Sep 112011

I follow Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, for good reason. He recently posted Shocking: Young Americans Have a More Favorable View of Atheists Than Senior Citizens Do, drawing attention to an important survey (What It Means to Be American: Attitudes in an Increasingly Diverse America Ten Years After 9/11) which showed increased acceptance of atheists in the USA.

His post concentrated on the attitude towards atheists. But the diagram he used shows much more:

This isn’t merely about attitude towards atheists. This is about Enlightenment. The younger generation is more Enlightened that the older one.

We are engaged in a war for enlightenment, being fought over generations.
And we are winning some battles!

The War for Enlightenment

I’ve described what I mean by “enlightenment”, and about this “war” as I see it, at the posts below and on my main website. I won’t repeat them here.

Dimensions of enlightenment
The war for enlightenment

I suspect that what the diagram shows is primarily about the “Empathy” dimension:

Summary: Attitudes and views towards other beings, human or otherwise.

Enlightened views: Peers. Equality. Tolerance. Pluralism. Meeting of minds. Great apes.

Unenlightened views: In-group only. Belief in sub-humans. Patriarchy. Intolerance. Slavery. Racism. Sexual-orientation intolerance.

It appears that these younger people are showing signs of greater empathy than the older people (separated by 2 generations), as I chose to identify empathy. The generation after those younger people will be worth watching!

Help improve attitudes towards atheists – come OUT

The trend towards having a more favourable opinion of atheists (in the way shown in the diagram) is helped not just by having regular conversations with them. It is helped even by knowing they exist! See Atheists – stand up and be counted! Some extracts:

“Here is some encouraging, perhaps counter-intuitive, research:
Finding the Faithless: Perceived Atheist Prevalence Reduces Anti-Atheist Prejudice

“Atheists are often distrusted. For other distrusted groups, perceiving or believing that they exist in large numbers increases the distrust. But in the case of atheists, perceiving or believing that they exist in large numbers decreases the distrust:

“Prejudice against outgroups generally increases if those outgroups have more members, but this pattern was reversed for anti-atheist prejudice. In four studies utilizing drastically different methods and employing a wide variety of control variables that tested possible alternative explanations, a coherent picture emerged. First, across 54 countries representing most of the world’s population, anti-atheist prejudice among believers was reduced where atheists are common, even after controlling for numerous important individual and international differences…. Second, in a university sample, anti-atheist prejudice was reduced among participants who thought that atheists were more common…. Third, information about high atheist prevalence reduced explicit distrust of atheists but did not affect perceptions of contact with atheists or a general attitudinal measure of prejudice…. Finally, atheist prevalence information reduced implicit atheist distrust…. Perceived atheist prevalence reduced anti-atheist prejudice.”

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