Atheists, what is the stereotypical Christian

Atheists overtake Christians in terms of fairness

The Anti-Wrapping Act will apply in Austria from October 1st. The power of prejudices and stereotypes against groups of people of other religions was also the subject of a recent study in America. The result: atheists are fairer than Christians.


10 commandments as a guide for right action and moral conduct. They serve as orientation for Christians. However, more and more people are leaving the church and living as atheists. Numerous studies from America have shown that the group of non-denominational people is more often confronted with the prejudice of being immoral and, compared to Christians, less trustworthy.

These stereotypes prompted a study by researchers at Ohio University. The result, published in the specialist magazine “Experimental Social Psychology”, makes one thing clear: Atheists are nicer towards Christians than the other way around.


A game as an experiment

The experts came to this conclusion on the basis of a business game. 500 participants, some of them non-denominational, some belonging to Christianity, were asked in several rounds to distribute money virtually to other players. Whether the players were atheists or Christians was partly communicated to the players, partly withheld. However, the behavior of the two groups differed massively: Participants who belonged to Christianity behaved more fairly towards other Christians than towards non-denominational players. The Christians in the experiment showed a clear one ingroup bias. As soon as atheists were informed which religion the respective partner belonged to, they showed no ingroup bias towards other atheists, but behaved more fairly towards Christians (outgroup partners).


The psychology of prejudice

The reason for this could be that the atheists in the study try to compensate for negative prejudices. After all, much of the American population would tend to classify atheists as immoral and untrustworthy, says one of the study's lead authors, PhD student Colleen Cowgill. It seemed more important to them to compensate for negative stereotypes than to favor the people in their own group. Despite research by psychologists and diversity experts who have long observed that people tend to prefer their own group over other groups. A contradiction? Not necessarily: Researchers keep observing that individuals who encounter negative stereotypes do not show passive behavior, but rather react dynamically - that is, try to undermine stereotypes.




Further information:

  • Tajfel, H .; Cheap, M. G .; Bundy, R. P .; Flament, C. (April-June 1971). “Social categorization and intergroup behavior”. European Journal of Social Psychology. 149-178.