Discrimination Against Atheists Is Alive And Well

Selective focus on the word "atheism". Many more word photos in my portfolio...
“The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts: / Those with brains, but no religion, / And those with religion, but no brains.” —Abul Ala al-Ma’arri

In A Nutshell

Atheism is on the rise, and it’s also becoming an idea that’s very, very threatening to many. The result is discrimination, hatred, and suspicion, to the point where there are organizations being formed to help support those who are atheists. Studies have suggested that being confronted with an atheist point of view makes others question their own beliefs, think about death more and, consequently, think about what comes after.

The Whole Bushel

If you think of some groups that are suffering under the bootheel of discrimination, prejudice, and oppression, we’re pretty sure that it’s a long list. There’s one group that’s probably not on that list, though, but they’re having such difficulties with discrimination that there are even laws being enacted to protect them.

In Madison, Wisconsin, it’s now illegal to discriminate against an atheist. Strangely, there was no court case or cited examples of atheists being discriminated against (and the law was enacted on April 1), but those behind it say that’s it’s only fair. People are protected for their religious beliefs; people should also be protected for their lack of religious beliefs.

And according to some atheists—and some studies—it’s protection that’s needed.

In 2011, University of British Columbia and University of Oregon psychologists ran a study to see what kind of perceptions people really had about atheists. They surveyed both Americans and Canadians and asked them what kind of person it was that hit a parked car, left the scene, then found—and kept—a money-filled wallet. There were three choices: a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher. The most common response was the atheist teacher.

There are a lot of claims out there of just how damaging being an atheist can be, from having difficulties on dating sites to being denied fundraising opportunities by organizations that don’t agree with a lack of religious belief. A report by the American Humanist Association, the Center for Inquiry, and like-minded organizations was done in 2012, outlining just how much the non-religious were discriminated against. They cite the prevalence of the religious oaths required for taking public office in various countries, and even things like Malta’s official religion (Roman Catholicism) and their constitutional right to teach it in all state schools as a part of a required curriculum.

They also took issue with Ireland’s anti-blasphemy laws, which could result in a €25,000 fine, and laws in the UK that allow for free bus transportation if you’re attending a religious school but not a secular one.

We’ve all heard stories about students and parents protesting things like a mention of God in school or a sign on the wall that bears the Ten Commandments, but some atheists are feeling so threatened and misunderstood by hateful, religious people that there are organizations popping up all over the place to help atheists deal with the discrimination. The Secular Student Alliance is a nonprofit advocacy group that has more than 390 affiliates on high school and college campuses across the States, and Secular Safe Zone is striving to create a network of like-minded atheists who are struggling with alienation, discrimination, and harassment.

A university-run study suggests that there’s something very real about atheist-hate, and they found that it has something to do with how they make others think.

Humans are all very, very aware we’re going to die, and that’s a terrifying thing. Many take comfort in religion, whether that means believing they’re going to be in a better place after death or returning for another chance. It’s something, and it helps to fight off the absolute terror they might live in otherwise. Those that take comfort in religion are forced to face the idea that there might be nothing—and that some people that are comfortable with that—in the face of an atheist. Finding out that someone is an atheist was found to lead increasingly to thoughts on death, forming what seems to be a very real basis of hatred toward atheists.

Show Me The Proof

The Guardian: Madison law bans religious discrimination … against atheists
SPPS: What If They’re Right About the Afterlife?
2012 Report on Discrimination Against Atheists, Humanists, and the Non-Religious
The Atlantic: Bullied for Not Believing in God
Secular Safe Zone
USA Today: Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists

  • OldBoris

    That’s a very western list, trying to make a relatively mundane problem seem insurmountable. If we’re talking about discrimination against atheists, what about these countries where you can be put to death for apostasy or blasphemy?

    Afghanistan
    Brunei
    Iran
    Mauritania
    Nigeria (though only in the islamic half)
    Pakistan
    Qatar
    Saudi Arabia
    Somalia
    Sudan
    United Arab Emirates
    Yemen

    What about these countries where you can be imprisoned for apostasy or blasphemy?

