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"In atheists we distrust"


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#16    me-wonders

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:28 AM

View PostMr Walker, on 29 December 2012 - 12:30 AM, said:

The title for this thread comes from a short article by Ara Norenzayan, associate professor of psychology at the university of Vancover in British Columbia in the New Scientist 17 march 2012 I will write out the article here

One of the most persistent but hidden prejudices tied to religion is intolerance of atheists.Surveys consistently find that  in societies with religious majorities, atheists have one of the lowest approval ratings of any social group, including other religions.(American Sociological review, vol. 71, p 211)

This intolerance has a long history., Back in 1689 Enlightenmant philosopher John Locke wrote in "A Letter Concerning Toleration."

"Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, Covenants and Oaths, which are the Bonds Of Humane Society, can have no hold upon an atheist"

Why do believers reject atheists, who are not a visible, powerful or even coherent social group? The answer seems to be the same force that helped religions expand while maintaing social cohesion: supernatural surveillance.

My colleagues Will Gervaise, Azim shariff and I have found that Locke's intuition-that atheists cannot be trusted to cooperate- is the root of the intolerance.(Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol.101,p.1189)

Outward displays of belief in a watchful God are viewed as a proxy for trustworthiness. Intolerance of atheists is driven by the intuition that people behave better if they feel that a God is watching them.

While atheists think of their disbelief as a private matter of conscience, believers treat their absence of belief in a supernatural surveillance as a threat to cooperation and honesty.

Any spelling errors etc. are my own.

I am interested in comments, opinions and observations, on this POV.

I would disagree with Locke on this point.  I think it is an unfounded prejudice to assume atheist lack morals and integrity.  Both are a matter of reason.  Those who understand this, are likely to have the highest morals.   I think failure to understand this is a problem caused by religion.  Acting on belief rather than reason, can be very problematic.  Killing people suspected of being witches, or enemies of God, may seem like the right thing to do, to a person of faith, but the rest of us judge this as misguided.   Reason devoid of moral judgment is not a good thing, and God is not required for good moral judgment, but reason is.


#17    Paranoid Android

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:33 AM

View PostMr Walker, on 29 December 2012 - 02:32 AM, said:

Thanks for the replies so far. They are interesting and diverse. Would anyone like to comment on the speciific speculation that a society's distrust of atheists comes from the perception that, if they do not believe a powerful god is watching them, they will not be as honest or trustworthy as a person who does hold such a belief?
And fair warning here, there IS a sort of trap in this question.
I vaguely recall posing a similar question several years ago on the forum.  If a non-believer tries to convince a believer that they are wrong, and the believer does the right thing solely because he believes he's being watched then what if the non-believer succeeds and the believer stops believing?  Without someone looking over their shoulder is it possible that the believer might start to act badly because they think they can get away with it.

I don't know if this is along the lines of where you're taking this, but I thought I'd add my thoughts in any case :tu:

~ Regards, PA

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#18    me-wonders

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:38 AM

View PostlibstaK, on 29 December 2012 - 01:00 AM, said:

I have never understood the concept of vilifying atheists or anyone with differing beliefs.

It seems that if God himself gave us free will - then where do we get off subjugating the free will of our fellow man?  I know that my life is my own and put bluntly "none of anyone elses business" how I go about living it and what I choose to believe, as long as I am not hurting anyone else.

So if I want and believe I deserve to live my life as I see fit, why would I deny others the same?

Distrust is born of fear and ignorance, if you wish to overcome distrust of others belief systems then take the time to learn why they believe as they do, show some empathy for others paths in life.  To walk a day in anothers shoes is a huge sacrifice and that alone ensures it can reap huge rewards in our level of understanding and capacity to obtain wisdom.

Additionally, with all the belief systems in the world today it is a blessing to have "devils advocates" who take the opposing view or impel us to question why we think the way we do and what evidence we have to follow our chosen beliefs else we would blindly follow anything and comprehend nothing.

"where do we get off subjugating the free will of our fellow man?"   Because if someone violates the law bad things will happen.   No amount of prayers, burning of candles, or animal sacrifices will change the law of cause and effect.   Because bad will follow a wrong, the wrong needs to be avoided.

