The Fight for Non-Religious Liberty

Five things you should know about discrimination faced by atheists and agnostics.

Many groups are victims of prejudice in America. Women earn less for the same job as their male counterparts, African Americans still face disgusting hostility, and gay people are denied the right to marry those they love. Yet, a different group consistently scores worse than all others in polls gauging discrimination: the nonreligious. The nonreligious may face less severe prejudice than others, but the bias comes from far more people.

This may surprise you, but I can tell you, as an openly secular person, I have experienced it firsthand. On several occasions, my donations to charities were rejected because, amazingly, groups would rather avoid being associated with me than receive badly needed funding. My wife, Diana, has been told by friends that mutual acquaintances have said, “Diana is really nice, but her husband is an atheist.” I have been told point-blank I will be unable to teach my children values, simply because I answered, “I am not religious” to the ubiquitous Southern question, “Where do you go to church?” I have been flipped off and insulted, but at least I have not received the death threats that are common among my friends in the secular movement.

Here are five things you should know about discrimination against the nonreligious, particularly against atheists and agnostics.

1. We are assumed to be immoral.

atheistslideThe worst thing someone can consider you to be is evil. Judgments based on poor appearance, athleticism, or intellect all hurt. But nothing pains like the completely dehumanizing assumption that someone is ignoble and despicable. Having that opinion of someone is to believe that the person’s very character is corrupt to its core. Unfortunately, that is the belief nearly half of American’s have regarding atheists and agnostics.

In a recent Pew Research, 45 percent of people said a belief in God is necessary to be moral. Those who disbelieve or are unsure of the existence of God are simply presumed to be unethical. This is the real root cause of the discrimination faced by the nonreligious. If you are assumed to be a bad person, it is not surprising you will be treated differently.

Therefore, it is not shocking that, according to Pew, 49 percent of Americans would be unhappy if an atheist married into their immediate family. More than 40 years after All in the Family went on the air, Archie’s friendly atheist son-in-law still would not be welcomed in American households.

2. The nonreligious are common.

The nonreligious are a huge minority. According to a 2012 Pew Research study, 20 percent of American adults do not identify with any religion. Of people between the ages of 18 and 29, that number jumps to an amazing 32 percent.

Many who are atheistic do not openly identify as such, for fear of consequences. To truly understand who the “Nones” are, you must dig into questions of belief as opposed to identity. The best way I have seen this analyzed was in the 2008 ARIS survey. Of the Nones who answered their belief question, 45 percent were atheist or agnostic, 29 percent believed in a personal God, and 26 percent were deistic, believing in an impersonal creator god.

So, while the nonreligious are not all atheists and agnostics, nearly half are. At roughly 10 percent of the population, they represent a huge demographic. By comparison, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and all other non-Christian religions combined represent less than 6 percent of the population.

3. We are the third rail of politics.

I attended the Religions Newswriters Association Conference in 2012, just before the presidential election. During a panel on religion and politics, one of the journalists asked what demographic Obama needed to win in order to capture the White House. Without hesitation, one of the experts answered, “the Nones, but he cannot let anyone realize he is trying to win their votes, or he will lose the election. The Nones are the third rail of politics.”

That summarizes the attitude toward the nonreligious electorate.  Politicians ignore us or pretend to ignore us for fear of losing other voters. Unless, of course, they are using atheism as a slander to discredit their opponents, as Elizabeth Doles’ failed U.S. Senate campaign attempted in 2008.

If secular people get little respect as voters, they are utterly rejected as candidates. Despite constituting about 10 percent of the population, there are no openly atheist or agnostic members of the U.S. Congress, except perhaps Rep. Jared Huffman. This is no surprise when you consider a 2014 Pew poll showing 53 percent of Americans are less likely to vote for someone if that candidate is an atheist. Atheism was the worst attribute a politician could have according to the survey, with adulterers and drug users scoring far better.

This data mirrors a 2012 Gallup survey that found that over 91 percent of the population would vote for a woman, African American, or Hispanic person if they were well-qualified and from their own political party. But, only 54 percent would vote for an atheist with the same attributes. This was below all others, including gay and Muslim candidates.

