Atheism and empathy

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African children who received Manna Packs of rice from the Christian relief organization Feed My Starving Children.

The Barna Group found that even when church-based giving is subtracted from the equation, active-faith adults donated twice as many dollars last year as did atheists and agnostics.[1] See also: Atheism and charity

Empathy is the understanding of the emotional state or thoughts of another person.

In 2007 the Baptist Press reported about atheism and empathy:

...a pollster at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, found that adults who profess a belief in God are significantly more likely than atheists to say that forgiveness, patience, generosity and a concern for others are "very important." In fact, the poll found that on 11 of 12 values, there was a double-digit gap between theists and atheists, with theists more likely to label each value "very important."

The survey by sociologist and pollster Reginald Bibby examined the beliefs of 1,600 Canadians, 82 percent who said they believed in "God or a higher power" and 18 percent who said they did not.[2]

From a metaphysical, moral and spiritual perspective, atheists have an inability to satisfactorily explain the existence of love.[3][4] See also: Atheism and love and Atheism and social justice

Atheism and charity

See also: Atheism and charity

Most atheists likely live in East Asia (see: Asian atheism).

A beggar in Cambodia. In Cambodia, the vast majority of the population adheres to a nontheistic form of Buddhism called the Theravada school of Buddhism.

A comprehensive study by Harvard University professor Robert Putnam found that religious people are more charitable than their irreligious counterparts.[5]

Concerning the issue of atheism and charity]], charitable giving by atheists and agnostics in America is significantly less than by theists, according to a study by the Barna Group:

The typical no-faith American donated just $200 in 2006, which is more than seven times less than the amount contributed by the prototypical active-faith adult ($1500). Even when church-based giving is subtracted from the equation, active-faith adults donated twice as many dollars last year as did atheists and agnostics. In fact, while just 7% of active-faith adults failed to contribute any personal funds in 2006, that compares with 22% among the no-faith adults.[1]

A comprehensive study by Harvard University professor Robert Putnam found that religious people are more charitable than their irreligious counterparts.[6][7] The study revealed that forty percent of worship service attending Americans volunteer regularly to help the poor and elderly as opposed to 15% of Americans who never attend services.[6][7] Moreover, religious individuals are more likely than non-religious individuals to volunteer for school and youth programs (36% vs. 15%), a neighborhood or civic group (26% vs. 13%), and for health care (21% vs. 13%).[6][7]

Arthur C. Brooks wrote in Policy Review regarding data collected in the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey (SCCBS) (data collected by in 2000 by researchers at universities throughout the United States and the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research):

The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior. For example, among those who attend worship services regularly, 92 percent of Protestants give charitably, compared with 91 percent of Catholics, 91 percent of Jews, and 89 percent from other religions.[8]

Atheism and narcissism

See also: Atheism and narcissism

Narcissism is excessive love of oneself. Narcissists often have lower empathy.[9]

Study: General public believes atheists are more narcissistic

A study found that atheists were more likely to be seen as narcissistic than religious believers - especially male atheists.[10] See also: Atheism and arrogance

The abstract for the 2017 journal article The perception of atheists as narcissistic which was originally published in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality indicates:

"Research into prejudice toward atheists has generally focused on broad characteristics. Some of these characteristics (i.e., self-centeredness, elitism, individualism, and immorality) indicate a possible prejudice of narcissism. To investigate this specific prejudice, the present study used the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin & Terry, 1988), the Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale (Hendin & Cheek, 1997), and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1983), which were adjusted so that the items of each measure were changed from first-person statements to third-person statements to measure participants’ perceptions. Participants (N = 359) were given a description of a fictitious individual named Alex, portrayed to them as either male or female and atheist or religious, or male or female with no additional information (creating 6 experimental groups), and then asked to complete the measures as they thought the individual would. Participants consistently rated atheists higher on narcissism measures and lower on empathy measures, indicating a perception of greater narcissism and a lack of empathy compared with religious individuals and controls. Participants’ perceptions of Alex were affected by his or her gender in conjunction with his or her religion, and the 2 variables of gender and religion interacted to create different patterns of perception. In general, interactions indicated differences in the way religion and gender impacted the perception of individuals as narcissistic, affecting perceptions of males more than females. The results are consistent with research findings that perceptions of atheists tend to be negative and prejudicial. This study highlights the need to compare perceptions with actual personality differences between atheists and religious individuals."[11]

Atheism and autism

See also: Atheism and autism

Autism affects the amygdala, cerebellum, and multiple other parts of the brain.

