Quantcast

«

»

Nov 02 2011

Is Anti-Atheist Discrimination Real?

Is there really anti-atheist discrimination in the United States, in any practical sense? Do atheists in the U.S. face anything like the economic, social, or other practical discrimination faced by, say, African-Americans, or women, or LGBT people?

Those are, you may notice, two different questions. A fact that seems to escape some people. There can be a significant difference, both in degree and in kind, between anti-atheist bigotry and other forms of bigotry… and anti-atheist bigotry can still be real, with real-world consequences.

In a discussion on this blog yesterday about the American Cancer Society/ Foundation Beyond Belief controversy, a pair of comments from 10000li expressed the opinion that:

What happens to atheist in America today is nowhere near as bad as what happens to gays and non-white minorities still, and it really irks me when atheist writers use terms like “back of the bus” for what happens to us.

There is zero economic or social consequence to being an atheist. The only time we get trouble is when we try to join groups that didn’t want us in the first place.

and:

Atheists do not have second-class status. That sentiment, expounded by white, liberal, middle-income atheists, is pure and total bs. There is NOTHING that the government or society owes us that we don’t already have.

I would have ignored it, but it’s an idea I’ve run into more than once, so I thought I should respond. Here’s what I said.

*

10000li: You are flatly wrong. There is real bigotry against atheists in the U.S., with real-world consequences. Atheist get denied custody of their kids, explicitly on the basis of their atheism. Atheist students in public high schools trying to organize groups routinely get stonewalled by school administrators. Discrimination against atheists in the U.S. military is widespread and well-documented. Atheists who come out get disowned and kicked out of their homes. Atheist who come out get bullied, harassed, threatened, get their property vandalized. Atheists who come out can lose their jobs. (No, it’s not legal. Neither is theft or murder. And whaddya know? They still happen.) Polls consistently show that atheists are one of the most distrusted groups in the country; they show that people are less likely to vote for us than any other group, less likely to want us to marry into their families.

If you want supporting data, you’ll find it for most of these facts in my piece, 10 Scariest States to Be an Atheist. You can find it for the pieces not mentioned in that post by, you know, using Google.

Are things as bad for atheists as they are for, say, African Americans, or women? Probably not — not in terms of economic disadvantage or physical threat. But if I’m being punched in the face, the fact that other people’s arms are being broken doesn’t make my getting punched in the face okay.

If you and your immediate circle aren’t personally experiencing these things — good for you. You’re lucky. I’m lucky, too. I haven’t experienced most of them myself (although my atheist blogging has gotten me targeted with threats of violence, rape, and death). I live in San Francisco, a part of the country that’s relatively tolerant of religious diversity in general and atheism in particular. But most of the U.S. is not like San Francisco. If you think that no atheists in the U.S. experience these forms of bigotry, I suggest that you are living in a bubble. And I suggest that you step out of it.

*

I’m now sorry that I didn’t add this: No, I don’t like it when atheists use phrases like “back of the bus” to describe anti-atheist discrimination, either. I don’t think we should be equating anti-atheist bigotry with the systematic racism that’s existed in this country for hundreds of years: it isn’t accurate or proportionate, and it won’t win us any friends among the African- American communities — theists, atheists, or people on the fence. But again: The fact that Bigotry A is not the same as Bigotry B doesn’t mean that Bigotry A doesn’t exist. And the fact that you, personally, have not experienced Bigotry A doesn’t mean nobody else has and that we can safely ignore it.

Thoughts?

42 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Stephen B.

    Yes, it does exist, may not be as blantant/visible as some bigotry, but it is still there.
    I live in a very liberal county in Maryland and I was discussing the possibility of running in an upcoming election. I asked a friend about this idea, he told me flat out that he would not vote for me. He could never vote for someone without their “morals” coming from religion. I was flabergasted. Guess we are not quite as liberal as I thought.
    By the way, it is still in the Maryland constitution that atheists are not allowed to run for office.

  2. 2
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    In some states you can’t be elected to a government position if you’re an atheist.

  3. 3
    LadyBlack

    Thanks Greta, I read the first comment by 10000li and disagreed with it, but you have put what I felt in a far better way than I could.

  4. 4
    Arjan

    Very well said Greta!
    I live in the Netherlands and over here there is a relatively high tolerance for any religion or non-religion. So I haven’t experienced any bigotry myself, but the stories I hear and read about atheists in other parts of the world make it clear I’m very lucky.

  5. 5
    OverlappingMagisteria

    The only time we get trouble is when we try to join groups that didn’t want us in the first place.

    …and how is that not discrimination? Unless the groups goals are inherently at odds with atheism (for example, a religious convent), when a group says “atheists not allowed” that is discrimination.

