ATHEISTS are on a par with rapists when it comes to trust, according to new research.
The extensive study into public perceptions of those who fail to buy into the concept of a divine creator showed that while Christians and Muslims were largely trusted the honesty of an average atheist was considered to be on a par with a sex offender.
The research, which will dismay supporters of Richard Dawkins, showed that while church and mosque attendances may be falling a belief in God is still considered a hugely trustworthy asset.
Atheists are thought to be the least desirable sons or daughters-in-law, and 55 percent of Americans would never vote an atheist president into office no matter how well qualified they were.
Will Gervais at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, who published the study, said it wasn't just the Christian right who were suspicious of non-believers.
People identifying themselves as having no religious affiliation held similar opinions. Gervais and his colleagues discovered that people distrust atheists because of the belief that people behave better when they think that God is watching over them.
However, the study also showed that the concepts of 'God' and 'police' maybe closer than suspected.
When interviewees were shown a video of a police chief prior to being questioned on their feelings towards atheists they tended to be much more tolerant than those who did not view the film of the authority figure.