Even smart people perpetuate untruths about atheism and religion
Unfortunately, in his recent post, "Do we need religion to be ethical?" Thomas Plante, PhD, makes statements that perpetuate common misinformation with regard to religion and secularism. While I doubt that Plante intended the comments to be disparaging toward secular individuals, they most certainly are. In fact, considering that the statements come from an educated man and not some uniformed member of the general public, they are especially troubling.
Plante casually claims that religious people are "better citizens" and "behave better." And without citing any sources, he tells us: "Research has consistently found that religious people are less likely to engage in criminal behavior, marital infidelity, alcoholism, unprotected sexual activity. . ."
In other words, according to Plante, if you're not religious you might be a good person, but on average you are more likely to have these undesirable characteristics. This is a bold assertion that, of course, immediately puts secular individuals on the defensive. (Just imagine if the same claims were made against any other minority group.) It is precisely claims like these that lead to many Americans having an unfavorable view of atheistFortunately for atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists, there is no factual basis for Plante's claim that "research has consistently found" secular individuals to be more prone to such antisocial behavior. Consider, for example, a March 2009 academic article in Sociology Compass that extensively researched the subjects raised by Plante. The article, by Phil Zuckerman of Pitzer College, is entitled "Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions" and, unlike Plante's article, it cites detailed studies of the areas in question.