Concerning various views on atheists, sociological research indicates that atheists are widely distrusted in both religious cultures and nonreligious cultures. According to a study published in the International Journal for The Psychology of Religion: "anti-atheist prejudice is not confined either to dominantly religious countries or to religious individuals, but rather appears to be a robust judgment about atheists." The study found that many atheists do not trust other atheists as well.
Dr. Sam Harris is one of the founders of the New Atheism movement. Sam Harris is quite aware of the stigma surrounding atheism and has even advocated that atheists no longer call themselves atheists. In fact, Harris has said concerning the label of atheist, "It's right next to child molester as a designation." See also: Atheism and social outcasts and Closet atheist
Furthermore, atheism is often associated with immorality (see: Atheism and morality). In addition, historically atheists have frequently behaved in immoral manner (See: Atheist population and immorality).
Due to the stigma of the label of atheist, it is common for atheists to choose to call themselves skeptics, nonbelievers, humanists and freethinkers Individuals of Jewish descent often call themselves secular Jews or simply Jews rather than call themselves atheists. See also: Closet atheist
Various atheists have attempted to change the public's perception of atheism and atheists, but their efforts were largely unsuccessful (see: Attempts to positively rebrand atheism).
UK study finds atheists widely distrusted - even among themselves
In 2015, the Christian Post reported in a story entitled Atheists Widely Distrusted, Even Among Themselves, UK Study Finds:
|“|| Distrust of atheists is "deeply and culturally ingrained" among people, and even many atheists are not able to trust each other, according to a new study carried out by the psychology department at Nottingham Trent University in England.
Published in the International Journal for The Psychology of Religion, the study, "The Robustness of Anti-Atheist Prejudice as Measured by Way of Cognitive Errors," was conducted with 100 participants from the U.K. ....
The study shows that "anti-atheist prejudice is not confined either to dominantly religious countries or to religious individuals, but rather appears to be a robust judgment about atheists."
The Independent reports about the participants of the study:
|“|| Professor Leah Giddings and Thomas Dunn led the study with 100 online participants from the United Kingdom, 70 of whom were women and whose average age was 21.
A total of 43 per cent of the contributors were atheist, 33 per cent were Christian and the remainder belonged to other faiths.
Theodore Beale says about atheists not trusting other atheists: "The reason most atheists trust fellow atheists less than anyone else is because they recognize their own lack of integrity and morality."
University of Minnesota study on American views towards atheists
See also: American atheism
A 2006 University of Minnesota about American views of atheists reported:
|“|| Some people view atheists as problematic because they associate them with illegality,
such as drug use and prostitution--that is, with immoral people who threaten respectable community from the lower end of the status hierarchy. Others saw atheists as rampant materialists and cultural elitists that threaten common values from above--the ostentatiously wealthy who make a lifestyle out of consumption or the cultural elites who think they know better than everyone else. Both of these themes rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individualists who are not concerned with the common good.
The Barna Group found that atheists and agnostics in America were more likely, than theists in America, to look upon the following behaviors as morally acceptable: illegal drug use; excessive drinking; sexual relationships outside of marriage; abortion; cohabitating with someone of opposite sex outside of marriage; obscene language; gambling; pornography and obscene sexual behavior; and engaging in homosexuality/bisexuality.
For more information, please see:
American views on atheists: Results of University of Minnesota study
Study: Atheists As “Other”: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society, Penny Edgell, Joseph Gerteis, Douglas Hartmann, University of Minnesota, 2006
A table of the results of the study is found below.
|Position:|| This group does not at all agree with
my vision of American society:
| I would disapprove if my child wanted|
to marry a member of this group:
|Recent Immigrant||12.5%||Not Asked|
University of Minnesota indicates that American dislike of atheists grew
A 2016 press release of a University of Minnesota study on atheists reported:
|“|| Survey data collected in 2014 shows that, compared to data collected in 2003, Americans have sharpened their negative views of atheists...
The findings of this most recent survey support the argument that atheists are persistent cultural outsiders in the United States because they are perceived to have rejected cultural values and practices understood as essential to private morality, civic virtue, and national identity. Moreover, any refusal to embrace a religious identity of any type is troubling for a large portion of Americans.
The atheist Dan Arel reported:
|“|| In 2014, Pew Research found that atheists ranked down at the bottom of the list, only 1 point above Muslims as the least trusted religious demographic in the United States...
