Everyone Hates Atheists Except Jews And Atheists

PF_14.07.16_interreligiousRelations_political1 Pew has polled Americans about how warmly they feel towards other religious groups. The graph to the left shows the results sorted by political party.

It’s not surprising that Republicans really, really don’t like atheists. What’s more surprising is that Democrats really don’t like us either. A lot of that result is, I suspect, being driven by Black Evangelicals, who dislike atheists even more than other Democratic-allied groups do, scoring us a 30. The only groups that liked atheists (that is, gave us an average score above 50) were Jews and, well, atheists. Atheists, it should be noted, raked ourselves on average “82,” which is very high – only White Evangelicals like themselves as much as atheists like ourselves. Except for Jews – us Jews really love ourselves, ranking ourselves an “88.” Most modest group: Protestants, 64. (See the table at the bottom of this post for those numbers).

It’s somewhat notable that – even though conservative evangelicals pundits seem obsessed with the notion that they are The Most Hated And Discriminated Against Group In America – Democrats aren’t nearly as down on evangelicals as Republicans are down on atheists and Muslims. But, to be fair, atheists do loathe evangelicals quite a lot, scoring them a 28. In fact, the only group that hates anyone more than atheists hate evangelicals is – white evangelicals, who rate atheists a 25.

I don’t really take the evangelical love for Jews very seriously – I suspect it’s more performative than it is bone-deep. Among evangelical Christians, it’s sort of a social norm to make a big show of loving Jews, presumably because the elder generation really, really, really wants to conspicuously distinguish themselves from their openly anti-Semitic parents. And good for them! That’s an understandable and positive thing for them to want to do.

But they also believe that Jews are going to burn in Hell forever, and that this is a just decision made by a just God. So I’m having trouble feelin’ the love. (If Unitarians say they love Jews, I believe that.) I don’t think that most evangelicals hate Jews. I think they mostly mildly like or are indifferent to us, which is why they’re willing to tolerate the implicit anti-semitic (and anti-lotsofotherthings) in their religion. But for various prudential and cultural reasons, evangelicals feel the need to claim that they LOVE Jews more than chocolate, when in fact they only mildly like or are indifferent to us.

Unfortunately, presumably due to low numbers, what Muslims think isn’t reported. Neither is what agnostics or the unaffiliated think, although I would have been interested to know, and I doubt the numbers on the unaffiliated were too low to break out.

Further reading:

In the Religion Popularity Contest, Atheists are in a Statistical Tie for Last Place… but There’s Hope! This is “Friendly Atheist,” who points out that the most important factor in what people think of atheists is if they know any (admitted) atheists. No, no – it turns out that those who know us are the most likely to like us.

Republicans really don’t like atheists and Muslims – The Washington Post

Poll asks: Which is your favorite faith group? Most Americans answer: My own. – The Washington Post

Weird Pew Stats | Out of the Ortho Box And for our final link, Ruchi Koval looks at what (according to Pew) Jews think makes us Jewish. Nothing reported on what the Reconstructionists think, but I assume they’d be like the Reform, only more so.


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18 Responses to Everyone Hates Atheists Except Jews And Atheists

  1. 1
    Ben Lehman says:

    And yet, despite the purported love of Jews, we still suffer the majority of religious hate crimes in the US. By far.

    I suspect that the Jew-love amongst the evangelicals lasts exactly until they see an actual Jew.


  2. 2
    Victoria Barrett says:

    Full disclosure: I’m a practising Roman Catholic (female), with an Orthodox Jewish best friend (male). I’m extremely well disposed to anyone who holds religious tenets, regardless of what they are. I do not view atheists badly.

    Mr Lehman suggests that the trouble with the less than positive view of Jews by black Americans is due to their Pentecostal faith. I posit that it is due to their highly politicised community. I don’t discount a religious rationale, but since I have worked in the black community where I live in the South of the USA, in several capacities, I can only use my anecdotal evidence. From talk radio, to print, as well as community leaders, there is an easy tolerance of antisemitic rhetoric and attitudes. Trying to correct it or at least voice disapproval is met with accusations of racism.

    [There is a reason that “Hymietown” was spoken of by a man who later ran for President — on the Democratic ticket]

    At the end of the day, I believe this poll should be interpreted in simple terms: Americans of all backgrounds are most comfortable within a Judeo-Christian structure, and latterly, this country has made huge strides culturally to combat the pervasive casual antisemitism that used to be common.

    (I would love to see the poll results in France…)

  3. 3
    Ben Lehman says:

    I didn’t mention black people at all. I’m not sure where you got that from.

    I’m fairly certain the majority of hate crimes against Jews are committed by white Christians. (I just looked it up at the same site and, indeed, my guess was correct: the vast majority of perpetrators of anti-semitic hate crime in the US are white.)


