Decades of opinion polling and empirical investigations have clearly demonstrated a pervasive anti-atheist prejudice in the United States. However, much of this scholarship relies on two critical and largely unaddressed assumptions: (a) that when people report negative attitudes toward atheists, they do so because they are reacting specifically to their lack of belief in God; and (b) that survey questions asking about attitudes toward atheists as a group yield reliable information about biases against individual atheist targets. To test these assumptions, an online survey asked a probability-based random sample of American adults (N = 618) to evaluate a fellow research participant (“Jordan”). Jordan garnered significantly more negative evaluations when identified as an atheist than when described as religious or when religiosity was not mentioned. This effect did not differ as a function of labeling (“atheist” versus “no belief in God”), or the amount of individuating information provided about Jordan. These data suggest that both assumptions are tenable: nonbelief—rather than extraneous connotations of the word “atheist”—seems to underlie the effect, and participants exhibited a marked bias even when confronted with an otherwise attractive individual.
How to Cite:
Swan, L.K. & Heesacker, M., (2012). Anti-Atheist Bias in the United States: Testing Two Critical Assumptions . Secularism and Nonreligion . 1 , pp . 32–42 . DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/snr.ac