Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I'm Your Boogy Man

Via PZ Myers, a new study that shows atheists are even more feared and hated than Homosexuals and Muslims:

Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. "Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years," says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study's lead researcher.

Edgell also argues that today's atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past-- they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. "It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common 'core' of values that make them trustworthy-- and in America, that 'core' has historically been religious," says Edgell. Many of the study's respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.

Edgell believes a fear of moral decline and resulting social disorder is behind the findings. "Americans believe they share more than rules and procedures with their fellow citizens-- they share an understanding of right and wrong," she said. "Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good."

This line: "Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public," really jumped out at me. It's knee jerk reaction at its most base. "We don't know who you are, what you believe and couldn't pick you out of a crowd but we sure as hell don't like you."

Which is odd, seeing as how atheists don't throw bombs into abortion clinics (That would be Christians) strap bombs to their chests and detonate restaurants (Muslims and Jews), hijack planes and crash them into buildings (Muslims), trample people to death in a religious ceremony (Hindus), throw acid in the face of woman who turn you down for a date (Muslims, Hindus), or ritually scar young men (every religion believes in the utterly useless procedure, circumcision*). We atheists just question you're fairy tale-derived "wisdom" and want a concrete explanation for why things work. And for that we are even more distrusted than Sadr (Muslim Cleric), Robertson (batshit crazy Fundamentalist) and Hitler (German Catholic)?

It's a funny world.

2 Comments:

Blogger Bryan said...

It may be as simple as the fact that atheists don't share in the group paranoia that inflicts the religious. Many "believe" simply because they are afraid of what would happen if they didn't, and resent that others aren't subject to the same fear.

3/22/2006 9:49 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

I've observed the same phenomenon; it's a sort of subliminal resentment. The GOP exhibits this tendency too, regarding the "liberal moral excess" that they project on the Left. They simultaneously despise and envy others for the libertine debauches they engage in themselves but accuse others of doing. It's all rather confussing.

3/23/2006 6:07 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home