About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Atheists not trusted

I must find the actual academic article on which this news story is based. It's disheartening that atheists are still so widely distrusted, and apparently for the same reasons that were put forward by John Locke back in 1689 (and doubtless by others before him. I.e. for reasons that should be well and truly exploded by now.
“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,” Norenzayan said in the news release. “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.”

Atheists also tend to trust religious people more than they trust other atheists.

“Those people who did not identify with a religion still tended to find believers to be more trustworthy,” said the third co-author, Azim Shariff of the University of Oregon.

That’s because people trust “those who fear supernatural punishment,” Shariff added, and because atheists aren’t especially vocal, powerful or connected.


T said...

Distrust of atheists is perhaps psychologically rooted in tribalistic suspicion of anyone not sharing your basic worldview. Religions and cults may have functioned as markers of in-groups/out-groups, of tribes, in which case atheists are for the faithful simply and irrevocably not one of them, hence not to be trusted.

March Hare said...

You may say you disagree with it, but I don't trust you.

I'm guessing it's purely an American thing though. The rest of the west has moved on somewhat.

Anonymous said...


has a discussion about the methodology