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Misconceptions About Atheists

Updated on May 26, 2012

Atheists Are Not Evil: Examining Discrimination Against Atheists

“There are no atheists in foxholes.” This is just one of many derogatory remarks I have heard regarding atheists. Another is by a previous president, George Bush, who said, “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God.” Not only does this go against the constitutional guarantee that all men are created equal, not only does this go against the principal of separation of church and state, but it also goes against basic Christian teachings of treat thy neighbor as you wish to be treated. Why so much hatred?

Today the atheist is perhaps the most discriminated against minority group, as other minority groups such as African Americans, Jews, and even homosexuals have or are slowly gaining equal rights and standing in society. Atheists, however, are the minority no one thinks twice about before ridiculing; the minority that few are willing to stand up for. Well I am an atheist, and I am standing up for myself.

Most of the time I feel unable to express myself openly unless I am with my close friends, because I am afraid of being ridiculed. I feel like I have to tread carefully around adults I don’t know very well, because I am afraid that they will treat me differently if they know that I’m an atheist. For example, I am applying for a scholarship that is rewarded from a very religious, conservative elderly couple and I am afraid to express my individuality in this area, even though it is very important to me and a vital part of who I am, because I am afraid my application will be thrown in the trash if they find out I’m an atheist.

I don’t want to have to walk on eggshells my entire life, just out of fear of being treated differently. Why should I? I’ve done nothing wrong. The idea of atheists being immoral, unjust, or even simply bad people has permeated society to such an extent that most people don’t question it anymore. I think most people cringe on the inside when they hear the term ‘atheist.’ But it’s not like I walk around with a bomb strapped to my chest. Why should anyone treat me any differently?

Let’s take a look at the facts. Atheists comprise about 0.21 percent of the prison population of America, according to a 1997 Federal Bureau of Prisons census. Atheists also comprise about 93 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences. Also, according to a study published in 2008 in the Journal of Religion and Society, Japan is one of the most atheist countries in the world, with over eighty percent of its population accepting of evolution and fewer than ten percent certain that god exists; and despite its population of over a hundred million people, Japan is one of the least crime-prone countries in the world, and has the lowest rate of teen pregnancy of any developed nation. Furthermore, Denmark ranks fourth on the Global Peace Index, and 43-80 percent of its population proclaims atheism. The Czech Republic ranks fifth, and 54-61 percent of its population claims to be atheist. It would seem to me that there is a positive correlation between atheism and peacefulness. So why the discrimination and hatred on the part of people claiming to be accepting and nonjudgmental Christians? It simply doesn’t make any sense to me.

Recently a study by the University of Minnesota found that 47.6 percent of the 2,000 people interviewed answered yes when asked whether they would disapprove if their child wished to marry an atheist. When asked the same question about Muslims and African-Americans, the yes responses decreased to 33.5 percent and 27.2 percent, respectively.

With all of the evidence backing up a view of atheists as intelligent, peaceful human beings, why is there still a belief in society that atheists are evil people? Correct me if I’m wrong, but discrimination against atheists arose from the hearts of those who believe in God. Someone who believes wholeheartedly in God most of the time simply has a hard time trusting and accepting someone who doesn’t.

I’m not saying that Christians, or any religious people, are inherently bad people because of their beliefs. I’m just trying to raise awareness about the problem that I see in society today. I hope that you can take what I have written here today and try to raise awareness about this in your own lives. Atheists are not evil people, and I just want the world, and especially America, to recognize that.

Would you vote for an atheist for president?

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Would you approve if your child wanted to marry an atheist?

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    • ThisisShe profile image

      ThisisShe 5 years ago

      Loved the hub. Thanks for writing it. I have a very similar situation as ChristinS

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 5 years ago from Midwest

      Excellent and thought provoking hub. Living as an agnostic/atheist but still being a deeply spiritual person is another thing that many people don't get. They seem to believe since I don't believe in a "diety" that I can't be spiritual or feel awe at the beauty of creation and the process of life etc. It's definitely high time we all start learning to agree to disagree and live harmoniously. Ridicule is never a solution to any problem.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared. I first learned about the widespread prejudice and discrimination against atheists when I read the pro-atheism book THE GOD DELUSION by Richard Dawkins. He gives a number of examples of unjust discrimination. (Consider writing a hub review?)

      In recent decades, living in different states, I've been attending Unitarian Universalist churches. Many UUs are atheists, though UU atheists are likely to call themselves secular humanists, preferring to emphasize what they do believe rather than what they don't believe. (Other UUs are agnostics, freethinking Christians (me), mystical humanists (my wife), Buddhists, pagans (generic term for those into earth-centered spirituality), and so on. UUs agree upon a few principles (such as the worth and dignity of every person) and expect one another to seek truth and meaning with integrity.

      I suppose one reason for prejudice against atheists is that Communist apologists have been militant atheists. See for instance MATERIALISM AND EMPIRIO-CRITICISM by Lenin. The answer to that association of atheists with communists is that while all Marxist-Leninist Communists are atheists, most atheists, while being philosophical materialists, are not communists. As you point out, lots of scientists are atheists.

      Consider adding a poll to your hub, with questions like, "Would you vote for an atheist for President?"

    • profile image

      Sooner28 5 years ago

      Their pastors have told them that, without God, there is no morality; therefore, they go around thinking that if you are godless, you are NECESSARILY an immoral human being.

      It's all about control. I'm reading a book about this actually. You want to instill self-mistrust into the person so they look to authority figures to tell them what to do. That's how most religions work.

      Anyway, it's ridiculous that atheists are not more accepted in this society. We don't really do anything threatening except want people to think critically :P.

      The only thing I disagree with is Japan. Japan is a very GROUP oriented culture that just happens to be atheist. I think that's a better explanation for why their crime rates are lower. Their suicide rates are also higher.

      But with Denmark and the others, you're right on the mark. Voted up, sharing, and following.

    • SuzanneCarr profile image

      SuzanneCarr 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I'm sorry, but I honestly feel that prefacing a statement with "God fearing" does not demonstrate discrimination against atheists or atheism. Saying that the prejudice and discrimination experienced by African Americans, Jews and Homosexuals is the same as anything experienced by atheists is inflammatory, irresponsible and down right ridiculous.

    • Josak profile image

      Josak 5 years ago from variable

      @ Suzanne, I agree with you in the sense that atheists are not the most violently opposed group but I do think they are the most widely discriminated against in less confronting ways, for example it is common to refer to good people as god fearing so: "Good god fearing Americans should be very concerned about..." how do you think people would react if you said "good white Americans should be very concerned" black politicians can and do succeed (like the president) but openly atheist politicians face far more challenges.

    • SuzanneCarr profile image

      SuzanneCarr 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      "Today the atheist is perhaps the most discriminated against minority group, as other minority groups such as African Americans, Jews, and even homosexuals..."

      What? I really beg to differ. When was the last time someone committed a hate crime against an atheist? Do atheists fear being targeted and profiled? Just the fact that you can't tell an atheist by looking at him and her makes your argument pretty difficult to swallow. In my opinion, that statement is so far from the truth. I had to actually force myself to finish your article after reading it.

    • Josak profile image

      Josak 5 years ago from variable

      huh, cool, I learn something every day, pardon my mistake.

    • stellaluna711 profile image

      Jennifer Garner 5 years ago from California

      It's actually the official atheist symbol, but the resemblance is striking, I will admit.

    • Josak profile image

      Josak 5 years ago from variable

      Good hub, all very true, voted up and interesting. Just checking that you know the A in your image is the anarchist symbol not an atheist one.