4. People do not recognize the discrimination. 

atheistslide2A new Pew poll from September found only 27 percent of people in the U.S. feel there is a lot of discrimination against atheists. By comparison, 31 percent of people perceive that evangelical Christians suffer a great deal of discrimination.

The perception is at odds with the reality. As noted earlier, 53 percent of Americans are less likely to vote for an atheist, but only 17 percent are less likely to vote for an evangelical Christian. Further, 49 percent of people would be unhappy if an atheist married into their family; yet, merely 9 percent would be unhappy if a born-again Christian did so. These numbers are too high for both evangelicals and atheists, but there is clearly far more bias against atheists.

5. Secular people are doing something about it.

Nonreligious people are doing many things to cope with and eliminate the discrimination they face. One of the largest efforts is Openly Secular, a new coalition of over 20 organizations from the secular movement. Its mission is to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance by getting secular people to be open about their beliefs.

Openly Secular has created resources for nonreligious people that never existed before. Online toolkits and brochures have been built that encourage more people to be open, and make people more effective at becoming open. Leave-behind brochures have been written for secular people to give to religious friends and family to show that their values are still more aligned than not. The coalition has launched an online video campaign to show the pain of discrimination, the relief of discovering you are not alone, and the joy of finding acceptance in secular communities. Openly Secular has produced over 150 videos and hopes people will help make the video campaign go viral by sharing their own videos online.

When secular people are demonized, they build awareness of the problem on platforms like blogs, reddit, and articles on mainstream media sites, such as TIME.com. This happened recently in response to a call for federal employment discrimination from former Arkansas governor and potential presidential aspirant, Mike Huckabee. At the 2014 Values Voter Summit Huckabee said he endorses firing all nonreligious people working for the U.S. government.

Communities for secular people are sprouting around the country. Thousands of local groups are thriving, including specialty ones for parents, students, and African Americans. A notable example is the recent rapid growth of Sunday Assembly; dubbed “atheist church,” their congregations aim to “live better, help often, wonder more.” Many secular groups are active in their local communities, breaking down stereotypes as they perform community service.

These efforts are critical to eliminating a prevalent and often unrecognized form of discrimination. Whether you are religious or not, we hope you will join us in showing that religious differences are less important than loving one another.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Todd Stiefel
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  • Martin Hughes

    Would you rather, from the point of view of avoiding public hostility, be an atheist or a Muslim?

    • Anthony Carrizales

      You shouldn’t have to, if I ran for public office I wish people would look at me and see a human being and not a immoral monster, but unfortunately we don’t live in a world like that. So sad

      • Guntruckdiplomacy .

        That’s only because immoral/amoral Atheists will screw just about anything with a pulse, murder babies under the false banner of choice, and insist that the worst of humanity of “progressive”. THAT is why they see an immoral monster. It’s an image that you and others like you created. And none of you have even tried to change that, so don’t blame others, blame yourself.

        • Mark Slone

          No, that is the image your churches have painted over the past 2000 years. No more evil has been committed by man than that done “in the name of God.”

          • Guntruckdiplomacy .

            So Stalin killed 40 million in the name of God and not Scientific Atheism? Hitler, the same, a social Darwinist who had a god complex, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung same thing. All in the name of Atheism. How many died in the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the witch burnings combined? 3 million. Yep, “in the name of God” will never kill as many as “in the name of me” that Atheism has shown us. So far, only Islam is the reigning competitor.

          • Kohoutek

            Why did Hitler’s motto read, “Gott mit Uns” (God with us)?

          • bdlaacmm

            Kohoutek, that wasn’t Hitler’s motto. It was the Kaiser’s. Huge difference.

          • Kohoutek

            Actually, it first appeared in Germany in use by the Teutonic Order, and it was worn by the Wehrmacht and all officers and soldiers in WWII had to swear: “I swear by GOD this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath.” (Ich schwöre bei GOTT diesen heiligen Eid, daß ich dem Führer des Deutschen Reiches und Volkes Adolf Hitler, dem Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht, unbedingten Gehorsam leisten und als tapferer Soldat bereit sein will, jederzeit für diesen Eid mein Leben einzusetzen.)

