New research has found what many conservatives have argued for years: Religious believers are more tolerant of differing viewpoints than atheists.
The study found that while atheists may like to think of themselves as more open-minded, they’re actually less tolerant of dissenting opinions than their religious counterparts.
“The main message of the study is that closed-mindedness is not necessarily found only among the religious,” Dr. Filip Uzarevic, a researcher at Catholic University of Louvain who co-authored the research, told PsyPost.
Uzarevic confirmed that the religious and nonreligious each have their own particular targets of prejudice, but atheists and agnostics were generally less open to differing opinions than Christians.
This contradicts long-standing findings of previous psychological research which found that the religious were more biased than atheists.
“In our study, the relationship between religion and closed-mindedness depended on the specific aspect of closed-mindedness,” Uzarevic said. “Somewhat surprisingly, when it came to subtly measured inclination to integrate views that were diverging and contrary to one’s own perspectives, it was the religious who showed more openness.”
The study was based on 788 European adults, 445 of whom were either atheist or agnostic. The 255 of the remaining religious believers were of various Christian denominations, but the researchers also included 17 Muslims, 3 Jews and 17 Buddhists.
“The idea started through noticing that, in public discourse, despite both the conservative/religious groups and liberal/secular groups showing strong animosity towards the opposite ideological side, somehow it was mostly the former who were often labeled as ‘closed-minded’,” Uzarevic said. “Moreover, such view of the secular being more tolerant and open seemed to be dominant in the psychological literature.”
Uzarevic speculated that since the atheists in his study came from highly secularized and nonreligious Western Europe, they likely hadn’t had a many opportunities to engage with religious believers, making them more intolerant.
“Being interested in this topic, we started to discuss whether this is necessarily and always the case: Are the religious indeed generally more closed-minded, or would it perhaps be worthy of investigating the different aspects of closed-mindedness and their relationship with (non)religion,” Uzarevic said.
Uzarevic also determined that strength of belief in either religion or atheism was directly correlated to how close-minded people were.
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