were: 1) the man is a teacher or 2) the man is a teacher and a religious believer. There were other questions and brain teasers to distract from the purpose of the study.
The result was that sixty percent of all responders said the man was a teacher and does not believe in any gods. Only thirty percent said that he was a teacher and a religious believer. It is interesting that a large percentage of the participants were atheists themselves. The study concluded that even atheists show bias against atheists in that they expect better behavior from a religious believer than from an atheist. You can argue about why this bias exists, but it seems that most people of all persuasions around the globe seem to think that belief in God has a positive effect on behavior.
–John N. Clayton © 2017