          • Kohoutek

            Are you also aware that Stalin imprisoned evolutionary scientists in the name of his own version of proletarian design? Stalin was not in the service of anything but himself. Atheism was beside the point, and there was nothing “scientific” about collective farms. You’re beginning to sound like that neighbor I mentioned earlier, whom I, resembling a Nazi as I do, had to sell our house to get away from.

          • David

            If your bible is true then your god holds the absolute record for genocide ( the flood )
            I strongly recommend you read your bible, the whole thing, yourself. Odds are you will finish an atheist.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            I have read the Bible,the” whole thing”, many times over.I have been a Christian for almost 40 years, and as an avid life-long reader (I’m 60), I have NEVER read an atheist argument that came remotely close to destroying my belief in Almighty God.So…now what? As far as I’m concerned,your claim is a biiig FAIL.

          • David

            You still have not answered the genocide charge.
            Those would be ” faith blinders ” you are wearing, take them off if you have the courage.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            I don’t have to answer what you term “the genocide charge”.Almighty God is the Creator of ALL life; as such, He has the right to give it or take it, and the manner in which He does so is not subject to the probings of mere finite creatures such as us.I have full confidence in The Lord God’s ability to judge HIS own actions, and to bring about a fair and equitable judgment for ALL His creatures. The Genesis account lays out His reasons for bringing about The Flood; one can agree or disagree with those reasons as one sees fit. So…there you have it,David.My faith and trust in the Lord God Almighty is absolute, and again, has been for 38 years, and will remain so as long as HE IS GOD.

          • David

            Thank you Laurence, you have made my point. People like yourself, have no right to be in any position of authority because you have no problem shirking all responsibility onto some imaginary ghost. You are the christian version of isis. Everything is excusable if it’s done in the name of your sick deity.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            And thank YOU, David, for once again proving that the quickest way to make a fool of yourself is to hold forth on an issue you know absolutely nothing about. Biblical theologians have wrestled with these issues for a long, long time, and we’ve pretty well worked them out as well as can be expected, filtered through finite, sin-tainted minds though they are. But tell me, David: what would make you lump me along with ISIS? I wish harm on no one, and have no desire to interfere with or deny you the right to believe, or disbelieve as you see fit; even if I lived right next door to you, would your obviously fevered imagination actually conjure up a scenario whereby you could picture me wiring your car to explode because you insulted Almighty God? I guess I have to assume you don’t know any Christians, do you? You most certainly don’t know who God is; on THIS side of the CROSS, we are commanded and empowered to be loving, peaceful, and solicitous of our neighbor’s welfare (although admittedly some of us have been abject failures in that regard! )—So…I’m afraid you’re delving into an area of human endeavor you are woefully ill-equipped to tackle: The Mind of God. PEACE.

          • David

            I’m the fool ? after 1700 years of trying to make the bible work, your ” theologians ” are still relying on dubious ” testimony ” from storytellers. The oldest piece of the new testament dates to the third century and is a copy of a copy of a copy of verbal stories dating from roughly 70 a.d., after the supposed execution of the claimed to exist man. Of all the writers only one ,Mark I believe, only one wasn’t lying about his identity and he lived in the third century, relying on stories told to him, by people who were not there !
            This is what you are basing your life on ? How would you know these anonymous writers wouldn’t lie, conflate,exaggerate or in any way try to deceive the reader ? or even just plain be wrong ! and how many times has the stories been altered, added to, deleted or just ” punched up ” ?
            As for lumping you in with the likes of isis, it’s your attitude, your god is all there is, everybody else is wrong and they are going to burn in hell for it. It’s that attitude that produces groups like isis, the taliban etc.
            I could keep going but I’m sure I’m not going to change your mind, so I’m going to save my breath and stop here. Peace.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Astonishing.You went being foolish to ill-informed and hysterical in one fell swoop.Take a DEEP BREATH, David. The big, bad Christians are’nt sneaking up on you to murder you in your sleep! Seriously,dude, what is wrong with you?? You really didn’t address my primary questions at all,one of which, again,was:do you yourself actually know or have you even conversed with any Christian scholars, philosophers, theologians, historians,et.al.The question is rhetorical,since clearly you don’t,and given your obviously entrenched biases, I’m not sure you’re really interested in the truth; no, you’re satisfied with spewing out half-baked pseudo – historical inanities.So be it.Believe what you will, and God bless you.

