According to a series of recent studies reported in the National Post, it turns out that we atheists are among the least trusted people around, with religious people ranking us along with rapists as the least trusted groups. This doesn't seem very shocking for anyone who has ever expressed their views to someone of faith and why many of us, including yours truly, use noms de guerre. It was, however, disappointing, as many rapists expressed outrage that they would be associated with us atheists.
At first, I chalked it up to a study done on a bunch of wacky Canadians, thinking the constant cold might have somehow skewed the results. But, alas, I read on to learn that it was a series of studies conducted by the University of Oregon and the University of British Columbia. So much for my frost-bitten brain theory. Instead, I fear that the study is a sad reflection on human nature.
According to one of the researchers, "There’s this persistent belief that people behave better if they feel like God is watching them." On the bright side, such a view, If true, also explains priests molesting boys, evangelical preachers having affairs with anything that walks, and ultra-conservative, religious "I'm not gay" politicians blowing their next-stall-neighbors in public restrooms: their God must be a freaking voyeuristic pervert. (Not that there's anything wrong with peeping now and then if you're into that, I just don't think one ought to get all high and mighty about it.)
So here we are, enduring a prejudice from which we cannot escape while at the same time, ironically, we ourselves don't view atheists necessarily more trustworthy than believers (we simply don't put much salt into belief generally as a fair proxy for trustworthiness--probably a reflection of our generally skeptical view of everything, relying instead on experience and observed behavior).
What are we to do? Should we start an "In atheism we trust" campaign? Or should we even try to win over the trust of believers? Personally, I'm of the view that actions speak much louder than even bullhorns. That being said, I'm thinking that if more of us acknowledged publicly our beliefs (or lack thereof), we might start to win over the hearts and minds of others. This is so especially among those who we know and already probably trust us, even if they don't know our beliefs. It is, perhaps, the one time when familiarity may not breed contempt. Maybe the Out Campaign is onto something.
So, I think I'll start: My name is Don Griffith. I'm a loving husband and father and hard-working lawyer. And. .. I'm an atheist.
Wait...did I say that publicly? Well, I guess it's too late now. Anyway, here's the same sentiment, graphically, by my now-plucked nom de plume.
Click image to enlarge