Paranoid Android,  "Without someone looking over their shoulder is it possible that the believer might start to act badly because they think they can get away with it."  This is bad reasoning.  It would not be the wrong thing to do, unless something bad happens, and the consequences follow the action.   However as White Unicorn said, sometimes believers do believe they can get away with wrongs, if they pray, or burn candles, or donate money to the church.   This is why Martin Luther got so upset with the church, which was glad to accept these offerings to pay for a cathedral.  He argued believing God can be bribed would increase transgressions.

Edited by me-wonders, 29 December 2012 - 04:48 AM.


#19    Paranoid Android

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:39 AM

View PostSeeker79, on 29 December 2012 - 02:36 AM, said:

Indeed, but a fundamental atheist isnt likely to have the god said so excuse. Though they might have an extreme view of something like survival of the fittest.
True, but they may resort to the "Dawkins said so" excuse.  Or the "Darwin said so" excuse.  A former colleague of mine once asked me if I were religious.  When I said I went to church and believed in the God of the Bible he said that it was his firm belief that I was brainwashed and/or had a mental illness.  He had the "Adam said so" excuse, him being named Adam and such.

Edited by Paranoid Android, 29 December 2012 - 04:40 AM.

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#20    libstaK

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 10:09 AM

View Postme-wonders, on 29 December 2012 - 04:38 AM, said:

"where do we get off subjugating the free will of our fellow man?"   Because if someone violates the law bad things will happen.   No amount of prayers, burning of candles, or animal sacrifices will change the law of cause and effect.   Because bad will follow a wrong, the wrong needs to be avoided.
I agree Me Wonders, but see that is the point.  Cause and effect is each individuals responsibility and choice as in which effect they enact with their causes.  There are laws of the land in every nation, these I have no problem with as they are designed to ensure people are safe from harm, particularly from each other.

However, criticizing someone for their religious views or lack of religious view is not our place.  The fact is, if they knew different they would believe different.  Each person can only believe that which they know or understand.  We would need to live their life, walk in their shoes, to understand how they came to their various views on life and I do not believe we can say with any certainty that we would believe any different if we had lived the lives given to others.

The best opportunity we have to help anyone is to be something they can aspire to.  If we present ourselves and our beliefs as a means of being a genuinely better human being with potential for greater understanding then we are standing on solid ground that others may see and wish to share in.

Edited by libstaK, 29 December 2012 - 10:10 AM.

"I warn you, whoever you are, oh you who wish to probe the arcanes of nature, if you do not find within yourself that which you seek, neither shall you find it outside.
If you ignore the excellencies of your own house, how do you intend to find other excellencies?
In you is hidden the treasure of treasures, Oh man, know thyself and you shall know the Universe and the Gods."

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#21    GreenmansGod

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 12:47 PM

If I recall Walker we have had many discussions about the idea an atheist doesn't have a moral foundation without god which I have taken exception too. My father was atheist and a moral man.  More moral than many Christians I have encountered. My father never dumped a friend because of their beliefs, which is more than I can say about the Christians who dumped me when they found out I had become a Pagan. I find atheist morality comes from empathy and ethics, which works for me. I don't understand why theist can see that. I guess it is a lack of education on their part.
Fundamentalist of any religion scare me.  Why, they have this idea their way is the only way and like to take away freedom of thought, so they can impose their belief system on everyone. While atheistism has never stopped a war, never has religion, either.  We been making the mistake of going to war for  one god or another for a long time actually.   Time to rethink that one.

IMO, theist fear atheist because they have been brainwashed that people can't live peaceful happy lives without the fear of divine punishment.

"The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible." Salman Rushdie

#22    Tutankhaten-pasheri

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 01:25 PM

View PostParanoid Android, on 29 December 2012 - 04:33 AM, said:

I vaguely recall posing a similar question several years ago on the forum.  If a non-believer tries to convince a believer that they are wrong, and the believer does the right thing solely because he believes he's being watched then what if the non-believer succeeds and the believer stops believing?  Without someone looking over their shoulder is it possible that the believer might start to act badly because they think they can get away with it.

I don't know if this is along the lines of where you're taking this, but I thought I'd add my thoughts in any case :tu:

~ Regards, PA
I think if the ex believer started doing bad things because they thought they could get away with it, then likely they were already a bad person. If it could be proved that belief acted as a deterence on crime, then it may be possible, in some Orwellian future (Hmm, I think it is our present actually), that some "belief" drug be found and used to control us, all of course in the name of protecting us from whatever......