          • Sarah Jones Geer

            Stalin killed no one in the name of atheism- he killed people in the name of maintaining political power. There is scant evidence he even WAS an atheist. He was raised in the Orthodox church and saw how much political power they wielded, and knew he’d have to break it to maintain control. Nothing to do with atheism.

            And Christians have slaughtered far more people as a percentage of population. Comparing numbers in the Dark Ages when the world population was much smaller to numbers in the WWII era is fallacious.

          • siklopz

            you managed to forget the deaths due to christian imperialism in africa, asia, the new world, and ignore slavery and it’s impressive death toll. though i love to hear christians blame modern age deaths on atheism when those deaths had very little to do with religion or lack thereof.

        • GrumpyDave

          Gee golly gosh Guntruck, I remember recent Republican politicians doing similar things under their own banners – yet they don’t seem to see themselves as “immoral monsters”. It’s strange how that works . . .

        • Geoff 21

          Guntruckdiplomacy
          “Atheists will screw just about anything with a pulse”
          Sorry, Gunstruck, but I’m planning on staying hard to get where you’re concerned, despite your blandishments.

        • siklopz

          funny, it’s usually religious (there are no openly atheist politicians i’m aware of) politicians screwing around with secretaries, movie stars, and pages (usually repressed republicans with young boys). i rarely hear of any sex scandals involving atheists, but the lack of veracity is amusing.

        • David

          This sounds like some twisted fantasy for you, are a closet catholic priest ?

  • bdlaacmm

    1. I doubt very seriously that many people consciously regard atheists as “evil”. What they (correctly) say is that atheists have no logically coherent way of explaining why one ought to be good.

    2. Of course they are. This has been the case from the beginning, and will be until the end. This is why John contrasts the Church with the “World”. No news here.

    3. Guilty as charged. I personally would never knowingly vote for an atheist. And why should I? The entire point of democracy is to give people the chance to elect representatives who think like them – who agree with them on the important issues. I would no sooner vote for an atheist than I would for a candidate who disagreed with me on any other really important matter. And that is how it should be.

    4. “Further, 49 percent of people would be unhappy if an atheist married into their family” How is that discrimination? Are you saying that parents should have no opinion about their childrens’ choices in life partners?

    5. Again, no news here.

    • Valis

      Wow, you seriously believe there’s an invisible man in the sky that can do magic? I am totally flabbergasted that some people are still so superstitious and ignorant to believe that fairy tales are real and magic really exists. Good grief, this isn’t the Middle Ages any more! There are no gods, ghosts, UFOs, aliens, Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy. These are all made up by the human imagination. The Bibble is all made up, there are *no* gods, none at all whatsoever.

      • bdlaacmm

        Thank you for that erudite reply. I now know exactly what and who I need to look to when pondering the thoughts of Thomas Aquinas, G.K. Chesterton, and Saint Augustine (etc.). Or if you prefer scientists, Copernicus (discoverer of the sun-centered solar system and Catholic Bishop), Gregor Mendel ( discoverer of genetics and Catholic priest), Louis Pasteur (biologist and devout Catholic), or Georges Lemaitre (mathematician, discoverer of the “Big Bang”, and Catholic priest). You are clearly their intellectual peer!

