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Atheists are not more likely to carry out evil deeds, says Redbridge humanist

PUBLISHED: 12:07 14 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:18 14 August 2017

Paul Kaufman, chairman East London Humanists

Paul Kaufman, chairman East London Humanists

Archant

Atheists are more likely to be suspected of carrying out evil acts than people who are religious, according to the authors of a new study.

Even in secular countries, atheists are more likely to be perceived as “as potentially morally depraved and dangerous”, compared to Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, measured the attitudes of more than 3,000 people across 13 countries and five continents.

They ranged from “highly secular” countries such as the Netherlands and China to “highly religious” ones such as America, United Arab Emirates, and India.

Participants were asked whether an imagined person, who tortured animals as a child, then grew up to become a teacher who murdered and mutilated five people, was more likely to be religious or atheist.

The study found that people were about twice as likely to assume that the serial killer was an atheist.

Paul Kaufman, chairman of the East London Humanists, which promotes the use of empathy and science instead of religious creed, said his group is committed to improving the world.

He said: “The survey shows the importance of making Humanism more widely understood.

“Like a lot of people I was delighted when I discovered that this is the term for people who don’t have any religious belief but have strong ethical values. “Our group is made up of atheists and agnostics who are all committed to making the world a better place.

“We all think this is the one life we have and that we should make the most of it for ourselves and others.

“We don’t think there is any need to believe in a God in order to be good or do good.”

Study co-author Will Gervais, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, told news agency AFP: “It is striking that even atheists appear to hold the same intuitive anti-atheist bias.

“I suspect that this stems from the prevalence of deeply entrenched pro-religious norms.

“Even in places that are currently quite overtly secular, people still seem to intuitively hold on to the believe that religion is a moral safeguard.”

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