In psychology, the term “projection” means accusing someone else of a flaw or negative characteristic that you, yourself, exhibit. (We see lots of examples from this President, who calls other people “dumb” or “fat” or “a liar”…)
A Post survey found that white Evangelicals in the U.S. are convinced that atheists and Democrats (categories that they see as interchangeable) would, if elected, strip them of their rights.
Of those white evangelical Protestants, we found that 60 percent believed that atheists would not allow them First Amendment rights and liberties. More specifically, we asked whether they believed atheists would prevent them from being able to “hold rallies, teach, speak freely, and run for public office.” Similarly, 58 percent believed “Democrats in Congress” would not allow them to exercise these liberties if they were in power.
In other words, these respondents believed that–if they were in power– atheists and/or Democrats would refuse to extend fundamental civil liberties to people with whom they disagreed.
Admittedly, there are many Americans who take the position that “freedom is for me but not for thee.” Research confirms that a very troubling percentage of the general public is willing to curtail the liberties of groups they dislike. That research suggests that only 30% of the general public would grant disfavored groups the same rights they themselves enjoy, an incredibly depressing finding.
The perception by white Evangelicals that they are disliked is also pretty accurate. Research into intergroup attitudes confirms that white Evangelicals are among the least-liked groups by pretty much everyone else, and certainly by atheists and Democrats. The question isn’t about likes and dislikes, however. It’s whether distaste translates into a desire to deny the objects of that animosity their First Amendment rights.
It turns out that 65 percent of atheists and 53 percent of Democrats who listed Christian fundamentalists as their least-liked group are nevertheless willing to respect the civil liberties of those fundamentalists. As the article noted, that’s a much higher proportion than the sample overall.
And that brings us back to the psychology of projection, because it also turns out that those fearful White Evangelicals are attributing their own unsavory motives to atheists and Democrats.
We found that a smaller proportion of white evangelicals would behave with tolerance toward atheists than the proportion of atheists who would behave with tolerance toward them. Thirteen percent of white evangelical Protestants selected atheists as their least-liked group. Of those, 32 percent are willing to extend three or more of these rights to atheists. In fact, when we looked at all religious groups, atheists and agnostics were the most likely to extend rights to the groups they least liked.
Conservative Christians believe their rights are in peril partly because that’s what they’re hearing, quite explicitly, from conservative media, religious elites, partisan commentators and some politicians, including the president. The survey evidence suggests another reason, too. Their fear comes from an inverted golden rule: Expect from others what you would do unto them. White evangelical Protestants express low levels of tolerance for atheists, which leads them to expect intolerance from atheists in return.
The Golden Rule isn’t the only thing these people have inverted, according to my friends in the clergy.
It’s ironic that self-proclaimed “Christian Patriots” are perfectly willing to subvert the clear mandate of the Bill of Rights– and the equally clear teachings of the Savior they purport to worship– in their pursuit of social dominance.
They lack both authentic Christianity and genuine patriotism–the very deficits they project onto atheists and Democrats.