Prejudice toward Christians and Atheists Among Members of Nonreligious Groups: Attitudes, Behaviors, and Mechanisms

Patty Van Cappellen and Jordan P. LaBouff

Much research demonstrates that people high in religiosity tend to be prejudiced against value- threatening groups. Therefore, some researchers have suggested that people who are not religious may be less prejudiced. Are nonreligious people characterized by general tolerance? If not, what are the bases of their prejudices? This research investigated prejudice toward Christians and atheists among people who identify as nonreligious (atheist, agnostic, and spiritual-but-not-religious), documented this prejudice in the form of exclusion behaviors (Study 1) and self-report of affect and social distance (Studies 2–3), and explored potential mechanisms of nonreligious prejudice toward Christians: individual differences in belief style and biases against Christians (Studies 2–3). Results showed the nonreligious are not generally tolerant and that differences among these groups in belief superiority, feelings of distrust, and fear of contamination by unpalatable ideas all explained differences in prejudice toward Christians. These findings help provide a more comprehensive picture of religious intergroup prejudice.

Van Cappellen, P. & LaBouff, J. (in press). Prejudice toward Christians and Atheists among members of nonreligious groups: Attitudes, behaviors, and mechanisms. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. PDF

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