  6. 6
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I asked a friend about this idea, he told me flat out that he would not vote for me. He could never vote for someone without their “morals” coming from religion. I was flabergasted. Guess we are not quite as liberal as I thought.

    Or as friends, for that matter.

  7. 7
    John K.

    Well said.

    There is little value to having a “who is more oppressed” contest. Even if things are much worse in other places or in other ways, it is no reason to abandon improvement in less oppressive areas.

  8. 8
    Lou Doench

    I think a lot of the folks you are dealing with Greta need some remedial education. I learned the difference between “Compare”, “Contrast” and “Conflate” back in elementary school. Two of those things you can and should do when discussing various civil rights movements. The third is almost always a mistake.

  9. 9
    unbound

    Well said Greta.

    I must remain a closest Atheist myself. While religion is not an overt part of my workplace, I deal with enough clients who readily drop examples of religious affiliations that there are no questions that my superiors would be notified if they were to deal with an atheist…which would definitely lead to poor performance ratings (I’m consistently rated in the top 30% for the past decade in my company) which would then lead to being let go. My ability to earn is as much to do with relationships as any objective skills.

    Similarly, as the Treasurer for a local 501(c)(3) organization, 2 of the other officers are highly religious and have openly mistreated the few suspected atheists that volunteer. I could not support my community as I do today if I were not viewed as a “Catholic that just doesn’t go to church much”…not just due to being unable to work with those officers, but a number of other members of the organization that would clearly treat me as toxic (as they do the suspected atheists).

    Just because the treatment of an atheist where I live is not as bad as the treatment of a minority or woman doesn’t mean there are no worries. Impactful is impactful…just because a broken arm is much better than a broken collar bone doesn’t mean having the broken arm is a non-issue.

  10. 10
    hoverfrog

    It must be horrible living in a near theocracy and not being part of it. I’m happy that England isn’t like that. Religion is something of an embarrassing topic, like talking about the quality of your stools. We know that some people do it but it isn’t something that you want to bring up at the dinner table.

    If anything overt references to faith will work to one’s detriment. Nobody really wants to hang around with someone who will turn every conversation to their favourite nerd topic and religion has not the be the oldest nerd topic going. True we might not want to mock the Jewish manager for his refusal to touch ham or the Muslim worker who won’t come out drinking on a Friday night but as long as they keep their religion to themselves then we’re happy for them. That makes atheism something of a non-topic too (which is why I have to come all the way to virtual America to whinge about it). There’s really no point discussing your membership of the non-stamp collectors club when nobody collects stamps and there’s no point discussing your lack of religion when only 15% of people ever go to church.

  11. 11
    infophile

    @2:

    In some states you can’t be elected to a government position if you’re an atheist.

    Practically, this is true, but it’s not the case legally. While many states have a religious test for office in their constitutions, this falls afoul of the US constitution, which explicitly forbids such tests and (through the fourteenth amendment) extends this to the states. There have been a couple cases brought before the courts (usually by some nut who doesn’t want a non-Christian to get elected), and they’ve all affirmed that these religious tests are non-constitutional. However, they remain in the books despite that fact, as it would be political suicide to propose removing them.

  12. 12
    Randomfactor

    A friend of mine is in the custody battle you allude to, and at a serious disadvantage because her atheism has been used against her.

  13. 13
    miller

    Another thing that bothers me about this response is that it reduces discrimination to just the big things. Speaking as a queer person, it’s not all hate, economic disadvantages, and legal barriers. There are also the little things like… the lack of representation in fiction, especially of non-white queer people. Or the idle stereotypes and default assumptions. If queer people can to complain about little things like that, atheists can do the same.

  14. 14
    jc

    While I agree that, and I cannot stress this next word enough, typically you might be right there are geographical and social factors that you have to take into account as well. Being from the south even as a child I was beaten regularly by classmates for being a “satan-worshipper”, and have received no shortage of job discrimination, police discrimination, and social discrimination since. I’ve been fired from jobs for it with no way to prove it beyond anecdotal evidence. I can only assume that you think everywhere is just like where you live, and frankly that’s just not the case. Believe it or not some people besides LGBT and non-white folks do get discriminated against.

  15. 15
    Emily

    Having worked closely with data from a survey about the stigma felt by atheists, both in the US and internationally (n =7951), I can guarantee that it is still happening, and it is all over the big way/little way spectrum.

  16. 16
    quantheory

    It’s also worth pointing out that, when we’re talking about the world at large rather than the United States, there’s no longer quite as sharp of a distinction. Anywhere in the world that has had major religious conflict is also likely to have religious extremists who will threaten the well-being of atheists. Anywhere in the world that has major theocratic elements to its government is likely to treat atheists the same as other heretics.