Now, according to a new study released by University of Minnesota sociologists shows that today, atheists are the most disliked.
The study compared a previous 2003 study with the new study, originally conducted in 2014, and found that Americans have only sharpened their dislike for atheists and religious nones.
According the American atheist author Kevin Davis, atheism has an "unshakeable stigma".
Sociology of "atheism is un-American" view
The 2013 Freedom of Thought report published the International Humanist and Ethical Union indicates: "...the U.S. has long been home to a social and political atmosphere in which atheists and the non-religious are made to feel like lesser Americans or non-Americans."
The sociologist Phil Zuckerman, who is an atheist, wrote in his Psychology Today article Why Americans Hate Atheists:
|“|| 1. Americans equate a lack of religiosity in general – or atheism specifically – with immorality.
2. Americans equate a lack of religiosity in general – or atheism specifically – with being un-American and/or unpatriotic.
3. There is no stigma concerning the expressed dislike of the non-religious. While there is a stigma (to varying degrees, depending on one’s social milieu) attached to being racist, or anti-Semitic, or Islamophobic... – there has never existed a social or cultural backlash against people who openly express disdain for secular folks. So people simply feel much more comfortable expressing their dislike for atheists than, say, Latinas/os or women.
2011 poll: Americans and Canadians distrust atheists as much as rapists
On December 10, 2011, USA Today reported in a story entitled Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists:
|“|| The study, conducted among 350 Americans adults and 420 Canadian college students, asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher?
The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher.
The study is part of an attempt to understand what needs religion fulfills in people. Among the conclusions is a sense of trust in others.
"People find atheists very suspect," Shariff said. "They don't fear God so we should distrust them; they do not have the same moral obligations of others. This is a common refrain against atheists. People fear them as a group."
2015 poll: Canadians' view of atheists
See also: Distrust of atheists
A 2015 poll of 3,041 Canadians conducted by Angus Reid Institute and Dr. Reginald Bibby of the University of Lethbridge found that 27% of Canadians had an unfavorable view of atheists while 27% of Canadians had an favorable view of atheists (the remainder were neutral).
Atheism is significantly less appealing to women
American racial minority views of atheism
See also: Western atheism and race
In 2015, BloombergView reported concerning the United States:
|“|| According to a much-discussed 2012 report from the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life, only 3 percent of U.S. atheists and agnostics are black, 6 percent are Hispanic, and 4 percent are Asian. Some 82 percent are white. (The relevant figures for the population at large at the time of the survey were 66 percent white, 11 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian.)
...Craig Keener, in his huge review of claims of miracles in a wide variety of cultures, concludes that routine rejection of the possibility of the supernatural represents an impulse that is deeply Eurocentric.
Religious groups in America and their views on atheists
Pew Forum reported about various religious groups in America and their views on atheists:
|“||We asked Americans to rate eight religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100, with higher numbers indicating warmer, more positive feelings and lower numbers indicating colder, more negative feelings. On average, Catholics give atheists a rating of 38, and Protestants give them a frosty 32 – lower than either group’s ratings for Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Mormons or Muslims. White evangelical Protestants express particularly cold feelings toward atheists, with an average thermometer reading of 25.||”|
Hate crimes in the United States against atheists/agnostics are very low in number
See also: Persecution of atheists
Atheism and public relations efforts
See also: Atheism and public relations
The biggest challenge facing atheist public relations efforts is that most theists do not think about atheism and would prefer not to as they it is an unreasonable, arrogant and unattractive worldview. As a result, many atheist campaigns, particularly one's by militant atheists, are designed to be provocative which has the effect of further lowering the public's view of atheism/atheists (see: Atheism and public relations).
In areas of the Western World where theists are in the majority, atheists on the left end of the political spectrum, using the strategy of identity politics, have made various attempts to portray atheists as an oppressed minority, but this has not much lessoned the low opinion and/or antipathy many theists hold towards atheists for multiple reasons.
For example, the atheist population in the United States is skewed towards white, atheist men in both adherents and positions of influence within the atheist community (see: Western atheism and race and Atheism and women). So it is difficult for atheists to portray themselves as an oppressed minority.
