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Seven years ago, 73% of Americans identified as religious; now, that figure is down to 60%. Meanwhile, the proportion of the US calling itself atheist has climbed from 1% to 5%, a poll finds.
Experts have an idea why: The year the poll was last taken, 2005, marked the beginning of a string of bestselling publications on atheism by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, reports the Washington Post.
But a sociologist cautions that this doesn’t mean more people are actually becoming atheists; instead, it’s just that more people are OK acknowledging their atheism. Another pollster doubts the figures, suggesting the 13-point shift in religiosity is too quick.
The international survey resulted in some more interesting tidbits:
- China has the highest proportion of “convinced atheists”: 47%.
- The most religious countries include Ghana, Brazil, and Macedonia.
- Poland, Moldova, and Saudi Arabia are similar to the US in their percentages of atheists.
People prone to analytical thinking are less prone to religious faith, a new study has concluded. Scientists have long believed that analytical thinking can override one’s intuitive responses, and studies have shown that religion is rooted in intuitive thought.
Canadian researcher Will Gervais set out to see if analytical thought could override religion, the LA Times reports. First he gave a group of students a test whose questions were designed to have an intuitive-but-wrong answer and a correct one requiring more thought to arrive at.
(Example: “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much is the ball?” If you said 10 cents, try again.) Students were then surveyed on their religious beliefs, and those who had aced the test scored their faith lower than those who’d failed. Other experiments sought to trigger analytical thinking—either by showing subjects specific words, or forcing them to read small text—to see if that would actually reduce belief; in each case, it appeared to.
Atheism might just be the most reviled (un)belief system out there, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia, which found that believers think atheists are roughly as trustworthy as rapists.
In one of the study’s six parts, researchers described an untrustworthy “archetypal freerider” performing selfish or illegal acts, and asked subjects to say if what type of person the description was most likely to apply to, CTVexplains. Atheists and rapists were found to be trusted less than Christians, Muslims, Jews, gay men, and feminists.
In fact, “people did not significantly differentiate atheists from rapists,” the study says.
Respondents also said they’d discriminate against atheists when hiring. “When hiring for a high-trust job like daycare worker, they were like, nope, not going to hire an atheist,” the study’s lead author tells the Vancouver Sun.
Atheists, on the other hand, seemed fine with believers. “They seem to think that religion is not an important signal for who you can trust.”