        • Martin Hughes

          Copernicus was never a Bishop nor even a priest, though he was in minor orders and held various administrative appointments. His principal patron was his uncle, the Prince-Bishop of Varmia. He was certainly a Catholic, though the Catholic Church – and to some extent its Protestant rival – reacted to Copernicus’ ideas in a way that scarcely does it credit and helped to found the view of modern history which asserts that there has been endless rivalry and contradiction between science and religion.
          I’m one who thinks that the philosophical arguments for the existence of God are quite good and I would rather found morality on religious than on atheist grounds – on religious hope rather than atheist despair, maybe. I think Plato made some good points here, though I rather shudder at the authoritarianism which he considered necessary to avoid social breakdown. Atheists have their own arguments for living a good life and they think that religious morality is based too much on fear. That does not make me think that they are evil: they’re engaged in the same quest for a good life and a good understanding of it that religious people are. I don’t think there is all that much conflict between science and religion, though there are those who think otherwise.
          I think we should be prepared to support people for public office whose religious views are strikingly different from ours, unless we suppose on reasonable evidence, not just on the basis of religious polemic, that those views would lead to policies that would be repugnant to us, which is quite possible (I agree). But in that event it is the repugnant policy that justifies the refusal of support rather than the religious view in itself. My reason for saying this is that political division in society along religious lines is extremely dangerous, as many examples show.

          • bdlaacmm

            You are correct! I repent in dust and ashes. Seems Copernicus was only the Administrator of the Diocese. Correction acknowledged! (However, the remainder of my comment stands.)

          • Douglas Mckeever

            Religious hope vs atheist despair? ROFL

          • Martin Hughes

            Well, I was trailing my coat a bit there, I must admit. I mustn’t go too far off topic, but my idea is that (what I regard as) the main argument for atheism, that the world is a rotten place, in fact too rotten – and too frustrating to all moral efforts – to be the result of divine providence, continues to have implications beyond the first and most obvious implication that there is no God. In particular, the implication that the world is indeed a rotten place and that efforts to make it better are quite likely to do no more than add frustration and pain to the lives of would-be good persons is quite significant: a despairing point of view if ever I saw one. This doesn’t mean (to return to topic in hand) that I wouldn’t vote for an atheist: atheist resolve to be good and to do good in this world has a certain heroic quality, though also a slightly paradoxical one.

        • Tim Meyfarth

          Dude are you serious?

          Your church of hate murdered people for saying the earth rotated around the Sun, because a scientific fact threatened the primacy of religious power. In fact let’s recap the wonderful achievements of your religion of hate and evil shall we?

          1. The Crusades. Lets go kill a bunch of people where Jeebus USED TO LIVE because they have a different skin color and religion than we do

          2. The Spanish Inquisition. Let’s torture a whole bunch of people in incredibly evil and brutal ways for not believing in Jeebus or pointing out logical or factual errors within the Bible.

          3. The Salem Witch Trials. If you float you are a witch and must be killed. If you drown, well too bad for you that you are dead now but at least you weren’t a witch!!

          4. The Genocide and complete cultural destruction of the native Latin American indigenous populations by Fanatical Evil Christians like Vasco de Gama, etc.

          5. Saying “Slavery is ok because it’s in the Bible”, then fighting to keep black people as slaves and slavery legal. See also, Jim Crow and the KKK.

          6. Prohibition

          7. Christian “Priests” raping a whole bunch of kids, then being moved by their utterly corrupt “Christian Leadership” to new parishes where they could rape a whole new bunch of kids.

          8. Throwing the dead bodies of non-christian Babies who died from abuse at the hands of “christians” into a septic tank in Ireland.

          Please show me the atheist equivalent to any of that?

          Oh and also your assertion that “atheists have no way to explain “being good”. Unlike you who is “good” because you have been threatened and blackmailed by your “loving god” with an ETERNITY of suffering and torment if you aren’t “good” during your 70 years or so of life on planet earth.

          You dont have any “inherently superior morality” if YOUR reason for “being good” is “I only act “good” because I believe in and have been threatened by an invisible sky person with eternal “hell” if I’m not “good” and not because I possess any innate empathy or compassion for others out of the box”

          Being threatened with hell by your invisible sky person and then acting a certain way isn’t being “good” or “moral”, it’s you trying to not get killed and tortured FOREVER by your sick and evil invisible sky person.