    In the U.S., based on (admittedly always incomplete) federal hate crime statistics, we seem to almost be as safe from violent assault as Protestants (though still often threatened). In other parts of the world, it’s much more dangerous to openly disbelieve.

    On a different note, it can be frustrating to talk about the civil rights for different groups, because people conflate discrimination that is “not too bad” with discrimination that doesn’t exist at all. They count discrimination that is common as worse than discrimination that is uncommon. And the threshold for “too bad” discrimination is, hypocritically, higher from groups that they have a strong positive association with.

    Take marriage inequality, for example. How many people out there believe in civil unions but not same-sex marriage? For them, the difference between a civil union and same-sex marriage is not bad enough to be real discrimination, even though they believe that not recognizing any LGBT relationships would be.

    And I imagine that if you took a group that already could marry (atheists, divorced people, infertile couples), and tried to force them into civil unions instead, even for the exact same reasons as with LGBTs, people would be outraged. But a group for which equality means a change in policy? They don’t get as much consideration from a lot of people.

    The same thing is in play when we talk about certain cases of discrimination against atheists. Not letting a kid start an SSA at his school is “not too bad”, so it’s not a real problem. Adding certain types of new discrimination (taking away atheists’ right to vote) would get more of an uproar, but older types of discrimination are acceptable. (Providing more space for Christian displays than others, invoking sectarian prayers in state-sponsored proceedings, special exemptions for churches and religious charities over other nonprofits…)

    Plus, some of the discriminatory groups just have too positive of an image for people to associate them with prejudice. If some random corporation said that it didn’t want to hire atheists or gay people, or to serve atheists and gays (in the case of public accommodations, like hotels), not only would that be illegal in many cases, but I think most people would understand the problem. If it’s some small business, like a family-owned shop or a bed and breakfast, all of a sudden people start saying “well, they are a private organization, and if they don’t want to deal with certain types of people for religious reasons”.

    But it’s not just because they are a “small business”, but because when we think of small, family-owned businesses, we have a positive association in our heads, a sympathetic one. The same feeling can get extended to huge national organizations. Boy Scouts of America discriminates against gay people and atheists, but they aren’t so bad. Neither is the Salvation Army. Neither are Catholic charities (especially adoption agencies), although it must be admitted that, at least in that case, they usually avoid explicit discrimination against atheists (because freedom of religion was established so much earlier than gay rights in the U.S.). These are great community organizations, part of America’s culture of hard work and charity and family values. So everyone has to look the other way when there’s something inconveniently prejudiced or nutty about them.

    Kind of like churches.

    As soon as discrimination is performed by people who are nice, or friendly, or do good work, or even just happen to be friends of ours, we suddenly find ourselves rationalizing how discrimination is “not too bad” and not worth making a fuss about.

  17. 17
    quantheory

    “They count discrimination that is common as worse than discrimination that is uncommon.”

    I’m sorry, wires got crossed in my brain. This sentence was supposed to read:

    “They count discrimination that is new as worse than discrimination that is already in place.”

    Of course, it would be rational to care more about bigger, more common problems. But it’s not so rational to care less about problems just because they are older.

  18. 18
    Erik

    I think that comparison against racial discrimination is difficult – the key to race is that it’s generally not possible to hide it, and it colors virtually every interaction in their lives. The comparison to LBGT discrimination is much more apt, in that both atheism and sexual preference can be hidden… at the cost of lying about your personal life, and all the toxic baggage that comes along with lying and with the potential revelation of the lies.

    But with atheists being legally barred from holding public office in some states, and socially distrusted to the point of losing custody of their children by the mere fact of their belief, that is _real_ discrimination, quantifiable and verifiable. It’s no less real than discrimination against any other group.

  19. 19
    10000li

    Sorry I’m so late to come back here.

    First, I want to thank Ms. Christina for the last paragraph: The thin that sets me off most of all is American atheists pretending that what happens to us is as bad as what happens to non-white minorities and LGBT folks.

    *****

    Notice, I said, “American” above, and I should have made that clear in my previous comments. But, what happens to atheist in theocracies happens to everyone who is not a member of the protected religion, so, again, we can’t claim special status in those situations. An atheist in a fundy Muslim area is treated no worse than a Jehovah’s Witness, so the problem is not an atheist problem, it’s a problem of tolerance of any religious belief but the locally accepted one.

    This gets to my point that I seem not to have made clear in the previous posts: As an atheist, I see no evidence that atheists are treated poorly specifically for being atheists. What I see is that certain religionists treat atheists badly, just as they treat Jews badly, or Muslims badly or LGBT folks badly. We are just another out-group to them.

