Polls over the past several years have shown that most people don’t trust Atheists. Atheists have been likened to rapists in terms of their trustworthiness, and they are consistently ranked less trustworthy than people of any theistic religion. After all, if a person is God-less, how on Earth could they be trustworthy? Whereas priests who molest little children are often looked at as pillars of morality.
Why is it that Atheists are not trusted by Theists? I find the question interesting because many of the people who are Atheists once were Theists, and therefore, would have once been trustworthy to those non-trusting Theists. Here are my thoughts on why I think this is:
1. Since most Atheists were once theists, this implies they came to the exact opposite conclusion that theists come to. The views aren’t at all compatible…either there is a God or there isn’t, or more specifically, you either believe in a God or you don’t. Therefore, Atheists are different. It’s a common theme in human behavior that people fear things that are different.
2. Religion and the religious teach that Atheists are bad. The bible says things like “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.” Evidently, atheists are incapable of philanthropy. But moreover, there seems to be a fierce anti-intellectual theme in many Christian sects, and the reason for that is that the God argument is not sound logic. If religious people were to invite atheists to make a case for their (dis) belief, it would put their own faith at risk.
3. The inescapable outcome, according to Christians, is that Atheists will burn in hell for their thought crimes. Because they believe this, they believe they are protecting themselves, their family, and their community by shunning Atheists.
I find people’s fear of atheism to be telling of their intellectual dishonesty and ignorance. Consider physics and string theory. Some physicists find string theory stupid, or at least not-at-all useful. Therefore, either a physicist believes that string theory is likely to lead to profound discoveries, or it will likely not. Yet, a string-theory rejectionist can listen to a string-theory advocate without making claims to the other’s trustworthiness. If the string-theory advocate put forward compelling arguments, it may even help to bolster the other’s opinion of them, even if the string-theory advocate failed to convince his audience.
I find that people of faith often don’t want to consider arguments for atheism. That, by itself, is understandable. If I really, truly believe something, lack of investigation would probably lead me to reject claims that are conflicting to my belief. I don’t think it’s immoral to ignore claims that are inconsistent with your beliefs, but I do think it’s dishonest and unethical.