          So spare us you patting yourself on the back about how “inherently morally superior and good” Christians are ok when the only reason you are “good” is because of the threat of spending an ETERNITY in hell if you aren’t.

          Thanks for playing. 🙂

          • bdlaacmm

            Dude, I am serious.

    • Kohoutek

      Yes, people consciously regard atheists as “evil.” My former neighbors called me evil and threw garbage in my yard. They said that we “believed we were gods” and made outrageous accusations, culminating in me calling the police, who told them to knock it off. We sold the house and moved away.
      A woman threw herself across the room to get away from me when I said I did not believe in god.
      Men have accused me of being sexually promiscuous because I am not religious.
      “Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot,” etc. – I of course follow them, and Charles Darwin caused the Holocaust. Etc., etc., etc.
      Another bias – before I uploaded my pic as my avatar, commenters naturally assumed that I was a man. One man, upon learning that I was an atheist, asked me, “Is that even possible for a woman?”

      • Martin Hughes

        Can you reveal in very approximate terms where was the area where you were abused and the where you felt safer? Does this tell us something about religious-ideological geography?

        • Kohoutek

          I don’t think that any religio-ideological geography can be inferred from my situation. We moved from a major metropolitan city in the midwest to a suburb of that city – it’s quite conservative out here, but we have some land and more privacy than we had with next door neighbors who were 30 feet from us. It’s beautiful and closer to work for both of us – that was our primary motivation. The area has also attracted nature lovers and artists, so who knows what will happen when I start a local meetup. It just simply became intolerable to be next door to these people, who were essentially stalkers in that no matter how much we withdrew they made noise, peeked in our windows, etc., so there was another motivation going on with them, too – a desire to force friendship, I think, plus socio-economic-educational differences. The cops were very sympathetic, I must say.

    • DanJr

      1. This had already been explained. But you are also wrong about atheists not having a coherent reason to be good. Go check out Good Without God.
      Also, only very young children cannot understand the concept of intrinsic rewards, so why do Christians always have to be told that “someone is watching” and have the threat of going to Hell hanging over them? Can’t they be good for the sake of the world and future generations? That doesn’t sound like moral values to me. It just sounds like not wanting to get in trouble.

      2. Yep. But I think the author’s point is asking the religious to realize that not everyone in the world shares their beliefs and to sip being shocked when your neighbor, for example, says she is an atheist.

      3. Sure, you vote for the candidate that stands up for the rights and interests of his/her consultants. Why, though, would an atheist candidate necessarily stand for the opposite values as you? (Keep in mind here that some christian “values” cannot be written into law as they are considered unconstitutional due to their discriminatory nature.)

      4. It is not discrimination, but rather personal prejudice that these people think that an atheist is by definition bad.

      5. You assume Richard Dawkins is representative of all atheists. Could I assume that someone I tink is bad, let’s say pedophile priests, are representative of all Cistians?
      (before everyone jumps down my throat, I’m not saying Richard Dawkins is a phile or that his outspoken approach is the equivalent of pedophilia. I’m just picking people who really piss others off , to make a point)

      In other words, your little list did not refute the article’s points, but merely showed your own prejudice against atheists. If you, not knowing much about real, everyday atheists, can’t see why it’s wrong to despise them all and lump them all together in the category of “bad people” … Hey! You figured out the definition of prejudice! Good job!

      • bdlaacmm

        Hey, Dan. Where did I say (or even hint) that atheists were “bad people”? Read my posting again without your preconceived notions, and you’ll find I never said, hinted at, intimated, or suggested any such thing.

        In fact, every orthodox Christian is actually REQUIRED to assume that individual atheists can be as “good” as any believer. As Saint Paul taught, “what the law requires [i.e., what it takes to be good] is written on all people’s hearts, while their conscience also bears witness.” Can’t get any clearer than that.

        No prejudice here! Maybe you should look in a mirror?