Autism is a type of pervasive developmental disorder. It is characterized by difficulties with social interaction; difficulties with verbal communication, especially pragmatic language; difficulty processing nonverbal communication such as facial expression; intense, narrow interests; difficulty adjusting to changes in routine; and repetitive behaviors. Other signs include lack of eye contact, delayed or unusual play skills, hypo- or hyper-sensitivity to sensory stimuli, and anxiety.[12]

In 2011, the University of Boston published a study on the correlation between atheism and high-functioning/mild autism.[13][14]

On September 19, 2011, the Discover Magazine website had an article indicating that there were empirical results showing a positive correlation between atheism and high functioning autism and the article declared:

This is why the empirical results on the correlation between atheism and high functioning autism are important...

...some people were angry that I seemed to suggest that atheists were antisocial weirdos. Well, there is some data to back that up.[15]

The article Atheists lack empathy and understanding indicates:

The second [study] looked at a group of Canadian students, and found that those who reported more symptoms of autism were also less religious. Study Three broadened this out to a group of 725 American Adults recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, while Study Four looked at a different sample of 425 Adults (they were part of a paid survey panel).

Again and again, they found that symptoms of autism correlated with lack of belief in God.

But their analyses went further. They also asked them about their empathy (using questions like “I often find it difficult to judge if someone is rude or polite” and “I am good at predicting how someone will feel.”).

They found that empathy also correlated with belief. Not only that but, using a statistical technique called “bootstrapping”, they found that the most plausible explanation for the correlation was that autism was related to a lack of empathy, which in turn was related to lack of belief (see the figure).

In other words, lack of empathy was the ‘in between’ factor that mediated the relationship between autism and lack of belief.[16]

Atheist PZ Myers' blog audience and their reported Asperger's quotient test results

Theodore Beale has written about atheists being "socially autistic".[17][18][19] Beale also wrote: "It's by no means a scientific test, but it is interesting to note the coincidence that 59 of the virulent atheists over at Dr. PZ Myers place report an average score on the Asperger's Quotient test of 27.8. And this does not include the two individuals who actually have Asperger's but did not report any test results."[20]

Asperger's syndrome (sometimes referred to as "High-Functioning Autism" or "HFA") is an umbrella term used to classify problematic behaviours similar to, but less severe than, those within the lower reaches of the autistic spectrum.

Beale wrote concerning atheist PZ Myers' blog audience:

It's by no means a scientific test, but it is interesting to note the coincidence that 59 of the virulent atheists over at Dr. PZ Myers place report an average score on the Asperger's Quotient test of 27.8. And this does not include the two individuals who actually have Asperger's but did not report any test results."

As PZ himself said: "I took the test and scored a 24, an “average math contest winner.” You need a 32 to suggest Asperger’s, and a 15 is the average. So there. I don’t have Asperger’s, I’m just cruel and insensitive."[21]

Below is some information that gives concerning interpreting their Asperger's quiz results:

Basically the range for possible answers is 0 to 50. The information below shows you the different ranges as recorded from others sitting this same AQ quiz over the years.

0-11 low result – indicating no tendency at all towards autistic traits.

11-21 is the average result that people get (many women average around 15 and men around 17)

22-25 shows autistic tendencies slightly above the population average

26-31 gives a borderline indication of an autism spectrum disorder. It is also possible to have aspergers or mild autism within this range.

32-50 indicates a strong likelihood of Asperger syndrome or autism.

