in response to your line 'So are atheists actually less trustworthy? I’d guess that they are, but that the difference is less than people think.' I'd like to point you to some research that shows that atheists are actually MORE trustworthy because we do not have a blessing once a week to remove all our sins and make everything ok. Nor do we have the fallback of saying after we hurt someone 'oh well i guess it was gods will' Atheists live with their faults and deal with them. While religious people go and confess and be absolved of all their guilt. Not to mention that if you really believe in heaven then what does it matter what you do or dont do here if your just going to be absolved of all your sins just because you picked the right religion? Go kill someone and then confess and you will still get into heaven... you will have eternity to make up for it! If your an atheist on the other hand, you just have this life and have to make the best of it. No do overs...


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Basically (for religious individuals) religious status is used as a substitute for reputation for those outside of ones social sphere. Non religious individuals seek other status based predictors of reputation.

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oops I didn;t realise that link I posted above leads to my comment. I posted that link to show readers the article, not my comment.

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I'm proposing we pay careful attention to what the study actually measures when someone claims, for example, that "study X shows that theists live longer than atheists" or, for that matter, "study X shows that atheists are less prejudiced than theists".

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So you are proposing an ascetic filter of sorts? Let's weed out synagogue members who secretly keep Hannukah bushes and American secular humanists who also cut down evergreens and convalesce them in their homes in the month of December?

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If you could choose, which would you prefer to be true?Personally, I'd go for werewolves. Eternal salvation sounds cool, but there is no guarantee you'd reach it.On the other hand trekking across the Himalayas on the back of a wolf of human intelligence sounds amazing. Back in the real world, wonder if Sherpas would be willing to dress up for me.

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The amount used is usually pretty low, and the (invariably) university department only has it because they quoted for incentive money in the grant application. It's not gonna go in the professors pocket at the end of the day.

Usually, the incentive is just about the amount that the experimenters guess will change the behavior of the target demographic.

What I'd wonder about more is the effect of incentive level. In the quoted Indian study the priests will be almost exclusively from rich, high caste families, while the non-religious students will be more diverse, and include people from poorer backgrounds. So the level of intensive might be different between the groups. Perhaps when you play for pennies, people try to win, because they like winning games. But when you play for a months wages, you might feel morally obliged to share the riches. Will this effect be identical between religious and non-religious subjects? Across the social properties covariate with religiousness?

I guess the answer is to do lots of tests, in lots of places, and rigorously integrate the results. But a more practical suggestion would be to wander the world more aware that we can't firmly say much in general terms, and what we can say generally would fall down in the specific.

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I am too. Similarly, Gay people pretend to be straight a lot.When you are in a community where your type of person is really excluded, it's absolutely necessary.

I live in a small town, and most people go to church most week ends, so simply staying quiet about your beliefs isn't enough. A couple moved here a few years ago, and didn't attend. People round here are real friendly, but when they realized these people weren't coming to church, they stopped socializing with them at all. That's bad out here, we're pretty isolated. So they left, after a year or so.

Me? I go to church most Sundays. The sermons are fun, and I enjoy the singing. But I really go for the community. It's really nice, and I met my wife there. There isn't an equivalent for atheists in the cities.

But I don't believe a word.

Our little secret?

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Hanson asked the former, using a definition of “trustworthy” that most people understand.

No, he used examples that are more cognitively available, biasing the concept's application. Our public narratives—partly based on religion, partly on nationalism—hide still better exemplars of trustworthiness and untrustworthiness. Was it trustworthy when the devout Jews broke their treaties with Palestinians or when devout Christians did the same to indigenous Americans? Willingness to abide by agreements with outsiders is certainly a central part of most people's concept of trustworthiness, even if they aren't the most available example, partly for ideological reasons.

Some posters have pointed out the distinction between trustworthiness and in-group solidarity. Religion tends to increase the moral solidarity within a society, while lessening any empathy with outsiders. Hanson writes as though only the first matters.

Put it another way: everyone should face the facts, and if it's hard to accept that every virtue carries tradeoffs, that's just tough. But this doesn't justify presenting the facts in a way most damaging to atheists (and getting away with it because you're one of us) mislabeling what is limited to ingroup behavior as if it were a manifestation of virtue.

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No, the evidence has not been provided. Hence, the speculation, and my support of it in the finest traditions of science. I think Karl Popper might agree.

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Logical or not, I'd bet that virtually any American, atheist or religious, would trust another American more than she would trust the most Islamo-religious rug merchant in a bazaar in an Arabic speaking country. I'd bet that ivy-league educated christian guys would trust other ivy-league educated atheist guys more than they would trust a black southern babtist from Missippi.

At least some of the trust-on-trust I'd guess is coming from familiarity-trust, which makes sense god or no. And I would bet familiarity-trust would beat something as vague as "religious" trust. It is hard for me to imagine that a black southern baptist would trust an islamic arab, a zen japanese, or a hindu Indian more than he would trust an islamic southern black guy.

Until I see studies that explicitly check the trust of American christians against American atheists vs Arab Muslims and Hindu Indians, I'll stick with my priors.

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The question "are atheists more trustworthy?" is empirical, assuming that we agree on some behavioral definition of trustworthiness. "Are atheists less moral?" is not. Hanson asked the former, using a definition of "trustworthy" that most people understand.

If you think other conceptions of "trustworthy" are more important for morality, that's fine. But Hanson's observation was about the trustworthiness, not morality. If you drop the assumption that "by saying that atheists are less trustworthy, Hanson must be claiming that atheists are less moral," your objection becomes moot.

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In the judeo-christio-islamo world, atheism usually means the person doesn't believe in a big-old god with white beard and a personality who has favorite people, sometimes based on their birth properties, more recently based on what beliefs they profess or signal.

Not believing in such a "science fiction" creature hardly precludes not believing in right or wrong as perhaps some sort of inherent property of the conscious universe, or perhaps even as a choice that most people make including many theists.

I do believe in treating my fellow humans right. This is much less of a stretch than believing in a supernatural being who doesn't want me eating pork or lobster.

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One thing that I think needs to be pointed out that people tend to miss when talking about these sorts of statistics is how misleading it can be depending on what you're comparing.

For example, if you compared religiously observant muslims to nonmuslims you might find that they were more trustworthy. But to conclude from this that muslims are more trustworthy than christians (or atheists or humanists, etc) would be an error. Nonmuslim includes a lot of others besides christians and that skews the comparison.

Many of the studies cited in these sorts of discussion compare the religiously observant to those who arent. The latter being a group including a lot besides atheists (atheists make up a small minority).

It might be more useful and accurate to compare apples to apples. Religiously observant Christians to committed humanists, for example.

The point being that how you dice up the groups you're deciding to compare can have a big impact on the results you'll get.

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