        • DanJr

          (first try didn’t post. Sorry if there end up being two)

          Here’s where I got my first “hint”:

          Why would you “never knowingly vote” for an atheist? Discounting anyone within a certain belief system for no reason except that atheist label smacks of simple prejudice. Especially since you claim that you think atheists CAN be good people
          according to your Saint Peter.

          This is different from saying you would never vote for someone based only on their stance on “important issues”. If you had said, for example, ‘I would never vote for someone who wanted to take “Under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance’, that would be voting on “issues.” But that is not what you said. There is an inherent prejudice behind just ruling out all atheists based on that religious label. Anyway, a politician’s faith *should* have no bearing on how efficiently and honestly he is able to represent his constituents. (But we can all think of politicians who favor a certain sect over protecting the rights of all his constituents, I am sure.)

          If the response to this is something like, ‘I see nothing wrong with discounting entire religions from politics,’ then we are done here. I know that brand of crazy. Reasoned argument has no effect on it.

          (Also, one of my favorite things about being an atheist is that I CAN look in the mirror and reflect honestly on what I see there. I do not have to try to retrofit what I know to be right in my heart with, what is in my opinion, the racist, sexist, violent, hateful, contradictory teachings of an oft-revised archaic ‘holy’ book. So thank you for the advice. I do so often. I stand by my reply.)

          • bdlaacmm

            The fact that I would never vote for a particular person says nothing whatsoever about whether that person is either “good” or “bad”. Are you one of those people who demonizes everyone who disagrees with you? I certainly don’t! All it means is that I choose a candidate to represent me who is like me, and that is exactly how one is supposed to choose. That is the very reason we have a democracy.

    • DeadInHell

      That’s cute, guy. Did you get those talking points from your pastor?

      • bdlaacmm

        Nope. Made ’em up myself.

    • Jason Matson

      Spoken like a true self righteous bigot.

    • Douglas Mckeever

      1.) It’s those who base their morality on alleged ‘holy’ books that have no logically coherent moral structure. It’s strange how what god ‘says’ almost always coincides with a believer’s pre-existing morals and prejudices. The fact is that even most believers don’t base their morality on their holy books. They pick the bits they already agree with and ignore the rest. Most of our modern freedoms were won during and after the enlightenment, usually in opposition to religion. People often make the vacuous claim that modern law is based upon the bible, specifically the ten commandments. This is not true. The majority of the commandments are notpart of the law. Those that do, re’ murder and stealing, have precedents that pre-date the bible. Not relying on a contradictory and self serving ‘holy’ book, or on a priest, to tell you what’s right and wrong, means that you have to think logically and rationally about what is right and wrong. Perhaps this is why so many scientists and medical professionals are atheists and why the overwhelming majority of prison inmates are not.

      2.) You are confusing non-religious with non-xtian.

      3.) It’s sad that you would ‘never knowingly vote for an atheist’. If your only reason for voting is whether or not a candidate believes in a deity, it is a sorry state of affairs and a waste of a vote. What will happen when you find yourself agreeing, almost entirely, with a candidate’s manifesto, then discover they are an atheist? Sad, sad, sad…

      4.) I agree that this particular example is mild discrimination, at best. However it is based upon an unfounded and stereotypical view of what an atheist is like. Similar to those that may make a similar statement re’ marrying someone of a different race. Nor does it detract from the fact the fact that real discrimination exists, both legally and in day to day life… all around the world, to varying degrees. For Western countries this usually takes the form of special privileges for xtians (sometimes other believers to) and the xtian religion. Every organisation should be equal before the law and everybody should have equal rights before the law. Otherwise ‘equal rights’ becomes just a hollow phrase.