In fact, scores of 32 or above are one of strong indicators of having as ASD.[22]

PZ Myers' antitheist blog audience and the issue of narcissism vs. Asperger's Syndrome

Michael Nugent is chairperson of Atheist Ireland.

PZ Myers is a New Atheist and New Atheism is a contemporary form of antitheism.[23][24] Therefore, it is very probable his blog appeals to people who hold to a antitheism perspective. Social science research indicates that antitheists score the highest among atheists when it comes to personality traits such as narcissism, dogmatism, and anger.[25] Furthermore, they scored lowest when it comes to agreeableness and positive relations with others.[26]

In the United States, a University of Tennessee study estimated that 15% of American atheists were antitheists.[27]

The atheist biologist Massimo Pigliucci said of Myers and his blog audience, "one cannot conclude this parade without mentioning P.Z. Myers, who has risen to fame because of a blog where the level of nastiness (both by the host and by his readers) is rarely matched anywhere else on the Internet...".[28] In April 2015, Atheist Ireland announced, "Atheist Ireland is publicly dissociating itself from the hurtful and dehumanising, hateful and violent, unjust and defamatory rhetoric of the atheist blogger PZ Myers."[29]

See also: PZ Myers' Inappropriate commentary on the suicide of comedian Robin Williams and PZ Myers' rejoicing at the accidental death of a Brazilian priest and then fantasizing about killing priests

In the United States, reports of autism cases per 1,000 children grew dramatically from 1996 to 2007. It is unknown how much, if any, of that growth came from changes in autism's actual prevalence.[30]

Dr. Mark Goulston, M.D. wrote in his article Just Listen - Don't Confuse a Narcissist with Asperger's Syndrome:

Both narcissists and high functioning people with Asperger like features are goal minded to a fault, and both can view other people more as functions or vehicles to achieve that goal instead of as people with feelings. However a critical difference between the two is that a narcissist doesn't care if they hurt you or your feelings (and the truly malignant ones may even take delight in doing so), whereas someone with Asperger's like features would prefer not to.[31]

British psychiatrist Dr. Khalid A. Monsour says regarding Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD):

“… it is noticeable that people with NPD, do not show a major degree of functioning problems in stress free environment or when they are supported (except that they are perceived as “not pleasant characters” to deal with). However under stress and without support they can become quite dysfunctional in a way not far from what we usually see in Asperger’s syndrome. “[32]

The journalist Dr. Sam Vaknin argues: "Asperger's Disorder is often misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), though evident as early as age 3 (while pathological narcissism cannot be safely diagnosed prior to early adolescence)."[33]

Atheism and psychopathy

See also: Atheism and psychopathy

The perverse and cruel atheist Marquis de Sade in prison, 18th century line engraving. See: Atheism and sadism

Psychopathy is strongly correlated with crime, violence, and antisocial behavior.[34][35] See also: Irreligion, psychopathy, crime, violence and antisocial behavior

A psychopath is someone with an anti-social personality disorder characterized by violent, perverted or immoral behavior often leading to criminality. Psychopaths have little or no concern for other people. Some psychopaths equate love with sexual arousal.[36]

A 2016 study relating to atheism and psychopathy published in Plus One indicates:

Similarly, a survey of 312 college students examining the relationship between Religious/Spiritual Well-Being (RSWB) and ‘dark triad’ personality traits found that “RSWB was confirmed to be negatively correlated with these negative aspects of personality, in particular with subclinical psychopathy.”

...moral concern is associated with a spiritual worldview.[37]

According to the 2014 journal article Correlates of psychopathic personality traits in everyday life: results from a large community survey published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology lack of belief in God is positively associated with psychopathic traits.[38]

