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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Do you believe in atheists? Trust and anti-atheist prejudice Gervais, Will Martin

Abstract

Recent polls (e.g., Edgell, Gerteis & Hartmann, 2006) have consistently found that atheists are the least liked group in America today, a type of prejudice that has barely been researched. This anti-atheist prejudice is surprising because atheists do not constitute a cohesive, recognizable, or powerful group. To the degree that people feel that religion provides a unique and necessary source of morality, they may dislike atheists primarily because of moral distrust towards them. This suggests a distinct origin for anti-atheist prejudice that sets it apart from ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice. We explored this broad hypothesis in a series of three experiments. First, we find that on an implicit level anti-atheist prejudice is driven by distrust rather than a feeling of generalized unpleasantness towards atheists. Second, we find that discrimination against atheists is limited to contexts requiring a high degree of trust. Finally, we find that anti-atheist prejudice is malleable. These findings are discussed in terms of prominent evolutionary theories of religion.

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