Despite their negative reputations among many Americans, atheists tend to be very ethical and high-achieving, argue Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.
Those who don’t believe in God are widely considered to be immoral, wicked and angry. Is this knee-jerk dislike of atheists warranted? Not even close, write Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman.
Murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States, which also has a much greater portion of its population in prison. Even within this country, those states with the highest levels of church attendance, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, have significantly higher murder rates than far less religious states such as Vermont and Oregon.
Atheists tend to score high on measures of intelligence, especially verbal ability. They tend to raise their children to solve problems rationally, to make up their own minds when it comes to existential questions and to obey the golden rule. They are more likely to practice safe sex than the strongly religious are, and are less likely to be nationalistic or ethnocentric.
Denmark, which is among the least religious countries in the history of the world, consistently rates as the happiest of nations. And studies of apostates — people who were religious but later rejected their religion — report feeling happier, better and liberated in their post-religious lives.
On numerous respected measures of societal success — rates of poverty, teenage pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, drug use and crime, as well as economics — high levels of secularity are consistently correlated with positive outcomes in first-world nations.
Paul and Zuckerman argue that besides the positive statistics associated with atheists, there are more nonbelievers among us than ever: “Despite the bigotry, the number of American nontheists has tripled as a proportion of the general population since the 1960s. Surveys designed to overcome the understandable reluctance to admit atheism have found that as many as 60 million Americans — a fifth of the population — are not believers.”
“Our nonreligious compatriots should be accorded the same respect as other minorities,” Paul and Zuckerman conclude.
(Source: Washington Post, via helvetebrann)