#23    Paracelse

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:33 PM

View PostMr Walker, on 29 December 2012 - 12:30 AM, said:

The title for this thread comes from a short article by Ara Norenzayan, associate professor of psychology at the university of Vancover in British Columbia in the New Scientist 17 march 2012 I will write out the article here

One of the most persistent but hidden prejudices tied to religion is intolerance of atheists.Surveys consistently find that  in societies with religious majorities, atheists have one of the lowest approval ratings of any social group, including other religions.(American Sociological review, vol. 71, p 211)

This intolerance has a long history., Back in 1689 Enlightenmant philosopher John Locke wrote in "A Letter Concerning Toleration."

"Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, Covenants and Oaths, which are the Bonds Of Humane Society, can have no hold upon an atheist"

Why do believers reject atheists, who are not a visible, powerful or even coherent social group? The answer seems to be the same force that helped religions expand while maintaing social cohesion: supernatural surveillance.

My colleagues Will Gervaise, Azim shariff and I have found that Locke's intuition-that atheists cannot be trusted to cooperate- is the root of the intolerance.(Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol.101,p.1189)

Outward displays of belief in a watchful God are viewed as a proxy for trustworthiness. Intolerance of atheists is driven by the intuition that people behave better if they feel that a God is watching them.

While atheists think of their disbelief as a private matter of conscience, believers treat their absence of belief in a supernatural surveillance as a threat to cooperation and honesty.

Any spelling errors etc. are my own.

I am interested in comments, opinions and observations, on this POV.

Did whatchamacallit Ara Norenzayan did a little research about John Locke before quoting him.  I did a entire class on his work while working on my Poli-Sci master.  John Locke had to flee England and go to Paris because he was wanted by the protestants.  He had to reconcile with the church in order to return to UK.  So I would put a serious ton of salt on anything Locke wrote about worship.  In fact he feared religious people.  Just my 2 cents.

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#24    me-wonders

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:36 PM

View PostlibstaK, on 29 December 2012 - 10:09 AM, said:

I agree Me Wonders, but see that is the point.  Cause and effect is each individuals responsibility and choice as in which effect they enact with their causes.  There are laws of the land in every nation, these I have no problem with as they are designed to ensure people are safe from harm, particularly from each other.

However, criticizing someone for their religious views or lack of religious view is not our place.  The fact is, if they knew different they would believe different.  Each person can only believe that which they know or understand.  We would need to live their life, walk in their shoes, to understand how they came to their various views on life and I do not believe we can say with any certainty that we would believe any different if we had lived the lives given to others.

The best opportunity we have to help anyone is to be something they can aspire to.  If we present ourselves and our beliefs as a means of being a genuinely better human being with potential for greater understanding then we are standing on solid ground that others may see and wish to share in.

You make a good argument and let me through in my grandmother perspective, okay?  I never was too sure about anything.  I enabled my children to do pretty much anything they wanted to do, and when I thought the schools were wrong, I didn't stand firm.  Boy, do I regret all that.  There are rules to getting ahead in any society, and if people do not understand them they are going to loose.  Knowing the rules of the country and culture in which one lives, is a survival matter, especially when the economy goes bad.   And when the mass is ruleless the whole civilization is in trouble.

What we are experiencing now is not the 1960 southern California I remember.  Anyone who wanted a job could walking into the employment and walk out with his/her choice of a job and go to work that day or the next day.  No resume was needed.  A person didn't even have to know how to read.  The thread about how technology is taking jobs, discusses this reality, and how we no longer need a mass of unskilled labor.  That means, life at this end of the economic ladder is looking very grim.  As the numbers of welfare people swell, the state budgets are stressed and the answer is to leave women and children on the streets because we can not afford to cover their needs.  We are in denial of our reality, and like to believe homeless people are just bums we can drive away.  Now being able to compete with a good knowledge of social rules is very, very important.

When I came of age, a woman understood the risk of sex without marriage, and there was no welfare or food stamps.  A woman can not work to support to child and be home to care for the child too.  Like staying virgin until marriage was a really good idea.   But back then marriage also meant something.  We had a better chance of marrying men who assumed the responsibility for supporting their wives and children, and we assumed the woman would stay home to care for everyone.  These are workable rules, or what we call morals.   Violating these rules is not just a matter of personal choice, because there are social ramifications to not following the rules.  No woman can aspire to be the ideal mother and wife in a society that no longer values this.  Now what?

