Do you stereotype people?

I’ve read answers that seem to stereotype Christians and questions that stereotype atheism.

Do you feel stereotyped when Christians asked questions on this site about whether all atheists stole and you had to clear it up? Or that atheists can’t be considerate, generous, or intelligent (because you can)?

I feel stereotyped, as a Christian, when atheists group me in with all other religious people because I don’t believe in religion as a means to do wrong yet save my soul. For me it’s a lifestyle of compassion, love, forgiveness, and patience and eventually, a chance to be with my creator.

Plus, I’m not better than anyone who doesn’t share my beliefs because we all lie, and cheat (on boardgames or tests).

So, ultimately, do you think we all stereotype each other?

Posted: August 6th 2011

George Locke

I feel stereotyped, as a Christian, when atheists group me in with all other religious people because I don’t believe in religion as a means to do wrong yet save my soul.

Very few would claim that every religious person acts immorally and justifies it with religion (it is obviously false, in any case). What atheists typically claim is that religion can make abhorrent behavior (terrorism, oppression of women, forced conversion, etc) look like a moral imperative.

There’s no reason to take exception to this on the grounds that you personally are smeared with an over-broad brush. This is an attack on religion, not religious people. The claim is that religion in itself encourages or sustains immoral behavior, not that religious people are necessarily immoral.

Posted: August 7th 2011

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I think you are missing a subtle distinction.

I’ve been in discussions with many Christians who claimed that because I adopted the label “atheist”, I believed x, y, and z. So, yes, I’ve been stereotyped, and I think most atheists run into this.

The vast majority of Christians don’t view religion as a “get out of jail free” card, but it is true that that is what your religion teaches. You might be an examplar of all that is good and you will go to heaven, but the murder who kills 10 people before his finds Jesus and honestly repents and asks for forgiveness will be joining you in heaven. If I were you, I’d be thinking about whether such a system is really a fair one.

The distinction your making is that the stereotyping against atheists is about the atheists themselves – they are immoral, evil, etc. – while the stereotyping against Christians is (mostly) not about the Christians themselves (though you will see some direct stereotyping, such as referring to Christians as “sheep”), but rather about what their religion says. We don’t say that you believe because it’s a way to do wrong yet save your soul; we say that that is what your religion says.

As for what “we all do”, I try not to lie (except in kindness), and I don’t cheat on boardgames or on tests. I don’t have the benefit of some entity who can magically forgive me; I have to live with the consequences of my actions, and I have standards that say I don’t cheat even if I could get away with it.

Posted: August 7th 2011

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Dave Hitt www

Yes. It’s a human thing, and we all do it. The trick is to overcome it when it’s wrong and adjust accordingly, which is easy to say but not always easy to do.

Most of my friends are theists of one stripe or another, and it’s not an issue. But when dealing with hard-core fundies I expect ignorance and intolerance because that’s what drives most of them. Having come from that background, I’ve seen the ugly smugness up close and reveled in it myself. As an atheist I try to avoid that same attitude, but it’s difficult to do and I don’t always win the battle.

Posted: August 7th 2011

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bitbutter www

I feel stereotyped by, and I stereotype, others. I prejudge others based on incomplete information about them. In order to function in the world we all need to make judgements about others based on incomplete information. I don’t view the use of stereotypes and prejudice as a bad thing in itself.

Some prejudices and stereotypes are a closer match with reality than others are. They can harm as well as help. To employ prejudice effectively I think it’s a good idea to:

  1. Cultivate a habit of being aware of when you’re using prejudice.
  2. Be prepared to learn that your prejudice is not a good match with the individual situation you’re assessing.
  3. Be prepared to modify or abandon a prejudice if you find that it disagrees with reality often enough to be a hindrance to you rather than a help.

Posted: August 6th 2011

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