    As I wrote, separation of church and state, for example, is not an atheist issue. It is an issue for anyone, theist or atheist, who recognizes that, should America become a theocracy, only one religious POV will be allowed, and it won’t be theirs.

    There is no State or Territory in this Union that prohibits atheists from running for office. I wish people would propagating stop that myth. Show me the laws and show me when they have been enforced in the 21st C.

    That an atheist “cannot get elected” is irrelevant, because atheism is not a political cause. Atheism is about one thing – the nonexistence of gods – nothing else. Atheists have every right to be political, but what we’re being political about isn’t atheism.

    With all due respect, anyone who is having child custody issues just needs a better lawyer. Lots of religionists have child custody issues, too.

    Since most atheists are rational materialists and believe in a world based on evidence, the fact that you cannot provide more than just a feeling that you will be/were fired because of your lack of religion is hard to get excited about. And, honestly, why would you want to work with such people in the first place? Your actions economically benefit people you know are bad. Why do you want to keep doing that? There is no objective requirement that someone else provide the idyllic workplace for you. Show some backbone and create your own economic situation, that includes the opportunity for you to wag your jaw all day about your lack of religion, if it’s really that important to you.

    Also, your messed-up family and friends is not an atheist issue. The same thing happens to some people who choose a different political party than their folks, or a different football team. If you grew up in a fundy household, their religious POV was effed up from the start – what makes you think that you coming out as an atheist will magically change their minds? I’ll let you in on a liberating idea: You can still love people you disagree with. If you don’t know how to get that across to your family members, you’ve got bigger problems than supposed atheist discrimination.

    Stonewalling by school administrators is an exercise in democracy. Throughout our lives, we will run into people in positions of power over us who abuse that power, based on whatever they feel like being angry about. So, yet again, this is not an atheist issue, it’s an issue in the basic right of all people to be able to associate and express themselves as they see fit. When we see it happening to anyone, we need to step up and help fight for their rights.

    In some of the comments above there was some of the usual whining about “I can see religious symbols and I don’t want to!” All I can say to that is, Pfft.

    Nope. You-all have related cases that you think support your claims, but have failed to make the case that discrimination against atheists is a singular issue that can’t be remedied by exercising your basic rights that are possessed by everyone else in our society.

    PS If you don’t see enough of the kinds of people you’d like to see stories and such, then brush off your keyboard and get hacking. The “we’re invisible in commercial entertainment” yowl is nothing but childish self-indulgence. NO ONE owes you a book, movie or TV show you will like.

  20. 20
    Ani Sharmin

    Very good point, Greta.

    I don’t like it when people equate one type of discrimination with another, but I do think certain comparisons are fair. For example, if someone tried to claim that banning gay marriage is as bad as slavery, that would be ludicrous, but if someone makes a comparison between banning gay marriage and banning interracial marriage, then I think that’s a fair point.

    There’s discrimination against many different groups, and it’s not always the same, as you said. It bothers me when people try to argue that one type of discrimination not being as bad as another type (in a particular time period and a particular place) means that the type that’s less prevalent or not as bad doesn’t exist at all.

    @quantheory (#16): Excellent comment.

    @Erik (#18): That’s a good point about an analog to the LGBT community being better than an analogy to racial discrimination, due to people being able to see skin color.

    @10000li (comment #19):

    As an atheist, I see no evidence that atheists are treated poorly specifically for being atheists. What I see is that certain religionists treat atheists badly, just as they treat Jews badly, or Muslims badly or LGBT folks badly. We are just another out-group to them.

    All this shows is that lots of groups are discriminated against for not being a member of the same religion as the person doing the discriminating. I don’t really see how this is a point to make when arguing against the existence of discrimination against atheists for being atheists. If one person said, “African Americans are discriminated against for being African American” and another person said, “other groups, such as Hispanic Americans and Middle Eastern Americans, are also discriminated against due to race” that really wouldn’t be a point against the first person. Each group’s being discriminated against for being in that group, and they’re all examples of a similar problem.

    PS If you don’t see enough of the kinds of people you’d like to see stories and such, then brush off your keyboard and get hacking. The “we’re invisible in commercial entertainment” yowl is nothing but childish self-indulgence. NO ONE owes you a book, movie or TV show you will like.

    It’s not about owing anyone anything. It’s about people intentionally deciding to exclude people of various minority groups from shows, movies, etc. based on the faulty assumption that audiences won’t want to see a tv show, movie, etc. with a minority character.

  21. 21
    10000li

    Ani,

    There is a distinction between being targeted for being a member of a certain group, and being rejected just because someone is not a member of another group.

    Many of you are claiming that atheists are targeted just because we are atheists. I am pointing out that you haven’t shown that the only reason atheists are treated badly by some is because we are not religionists of the stripe those folks think is correct.

