How much Americans Dislike Atheists

Continuing the discussion from Poll: 54% of Republicans believe, “deep down,” Obama is a Muslim:

Salon just had an article today on the topic of the original post (Obama not being Christian) in which the author asks why, if calling Obama Muslim is just anti-Obama cheerleading why they don’t call him an atheist. In linked to some Pew research on how Americans see people of different religions which puts atheists as essentially tied with Muslims as the least liked “religion.”

There are lots of charts, but this is the one that I found most interesting:

Personal Familiarity with Group Members Linked With More Positive Views

If you do a little subtraction, you see that for Abrahamic religions knowing someone of that faith increases the opinion of people of that faith by 14-17. For the others, knowing someone increases “warm feelings” by 21 or 22 points.

I think maybe a lot of people are very alienated from the idea of a non-monotheism. When you replace God with gods (even if zero gods) people think that will somehow make a really big difference in how people live their lives or see the world. Since people are people, that is dispelable by knowing atheists (and Hindus and Buddhists). When someone doesn’t know any atheists (that is, they don’t think they know any) then atheists are very clearly the bottom of the barrel, noticeably lower than muslims.

Of course this is all means and that’s a little misleading. Despite Jews being #1 in the most warmly regarded religion here, Jewish Americans are clearly more likely to face discrimination for their religion than Christian Americans are. It would be interesting to see not only the mean but also the variance.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading the research, if only for this bolded line:

Both Jews and Atheists Rate Evangelicals Negatively, but Evangelicals Rate Jews Highly



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As far as I can tell, the Abrahamic religions are all willing to allow each other as long as they can hate the atheists for the same reasoning as below:

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Unfortunately, I do not think they say that as a slur in that way… but as a tie in to the war on terror. While I would be surprised if they ever bothered to actually stop and think this out… they are implying he is a mole craftily put in place by “the terrorists”.

That’s actually what my fundie grandma thinks exactly. But rather than put in place by terrorists in order to further terror oriented goals, that the terrorists themselves are pawns of the antichrist, and that Obama is the antichrist’s representative to the American people.

Needless to say, I try to stay off topics like government when she’s around. I’d rather just listen to her talk about what she does around the homestead in Boring Oregon, where she lives most of the time.


I’d love to see a really in depth study on exactly WHY so many people dislike atheists…do they equate us with Satanists or super-militant anti-religious people? I always see that we are quite unpopular but seldom see any reasons…except people in the comments sections guessing. Which I’m not going to do. Anybody seen a poll about the reasons?


I’m an Atheist and I don’t have particularly high opinions of people with the title. Okay, so maybe that’s an overstatement. It’s not the title or the belief that bothers me. It’s really about people who wear it as a badge of pride and honor. My connection to the word isn’t so much myself as it is people who sniggered in my last physics class because the professor used the word “God” in the mere poetic sense. It’s kind of like a fedora: It doesn’t guarantee that the person under it is a douchebag, but…

Of course, there is a fun fact that people do equate Atheists with devil-worshipers or think they have no morals. Ultimately it’s not really the Atheists’ fault but thus far, the most vocal and public Atheists are the people who want to deconvert the masses. It seems to involve a lot of religion bashing to the point of breathless hyperbole, “If there’s no religion, human cruelty and indifference will all but disappear!” Maybe it’s because I have zero-interest in making more people Atheist, but to me it doesn’t seem like it helps much.


Well said…I just don’t believe, but don’t try to deconvert anyone. I realize that I’m the odd human who doesn’t think the supernatural is real, and consider it to be a natural result of human neurology (pattern recognition, assumption of agency, and of course, motivated reasoning…who wants to believe that someday they will just stop being?)
So I don’t run around talking about how much I don’t believe…I just don’t. I don’t try to set myself apart from the believers and join them when our interests coincide. I’ve worked with scientifically literate Christians to fight Creationist textbooks, I’ve volunteered with church groups during natural disasters, and I’ve switched airline meals with someone when the airline forgot a halal meal. Maybe that’s why the people I know haven’t freaked out when they’ve found out. But it really bothers me that most people think we’re monsters.

I’m fairly sure nobody liked atheists even before Dawkins, Hitchins and /r/atheism entered the fray. As far as I can tell, there’s no evidence that atheists do anything differently from theists, whether it be proselytizing or acting like annoying douchebags. The key distinction is that atheists (in the US, at least) have no political power…or any other kind of power. They are a tiny minority.

That’s why I’d love to see some research…this hatred of atheists is nothing new. In the 50’s, atheists and communists were often in the same sentence in propaganda films. But I think that people like Madeline Murray O’Hare are the image people have, and Dawkins et al are certainly in that mold. I’d love to see some study on her influence. My mother still mentions her when atheism comes up (no, she doesn’t know I’m an unbeliever…in her late 80’s, it would be a harsh blow to her.)

Yeah, but communism was explicitly atheist. The state ridiculed and harassed believers. So I can see why people associated the two things.

A big part of people not liking atheists is that people believe that religion is the source of morals. Therefore atheists are immoral. Not true, but very common point of view.


It’s exactly as you said. I think the greatest detriment to 20th century atheism (in the US) came from the Cold War. Two superpowers with opposite political ideologies must have opposing religious views as well. If those godless commies are on one side, then the other side has to stand for true faith.

Amusingly enough, the closest that the Cold-War era United States came to resembling the Soviet Union was during the Red Scares. Coincidentally, those occurred during the height of religious fervor in post-WWII America.


Probably the main belief they have, or some variant of it. Still, the Muslim angle means that they believe he has been using his role to bring about sharia law in the States, or in some other way undermine the USG efforts in the Middle East.

Granny mole hunters.

Granny Winchester boys, fighting against ominous super conspiracies run from Hell. Exciting. Would make an excellent B movie.

Reminds me of the witch hunting travesties going on in the primitive tribes in New Guinea. Never mind evidence, there is an international cabal much too smart to actually show any evidence. If you are not for the conspiracy, clearly the only thing that says is you are a part of it. Why listen to any arguments in the contrary? Fingers in each ear, “Nananana I can’t hear you”.

Evidence? The Spanish Inquisition does not need evidence!

I wasn’t expecting that.


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