A study by Brookings Institute, mainly on public perspectives regarding immigration policy, offers corroborations for secularization trend in the US we’ve seen already-but also offers some fresh views on the public image of atheists.
The study gives the atheists the dubious distinction of being the most unpopular minority, at a whopping -29 percent. Non-religious people overall were second, at -15 percent. Even Muslims, much smaller in number than the above groups, did quite a bit better, at -9 percent.
If there is a silver lining here, it is that hatred against atheists is lowest among the youth. 55% of seniors believe atheists are changing the American culture for worse, whereas “only” 24% of millennials share that opinion. Millennials are also most likely to self-identify as atheists or agnostics (13%), compared to 3% for senior. (We know from another study that the number for the society as a whole is about 9%).
There is positive change on the horizon, but its rate is glacial. The rapid rise of the religiously unaffiliated, combined with the negative perception of them that dominates the society otherwise, is concerning for future social tensions. But going back into the closet is not an option.