Secondly, historically atheists have often used oppressive governmental actions to promote their ideology/worldview (see: Militant atheism and Suppression of alternatives to evolution and Atheism and mass murder). And atheists are not known for the empathy and charitableness (see: Atheism and uncharitableness). And in many cases atheists organizations have acted in a manner that displays an emotional tone deafness for the consequences it will have on public opinion (lawsuit to remove a grieving mother's roadside cross erected in memory of her late son who died in an accident, attempted removal of the World Trade Center cross, lawsuits to remove beloved community Christmas manger scenes, etc.).
Another problem the atheist community faces in terms of its public perception is its intellectual cowardice that first became noticeable within the Western World since the 1980s and has continued to the present (see: Atheism and cowardice).
Liberal media - apostles of atheism
The Media Research Center released a study in 2008 reporting pro-atheism bias by major press outlets in the United States. The study is not surprising given the liberal bias that commonly exists in the major media outlets.
Study shows that thinking about atheism increases Americans thoughts about death
See also: Atheism and death
A study by done at the College of Staten Island by Corey Cook involving 236 participants found that when people thought about atheism it increased their thoughts about death (this was also true for the atheists in the study as well). Furthermore, When study participants thought about atheism, it activated concern about death to the same degree as actually thinking about death.
Dislike of atheists and atheism inspiring thoughts about death
In the United States, studies show that atheists are frequently held in low regard (See: Views on atheists). The prominent New Atheist Sam Harris said concerning the label of atheist, "It's right next to child molester as a designation."
Discover magazine wrote about Cook's study:
|“||These death thoughts help trigger a subconscious dislike of atheists, said study leader Corey Cook, a social psychologist at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Not only do thoughts of death put people in a negative frame of mind, Cook told Live Science, but they also prompt people to hold more tightly onto their own values.||”|
Nordic Psychology journal article on public's perception of atheists
The abstract for the 2016 journal article entitled Atheism and how it is perceived: Manipulation of, bias against and ways to reduce the bias which was published in the journal Nordic Psychology indicates: "...atheists are distrusted, elicit disgust and are viewed as immoral both explicitly and implicitly".
Militant atheists and the War on Christmas
See also: Atheism and Christmas
Robert Small wrote in his American Thinker article entitled Self-Righteous Atheists Are Misguided Killjoys:
|“|| It's that time of year again. 'T'is the season to be jolly -- or, if you're an atheist activist, to throw a wet blanket over the holidays.
In California, long the birthplace of national trends, they succeeded in getting a federal judge to ban not only Nativity scenes, but also secular displays from Santa Monica's Palisades Park. Un-decking the public halls and squares is becoming our new national tradition, because equal-opportunity speech isn't good enough for self-righteous atheists. They won't rest until all remnants of our Judeo-Christian heritage are wiped clean from civic life in their quest for secular purity.
Christian patience, forgiveness and long-suffering towards atheists
Although it is not reported in the press often, due the press preferring to focus on controversy and conflict, as it garners more viewership/readers, many Christians quietly pray for atheists/agnostics - even those of the militant variety such as Richard Dawkins. The late atheist Christopher Hitchens had many Christians praying for him before he passed away and they were saddened when he died.
Richard Wurmbrand, who endured years of torture by an atheistic communist government and wrote the wrote the book Tortured for Christ, indicated that he had a compassion even for those who tortured him by "looking at men .. not as they are, but as they will be ... I could also see in our persecutors ... a future Apostle Paul ... (and) the jailer in Philippi who became a convert."
Jesus Christ said pray for those who persecute you and love your enemies (Matthew 5:44).
"These days, barely a week passes without the emergence of yet more evidence that atheists are the most irritating people on Earth." - the atheist Brendan O'Neill, The Telegraph, "How Atheists Became the Most Colossally Smug and Annoying People on the Planet", August 14, 2013 
- Roberts, Jessica, et al. (June 19, 2007). "Interview with an atheist". News21. Retrieved on July 30, 2014.
