Two recent studies, one by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the other by the University of Minnesota, reveal a continuing lack of tolerance for atheists on the part of the American public. “American’s increasing acceptance of religious diversity doesn’t extend to those who don’t believe in a god,” the U of Minn. study authors conclude. Their survey found that atheists “are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public” and are “the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry”. Lead researcher Penny Edgell believes that “today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past”. The Pew Forum study, which focused primarily on American attitudes about Islam, reported that “Muslim-Americans are viewed much more favorably by the public than are atheists, about whom Americans express a particularly high level of discomfort.” Indeed, their study showed that while 25% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Muslims, a full 50% view atheists unfavorably.
Americans consider atheism a threat to their religious values and, according to the Minnesota study, respondents “associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.”