Misconceptions About Atheists
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.