Pew Research has released the results of a new poll centered around the self-assessment of black Americans concerning their place in society here in the US. While there is much of interest in the object of study here, I would like to highlight something buried in the rest of the analysis. From the report:
The survey finds that most Americans also are ready to accept intermarriage in their family if the new spouse is Hispanic or Asian. But there is one new spouse that most Americans would have trouble accepting into their families: someone who does not believe in God. Seven-in-ten people who are affiliated with a religion say they either would not accept such as marriage (27%) or be bothered before coming to accept it (42%).
The percentage of those who say they would not accept such a marriage at all is, to me, more noteworthy than those who would be merely bothered before coming to accept it. This is, in part, because of the very low percentage of people who reported feeling similarly about different characteristics of potential partners for their children. As the graphic for the report shows, the highest number for any other characteristic for a potential in-law is a low 6% associated with whites who would not accept a black American as a spouse for their child. The difference between these numbers is significant.
One point of interest for me is that differences in belief in God can vary amongst family members themselves. Within my own family there is a variety of beliefs concerning God ranging from fundamentalist Christianity to something bordering on anti-theism, yet everyone in my family gets along just fine. This is unsurprising given the shared background and common history of the individuals in question. With that in mind, then, I find it curious that this is an issue of such importance to so many people. Certainly, it seems as though the possible differences resulting from the racial distinctions would be more dramatic than one’s views on some god’s existence. What, then, might the core of the concern be?
One possible answer could be the worry over the immortal soul of one’s children, grandchildren, and even the spouse themselves. So, if one is a Christian, and one believes that those who have not accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior are doomed to suffer for all eternity in the fiery lakes of Hell, then an argument could be made that refusal to accept an atheist as an in-law revolves around this issue. Surely, one would not want their child’s soul endangered by the sustained influence of one who is him or herself damned. And, of course, this could extend to a concern for any offspring resulting from such a union. It could even be that there is a desire to refrain from forming any attachments to someone that is believed to be damned so as to avoid any anxiety that would come about from this new concern for that person’s welfare (though this would seem strange given the Christian’s mandate to spread the gospel).
If the above is the case, then I can see a possible explanation for the results of the poll. However, that does not appear to be the reason as it looks like atheists are simply viewed in a poorer light in general by the public at large. In polls conducted by the Gallup Organization from 1937 to 2007, it appears clear that atheists are and have been at the bottom of the pile in terms of whom the public would trust with public office. In fact, according to the polls, “An atheist would seem to have the hardest time getting elected president, as a majority of Americans (53%) say they would not vote for a presidential candidate who was an atheist.” This suggests that the US simply has a negative view in general of atheists, though it is unclear what the source of that prejudice is.
I know all this is true. I see it day to day. That doesn’t stop it from being weird. It just strikes me as odd that this is the thing about which people are concerned. It’s perplexing. After all, no one is committing crimes in the name of atheism, atheists, in fact, being under-represented in our nations prisons. We don’t have any examples of atheists refusing to let theists hold jobs, patronize their businesses, or ride their buses. There is no data that suggests that atheists are more likely to be responsible for any of the things the public is likely to consider undesirable, and there is data to suggest that atheists are less likely to fall into such categories. This prejudice against atheists is just all so strange.
I don’t know. Maybe if all you godless heathens stopped eating babies your public image would improve.
via Blag Hag