Thursday, June 19, 2014

Still mistrusted

I'm sure we've all heard of the 2006 study that found atheists to be trusted (at best) on par with rapists and trusted less than Muslims. In our post 9/11 world of Fox News telling everyone to fear anyone that even has a Muslim sounding name, that was a shocking finding. And personally, I find the rapist comparison quite insulting. But there have recently been a few more studies that have gotten my attention.

One was a survey conducted by Pew Research that posed different traits a presidential candidate could have, and asked if that trait would make them more or less likely to vote for them.

Here's how the list broke down...

9% said they'd be less likely to vote for a woman. 22% said they wouldn't vote for someone who smoked marijuana. 27% would think twice about voting for a homosexual. 35% would be less likely to vote for a candidate that had an affair. Then with the trait viewed as most negative, a full 53% of Americans wouldn't vote for an atheist!

As dismaying as that figure is, it actually represents progress. in 2007, that number was 63% instead of 53%. Even though an all time high of 41% say that the atheism of a candidate wouldn't influence their vote either way, we seem to a ways off from an openly atheist candidate having a chance at the presidency. Hell, most candidates for lower offices even have to usually hide their atheism to avoid committing political suicide.

The second study I saw was in regard to marriage. Once again, Pew compared traits and asked if they would be happy or unhappy if a person with this trait joined their family. 7% were against someone born and raised outside the USA. 8-9% would be unhappy with someone that's a member of a different political party. For a spouse of a different race, the disapproval figure was 11%. Gun owner came in at 19%. But the leader by a large margin was a 49% rate of disapproval for atheists. Even worse, if you focus on only conservatives, that jumps as high as 73%!

In my case, my atheism wasn't an obstacle for my marriage. Maybe it was the fact that my mother-in-law leans liberal (a political group who is far more accepting of the notion). Or more likely, she is wise enough to realize that there are good people of every belief system.

It was also very important that she saw that I love her daughter, and that I would take care of her and treat her right. Why should the fact that the family is Catholic and I an atheist really matter?

And in the case of my wife, my atheism has actually been a very welcome change of pace. You see, my wife considers herself a Wiccan. Prior to meeting me, all her prior love interests have been Christians. Eventually, religion would often be a problem. Being a conservative state, the simple uttering of the words "I'm a Pagan" caused more than one boyfriend to leave her then and there.

Meanwhile, I have no problem allowing her to believe as she wishes. I love her for who she is, not what she believes. So I really don't see why so many view an atheist joining the family as such a problem. Is it because family are concerned about what any potential future children would 'be'?

Furthermore, does wanting your child to marry a believer really result in a better marriage? Studies have shown that atheists get divorced less than believers. Then there is the survey conducted by the cheating site Ashley Madison. They compiled the religious affiliation of their users and found these results:

Evangelist 25.1%
Catholic 22.75%
Protestant 22.7%
Agnostic 2%
Mormon 1.6%
Muslim 1.5%
Jewish 1.4%
Atheist 1.4%
Jehovah’s Witness 0.5%
Hindusim 0.3%

That's a whopping 72.65% of their members (who are looking for an extramarital affair) that are Christians! Meanwhile, only 1.4% were atheists. Now, before anyone thinks that 73% of Christians are cheaters, that's not what this is saying. Just that 73% of Ashley Madison users are Christians. Also, these percentages are pretty much in line with the break-down of the population at large. So it seems that Ashley Madison membership simply seems to mirror the nations religiosity. But the one thing clear is that the religiously faithful are not as a group, more moral and faithful to their spouses than the non-religious are. Atheists make just as good of a husband or wife as anyone else. It's the individual that matters, not the belief.

So why this distrust? Is it the more likely fact that most believers really don't know us? Hell, many believers don't even know what 'atheist' means, or what atheism even entails. They picture a horrible caricaturization of atheism. Stories spread by the uninformed. Lies spread by the faithful and churches in order to demonize us. That we are rude, amoral, violent, drug abusers, who party all the time, blast heavy metal, and eat babies. But this couldn't be much further from the truth for the vast majority of atheists.

Believers likely know atheists and just don't know it. We are the same as anyone else. We are caring, loving, and thoughtful as well. We may be your friend, boss, waiter, favorite actress, etc. We are  actually everywhere, and loved by a great many. The believers just don't know they're atheists. We need to destroy the false picture that has been spread about atheists. That is the best way to show who we really are. But some are reluctant, and for good reason. All too often, admitting your atheism has lead to friends and even family disassociating with them. People that they thought they could trust, turning away just because of atheism. It's a sad and unfair situation. And one that won't get better until the public view of atheists is altered. For that reason, I feel that those of us that can afford to come out, should for the good of all.

-Brain Hulk

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