Researchers Say that Religious People Dislike Atheism (and Atheists) because They Associate Them with Death

Researchers from the University of Washington, Tacoma and the College of Staten Island have conducted a study that indicates American religious students who are instructed to think about Atheism think about death as well and to the same extent as when instructed to think about death itself. The researchers believe that this association between Atheism and death drives the religious to defend their values against Atheists in America and contributes to Atheism in America being held in low esteem. Per the article:  

…."Atheists in America have an image problem. Studies and surveys consistently rank nonbelievers as untrustworthy, threatening and un-American. Researchers reporting in a 2011 paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology even found that people viewed atheists as equally untrustworthy as rapists. This previous work found that atheists are perceived as without morals and values, Cook said….Now, research suggests one reason why: Thinking about atheists reminds people of death….We found that thinking about atheism actually increased thoughts of death to the same extent as thinking about death itself," said Cook…. These death thoughts help trigger a subconscious dislike of atheists, said study leader Corey Cook…. Not only do thoughts of death put people in a negative frame of mind, Cook told Live Science, but they also prompt people to hold more tightly onto their own values….When people are reminded of their own impending deaths, they become more protective of their worldviews and show increased prejudice against those with different worldviews….

The research has been reported in the journal, Social Psychology and Personality Science.

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Replies to This Discussion

Yeah, I've heard about this study on a couple of atheist podcasts, already.  It's one of those studies that provides numbers for something that we already knew or at least strongly suspected.

These thoughts about death and the irreverence of atheistic views are foolish. That somebody else's ideas can have  any relevance to another's mortality is witchcraft. It's an example of the similarities between religion and the black arts. Once you step beyond the powers of human reason and start considering things outside of reality, anything imaginable is real, and reality becomes anything one can imagine.

Well, if you were expecting rationality from religious people, on the subject of death, you're going to the wrong place.  Religion infantalizes people in many ways and gives them a pacifier, so they don't have to cope with their own mortality.

Personally, I take this as one of the many indicators that those who are screaming the loudest about how certain they are about their religious beliefs are some of the least sure of themselves.  If they were really that sure of themselves, we wouldn't have such an effect on them.

So true Joseph, it is so often their insecurity that makes them louder and more pushy than the quietly strong believers, because they seek reassurance from others all the time, and if that reassurance is trodden on by non-believers, they are deeply disparaged and will fight back harder to try and reassure themselves of their path to immortality. 

I have known many with both strong and threatened beliefs.

My strong believing friends don't bother to argue, they are content with their beliefs that cannot be shaken by anything, it is a waste of time even bringing up the subject of religion, they won't discuss it.

Where those with threatened beliefs will jump down my throat and call me names for bringing up the subject, though I had turned one of them and now he sees my point of view more clearly than when we first met.  He even applauded my comments when he witnessed my attacking the other loud Xtian bigot who stands on street corners, looking for reassurance.

Well, that's my perception of the events.

I enjoy attacking those who appear threatened

Heckling street preachers can also be fun!


There was a YouTube video opining how some extremely intelligent people were total scum in real life. They did a segment on Richard Dawkins, saying how great his theories of genetics were. But then to make him look like an asshole, they started talking about his atheism and how he thinks believers are delusional.

You said that Dawkins said some negative things.  What were those?

Dawkins wrote the book "The God Delusion," which lays out an airtight argument that theists are delusional. To me, his saying this does not reflect negatively on him. It sheds light on the deficient thought processes of the masses.

But what were the negative things he said?  You haven't relayed anything negative yet, just factual details.

I'm not saying that he insulted them. But I can understand that by being called delusional, believers would feel insulted, as if he said something negative about them. It's no fun to be called "stupid" and "crazy," especially when it may be true. Truth is, whether they like it or not, believers are nutzo.

They're saying that he insulted them, though.  ^.^

That book was a masterpiece.

Eh, I've seen better, following it.  It was just very important and broad-based, for the time that it was released.  It's the sort of book that was needed to start the conversation going in the public sphere, even if some of the arguments aren't the sort I would make.




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