    The reason why it is important is this:

    LGBT folks are specifically targeted in that they are often denied certain rights that granted to straight people, for example, the right to marry, name their partners as economic beneficiaries, and adopt.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses in America have all those rights. When people discriminate against them, it is not because they are JW’s specifically, but because they are not part of the discriminator’s version of Christianity.

    The solution to the LGBT problem requires specific legislation to correct institutional discrimination. For example, we need a national change in the laws that define marriage in a way that includes same gender marriages as having the same rights and responsibilities as opposite gender marriages.

    For JW’s, we need to ensure that the laws protecting every American are being enforced, but, at this point, we don’t need specific laws that benefit JW’s.

    If anything is wrong for atheists, our case is identical to that of the JW’s: There is no institutional discrimination prohibiting atheists from doing anything that anyone else can do. If atheists perceive problems, all we need to do is ensure that existing laws are being enforced that protect everyone’s rights, we don’t need new legislation that changes things for our benefit.

    As for this:

    It’s about people intentionally deciding to exclude people of various minority groups from shows, movies, etc. based on the faulty assumption that audiences won’t want to see a TV show, movie, etc. with a minority character.

    So what? The solution is still the same: Write stories with the minority characters you want to see, market them, and see how much of an audience you can garner. Here in the 21st Century, you need very little money, and can avoid the former gatekeepers of editors, publishers, producers and production companies. Anyone can create nearly any media they want these days with any characters they want to see. This blog collection is proof of that.

    It’s also proof that atheists really have nothing to complain about regarding perceived discrimination, because we can easily contact millions of other atheists to seek jobs in friendly places, find compatible mates, comfort and support each other in times of need, and create the kind of family we always wish we had.

    Sorry. You still haven’t convinced me that there’s anything bad for atheists in America that takes more than a little concentrated effort to correct.

  22. 22
    Ani Sharmin

    @10000li (#21): I agree with you that, with atheists and religious groups, it’s a matter of current laws being enforced, considering the First Amendment (in the US), though it may be different in other countries. Atheists have to change people’s minds, whereas (like you pointed out) LGBT people have to change people’s minds and change the law, so the latter group likely has a harder job to do. I agree with you on that. That doesn’t mean personal discrimination (as opposed to legal discrimination) isn’t a big deal. If a significant number of people have discriminatory views against a group, I consider that a big problem.

    As for the media, this is the kind of thing I was talking about:

    “Say Yes To Gay YA” by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith
    http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/genreville/?p=1519

    Is it possible (and a good idea) to go and self-publish, etc. if agents, major publishers, movie studios, etc. won’t work with you due to a minority character in your story? Of course. I think it’s a great idea. However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t discriminatory for them to reject a story based on the fact that a minority character was in the story. The ability of a group to succeed despite discrimination doesn’t mean the discrimination isn’t there.

  23. 23
    mmmkay

    10000li:

    Really? just a little “concentrated effort” and everything will be okey dokey? I’ll explain that to my teen who had a friend comletely stop coming over after she found out we didn’t believe in gods. No, it wasn’t because we didn’t believe in her family’s brand of religion, it was, according to the mom, quite specifically that we didn’t believe in god. Should I tell that to my 11 year old who was spat on by a classmate when he explained what the tiny little red “A” pin was on his backpack? Oh yeah, and I’m positive there is a veritable unruly horde of living wage employers in my area just clamoring for me to come work for them after I quit my job because I feel it’s unfriendly.How did I miss that? Like others out there, you just have to keep your head down, mouth shut and try to block out the Jesus rabble. I’d like to keep a roof over my head.

  24. 24
    Laura-Ray

    Just thought I’d put a word in edgewise:
    Honestly, I think there should be a lot of fraternity between the LGBT movement and the Atheist movement for the reason that both face the same sorts of problems for whatever reason (I guess it kind of makes sense if you think about it? BUT that’s another story).
    The discrimination is the same, guys. So much of it is parallel. Just because some of it is legal and some of it isn’t, that’s not the point. Just because you’re not a Jew at Auschwitz doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything to complain about. I understand having a problem with that set of words (the back of the bus)- words are strong, they send strong messages, especially if they’re easy to recognize, if they tap into national memory. Atheists shouldn’t put themselves into a group that has suffered more than them. It’s like pro-lifers comparing abortion to the holocaust. It’s a shitty thing, but saying stuff like that only alienates people who were part of that suffering, or still are.
    Comparing the atheist movement with the LGBT movement is more accurate. Atheists are discriminated against in the workplace, they are threatened and victimize simply for who they are (because you can’t choose to believe in religion once you’ve deconverted any more than you can choose to be attracted to a person you’re not attracted to). Just because most of this discrimination is de-facto rather than de-jure, it doesn’t matter.
    And to that point, don’t tell atheists to stop complaining just because some people have it worse. That is the shittiest argument ever, and I have hated it since my parents told me people were starving in Africa, so I shouldn’t waste food. On the other hand, I’m not going to liken myself to an African refugee if I have a dollar in my pocket and a Taco Bell within walking distance. I’m just going to say, that is no way to live. And it isn’t.
    So yeah, in summary, everybody’s a little right.
    Also, Greta, I love your blog, you’ve helped me so much, and since this is my first comment, I just wanted to say thanks :)

