Atheists are commonly viewed as “potentially morally depraved and dangerous”, even by other atheists, a study has revealed.
The research, which appears in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, found that “across the world, religious belief is intuitively viewed as a necessary safeguard against the temptations of grossly immoral conduct”.
Researchers looked at the attitudes of more than 3,000 people in 13 different countries across the world. The countries ranged from “very secular”, such as China and the Netherlands, to more religious societies such as the United States, United Arab Emirates and India.
Participants were asked whether a fictional evildoer, who tortured animals as a child before growing up to kill five homeless people, was more likely to be religious or atheist.
Participants across the study group were around twice as likely to assume the man was an atheist.
According to AFP, the research team said this showed the strength of anti-atheist “prejudice” throughout the world.
“It is striking that even atheists appear to hold the same intuitive anti-atheist bias,” said Professor Will Gervais of the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
“I suspect that this stems from the prevalence of deeply entrenched pro-religious norms. Even in places that are currently quite overtly secular, people still seem to intuitively hold on to the belief that religion is a moral safeguard.”
Only the highly secular nations of Finland and New Zealand bucked the trend, while distrust was “very strong in the most highly religious states like the United States, United Arab Emirates and India”.