Who are more evil: Muslims, Christians or atheists? Or rather, who do we consider the worst? This is the question asked by some researchers who have tried to understand the prejudices that people have about the link between immorality and atheism. The results are surprising: even atheists believe that non-believers are worse than religious people.

Who is the serial killer? To probe people's perception of the link between immorality and atheism, an international group of researchers interviewed over three thousand people in 13 countries, from countries where religion is fundamental, such as the Arab Emirates and India, to others where it counts less, like the Netherlands or China. To quantify the prejudice against those who are not religious, they first provided the interviewees with the description of a "bad" person, a sadist who tortures animals and ends up killing other human beings.

Then a group of interviewees was asked to imagine if it was more likely that they were just a teacher or a believing teacher; the other group, on the other hand, was asked if it was more likely that it was a simple teacher or an atheist teacher. This type of question is an artifice (more precisely a fallacy) aimed at revealing whether people have an intuitive idea that resists even logic.

Finnish the most free from prejudice. Well, even if the prejudice varies strongly between one country and another, wherever immoral behavior has been associated with that of an unbelieving person. About twice as many people have opted for the second choice (atheist teacher). The only countries where this idea was not so strong were Finland and New Zealand.

The surprising fact is that the atheists themselves seem to have anti-atheist tendencies: "I think this comes from the prevalence of deeply rooted pro-religion norms, even in places that tend to be secular. People continue to perceive religion as a moral guarantee, "explained Will Gervais, co-author of the study.

What conclusions do you draw from this? That the idea that morality and religiosity must necessarily go hand in hand is strongly rooted both in religious societies and in those that are not. And that although more and more studies reveal that the moral instinct is largely independent of belief in a religion, the common perception is that the opposite is true.