by Jesse Galef –
You guys love polls about religious attitudes, right? Of course you do, how silly of me to ask – everyone loves polling data! It’s so intoxicating to go digging through the numbers, finding information about the world… that’s not just me, right? …Guys?
I was thrilled to read that Religion News Service reports the PEW Research Center has a new poll asking how Americans would feel if a family member married an atheist. Unfortunately, my perverse pleasure will have to be put on hold until they publish the full report on the PEW website. For now, I’ll have to do with the information RNS is releasing:
Seven in 10 Americans associated with a religion said they would either be bothered, but come to accept [a relative marrying an atheist] (43 percent) or not ever accept (27 percent) it, the poll found.
Meanwhile, slightly more than a quarter of religious Americans (27 percent) said they “would be fine” with a relative marrying a person who did not believe in God.
In general, people who attend religious services at least once a week are less likely to approve of marriage to a nonbeliever: 16 percent of weekly worshippers would be fine with a marriage to an atheist, compared to 36 percent of people who attend less frequently.
It looks like the survey can tell us about how various ethnicities and levels of religious involvement answer the question, and most polls include age. I’m dying to dig into the data to see how various groups feel about their relatives marrying an atheist.
I’m not troubled by the 43% of Americans who would be initially bothered by the notion of having an atheist in-law. I can understand that religious parents could be bothered by their children marrying someone who doesn’t seem to share the same values and traditions. I’m sure some of the negative feelings stem from the “in-group/out-group” drive to be wary of people who are different and unfamiliar.
The solution? More interaction between religious individuals and nontheists. We need to change their misconception that we’re all horrid, malicious baby-eaters (just some of us *cough* Hemant *cough* … just kidding). If that’s their view of us – and it often is – of course they’ll be uncomfortable with the idea of us being part of the family! Hopefully, as more Americans realize that we’re decent human beings who share most of their values, they’ll come to see us as less of a strange “other.”
Of course, it’s not quite that simple (it never is, is it?) I’m sure there are some deeply religious Americans who would still be horrified by my values after learning who I am. I trust in science but not a God, I believe abortions should be legal in many circumstances, and I think gays should be allowed to marry. These are legitimate differences.
But I would hope that everyone would be able to accept an atheist in-law because it’s who their relatives love and choose to marry.