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Activism, Atheism, Christianity


I’ve been thinking about something I wrote yesterday. “There are more atheists than blacks in America.  Would anyone consider calling America a ‘White Nation’?” The full impact of that statement took a while to hit me.  Then last night, I was speaking with a friend who owns a small business.  He lamented the fact that he knows more about local politics than almost anyone, but will never be able to participate in them because he’s not a theist.  Interestingly, my county has had a female mayor and a black sheriff, and nobody bats an eye.  But we can’t have an openly atheist mayor or sheriff.  (And we’re one of three tiny spots of blue in a big red state.)

There’s been some heated debate about whether or not atheists are really the victims of discrimination.  In 2004, D.J. Grothe and Austin Dacey wrote, “To our knowledge, there is no such thing as “atheist bashing.” If there were cases of such harm, one would expect to hear about them in the media and the courts, or at least in the common knowledge of unbelievers. So, where are the cases? On many occasions we have put this question to leaders in the nonreligious community and have never been presented with a single compelling example.” They took quite a bit of flack for this statement, but luckily, it wasn’t just bluster.  Margaret Downey took it upon herself to present much more than a single compelling example.  (Downey was the driving force behind the case against the Boy Scouts of America, if you didn’t know.)

The fact is, there are a lot of examples of discrimination.  Here are a few from Downey’s synopsis.

Ada, Oklahoma: A Baptist student told a local newspaper she wouldn’t take professor William Zellner’s classes because he was an atheist, triggering a flurry of abuse. Zellner received harassing notes and telephone calls, some threatening. His car was vandalized, for a time on a daily basis. A local church sold “I am praying for Dr. Zellner” buttons. His children experienced shunning and beatings from religious children.

Caro, Michigan: In December 2001, Anonka—an open atheist who maintains a museum of Christian religious atrocities—appeared before the Tuscola County Board of Commissioners to challenge a nativity scene placed on public land. Commissioners responded angrily, saying she had no right to be present and proceeding to ridicule her. Anonka and her family suffered repeated harassment including annoyance calls, threatening calls and letters, and vandalism. In February 2004, the county settled in U.S. District Court, agreeing to pay an undisclosed sum and to issue a “public expression of regret.”

And this is Margaret’s own story:

Pocopson, Pennsylvania: My own atheism came to prominence when I became involved in a legal challenge to a Ten Commandments plaque on the wall of the Chester County, Pennsylvania, courthouse. Neighbors organized a shunning campaign, some area merchants refused to do business with me, and I received hundreds of threatening letters and phone calls. (The depth of public animus against me became a subject of local news and magazine coverage.) I was forced to close my interior decorating business because of death threats that compelled me to stop visiting the homes of persons unknown to me.

For the record, I’ve also experienced discrimination.  For several years, I was a music teacher.  During one stint in a deep southern city, it became known within the local Music Teacher’s Union that I was an atheist.  Over the next year, I did not receive a single referral.  I had been completely black-balled.  My studio went from over twenty students to five.  The mother of one student took it upon herself to tell me (in very un-Christian fashion) that there was no way that she would let her daughter be in the same room with a degenerate, immoral atheist.  I was once dismissed from a jury after asking to affirm instead of swearing an oath to God.  I’ve had a woman walk out on an otherwise perfectly charming first date after she found out that I don’t believe in God.  (I didn’t volunteer the info.  She asked.)  I’ve lost friends.  My family is distant.

In my case, there has never been an instance where I could bring suit against anyone.  How do you prove the kind of silent, unspoken collusion that certainly took place when I went from a respected teacher to a pariah?  I suspect that for every case that makes it to a judge, there are hundreds, maybe thousands more in which there is real discrimination but no way to find someone to sue, or no way to document the offenses.

But all of this is somewhat beside the point.  I’m more concerned with the prevailing attitude in America that it’s good to discriminate against atheists. I can’t think of another group that elicits scorn when it suffers.  Sure, sexual discrimination still takes place.  But when it does, the victims are given sympathy, and the offenders are the ones who get ostracized and shunned.  When atheists are discriminated against, we’re told that we should have just kept our mouths shut and not committed the grievous offense of just being who we are in the presence of theists.  Even in the deep south, it’s uncouth to openly voice racist feelings in polite company.  When someone is found guilty of racial discrimination, even the racists in the room generally have to give lip service to the correctness of the findings.

To see the subtle but oh-so-pervasive disapproval of atheists, we need only ask ourselves this question:  How many times do Christians have to wonder if it’s appropriate for them to wear a cross necklace to a social function?  I have plenty of openly atheist t-shirts and even a few pieces of jewelry.  But I don’t wear them in town.  It’s too dangerous.  I simply never know who will think less of me, and potentially not hire me.

For that matter, it’s generally considered socially appropriate to confront someone wearing atheist gear.  I’ve had it happen numerous times:

Stranger:  So… um… you’re an atheist?

Me:  Yes.

Stranger:  So… um… you don’t think that {insert common Christian fallacious argument for God}?

