Critiquing the Dislike of Atheists versus Cultists

The research paper Whom Do People Dislike More: Atheists or Cultists?, published in volume 8 of the 2012 edition of The Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, asks whether atheists or cultists are viewed with more prejudice by the general public and if personal characteristics affect these prejudices. This collaborated effort was authored by Ryan T. Cragun of the University of Tampa, Patrick Henry of Eckerd College, Casey P. Homan of the University of California, and Joseph Hammer of Iowa State University (Cragun, Henry, Homan, and Hammer). The research was conducted and presented in an informative and non-biased manner.

The public’s dislike of atheists is compared to the dislike of cultists by using four surveys with three sample populations. The paper tests the hypothesis that people hold a more negative towards cultists over atheists.  It also estimates that the respondents’ personal characteristics will not be associated with their attitudes towards cultists while their personal characteristics will be associated with their attitudes towards atheists.  The authors found that respondents’ personal characteristics predicted their attitudes towards atheists, while no variable were statistically significant predicting prejudice towards cultists (Cragun, Henry, Homan, and Hammer).

The paper is informative and reliable from the beginning with the title clearly addressing the problem. The abstract states problem, the hypotheses examined, and describes the methods and the conclusions. The introduction describes of previous studies investigating how prejudice is directed towards atheists.  The term “atheist” is applied to people who do not believe in a higher power or god (Bullivant 363).  The term “cult” is used as “a catch-all to refer to any new or unusual groups which had engendered animosity among some interest groups in society” (Richardson 348-56). People with certain characteristics are more likely to be prejudiced against atheists compared to prejudice being directed towards cultists regardless of their personal characteristics. The references address the definitions of an atheist and cultist and describe previous findings from earlier studies and how those earlier studies contributed to the research of this article (Cragun, Henry, Homan, and Hammer).

The sample populations were surveyed and clearly documented, so the experiment can be replicated by other researchers. Four surveys were conducted of three sample groups, the first three from university students of three schools and the fourth being a non-student population described as friends and family members recruited by students of the university populations.  Descriptive statistics were listed as to the particular characteristics of the sample groups.

Potential limitations and personal assumptions were addressed. The sample populations are representative of people in general, but actually are not representative based upon the populations used.  The limitation and assumption is how people generally view atheists defined as individuals when cults are viewed from the perspective of being in a group.

The paper presents the argument over whether atheists or cultists were more disliked in a clear and objective manner. All pertinent parts of a research project were addressed and the experiment can be replicated by other researchers.  The material was a compiled into a suitable format that communicated the authors’ main points to readers that demonstrated this paper’s contributions to the subject matter.

Works Cited

Bullivant, Stephen. “Research Note: Sociology and the Study of Atheism.” Journal of Contemporary Atheism. 23 (2008): 363. Print.

Richardson, James T. “Definitions of a Cult: From Sociological-Technical to Popular Negative.” Review of Religious Studies. 34. (1993): 348-56. Print.

Cragun, Ryan T, Patrick Henry, Casey P Homan, and Joseph Hammer. “Whom Do People Like More: Atheists or Cultists?.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion. 8. (2012). Web. 30 Mar. 2013. <>.