  4. 4
    SteveAR says:

    @Ben Lehman, apparently you don’t know how to read the chart you linked to, but that didn’t stop you from bearing false witness, did it. For anti-Jewish hate crimes, there were a total of 696. Of the known races, people identified as whites committed 101 of those crimes, 45 of an unknown race committed those crimes, and 506 hate crimes were committed by people who weren’t identified. First, you claim that white Christians committed a majority of these crimes, which is obviously a lie since the numbers don’t say that at all. Second, people of European ancestry and people Middle Eastern ancestry (Arabs, Jews, Druze, Turks, Kurds, Persians, Pashtuns, Pakistanis, Indians, etc.) are all lumped together as whites. So it’s highly possible that Muslims made up most of those 101 hate crimes by whites against Jews and not white Christians.

    Of course, neither one of us know who committed those crimes because the DoJ isn’t really interested in breaking it down like that, especially with people like who will make things up.

  5. 5
    Ben Lehman says:

    You really don’t understand statistics.


  6. 6
    Victoria Barrett says:

    I had thought you were the author of the piece — I see it was “Ampersand”. Many apologies.

    However, by your followups, I see you are trying to make a point about Jews being attacked by (white) Christians, although there is nothing to indicate that antisemitic attacks are perpetrated for religious, specifically Christian, reasons. It is too broad a paintbrush to swirl in all attacks on Jews in the USA because Christians make up the majority of religious folk here, so it stands to reason that’s the impetus.

    If we were living in Tsarist Russia circa 1905 that would be a good guess. Today, in these United States, it is a calumny.

    I don’t think you’ll stop believing what you wrote, though, which is a shame.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    And now it’s my turn to say, huh?

    You wrote (addressing Ben Lehman but intending to address me):

    Mr Lehman suggests that the trouble with the less than positive view of Jews by black Americans is due to their Pentecostal faith.

    But, respectfully, that’s not what I wrote. I wrote that Black evangelicals dislike atheists, not Jews. In fact, according to the Pew data, Black evangelicals like Jews better than almost every other religious group (the only group they rate higher than Jews is evangelicals).

  8. 8
    Ben Lehman says:

    A religious hate crime is a crime that targets a religious group, to cause fear amongst them and incite hatred against them. It does not have to be specifically religious in nature. If a white Christian kid spraypaints a swastika on a synagogue, that’s an anti-semitic hate crime committed by a white Christian and it doesn’t matter if his pastor put him up to it or not.

    Of course, some of the anti-Jewish hate speech and hate crime in the US is specifically Christian in nature. Certainly my experiences of being harassed and threatened specifically for being Jewish have been mostly at the hands of proselytizing Christians.


  9. 9
    Victoria Barrett says:

    But that’s an awful, even dangerous way of thinking, Mr Lehman.

    A correlative example: I was once held up by two black men in D.C. Earlier in their lives, my parents were robbed by blacks in Rio de Janeiro and Miami, respectively. Three robberies, three different locales, one demographic. According to your way of thinking, I would then be completely in the right if I were to assume that black people are violent or criminal in nature — instead of what is more logical, that these criminals just happened to be black, which has no bearing on their characters whatsoever.

    I used my example above, but really, any group of people could be used to illustrate the point about presumptions.

    People who commit hate crimes towards Jews could very well be Christian (in the USA), but unless that is their SPECIFIC intent, namely, to be hostile to Jews because of their faith, you just cannot presume that the statistic you quoted is made up of Christians committing these crimes.

    — Thanks for your correction, Ampersand.

  10. 10
    Victoria Barrett says:

    Since my edit didn’t take in time, allow a quick observation.

    If black evangelicals rate Jews highly, and no one seems to question their polled opinions, why do I perceive a cynicism or disbelief about the sincerity of white evangelicals being well-disposed towards Jews as well?

    At some point, we have to stop imagining that the world is the exact same as it was when we were younger. People evolve, attitudes change, the greater culture grows.

    If people say they rate Jews higher than others, let us rejoice because it’s a seismic shift in our society and IT IS GOOD.

  11. 11
    nm says:

    As a Jew who moved to Tennessee as an adult, I think it’s fair to say that most white Evangelicals in the South don’t know any Jews. The Jews they like are mythical; partly based on what they have read in the Bible (I had one very well-meaning woman ask me whether there’s a separate room in the synagogue for animal sacrifices, or whether they take place on the bima), and partly based on the recent politically-based “support for Israel” policy among their churches.