      5.) The most virulent criticism of particular religions, usually stems from either those who have suffered at the hands of religion, or by those in other religions. For centuries (and in many countries it is still the case) atheists faced death, torture, abuse, imprisonment, exile etc. All that has happened in recent centuries is that this has been taken out (mostly) of the legal codes of Western society. Some other countries have followed suit, to varying degrees. The resurgance od religious fundamentalism (of virtually all religious types) was partly caused by fear of secularism and non-belief. Atheists are, on the whole, defending civil and human rights, criticising religious privileges and abuses of pewer… and defending the scientific method against religious inpired stupidity, ignorance and delusion. Luckily enough people see the benefits of these things. as non-belief continues, worldwide, to be the fastest growing ‘religious’ category. There has been an unspoken ‘rule’ for far too long, that says that religious beliefs should be respected… merely because they are religious. This stems from passages of ‘holy’ books that will always condemn those that believe differently. Many, such as the bible, also attack, consistently, intelligence & knowledge. Large numbers of people have seen these dictats for what they are. All ideas and beliefs are open to question, even ridicule (if they contain ridiculous or bigoted viewpoints). Personally, I think free speech is invaluable to modern democracy. If mocking or ridicule are the worst things you can come up with then I really don’t have a lot of sympathy. Everyone is offended by stuff, all the time. Being offended grants no special privileges. An atheist “extremist” may mock you Facebook. A religious extremist is another thing altogether…

      Faith = belief without, or in spite of evidence. There’s a reason why it’s central to virtually all religions.

    • Geoff 21

      As to your Five Things:

      1. I doubt very seriously that many people consciously regard atheists as “evil”. What they (correctly) say is that atheists have no logically coherent way of explaining why one ought to be good.

      1a. Ethics as a discourse long precedes Christianity. It is both more coherent and more rigorous. Religion is a (‘respected’) refuge for bigotry, ignorance and ossified dogma which is usually much less moral as a direct result of that. The partial and simplistic 10 commandments omit many items now regarded as ‘human rights’. The Old Testament condones slavery, genocide, murder of homosexuals, oppression of women, etc. The New Testament originates eternal damnation for non-belief, thus disposing of the ‘freedom’ of free-will, for those indoctrinated since childhood. That is where the incoherent nonsense resides. Ethics and the moral decision making should develop with our understanding of the world; it cannot remain ‘good’ as an absolutist dogma derived from flawed ancient bigotries. Ethical behaviour is not consistently possible for Christianity or any other religion unmodified by our innate ethical values.

      2. Of course they are. This has been the case from the beginning, and will be until the end. This is why John contrasts the Church with the “World”. No news here.

      2a. Beginning? End? You obviously know the future; how? Can you provide dates and sources for your obviously prescient assertions?

      3. Guilty as charged. I personally would never knowingly vote for an atheist. And why should I? The entire point of democracy is to give people the chance to elect representatives who think like them – who agree with them on the important issues. I would no sooner vote for an atheist than I would for any other candidate who so fundamentally disagreed with me on an important matter. And that is how one should vote.

      3a. If politicians are forced to hide the fact you very likely would not be given the opportunity to know if they were atheist or not. No ethically discriminant factor could demonstrate with certainty the candidate’s belief in a god or lack of it where this is hidden or lied about. Even atheists might hold irrational opinions.

      4. “Further, 49 percent of people would be unhappy if an atheist married into their family” How is that discrimination? Are you saying that parents should have no opinion about their childrens’ choices in life partners?

      4a. It isn’t, it’s bigotry, based upon beliefs not grounded in fact or supported by evidence, just like homophobia or misogyny, It sounds as if you like the idea of children’s choices being controlled by their parents. That’s another common immoral stance of religion – removing the rights of individuals by not respecting their autonomy, especially in respect of the indoctrination of children.

      5. “Nonreligious people are doing many things to cope with and eliminate the discrimination they face.” Hmm… I guess that would include such things as this: “Mock them [religious believers, specifically Christians], ridicule them in public … They should be challenged and ridiculed with contempt.” (atheist Richard Dawkins)

      5a. With so much to mock and so little time in which to do it one can only sympathise and hope to contribute a mite. When religions were at their most powerful we saw how moral they were. Now they are forever whinging because it is no longer impossible to criticise their amoral and immoral doctrines and the behaviour of their adherents.

    • David

      Now..substitute the word jew or muslim or christian everywhere for atheist.

  • Michael Eldred

    My suggestion: Buy a winter coat and move to Vermont. If you tell people here you’re an atheist, they’ll just shrug and say “Good for you.”