Last week, Rowan created a visualization of Pew Research polling data regarding the rejection of atheists as marriage partners in the United States. The lesson was pretty clear: if you’re an atheist in the United States and you want to be accepted by your in-law’s family, you’re either going to need to be lucky, choosy or secretive. Members of the American Christian majority tend to express unhappiness at the prospect of an atheist marrying their son or daughter.
Even though Pew Research has a solid reputation as a social survey organization, one survey alone could be anomalous. Has a similar rejection of atheists as marriage partners been found elsewhere?
Yes. See research published in the American Sociological Review describing the findings of the American Mosaic Project’s survey on difference and rejection of various social categories of people in America; you can read a copy here. See Table 1 to get right to the point:
Table 1. “I Would Disapprove if My Child Wanted to Marry a Member of This Group:
—Atheist 47.6 %
—Muslim 33.5 %
—African American 27.2%
—Asian American 18.5%
—Conservative Christian 6.9%
While of course it is inappropriate of Americans to reject Muslims out of hand because of terrorist attacks, it is telling that even after the attacks of 9/11/01, Americans reject an atheist son or daughter in law more than they would a Muslim — and despite claims of a “War on Christianity,” far, far more than Americans would reject a conservative Christian.
Read on in the paper, and you’ll find out that while the conservative brand of Protestant most strongly asserts outright rejection of atheists (only 6.6% indicated they would approve of an atheist marriage partner for their child), non-conservative Protestants also very strongly reject atheists as a group for their child to associate (only 15.1% indicate approval). Overall, those who attend church services approve of an atheist marriage partner for their child at a meager rate of just 9.2%.
It is true that not all Americans, not all Christians, feel this way. But very large portions, even in “non-conservative” American religious persuasions, do.