- NEWSWEEK Poll: 90% Believe in God, Newsweek 2007
- Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists
- Atheists Widely Distrusted, Even Among Themselves, UK Study Finds, Christian Post, 2015
- Anti-atheist distrust ‘deeply and culturally ingrained’, study finds, The Independent, 2015
- Edgell, Gerteis & Hartmann 2006
- Atheist, Humanist, Secular: Why Fight Over Labels? by Roy Speckhardt. HuffPost Religion
- Fun with atheists by Theodore Beale
- Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements By Massimo Pigliucci Scientia Salon, Posted: May 13, 2015
- Atheism and Secularity edited by Phil Zuckerman, page 84
- Atheists As “Other”: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society, Penny Edgell, Joseph Gerteis, Douglas Hartmann, University of Minnesota, 2006
- Atheists As “Other”: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society, Penny Edgell, Joseph Gerteis, Douglas Hartmann, University of Minnesota, 2006
- Atheists Remain Most Disliked Religious Minority in the US
- Study: Atheists remain the most disliked religious minority in the U.S.
- An Atheist Walks into a Christian Meeting about Atheism by Kevin Davis
- 2013 Freedom of Thought by International Humanist and Ethical Union
- Why Americans Hate Atheists by Phil Zuckerman
- Multiple references:
- Kosmin, Barry A., et al. (2008). "American nones: Profile of the no religion population". American Religion Survey website [Trinity College, Hartford, CT]. Retrieved from Internet Archive.
- Britt, Robert Roy (February 28, 2009). "Women more religious than men". Live Science website.
- A God? That's complicated. Canadians hanging on to personal faith as organized religion declines: poll , National Post, 2015
- The Atheism Gap By Stephen L. Carter, BloombergView, Mar 27, 2015 4:26 PM EDT
- Gallup: Blacks Most Religious Group in U.S.
- Understanding Hispanic culture
- U.S. evangelical Christians are chilly toward atheists – and the feeling is mutual
- Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey - Key findings
- Belief in God Far Lower in Western U.S. Gallup.com. Retrieved on 2012-02-05.
- 2013 FBI hate crime statistics
- Atheism: The Next Civil Rights movement, Vlad Chituc, The Daily Beast, 4-6-2015
- Richard Dawkins: Atheism’s asset or liability? by Kimberly Winston, Washington Post, source: Religion News Service, August 7, 2014
- The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins, New Republic by John Gray
- Jennifer McCreight on the Twitter about the Elevatorgate scandal
- Down's Syndrome girl passes six GCSEs as dad calls Richard Dawkins 'an ignorant idiot', Mirror by By Grace Macaskill, Aug 23, 2014 15:41
- The 12-Stage 'Evolution' Of A Richard Dawkins Twitter Scandal by Paul Vale, The Huffington Post UK, Posted: 22/08/2014 02:06 BST
- Disliked, not oppressed By Paul Thornton, LA Times, April 7, 2007
- Atheists Demand Grieving Mom Take Down Cross Remembering Her Son by David French, Christian Post, March 13, 2014
- "Smoking gun proof that there is an atheist media bias" (July 17, 2008). YouTube video, 2:56, posted by Atheism Sucks! Retrieved on July 25, 2014.
- Definition of atheophobia at Allwords.com
- Fear of death: worst if you’re a little religious?, World of Science]
- J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2005, Jul;60(4):P207-14. Does religiousness buffer against the fear of death and dying in late adulthood? Findings from a longitudinal study. Wink P1, Scott J.
- Atheism Terrifies People Because It Makes Us Think About Death by Simon Davis, Vice News, May 11, 2015
- Atheists Inspire Thoughts of Death in Many Americans by Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience, Discover magazine, May 23, 2015 09:25 AM ET
- Atheism and how it is perceived: Manipulation of, bias against and ways to reduce the bias by Gerhard Andersson, Nordic Psychology 68(3):1-10 · January 2016, DOI: 10.1080/19012276.2015.1125304
- Self-Righteous Atheists Are Misguided Killjoys by Robert Small, Amnerican Thinker
- Richard Dawkins upset that public doesn’t like him by Warren Nunn, Published by Creation Ministries International 13 May 2014 (GMT+10)
- Christians Grieve Death of Christopher Hitchens; Share Hopes for Deathbed Conversion by Eryn Sun, Christian Post Reporter, December 16, 2011
- dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs. Jesus Freaks: Stories of those who stood for Jesus: the ultimate Jesus Freaks. Bethany House Publishers, 1999, p. 67
- O'Neill, Brendan (August 14, 2013). "How atheists became the most colossally smug and annoying people on the planet". The Telegraph website/Brendan O'Neill [blog]. Retrieved on October 3, 2014. [atheist author]