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Why are atheists mistrusted
catman reminded me of this on another thread. I was looking up some things about atheism the other day and came across, again, the polling data that indicates atheists are the most mistrusted people in the US.

What causes this. There is, to my understanding, nothing atheists have ever done to deserve this mistrust. Is it a carry over from the long battle against "godless" communism. Is it some psychosis related to the fear we may know something they do not. Is it because one can condemn atheists with out being accused of antisemitism or racism or some other generally frowned on belief. Is it because we are such a small minority that few are familiar with us so they react in a negative fashion. Is it simply the cultural bias toward accepting religion and those that have none are therefore suspect.

This apparent fact is troubling to me because I cannot imagine why the bulk of people in the US hold this idea. No one I know has trouble with my atheism and no one mistrusts me for that alone. They may mistrust me, with reason, for other things but not for my lack of belief. I am mystified.
We have no moral foundation, hence we cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Pretty basic.

We hate gawd, too.
I remember telling a Christian friend a few years ago that I debate and chat with atheists online quite a bit. The first words out of her mouth were "Do they cuss you out?" I told her "no" and that most of the people I meet are actually quite cool.

I think atheists get a bad rap because a small minority are very vocal and obnoxious in a public setting. They love nothing better than to tell Christians how stupid they are before using a hundred expletives to describe Christ. This, obviously, is not a good way to win friends and influence people.

In reality, most atheists that I have spoken with are kind and considerate (except Catman who likes to jab my eyeball with his index finger before it swells shut). The militant atheists often seem to get the most press and cast a shadow over the decent majority. If a theist is consistently fed negative publicity about the misdeeds of a few atheists, he or she may begin to believe that all nonbelievers behave accordingly and can't be trusted.

Then again, I may have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. This is usually the case.
Edited by Robert on 03/03/2011 03:28
Doubting Thomas
I think it all has to do with all the misconceptions about us. Mainly, that we reject God, we hate God, we are all trying to get rid of all religion, we're immoral, etc. Not only that, they see us as a threat. I think deep down they know their faith is on shaky ground and our existence threatens that. All they have is faith, and we have valid questions and criticisms which they can't answer & makes them uncomfortable to think about.
You're just jealous because the voices are talking to me and not you.
Probably all of those things, and Robert makes a great point in perceptions based on the most obvious available public examples, at least for those Christians who are actually curious enough to look into atheism.

I tend to see the reverse as well, however. The average atheist is rather stealthy when you think about it. So what the average Christian thinks about the average atheist isn't much different than what they think about anyone else around them -- until they find out. That's when whatever template they use to represent atheism itself gets placed on those people, or they challenge their own assumptions, or they pronounce them as exceptions to a rule they can't actually support ("some of my best friends are atheist, but...").

I do think that DT has pin pointed the beating black heart of the matter, however. In that ancient twisted logic, deep down people tend to reflexively declare "well if you're right, I'm wrong and I know I'm not wrong because that would imply that I've wasted my time and I can't bear to consider that" and then go on to prioritize people according to a hierarchy flowing from most down to least similar to how they think. Hence, Christians first, then Jews, then Muslims, then us.
Edited by Cynic on 03/03/2011 10:44
I think its a lot more basic. The underlying theory behind pretty much any religion is that you get rewarded by believing and punished for not believing. Atheists invalidate that theory by simply having normal lives.

A lot of theists, unwilling to accept the notion that atheists can live as good or better a life without belief take the notion that they must be lying somehow about their quality of life or even that they are being propped up by some evil force in order to lure theists away from their own belief. This makes us, in their minds, liars at the least and in league with the devil at the worst.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
Yes, like Cynic implies, Christians know many more atheists than they realize. And like.

Sad that their friendship can be affected once an atheist is found out.
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