The good news for atheists is that they’re more popular than Scientologists (a fact for which they can thank God for Tom Cruise). A new Gallup poll (via Paul Hsieh) reveals U.S. attitudes toward “religious and spiritual groups.” While 52 percent of the population views Scientology negatively, a mere 45 percent so view atheism.
I guess the good news is that 54 percent of the population has a positive (13 percent) or neutral (41 percent) view of atheists. I can live with neutral, because, as I’ve pointed out previously, atheism is not a positive philosophy; it does not indicate what a person does believe. Thus, without knowing the particular views of an atheist, it is impossible to form a positive or negative evaluation of that atheist. (The rest of the categories indicate a philosophical orientation, except the one for “Jews,” which can indicate both a religion and an ethnicity.)
For the same reason, the high negative rating is troublesome, as it indicates a prejudice. Just as most Christians in the U.S. are basically good people, so are most atheists. Indeed, some of the finest people I’ve ever met are atheists. Yet many people view atheists negatively because they are taught by various Christian leaders that atheism is synonymous with socialism, subjectivism, Peter Singer, etc., which is simply not the case. All of the atheists that I personally know support capitalism, individual rights, and objective morality.