    Algeria
    The Comoros
    Egypt
    Iraq
    Jordan
    Kuwait
    Malaysia
    Maldives
    Morocco (though islamic mob rule is condoned and might result in death)
    Oman
    Syria

    What about these countries that have no separation between church and state but have instead elevated one religion to be the guiding force in politics and governance?

    Bangladesh
    Djibouti
    Iraq
    Pakistan
    Palestine
    Afghanistan
    Algeria
    Brunei
    Comoros
    Egypt
    Jordan
    Libya
    Maldives
    Malaysia
    Mauritania
    Morocco
    Qatar
    Saudi Arabia
    Somalia
    Tunisia
    United Arab Emirates
    Iran
    Oman
    Kuwait
    Yemen
    Bahrain

    Or these countries, where the head of state is mandated by law to follow a certain religion

    Andorra
    Lebanon
    Bhutan
    Thailand
    Indonesia
    Afghanistan
    Algeria
    Brunei
    Iran
    Jordan
    Malaysia
    Maldives
    Mauritania
    Morocco
    Oman
    Pakistan
    Qatar
    Saudi Arabia
    Somalia
    Syria
    Tunisia
    Yemen

    • Joseph

      Yeah, I’d have to think being put to death would be worse than having difficulties on dating sites… The whole article seemed pretty trivial. It’s written by the morris clone though so I shouldn’t expect much.

    • Lupus

      Those countries will probably do the same to atheists or non believers of their religion so it would still fall in this list partially.
      To me being an atheist is easy you don’t really confront other people as I’d like to be left alone I am sure they’d like to as well, let people have their own beliefs or non.

  • Jimmy

    The sort of neckbeard atheists who have these problems bring it upon themselves. These are first world problems taken to the extreme.

  • oouchan

    As soon as I mention I’m an atheist, people start frothing at the mouth where I live. I’m still the same person, but I don’t believe as they do and therefore I’m automatically evil. Such love. I don’t believe in gods, goddesses and hocus pocus like that, but that makes me the devil to some people. I’ve been threatened with bodily harm and death for what I am. And that is here in the US. Can’t imagine what would happen if I traveled.
    We should be able to challenge ideas and call them out on their BS when we see it. For countries that limit free thinkers, free thought and the oppression of free speech….it’s a disgrace to intelligence.

    Sad.

    • Hillyard

      When I was in the Army I got a few ugly glances from people when I told them that I am an atheist. I also couldn’t get that on my dog tags. They always put ‘other’ on them.
      One chaplain kept insisting that I give a prayer at gatherings that he was in charge of. After I told him a number of times that I didn’t do that. The Equal Opportunity NCO refused to take my complaint and I had to go to the Bn. Commander to get that butthead to back off.
      Don’t get me wrong most Army chaplains I encountered weren’t like that. They usually questioned me why I am an atheist but left it at that.

      • Aquaria

        They shouldn’t even question you about that. They should have left you the the F alone.

    • Aquaria

      You can be having a normal conversation with someone, and then they inevitably ask their moron question assuming you belong to the same hate cult, “What church do you go to?” It doesn’t matter how one answers the question. You can say it timidly or softly or with no emotion at all. it won’t matter. In less than one second, the christer will turn into Linda Blair with the rotating head on you.

      This has happened to me about, oh, once a week, for most of my life.

      And I’m sick of it.

      I now tell them, “How rude. That is a completely inappropriate question in this setting.”

      If they question that, or, worse, persist, I tell them, “I find this conversation distasteful, and I will not participate in it any further. Good day.”

      I like this tactic, because it doesn’t let them get away with vomiting heir unearned privilege all over me.

  • Billy Anderson

    All religions can agree on at least one thing… WE ALL HATE MORRIS as well as his “clone.” Let us all bow our heads while I lead us in prayer to get the dull bastards outtie 2000. Amen