The study finds that this prejudice against atheists exists in most of the 13 countries studied, both religious and secular.
The researchers claim that, even though ‘religiosity’ has dropped in many countries, millennia of religious exposure mean many people believe morality requires a faith.
People are almost twice as likely to view extreme immorality as representative of atheists than of believers, the researchers, from the University of Kentucky, found.
Atheist participants also showed the same prejudice against non-believers.
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These countries ranged from very religious societies – including the United Arab Emirates and India – to very secular, for example, China and the Netherlands.
‘Our work showed that people across 13 countries tended to assume that violent, sadistic villains – truly evil stuff – probably don’t believe in a god,’ study lead author and psychologist Professor Will Gervais told MailOnline.