For my part, I have never been so gauche as to approach a stranger on the street and say, “Hey… you believe in Jesus?  Do you have any idea how silly that is?  Haven’t you ever learned basic logic?”  I don’t know any atheists who do that.  But when people find out I’m an atheist, they confront me about it.  This shows an amazing lack of both social grace and empathy.  They know better to say such things to people they consider equals, but an atheist falls into some category of non-person, so it’s ok.

From where I sit, there are a few major contributors to this set of affairs:

  • Atheists are believed to be immoral. The prevailing Christian dogma states that morality comes from God.  At the least, it is assumed that if an atheist were to convert to Christianity, they would become a more moral person.  At most, it’s thought that atheists are willfully immoral, and their atheism is really an acting out of rebellion against God.
  • The lies that have become truths. Damn the facts, full speed ahead.  America is and has always been a Christian nation.  The founders were Christians.  Our laws are based on the Ten Commandments.  We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.  This kind of collective mantra creates an atmosphere of group cohesion — group-think — where it becomes almost second nature to vilify outsiders.  It equates atheism with unpatriotic feelings, un-American values, and disdain for the law.  Since unflinching patriotism and religious extremism are two forms of the same belief paradigm, it is easy for anti-atheist sentiment to piggyback itself onto love of country.
  • Religious Loyalty.  Morality aside, there is another aspect of Christian belief that encourages disdain for atheists.  We can call it the “slippery slope” fallacy if we like.  The idea is that anything other than disapproval is implicit encouragement.  If Christians do not actively demonstrate that atheism is bad, they believe they are doing atheists a disservice.  They owe it to atheists to discriminate against them so that they will see the benefits they will receive if they join the flock.  (Before you poo-poo this one, realize that I’ve heard it straight from the horse’s mouth on many, many occasions.)

This last one should prickle the skin of historically savvy women, blacks, and gays.  It’s the same kind of rationale that was used against all three groups to legally discriminate against them for decades or even centuries.  Enough said.

Where are the Moderates?

I’ve spoken with a number of liberal and moderate Christians who balk at my generalizations.  They point out that they have atheist friends.   (Seriously!  I’m not a racist.  I have a black friend!  {cough, cough…}) They say that they don’t condone any discrimination, regardless of sex, gender, or religion.  And perhaps they’re telling the truth.  Maybe they really are completely tolerant, and give completely equal respect to atheists.  And that’s good for them.

But if they’re so against discrimination, why are they standing quietly to the side while we are regularly treated as second class citizens? Why aren’t they standing up to their Christian brethren when they see discriminatory behavior?  Where are the New York Times editorials praising atheists as decent people, even though they aren’t Christians?  In short, why don’t we get any good press from theists?

More to the point, if we do some math, we can ask whether or not there are enough tolerant Christians to matter.  If 80% of Americans are Christian, and only 34% of Americans view atheists favorably… well, you figure it out.  Presumably, nearly all atheists view atheists favorably.  That doesn’t leave many non-bigoted Christians, does it?

What Can We Do?

What can the average atheist do to help turn the tide?  I don’t claim to have all the answers, but it seems to me that we have to stop sitting idly by while our reputation is maligned.  We have to start thinking of religious discrimination in the same way we think of gender or race discrimination.  In other words, we need to start calling people out when they do it.  We need to voice disapproval.  If appropriate, we need to take things to court.

More to the point, we simply must make the decision to stop tolerating our treatment as second class citizens.  Until it becomes undeniably obvious that there is widespread and systemic mistreatment of atheists, we will not garner any sympathy.  We have to instill the same sort of fear in employers that they currently have of mistreating women, blacks, or gays.

I don’t believe it’s reasonable to expect attitudes to change for a while.  But even if attitudes do not change immediately, we’re in a good position with a favorable White House and Supreme Court right now.  We can attempt to procure important and broad rulings which can be used as precedents for generations to come.

To that end, I encourage all of my readers to take a two-pronged approach to making things better in their own part of the country.  First, support both the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Secular Coalition for America.  These two organizations are designed specifically to address secular legal issues.  They need funding, volunteers, and most importantly — cases to press.  If you are experiencing discrimination, DON’T TAKE IT LYING DOWN. Talk to someone at the FFRF or SCA and find out what your rights are.

Secondly, make a vow to yourself to stop tolerating discrimination.  Don’t be afraid to take sides on this issue.  It won’t always be easy, but you’ll be doing something genuinely good and moral to try to help literally millions of your fellow atheists.



32 thoughts on “Discrimination

  1. Let me get this straight,

    First the Atheists disregard the sentiments of the vast majority of society by tenatiously persuing the removal of any and all public religious symbolisms that are precious to the great majority of society, but then you are shocked that you are then shunned.