My daughter held a very low opinion of me, because her father walked out during the 1970 recession and I did not have the work experience to compete for a job, and the economy would not provide the job for which I was educated.  But now, as I continue to press for the family coming together and learning how to get along, so we can survive a worsening job situation, my family values and rules about good manners, etc.  are starting to make sense to her.

Have I made it clear how a good economy makes it possible for us to be pretty ruleless, and how a bad economy can make understanding the rules very important?
Those who do not understand them and are not willing to play by them, are homeless and they are getting pushed further and further to the margins of society, and their children will not have the chance of snow flake in hell, because they will not be conditioned to succeed.   Perhaps we need to rethink our freedoms?


#25    me-wonders

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:47 PM

View PostAtentutankh-pasheri, on 29 December 2012 - 01:25 PM, said:

I think if the ex believer started doing bad things because they thought they could get away with it, then likely they were already a bad person. If it could be proved that belief acted as a deterence on crime, then it may be possible, in some Orwellian future (Hmm, I think it is our present actually), that some "belief" drug be found and used to control us, all of course in the name of protecting us from whatever......

Bad person?   What is a bad person?   Might there be good in a bad person?   If you do something wrong, does that make you a bad person?

It is not a good idea to raise a child by telling the child s/he is bad.  The intention is to teach the child the difference between right and wrong, but what the child hears is what is true of who s/he is.    We want children to understand the difference between right and wrong, without identifying oneself as a bad person.


#26    me-wonders

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:51 PM

View PostParacelse, on 29 December 2012 - 04:33 PM, said:

Did whatchamacallit Ara Norenzayan did a little research about John Locke before quoting him.  I did a entire class on his work while working on my Poli-Sci master.  John Locke had to flee England and go to Paris because he was wanted by the protestants.  He had to reconcile with the church in order to return to UK.  So I would put a serious ton of salt on anything Locke wrote about worship.  In fact he feared religious people.  Just my 2 cents.

He was not the only one to fear religious people.  The difference back then really was education.  Well, education did not buy into the biblical mythology.  They understood the social benefits of religion, and also the draw backs.  If anyone cares, literacy in Greek and Roman classics is essential to a healthy understanding of freedom.  What we have today is uneducated and unhealthy!


#27    libstaK

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:53 PM

View Postme-wonders, on 29 December 2012 - 04:36 PM, said:

Have I made it clear how a good economy makes it possible for us to be pretty ruleless, and how a bad economy can make understanding the rules very important?
Those who do not understand them and are not willing to play by them, are homeless and they are getting pushed further and further to the margins of society, and their children will not have the chance of snow flake in hell, because they will not be conditioned to succeed.   Perhaps we need to rethink our freedoms?

The choice each person makes in their personal morals and values are important.  However, I do need to qualify that I made my comments in context with the OP - aka: "In Atheism we distrust".  The concept of interfering with peoples free will to choose whether to believe or disbelieve in a supreme being and which faith they choose if they do believe is what is at question in this thread.  To add all surrounding sociological factors regarding choice is going to remove the context of the proposed discussion.

That said, yes every choice has a consequence.  Some are foreseeable, many are not.  Hindsight is a great teacher but a poor master.  The fact remains that people are entitled to their own choices, and if they are to suffer for them it should not be by the criticism of their friends, family or passers by in the street for not being "smarter", "wiser" or "religious" aka: it should not be our place to criticise because others do not see the world as we do and especially they should not be distrusted because they have not had the evidence to believe in a supreme being or God.

"I warn you, whoever you are, oh you who wish to probe the arcanes of nature, if you do not find within yourself that which you seek, neither shall you find it outside.
If you ignore the excellencies of your own house, how do you intend to find other excellencies?
In you is hidden the treasure of treasures, Oh man, know thyself and you shall know the Universe and the Gods."