Atheism and sociopathy

See: Atheism and sociopathy

Atheistic communism, mass murder and sociopathic leaders

See: Atheistic communism, mass murder and sociopathic leaders

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Atheists and Agnostics Take Aim at Christians The Barna Update, 2007.
  2. Foust, Michael (October 23, 2007). "Poll: Atheists less likely to 'do good'" Baptist Press. Retrieved on July 20, 2014.
  3. How do atheists define love? by Dr. Taylor Marshall
  4. What is love? how materialist atheism fails to have a satisfactory answer, July 9, 2014
  5. Multiple references:
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Religious people make better citizens, study says by Pew Research Forum, May 13, 2009
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Religious people are 'better neighbors' by USA Today, 11/14/2010
  8. Brooks, Arthur C., faith and charitable giving Policy Review, Oct-Dec 2003, p.2.
  9. Can narcissists be moved to show empathy?, Science Daily
  10. The perception of atheists as narcissistic, Dubendorff, S. J., & Luchner, A. F. (2017), Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9(4), 368-376.
  11. The perception of atheists as narcissistic, Dubendorff, S. J., & Luchner, A. F. (2017), Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9(4), 368-376.
  13. Religious Belief Systems of Persons with High Functioning Autism, Catherine Caldwell-Harris, Caitlin Fox Murphy and Tessa Velazquez at the Department of Psychology - Boston University); Patrick McNamara (Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine)
  14. Is atheism linked to autism? Controversial study points to relationship between the two, Daily Mail, 20 September 2011
  15. What atheism and autism may have in common By Razib Khan, September 19, 2011]
  16. Atheists lack empathy and understanding
  17. The socially autistic atheist by Vox Day, August 02, 2007
  18. A lesson in atheist social autism by Vox Day (Theodore Beale), August 13, 2014
  19. Atheists and Daddy issues by Vox Day, August 23, 2012
  20. The socially autistic atheist by Theodore Beale (Vox Day), August 02, 2007
  21. PZ admits he's wrong by Theodore Beale, Friday, August 29, 2014
  22. Interpreting Asperger's Test Results
  23. Chronology of misrepresentations and smears in the atheist movement by PZ Myers and others by Michael Nugent on November 4, 2014
  24. Comes a Horseman by PZ Myers • 13 October 2009
  25. Science Shows New Atheists to be Mean and Closed-Minded
  26. The 6 Types of Atheists and Non-Believers in America By Amanda Marcotte / AlterNet July 11, 2013
  27. Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements By Massimo Pigliucci Scientia Salon, Posted: May 13, 2015
  28. Atheist Ireland publicly dissociates itself from the harmful and hateful rhetoric of PZ Myers by Michael Nugent, April 7, 2015
    • Prevalence and changes in diagnostic practice:Fombonne E. The prevalence of autism. JAMA. 2003;289(1):87–9.
    • Wing L, Potter D. The epidemiology of autistic spectrum disorders: is the prevalence rising? Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2002;8(3):151–61.
  29. Just Listen - Don't Confuse a Narcissist with Asperger's Syndrome, Dr. Mark Goulston, M.D., Huffington Post
  30. Do You Think of Narcissism as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder?
  31. Misdiagnosing Narcissism: Asperger's Disorder By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
  32. (2005) Handbook of Psychopathy. Guilford Press, 440–3. 
  33. Coid, Jeremy; Yang, Min; Ullrich, Simone; Roberts, Amanda; Moran, Paul; Bebbington, Paul; Brugha, Traolach; Jenkins, Rachel et al. (May 2009). [Psychopathy among prisoners in England and Wales "Psychopathy among prisoners in England and Wales"]. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (Elsevier Ltd) 32 (3): 134–41. doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2009.02.008. PMID 19345418. Psychopathy among prisoners in England and Wales. Retrieved 1 April 2016. 
  34. Robert D. Hare (2011). Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. Guilford Press, 52. ISBN 978-16062-35782. 
  35. Why Do You Believe in God? Relationships between Religious Belief, Analytic Thinking, Mentalizing and Moral Concern by Anthony Ian Jack , Jared Parker Friedman, Richard Eleftherios Boyatzis, Scott Nolan Taylor, Plus One, March 23, 2016
  36. Correlates of psychopathic personality traits in everyday life: results from a large community survey by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Robert D. Latzman, Ashley L. Watts, Sarah F. Smith, and Kevin Dutton, Frontiers of Psychology, 2014