  25. 25
    10000li

    mmmkay whines in with this:

    “Really? just a little “concentrated effort” and everything will be okey dokey? I’ll explain that to my teen who had a friend comletely stop coming over after she found out we didn’t believe in gods. No, it wasn’t because we didn’t believe in her family’s brand of religion, it was, according to the mom, quite specifically that we didn’t believe in god. Should I tell that to my 11 year old who was spat on by a classmate when he explained what the tiny little red “A” pin was on his backpack? Oh yeah, and I’m positive there is a veritable unruly horde of living wage employers in my area just clamoring for me to come work for them after I quit my job because I feel it’s unfriendly.How did I miss that? Like others out there, you just have to keep your head down, mouth shut and try to block out the Jesus rabble. I’d like to keep a roof over my head.”

    Everything in his/her post is exemplary of what I’m talking about.

    1. The so-called “friend” who quit the relationship due to your family’s godlessness.

    I’ve got bad news for you: People have the right to not associate with you for whatever reason they choose. Doing so is not “discrimination,” it’s exercising their right to be with or not be with people they like or don’t like. Are you still wanting to hang out with them now that you’ve found out they think atheists are bad? No? Does that mean you’re “discriminating” against them?

    2. Your kid lets people spit on him/her in school? She/he let a bully have his way? Don’t they teach kids in your child’s school how to deal with bullies? That’s not an atheist problem. That’s a problem of weak citizenship.

    Here’s a quote for you and your kid:

    “The only thing required for evil to flourish is for good men (sic) to do nothing.”

    3. Oh, gawd. Here we go with the, “The world owes me a good job no matter how I want to behave!” whinge. You did miss it, because you are “keeping your head down” rather than looking at reality. There are millions of “living wage” jobs available in this country right now. If you can’t find one, you aren’t trying hard enough. If you need help learning how to find a career that pays well and meets your moral obligations, read these two blogs:

    http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/basics.htm

    and

    http://www.noshortageofwork.com/

    You conclude with “I’d like to keep a roof over my head,” thereby pointing out that you have decided that your current level of material comfort is more important to you than working in a place free of “Jesus rabble.” You made that choice. No one made it for you or forced you into it.

    Your cowardice is not evidence of discrimination. Sorry.

  26. 26
    10000li

    Laura-Ray,

    The analogy with LGBT folks would be apt except for one thing: atheists are not discriminated against in the USA.

    *******

    Do I have to remind my fellow atheists that subjective perception is not objective reality? You-all don’t read the responses to the theist apologists given by the folks over on “The Atheist Experience”? You don’t think those same rules we expect of theists apply to us?

    Your claims that American atheists are the subject of discrimination have to be supported with … proof!

    When you have a feeling that something bad is happening, you have a few ways to deal with it, alone or in combination:

    1. Ignore it.

    2. Verify your preception is in line with reality, then change the reality.

    3. Change your environment to one where you don’t get the feeling any more.

    4. Whine.

    In spite of those who quote-mine me, I do not recommend #1. You guys are falling down on the first part of #2, which is why you are having so much trouble with the second part. Until you do better with #2, I refer you to #3. In the meantime, you mostly seem to prefer #4.

    Your turn.

  27. 27
    Greta Christina

    Okay, I’m calling it. 10000li is a troll. I was going to engage and call him/her out on the victim-blaming and the contorted thinking worthy of a fundamentalist. But the personally abusive and insulting language has sealed it. 10000li is a troll. Everyone, please stop feeding them. Thanks.

  28. 28
    Greta Christina

    Oh, and 10000li, please note my comment policy. In particular, please note #1: “Be respectful of other commenters in this blog. No personal insults; no namecalling; no flame wars.” Any further breaches of this policy will result in you being banned from this blog. Thank you.

  29. 29
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    >Sorry. You still haven’t convinced me that there’s anything bad for atheists in America that takes more than a little concentrated effort to correct.<

    You may have missed it, but in Greta's post, she has a link to the "10 scariest states to be an atheist" post she has, where she *specifically* cites just what you're looking for. You may want to read #8, North Carolina for an example of discrimination against atheists running for city council. #3, Texas, will also be of interest, with a link to a story about a teacher suspended over *suspicions* of being an atheist.

