Momma, don't let your children grow up to marry atheists

A little while ago another study came out showing that prejudice against atheists is the last acceptable prejudice in America. (Okay, that’s not exactly what the study says, but that’s my interpretation.)

The most interesting line in the article, to me, is ” ‘It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common “core” of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that “core” has historically been religious.’ ” Well, yes and no. It turns out that core ethical values are shared by most people regardless of what religion they follow or whether they follow a religion at all. Certainly America’s founders believed in a diversity of religious views, and some were clearly humanist or even atheist, though those terms were rarely used then.

I believe ethical values such as honesty, generosity, kindness, fairness, and equality are natural products of both nature and nurture: they’re hard-wired into us by evolution because they promote strong communities, which help people survive, and they’re developed by the experience of being brought up in intensively social environments, such as families, peer groups, and communities.

It seems to me that atheistphobia (to coin a very clunky phrase–there’s probably a better one out there already) is founded in the same fear of the unknown as all prejudice. So atheists need to speak up proudly for universal values (I’ve never had anyone respond negatively to the values of the Ethical Society’s Statement of Purpose {link} because it doesn’t mention a deity), and everyone needs to stop using “faith communities” and “people of faith” as euphemisms for “people who are more moral and caring than everyone else.”

(Thanks to Alan E. and others for calling attention to this study.)