Atheists are not only considered immoral by various religious groups but even by fellow atheists, according to a recent study.
The online journal Nature Human Behavior published a paper Monday documenting the prevalence of anti-atheist sentiments in various cultures worldwide.
Participants were told to read a description of a violent person and then indirectly asked if that person did or did not believe in God.
The results of the study "show that across the world, religious belief is intuitively viewed as a necessary safeguard against the temptations of grossly immoral conduct," the international team of researchers wrote in the journal, according to Phys.org.
And it revealed that "atheists are broadly perceived as potentially morally depraved and dangerous."
The researchers surveyed 3,256 participants from 13 countries, including the United States, Australia, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Mauritius, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.K.
"Effects hold even in highly secular countries such as Australia, China, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom: Even atheists are predicted to intuitively associate serial murder more with atheists than with believers in these countries," noted the researchers.
"[O]nly in Finland ... and to a lesser extent New Zealand ... is the evidence of intuitive anti-atheist prejudice among atheists less conclusive.
"Entrenched moral suspicion of atheists suggests that religion's powerful influence on moral judgements persists, even among non-believers in secular societies."
The Abstract noted, "The results contrast with recent polls that do not find self-reported moral prejudice against atheists in highly secular countries ... and imply that the recent rise in secularism in Western countries has not overwritten intuitive anti-atheist prejudice."
This is not the only study to showcase that a negative opinion of atheists still exists even in societies where people are becoming increasingly secular.
Earlier this year, Pew Research Center released a poll that found while Americans' opinions of atheists had improved since 2014, atheists still remain one of the least liked groups in the country.
"While Americans still feel coolest toward Muslims and atheists, mean ratings for these two groups increased from a somewhat chilly 40 and 41 degrees, respectively, to more neutral ratings of 48 and 50," noted Pew in February.