A new poll on American people’s attitudes toward Muslims and Islamic ideas may have inadvertently shown something many of us suspected: the atheist movement isn’t plagued by an influx of bigots who identify as “alt-Right.”
Of course, there are individual atheists who identify with alt-Right ideology, but this minority is neither new nor significant. It’s just common sense that, among a group of people who only necessarily share one thing — a disbelief in deities — there will be disagreements on everything else, including important social issues.
But this new survey from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, which includes the first ever national “Islamophobia Index” to measure discrimination and hatred of Muslims in the United States, shows religiously unaffiliated individuals are among the least likely people to hold anti-Muslim views.
The study also revealed that the non-religious were among the “least likely groups to approve of President Trump’s job performance.”
(To be sure, the word “Islamophobia” has often been used to condemn people offering fair criticisms of the religion. This survey, however, is geared toward actual bigotry against Muslims.)
Religiously unaffiliated people, often referred to as the “Nones” because they have no religious preference and which includes many people who believe in a higher power if not organized religion, actually scored lower on the Islamophobia Index (14) than Muslims (17). Compare that to white evangelicals, who scored a 40.
That seemed surprising at first. When asked if most Muslims living in the U.S. are “less civilized than other people,” 8% of Muslims agreed compared to only 1% of the non-affiliated group.
How could that happen? It could be at least in part because they believe false media stereotypes about Islam and violence. About 18% of Muslims believe Muslims are more prone to violence than the general public. Good luck finding any evidence to back that up.
When you compare these numbers to the 8% of unaffiliated people who believe Muslims are inherently more violent — the lowest number of all groups surveyed — it’s evidence that we aren’t really suffering from an infestation of the alt-Right, of which anti-Muslim bigotry is a big part. Ditto with support for Trump. The survey found that non-affiliated people (17%) and Muslims (13%) were the least likely to say they’re satisfied with Trump’s job performance.
When it comes to censoring the media, another major component of authoritarians and therefore a common practice of those within the alt-Right, the non-affiliated were also the least likely to support it. When asked about censorship in the wake of a terror attack, only 11% of the Nones said they were in favor of it, followed by 19% of Jews. White evangelicals, on the other hand, were at 44%.
This survey tells us that, while there may be some closed-minded bigots within our ranks, there probably isn’t some alt-Right pandemic sweeping through our community (as some writers have suggested). There’s always more work to do, but it’s good to know that those people without religion are outpacing all the various religions when it comes to these timely ethical concerns.