Inscription - Temple of Delphi

#28    Mr Walker

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 12:42 AM

View PostDarkwind, on 29 December 2012 - 12:47 PM, said:

If I recall Walker we have had many discussions about the idea an atheist doesn't have a moral foundation without god which I have taken exception too. My father was atheist and a moral man.  More moral than many Christians I have encountered. My father never dumped a friend because of their beliefs, which is more than I can say about the Christians who dumped me when they found out I had become a Pagan. I find atheist morality comes from empathy and ethics, which works for me. I don't understand why theist can see that. I guess it is a lack of education on their part.
Fundamentalist of any religion scare me.  Why, they have this idea their way is the only way and like to take away freedom of thought, so they can impose their belief system on everyone. While atheistism has never stopped a war, never has religion, either.  We been making the mistake of going to war for  one god or another for a long time actually.   Time to rethink that one.

IMO, theist fear atheist because they have been brainwashed that people can't live peaceful happy lives without the fear of divine punishment.

Ah but neither this article, nor my own position, is that humans cannot have morality without a belief in "god". It is that others perceive/believ this to be so, and so distrust a non believer.

The actual "truth" is revealed in many psychological and anthropological/sociological studies, and suprised and disappointed me. I will get to that later.

My own opinion is that human ethics, and moralities, and spirituality, have the same source within our evolved nature, and are constructed from the same abilities inherent in human sapience and language.

Edited by Mr Walker, 30 December 2012 - 12:51 AM.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#29    Mr Walker

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 12:49 AM

View Postme-wonders, on 29 December 2012 - 04:47 PM, said:

Bad person?   What is a bad person?   Might there be good in a bad person?   If you do something wrong, does that make you a bad person?

It is not a good idea to raise a child by telling the child s/he is bad.  The intention is to teach the child the difference between right and wrong, but what the child hears is what is true of who s/he is. We want children to understand the difference between right and wrong, without identifying oneself as a bad person.

Not only do i like this but it is incredibly important with children (and with adults) to differentiate to them disapproval of behaviour, from approval and love of them as a child/person. I was consistently punished for bad behaviour, but always loved completely and absolutely, in theory/words and in practice; and rewarded for good behaviour in  a variety of tangible and non tangible ways.

My father went back to night school, for example, to learn the new maths curriculum, so that he could help his children with their maths homework and improve their outcomes. That is a sign of true love. It didn't stop him caning me for dangerous, stupid disobedient or destructive behaviours though, and i loved him even more for his courage to do both.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#30    me-wonders

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 08:01 AM

View PostlibstaK, on 29 December 2012 - 10:09 AM, said:

I agree Me Wonders, but see that is the point.  Cause and effect is each individuals responsibility and choice as in which effect they enact with their causes.  There are laws of the land in every nation, these I have no problem with as they are designed to ensure people are safe from harm, particularly from each other.

However, criticizing someone for their religious views or lack of religious view is not our place.  The fact is, if they knew different they would believe different.  Each person can only believe that which they know or understand.  We would need to live their life, walk in their shoes, to understand how they came to their various views on life and I do not believe we can say with any certainty that we would believe any different if we had lived the lives given to others.

The best opportunity we have to help anyone is to be something they can aspire to.  If we present ourselves and our beliefs as a means of being a genuinely better human being with potential for greater understanding then we are standing on solid ground that others may see and wish to share in.

I am coming back, because I read you again, and think I did misunderstand you the first time.  However, I want to leave my misunderstanding stand, because I want to emphasize the importance of reasoning, and regardless of if a person is a believer or a non believer, there are times when we need to encourage others to question what they believe.  I have very strong feelings about getting scientist to be more concerned about morality!  I want bankers and just about everyone to be very concerned about morality.  What we think and decide to do, is not just personal, but effects others and our planet.   I am not atheist and wish everyone held an understanding of logos and Rita.  

Now back to what I said the first time.

Let me be sure I understand you correctly, if someone decides to be a suicide bomber, this person should not be criticized for this decision?  If Billy Graham and Bush Jr. work together to convince us that it is God's will we engage in war with a country that did not attack us, and people are going along with this for religious reasons, we should not criticize them?   If for religious reasons, Palestinians loose their homes and orchards and people they love, we should not criticize this?   How about contributing to the destruction of the planet, because one chooses to ignore science?  How about the 2012 Texas Republican Agenda of preventing public schools from teaching the higher thinking skills necessary for independent judgment?  Like is there a line where we can say no, this is not right, or should we allow religious (and non religious) people to do whatever, on the grounds this is their religious (or intellectual) freedom?

Edited by me-wonders, 30 December 2012 - 08:20 AM.





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