The Erosion of Antipathy Against Atheists

Coyne was having a tiff with an accomodationist type, again, and he pondered whether anyone could show any impact of the GNU Atheism on public opinion–has it become more respectable to be an atheist? You can’t really pinpoint dates for things regarding the current uprising against religious hegemony, but the defeat of  Bush the elder was partly motivated by people standing up to the religious right. Above I present four representative years at ten year intervals charting the proportion of Americans in the General Social Surveys who thought that people who were anti-religious should not be allowed to teach in a college or university. I always like to keep track of how many of my fellow Americans think I should be fired.  While Americans are quite intolerant with over 59% favoring discrimination against atheists, there is a strong dip in anti-atheist sentiment after 1988–where it plummets from 52% to 38% a decade later.  After that, it is pretty stable through the 2000s at around 37%. That’s pretty good, given that about 30% of Americans are raving fundamentalists who think that people who don’t accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior should not be allowed to vote or be employed in any public office. That isn’t going to change. So, what this means is that almost EVERYBODY who isn’t a fundy respects the right to be irreligious.

One Response to “The Erosion of Antipathy Against Atheists”

  1. James Sweet Says:

    I have a “20%” rule of thumb, where if there is some crazy belief that is extant in the population, we should not expect surveys to indicate much less than 20% of people subscribing to that belief. It may not be strictly true that 1 in 5 people hold that belief, but if it is extant, it doesn’t seem to poll any lower than that.

    No country in the world has polled evolution denialism at under about 19% or so. Around 20% of people in most predominately-literate nations are deeply confused about the nature of the Earth orbiting the Sun, etc.

    30% means we are doing okay, but not great.

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