    2 examples, yes, but your point seems to be that atheists don't have it "that bad". Sure, if you're going to play the "you can't compare it to discrimination faced against black people" card, but as several people here have pointed out, just because one minority faces *severe* discrimination doesn't mean the *moderate* discrimination facing another minority doesn't exist.

    The legal page of the Boy Scouts of America states flatly under its policies that "Because of Scouting’s methods and beliefs, Scouting does not accept atheists and agnostics as members or adult volunteer leaders." http://www.bsalegal.org/duty-to-god-cases-224.asp

    How about the treatment of atheists by the military? Not too good. http://rockbeyondbelief.com/2010/12/22/mandatory-army-survey-says-atheists-are-unfit-to-be-soldiers/

    How about child custody cases?http://atheism.about.com/b/2006/03/30/atheists-discriminated-against-in-child-custody-cases.htm
    or
    http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf

    Not convinced? How about laws that prevent atheists from serving in public office? http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/undergod/2009/02/an_advocate_for_atheists_in_ar.html

    A very simple google search provides one with quite a bit of material supporting the real discrimination that atheists face in the United States. Digging one's head in the ground and treating the situation as non-existent doesn't change reality.

    Tony

  30. 30
    10000li

    Oh noes! Not the “I don’t like what he’s saying so I’ll call hom a troll” gambit!

    Whom did I disrepect? mmmkay? Isn’t that writer a Poe?

    I’m not the one hiding my head in the sand. As I pointed out on the other thread and here: We need to continue to improve the rights of everyone, not just atheists. Every thing that may be wrong for us, is symptomatic of a wrongness for others.

    From one of the links sunnydale referred me to:

    http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf

    “But more significantly, when we actually compare the values and beliefs of atheists and secular people to those of religious
    people, the former are markedly less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less anti-Semitic, less racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less close-minded, and less authoritarian”

    Unless someone tells you to pull your head out and quit whining, “Poor me”?

  31. 31
    Aquaria

    This gets to my point that I seem not to have made clear in the previous posts: As an atheist, I see no evidence that atheists are treated poorly specifically for being atheists.

    You have people right in this thread telling you that atheists are fired from jobs and aren’t granted custody of their children FOR THEIR ATHEISM, and you still think that’s not discrimination.

    I have lost jobs over my atheism. Oh, they try to hide it by things like, “You were supposed to report at 7 these mornings, but you didn’t come in until 8″–when the schedule clearly said 8, then, when you start making copies of the schedule you’re a) accused of misusing company resources and b) told that you were called to come in–even though there’s nothing on your answering machine or voice mail.

    Do you think people would do that to a Jew? A Muslim?

    Well, they do it to atheists, and there’s usually nothing we can do about it.

    But that’s not the worst that can happen. I know worse. Much worse. Let’s see if you’ll ever say such stupid things as atheists not being discriminated again after this:

    My sister-in-law was a non-believer who had her child taken from her in California, because some moronic christard scumbag judge thought children are better off with a religious parent, who happened to be the father in this case.

    The ex-husband took the kid to Idaho, where his hyper-religious family beat that child to death because she was 6 years old and not used to being around violent religious scumbags, but they kept “punishing” her to “get Satan out of her.”

    And you have the utter gall to say atheists aren’t discriminated against? Seriously?

    Some of us have actually lived real discrimination, and have paid prices for it that an ignorant fool like you can’t fucking imagine–like my beautiful niece being beaten to death because some scumbag christard seriously thought that an atheist couldn’t possible do better than that to a child.

    You should be ashamed of yourself for even trying to say something so ignorant and disgusting.

  32. 32
    10000li

    You know what’s most disappointing about this entire conversation?

    That all you folks did was rant on about how poor your lives were, and not a one followed up with, “and here’s what we’re doing about it…”

  33. 33
    Greta Christina

    10000li has been warned about the use of personally insulting language in comments here, and has ignored that warning. He/she has now been banned from commenting in this blog.

  34. 34
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Aquaria:
    >>The ex-husband took the kid to Idaho, where his hyper-religious family beat that child to death because she was 6 years old and not used to being around violent religious scumbags, but they kept “punishing” her to “get Satan out of her.” <<

    Just reading your post made me cry. My condolences to you and your family members.

    Tony

  35. 35
    Laura-Ray

    @Aquaria:
    Same as sunnydale75. Not sure how to voice my condolences, so I’ll just say, I hope you can be okay someday. My heart goes out to you.

  36. 36
    Sara K.

