By: Craig Clearwater
Who do you think the most despised group in America is? Tea Party members? Scientology followers? Justin Bieber fans? Actually, a poll by the University of Minnesota suggests that atheists are pretty high on the list. For example, when Americans were asked whether they would disapprove of a child’s wish to marry an atheist, 47.6% of those interviewed said yes. This is a significantly higher percentage than Muslims (32.5%), blacks (27.2%), Jews (11.5%), conservative Christians (6.9%), and every other people group measured in the study. When Americans were asked which groups did not share their vision of American society, atheists again scored the highest. Consider this exclusionary quote from ex-president George H. W. Bush: “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God.”
A 2007 USA Today/Gallup poll suggests that 53% of Americans would not vote for an atheist politician who was otherwise well qualified, the highest score among all the people groups measured. Rick Warren, who gave the invocation at the most recent presidential nomination, publicly said, “The only kind of president I don’t think I could vote for would be an atheist.” Can you imagine the backlash if Rick Warren and George W. Bush were talking about Hispanics or gays instead?
Why are atheists so distrusted in the United States? The University of Minnesota study suggests that one of the main reasons is that respondents associated atheists with “immorality” and “criminal behavior.” However, the evidence does not support this stereotype. For example, research suggests that peaceful countries have higher levels of atheism. Iceland is a case in point. Currently, this country holds the number one spot on the Global Peace Index (GPI) and an estimated 72 percent of its inhabitants do not believe in god(s). To put this in perspective, America is currently 8-15 percent atheist and this nation is ranked 83rd on the GPI out of 153 countries.
If anything, atheism is correlated with less criminal activity and if you think about it these findings make sense. When is the last time you heard of an atheist bombing an abortion clinic or flying a plane into a building? When is the last time that atheists have started a war with a group that does not share their viewpoints?
In a nutshell, atheists are too often treated like criminals when their only “crime” is thinking differently than the majority. How is this not an injustice?