You’d think Christians, who are taught to love their neighbors as themselves, would be nice to everyone. A new study calls atheists nicer to Christians than the other way around.
To the average Christian, any suggestion that they aren’t the nicest in a group of diverse believers might be a shock. That’s why a study calling atheists nicer to Christians than Christians are to them might be a tough pill to swallow.
When atheists were told of their partner’s religious beliefs, they “behaved impartially toward ingroup and outgroup partners,” the study’s authors wrote in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
However, “Christians consistently demonstrated an ingroup bias”.
Essentially, Christians were hesitant to share with non-Christians. When the religious beliefs were withheld from each other, the perceived bias seemed to disappear, the researchers concluded.
The Independent also mentioned a researcher said it’s unclear whether a “wish to impress” might be part of the equation. That would imply it’s possible Christians weren’t as much trying to be unfair to non-believers but might instead have been trying to put on more of a “show” for their Christian counterparts.
Not that one is better than the other, but it might not be so much anti-atheist as it might sound.
While the study’s interesting, I’ve certainly seen plenty of examples of atheists being unkind to Christians over the years. And I’ve witnessed plenty of examples of atheists being the ones to belittle or ridicule Christians, so I’m not sure either side of this age-old battle has a monopoly on kindness.
Americans in general warming to most religious persuasions
The Pew Research Study used a “feeling thermometer” to measure favorable or unfavorable feelings for the varying groups. Atheists moved up 9 points, from 41%, which would translate into a mostly-negative perception on the part of Americans in general, to 50%.
The only group that didn’t increase in public perception was evangelical Christians, which remained flat at 61%, the study found.
Christians are not called upon to ridicule non-believers. We’re told to love our neighbors, to love our enemies. I don’t consider atheists as “enemies.”
When I criticize on the topic of faith, I’m much more likely to criticize the kind of people Pope Francis was talking about: those who make a public show of a strong Christian faith and then live in a manner that undermines that public show, especially when they’d lambaste anyone they could find being as much a hypocrite.
Let’s face it: it’s the kind of people who are constantly proclaiming their beliefs to others, then behaving when they think no one is looking in the opposite way that are more damaging to the given belief system.
I don’t have anything against atheists. I have no reason to.
But there are, lest we forget, some atheists who make no bones about their dislike of believers and their desire to ridicule people who believe differently. An atheist blogger, for example, wrote a few years back that when asked why he belittles Christians, he said it was like asking an Olympic sprinter why she moved so fast: “that’s kind of the point.”
I don’t know why anyone would want to have a belief system in which the point is to belittle others.
But those people exist.
They exist in the believers’ side and the non-believers’ side.
Maybe we’ll keep going in the direction of learning to respect other peoples’ views. As a believer, I believe all beliefs have qualities that are worth exploring.
It’s a shame there seem to be so few who agree with that.
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.