    @Aquaria

    That is incredibly sad. I hope somebody sent a letter to the judge saying exactly what happened – it might make the judge think twice before making such a horrible decision again (it also might not).

    My grandfather also came from an extremely abusive hyper-religious family. When he was 5 years old, he was sent a school where he was only allowed to a) eat b) sleep c) take care of his personal sanitation and d) study scripture. If he tried to do anything else (for example, *play*) he was beaten. He, at least, survived until he was old enough to run away (he ran away for the first time when he was 13 years old; he later came back to live with his married older sister, however he would still occasionally run away when the pressure was too great).

  37. 37
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Examples like this boggle my mind. What your grandfather went through was inexcusable. I wasn’t raised in a highly religious household (thankfully). I didn’t frequent church, so I need clarification here.
    What exactly are humans expected to do in the eyes of, say, Christianity or Islam? From what I understand, humans are here to spread the word of their god, defend them from all takers, as well as worship them (?), and do their bidding. No music, no gambling, no dancing, no extramarital sexual encounters (and even those are for the express purpose of having more children), no eating a slew of foods (though don’t humans have dominion over all other creatures on Earth? Scratch that, “we” do, according to genesis 1:26 I hate that I felt the need today to purchase a bible for the first time in my life; although this was assuaged by also purchasing Christopher Hitchens’ GOD IS NOT GREAT), etc. etc. What does that leave humanity? There’s an ark sized list of what we “can’t” do. What *can* we do (surely god isn’t so insecure he needs the now 7 billion people on this planet to constantly worship him)? It seems more like slavery to me (as with your grandfather, Sara, it doesn’t seem too much different than slavery) and an existence like *that* is something I’m glad I have no direct part of.

  38. 38
    E Pluribus Unum

    396 to 9 in favor of passage.

    I DO NOT TRUST IN GOD, I never have and I never will. The fact that 10-25% of Americans feel the same way and the American congress is participating in, supporting and perpetuating HATE LAWS is disgusting to me.

    My understanding of the constitution Article 1,which these people are sworn to uphold expressly forbids specifically what they are doing. But as we have suspected all along, these people belong to cults which regard America as secondary at best, a higher power and that is TREASONIOUS !

    There are many smaller minorities which would be outraged if such laws were created specifically to persecute them. Jews, pagans, Muslims gay people, people with disabilities. There are many smaller groups which enjoy more protection.

    This declaration, this motto is extremely divisive. It is insulting to a LARGE group of Americans. It is hateful and damaging. What if the motto was. “IN WHITE CATHLOIC PEOPLE WE TRUST”. Would that inspire enough hate. What about “IN PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT WE TRUST” This preferential treatment absolutely wrong for our country.

    WHY ARE NONE OF THESE SMALLER GROUPS STANDING UP TO PROTECT US FROM THESE RELIGIOUS BULLIES !?!?!

    Mayby it is better explained here?

    http://www.americanhumanist.org/news/details/2011-11-in-god-we-trust-resolution-ignores-nonbelievers

    Or here:
    http://www.godoffmoney.com

  39. 39
    Sia

    For anyone who hasn’t experienced discrimination due to their atheism, I recommend moving to Louisiana for a few months. I lived there for 4.5 years and it was a nightmare!

  40. 40
    JCrazy

    You’re right. The bigotry and discrimination doled out to atheists is very little compared to that of ethnic minorities and women, and I don’t think we should pretend it is. I would contend, however, that the reason isn’t that atheists are less hated or feared, but it’s that we choose when and to whom we come out to. If there was no way to hide our atheism in hostile places and situations, making us easier to identify, I believe discrimination against non-believers would rival that of other historically marginalized groups.

  41. 41
    Isenki

    Good thing I’m so awesome at pretending to be Christian. Even know the Lord’s Prayer by heart.

  42. 42
    anonymous

    YES. I know of multiple stories in the military, including one in which I was threatened with disciplinary action if I did not bow my head and acknowledge their invisible sky daddy. Of course, in the investigation the NCOs and officers denied threatening to pull me from the ceremony (even though a lawyer from the MRFF heard them tell me that) and denied that they threatened to punish me under UCMJ. Turns out it was against Ft. Jackson policy, who woulda thought? Another person was denied a promotion to sergeant because their chain of command thought they couldn’t be a good leader as they couldn’t pray with their soldiers. Another was told his equal opportunity complaint was invalid, even though he was literally ordered to attend religious ceremonies with no option to not attend.

  1. 43
    Atheist & Gay: Double Jeopardy… or Opportunity? | Applied Sentience

    […] has been increasing, and we may be under-represented in the polls because many folks are afraid to admit that they’re atheists. I suspect that belief has been eroding as a consequence of the flood of atheist writings in the […]

Leave a Reply