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You’re on trial: Is it better to be an atheist or a black radical Muslim lesbian?

Monday, March 22, 2010
posted by Rita Handrich

You may be very surprised by the answer! We have an article in the current issue of The Jury Expert on the surprisingly intense hatred and fear Americans have toward atheists. The power of this bias is stronger than America’s bias against African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, homosexuals, and shockingly (in our post 9-11 reality) Muslims. Yes. We are more afraid of/threatened by Atheists than by Muslims.   Sometimes you don’t know whether to be somehow relieved or heartsick.  Alas…

We started writing this piece after reading a 2006 article finding Atheists to be the most hated minority in this country. That article only recently came to public attention but it had generated a bit of heat on the internet. It was nothing, however, to the Kanazawa pre-print from Social Psychology Quarterly that came out as we finished up our first draft. Science Daily picked it up and then a plethora of bloggers took up the trail. Razib Khan and Robin Hanson generated the most comments from readers. Even the main-stream media (in the form of Time Magazine) covered the story.

Our focus (and interest) isn’t really on whether liberal atheists are smarter than conservative believers. We are more interested in the raging emotional response Americans exhibit toward atheists and how that may affect litigation advocacy. We cover the limited research on characteristics of atheists and review the long-standing and firmly entrenched biases against atheists in this country. And we make recommendations for putting your best foot forward in the courtroom (if you have an atheist client) and in voir dire (do you want or not want an atheist on the jury). This is a universally held and powerful bias you cannot afford to ignore. Read our article here.

*The illustration on this post is from a British bus ad campaign paid for by a British atheist group. The transit company required the insertion of the word ‘probably’ before allowing the ad.

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