It’s no wonder that atheists poll so badly; according to the same survey, religious folks believe the godless are about as trustworthy as rapists. “While atheists may see their disbelief as a private matter on a metaphysical issue,” explained University of British Columbia psychologist Ara Norenzayan, one of the researchers, “believers may consider atheists’ absence of belief as a public threat to cooperation and honesty.”
This article makes the astute point about belief: for some, it is metaphysics and an intellectual issue; for others it is a rejection of the very fabric of society. Of course, neither are probably quite right: religious belief was probably a result of, not a cause of, social formation; and belief is more than metaphysics, as it can often affect the decisions one makes on a daily basis. At Holey Books, we are trying to look at both the intellectual foundations of religious belief—and the moral ones.
It is still absurd and simplistic to think atheists—or the one of the growing contingent of Americans who don’t cite a particular religious belief—are “about as trustworthy as rapists.” Positively, the article also notes that this view of those with out-of-the-mainstream religious beliefs is declining.