Study: Atheists Nicer to Christians Than Christians Are to Atheists

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.

The study, led by Ohio University researchers, used a version of “the dictator game,” an experiment in which one of two people has a sum of money and can decide how to split it with a second person:

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

Just last year, a different study found that attitude toward different religious groups among Americans in general were all more positive than they had been, including Muslims or atheists, which both moved up in score from “cool” to “neutral,” closer to the 50% mark.

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.

Back in Febraury 2017, Pope Francis spoke out against Christian hypocrisy, saying it’s better to be an atheist than lead a double life. It wasn’t so much an insult to atheists, I think, as a call to show integrity. He was saying that if you aren’t going to act like a believer is supposed to act, don’t claim to be one.

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.

1 Comment

  1. Some time back, I discovered a message board some local-to-Kansas-City folks had set up for atheists. Some of them were bloggers I followed. On this board, I saw Christians ridiculed in many ways, made fun of and belittled. From that experience, I decided atheists were a bunch of superior-feeling, stuck-up people. One man was especially harsh with his comments; I came to dislike him intensely. Then came Facebook, where the man still ranted at times like a crazy person. I know this because I sent him a friend request and he accepted. Why my friend request? Because he was funny, when he wasn’t being so anti-Christian. I started having some dialogue with him on some “safe” topics and found out he was actually rather likable. Now I consider us casual friends. Since our current president was elected, the guy stopped beating up atheists and started ranting about right-wing folks, but many others were doing the same thing at the time. Now he’s settled down with the political ramblings and is, once again, the lovable curmudgeon.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 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.