    Many of them are uncomfortable with the actual Judaism (and sometimes even the Jewishness) of real Jews they meet, and they “know” that Jews (under the code “New Yorkers”) are pushy and unpleasant — “but not you, nm.” Until I ask them, since we’re friends, not to keep using expressions around me that belittle Judaism (“I’m so glad to have been freed from the yoke of the Law,” etc.), at which time I get recategorized as pushy and unpleasant myself.

    So while I don’t think that most white Evangelicals are antisemitic, I do think their approval of Jews is rather thin and contingent. Whereas the worst I’ve ever heard from black Evangelicals around here is “you could put up Christmas lights even if you don’t celebrate the holiday.”

  12. 12
    Ben Lehman says:

    Victoria: I think you think I’m saying something I’m not saying.

    I don’t go through life afraid of anti-semitic hate crime at the hands of white Christians. Frankly, such events are extremely rare and also both myself and my ancestors have been through much much worse. By and large, I don’t let these things affect my daily life overmuch.

    Is American white Christianity becoming less anti-semitic? Congratulations to them! I mean that genuinely! I think not fostering hate inside yourself and inside your community means that you’ll be healthier, happier, longer lived. But it’s not my problem and I don’t need to give them credit for it. I never cared much about the haters anyway, except one or two times I’ve been worried about being physically attacked, but those are maybe a few minutes out of my whole life.

    None of this changes the statistics, which show that Jews are the victims of the majority of religious hate crime in the US (only one other group — Muslims — even registers in the statistics) and that the majority of the perpetrators of that are white and — almost certainly — Christian (secular or religious).

    Don’t read me saying “here are the facts on the ground” as “I am afraid” or “this is something that I spend time worrying about.” I’m not. I don’t.

    I just found it interesting that, despite our professed love of Jews and hatred of atheists, Jews still experience more hate crime than any other religious group, and atheists experience basically none. Hate takes many different forms.


  13. 13
    Fibi says:

    I just found it interesting that, despite our professed love of Jews and hatred of atheists, Jews still experience more hate crime than any other religious group, and atheists experience basically none. Hate takes many different forms.

    I am not surprised. I suspect the mechanism is pretty much the same one that drove President Clinton’s poll numbers up during impeachment. When we are witnesses to persecution, the two responses are to join in the persecution or to have increased sympathy for the persecuted.

    The latter response is more common, and it’s not surprising that it dominates the outcome of a “thermometer feelings” scale. But that doesn’t mean that it dominates the lived experiences of the group.

  14. 14
    nm says:

    One of the things that surprises me a little about the thermometer graph at the top is how much wider the spread of responses to various religions is among Republicans/leaning Republicans than among Democrats/leaning Democrats. I wonder whether that correlates to the intensity of how much each group cares about the matter.

  15. 15
    Fibi says:

    One of the things that surprises me a little about the thermometer graph at the top is how much wider the spread of responses to various religions is among Republicans/leaning Republicans than among Democrats/leaning Democrats. I wonder whether that correlates to the intensity of how much each group cares about the matter.

    I don’t see that in the data. If you organize the rows by who had the biggest gap between highest rated and lowest rated the results would be
    White Evangelical, 57
    Jewish, 55
    Atheist, 54
    Black Protestant, 43
    Catholic, 42
    Protestant, 41
    Agnostic, 33*
    White Mainline, 26*
    Unaffiliated, 23*
    Nothing In Particular, 18*

    *These groups weren’t asked about themselves. So the results are a bit skewed in their favorite since every group that was asked about themselves felt pretty warmly about themselves.

    So, here is the list if you exclude the top score and organize by the gap between the 2nd highest score and the lowest:

    White Evangelical, 44
    Atheist, 41
    Protestant, 32
    Black Protestant, 29
    Agnostic, 29
    Jewish, 27
    White Mainline, 25
    Catholic, 23
    Unaffiliated, 19
    Nothing in particular, 14

    Again, I don’t see a pattern wherein one side of the political spectrum has a wider range of views which would indicate stronger feelings.

  16. 16
    Ben Lehman says:

    Fibi: Your point about oppression making people sympathetic and at increased risk of victimhood is well taken. As for the partisan spread, look at the Democrats and Republicans thermometer chart at the top of Barry’s post. The spread is very noticeable.

    nm: My guess is that Democrats are more ecumenical than average, thus less inclined to hate another religion or to support it unilaterally.


  17. 17
    Fibi says:

    Ben-not sure how I missed the first graph altogether! Thanks for the gentle reminder.

  18. 18
    Matt says:

    You’re wrong on Evangelical support for Jews. It’s often based on a profound ignorance of who Jews actually are and can be criticized in lots of ways, but Evangelicals don’t believe that (properly observant) Jews are going to Hell. Instead, they believe Jews remain G-d’s chosen people.

    Here’s a fairly good article: