A recent study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science turns up a range of results that appear to support my theory that trauma lays behind the fear felt by the religious when encountering the facts of life.
What If They’re Right About the Afterlife? Evidence of the Role of Existential Threat on Anti-Atheist Prejudice
Corey L. Cook 1
Florette Cohen 2
Sheldon Solomon 3
1 Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, University of Washington Tacoma, Tacoma, WA, USA
2 College of Staten Island CUNY, New York, NY, USA
3 Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA
Corey L. Cook, Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, University of Washington Tacoma, 1900 Commerce Street, Tacoma, WA 98402, USA. Email: email@example.com
Terror management theory posits that the uniquely human awareness of death gives rise to potentially paralyzing terror that is assuaged by embracing cultural worldviews that provide a sense that one is a valuable participant in a meaningful universe. We propose that pervasive and pronounced anti-atheist prejudices stem, in part, from the existential threat posed by conflicting worldview beliefs. Two studies were conducted to establish that existential concerns contribute to anti-atheist sentiments. Experiment 1 found that a subtle reminder of death increased disparagement, social distancing, and distrust of atheists. Experiment 2 found that asking people to think about atheism increased the accessibility of implicit death thoughts. These studies provide the first empirical link between existential concerns and anti-atheist prejudices.
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