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Mr Walker

"In atheists we distrust"

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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.

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Simply because Religious people see their religion as the biggest and most important thing in their lives and to have someone ridicule, belittle or find preposterous that belief is a insult to them and makes them feel vulnerable in knowing that the thing they look up to the most is not without criticism which calls them to question that belief and subsequently takes them out of their comfort zone.

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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.

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Small correction. There is no University of Vancouver in British Columbia, but there is a University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

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I lll trust an atheist far sooner than a fundamentalist. That's for sure.

I have seen "scales" of spiritual development that put atheistic thought quite high on the development list, as aposed those that follow specific religions.

Where the problem exist is the assumption that morality is based on spiritual beliefs....it is in a way, but morality comes from a deeper place me thinks.

I tend to fall into the cultural relativist camp on morality. Religons ten to influence culture, therefor anyone not believing in that religion is suspect, even though that person is just as affected by the moral base of the religion despite not being a follower of it.

Edited by Seeker79
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I lll trust an atheist far sooner than a fundamentalist. That's for sure.

What about a fundamentalist atheist? I see the general point in what you're trying to say, but fundies exist in every group, even atheists.

Just my thoughts,

~ Regards,

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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.

Such a brilliant post and very well put. :tu:

What about a fundamentalist atheist? I see the general point in what you're trying to say, but fundies exist in every group, even atheists.

Just my thoughts,

~ Regards,

Tried to make this point before myself, you get people who treat Science like a religion. They quote science textbooks as thought they are bible verses.

The people who do this clearly do not understand science just as much as an extremist/fundamentalist does not understand their religion.

Edited by Coffey
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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.

That's an interesting view that the religious people would say is true.

God may have created the universe but man has created religions and everyone should keep that in mind.

When ever a prophet gets a message from God that they have gone to far we can see the religion's reaction to the messages...prophets all face prosecution one way or another.

The wheel of life turns but all spokes which are paths can lead to the center of the wheel which is God. We even have the choice of going outward and being flung off the wheel but the center still exists, we just don't see it from the point of view where we're at.

Athiests can be more honest because they do not just believe out of tradition which may hide the path in a way, because of another's misconceptions. I find many athiests had a religion forced upon them as children and turn from it but in the end with time they realize they were fighting the misconceptions of the religion not against the spiritual doctrine that is the truth that inspired it.

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Small correction. There is no University of Vancouver in British Columbia, but there is a University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Thanks I transposed the titles. Will teach me to work from memory. I checked and that's the one.

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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.

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What about a fundamentalist atheist? I see the general point in what you're trying to say, but fundies exist in every group, even atheists.

Just my thoughts,

~ Regards,

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.

Edited by Seeker79
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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'd say this a reflection of the person who believes such a thing. If Somone were to tell that to me, I would be very glad they have a god watching them. :)

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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 think this is a suspicion that very staunch believers in God and objective moral values have; that they get their morals, ethics and good character and will from god and so seeing someone who gives God the cold-shoulder puts them into defense mode because to them; the big bad Atheist won't take the 'Objective Moral Values' that God has created at face value and will choose to live by their own (and compared to Gods' standards: Inferior) codes and ethics and so will do what they please without thought or fear of an end-game consequence and in the minds of the believer, this is dangerous because they think that gives the Atheist the notion that he/she can do as they please (and we all know what would happen if consequence never existed in our societies).

In Dostoevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov, the well known phrase is spoke (Translations vary but it's relevant anyway) : "If God does not exist, everything is permitted.".

It is this same fearful thinking that I think the religious people feel when knowing that there are those who walk among them that hold the law of God with disregard and omit it's authority from their lives. I'd compare it to a peaceful village inhabited with law abiding, good willed citizens. These citizens know man in the village who does not do the usual village hogwash; take part in the summer games, attend town meetings, trim his bush regularly etc. (No pun intended)

The people of the village are automatically weary of this man because, although he has done them no harm, his lack of conformity and abidance of the established way of life in the village sticks out like an sore thumb an thus niggles at and annoys the villagers who hate the fact that the established and accepted order has been broken by this man...and they don't like it nor do they understand his 'absurd' way of living ergo they end up creating a prejudiced image of him. "If he isn't with us, surely he is against us."

Simply put, people want others to think like them because they feel comfortable in thinking they are not alone and want to be right; no one wants conflict, least not when it involves the things they hold dearest like Family, business or pets and God is no different.

P.S The above is actually a true story too.

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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.

Sometimes that belief leads to the discovery that some of those really so called "Christian" people do what they will because all will still be forgiven by a savior instead of following the laws with the compassion of love and turning away from a lower nature as their savior intended them to do!

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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.

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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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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

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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
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"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
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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.

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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......

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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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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?

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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.

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