    The Atheist have this reputation for a reason…


    Posted by PG | June 10, 2010, 5:29 pm
  2. Thank you Hamby; I feel a bit emboldened. It is writers like you who help to clarify my thoughts and strengthen my arguments.
    To PG, I have no desire to “tenaciously pursue the removal of all public religious symbolisms” nor have I ever engaged in such an activity. I believe in your freedom of religion, too. I do however, object to government funding or sanctioning of said symbolisms. And yes, I am shocked when I am shunned. I work very hard to be the best person I can be so when someone spews vitriol at me solely for my lack of belief, it is a bit disheartening. It does follow the rules of your holy book though, so I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. Still, I tend to expect better from people.

    Posted by TwirlGrl | June 10, 2010, 5:58 pm
  3. PG, forbidding the government from displays endorsing and promoting religion – and worse, one particular religion – is not the same as “the removal of any and all public religious symbolisms.” How many church steeples can be seen from any overlook of moderate altitude in the American landscape? Those are all pretty darned public religious symbols.

    You are free to be a religiously-motivated bigot and willfully ignorant jackass: In fact, your freedom to express your bigotry and ignorance as publicly as you like is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution. That’s the same amendment, by the way, that says the government is supposed to stay out of the religion business. You might try reading about it someday.

    Posted by G Felis | June 10, 2010, 6:24 pm
  4. As to your post, I personally witnessed an amusing bit of “Shock! Horror!” at the sheer temerity of my public atheism today. I looked in my rear view mirror at a stop light and saw the driver behind me cross himself very ostentatiously immediately after I’d seen him adopt the head-poking forward, eye-squinty body language that indicated he was reading my only bumper sticker – the one that reads “Atheism Is Myth Understood.”

    That’s right. He was so unnerved at the very thought of atheism and atheists that he felt compelled to reflexively bless himself in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Superstition and insecurity really are two sides of the same coin, aren’t they?

    Oh, and in case you didn’t see my facebook post about this a week or so ago…

    Posted by G Felis | June 10, 2010, 6:36 pm
  5. G Felix,

    I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands,
    one Nation under God,
    indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

    In God we trust,


    Posted by PG | June 10, 2010, 7:25 pm
  6. PG, you do realize that both of those bits of religious jingoism were added – to the pledge and to currency, respectively – in the McCarthy era? You know, the House Un-American Activities Committee and all that? The time period synonymous with paranoid, fear-mongering politics of the worst kind? Citing those two transparent violations of the First Amendment, originating as they do in the most corrupt and embarrassing stretch of 20th century American political history outside the Prohibition era, is a HUGE own goal.

    Not only are you a bigot and an ignoramus, PG, you’re also your own worst enemy when it comes to supporting your views. You wouldn’t know a reasoned argument if it bit you on the ass, and your appalling rhetoric just makes whatever you’re arguing against look better. Please, keep up your “contributions” to the atheist blogosphere: Your comments are a favor to any cause you oppose.

    Posted by G Felis | June 10, 2010, 8:17 pm
  7. No… Thank YOU, TwirlGrl. It’s comments like this that keep me going. There are a lot of times when I honestly feel like packing up my laptop and moving to Costa Rica. Sometimes it seems like there’s no hope for America. Knowing that I’m helping to embolden fellow freethinkers gives me a smidge of hope. Just a smidge.

    I think the reality is that large numbers of atheists are going to have to take their lumps for a while. We’ve got to be shunned, and we’ve got to look theists in the eyes and say, “Sorry, bub, but this is my country, too. You’re going to have to get over yourself and accept me as a coworker, neighbor, and voter. I respect your right to your beliefs. I demand the same respect.”

    Posted by hambydammit | June 10, 2010, 9:50 pm
  8. Ah, yes… I noticed that you had written it, but I was busy getting sunburned at the time. I’m glad you reminded me of it.

    Posted by hambydammit | June 10, 2010, 9:50 pm
  9. I wonder how those numbers would be in Canada, our percentage of Christians is the same [77%].

    I also notice that Americans tend to be in general bigger assholes than Canadian counterparts maybe it’s something in your water.

    But I think Obama in the Whitehouse will end the religion in legislation.

    Posted by cptpineapple | June 10, 2010, 10:06 pm
  10. I read something earlier about feelings of discrimination by atheists. Canadian atheists felt significantly less discriminated against than Americans, but I can’t recall the exact number.

    Oh, and all we have in our water right now is oil.

    Posted by hambydammit | June 10, 2010, 10:07 pm
  11. G Felix,

    “In God We Trust” was approved and passed into law (Public law 84-851) by the United States Congress (You know, that government who governs over you) and President Eisenhower (You know the President that was voted into office by Americans) approved a joint resolution declaring In God We Trust the national motto of the United States.

    Its a law, deal with it!

    Here is another law for you to deal with…

    Public Law 97-280 on October 4, 1982.
    Year of the Bible – The Proclamation

    111th Congress, 1st Session, H. Con. Res. 121
    Encouraging the President of the United States to designate 2010 as
    “The National Year of the Bible”
    In the House of Representatives — May 7, 2009

    Mr. BROUN (for himself, Mr. WESTMORELAND, Mr. FORBES, Mr. PENCE, Mr. GINGREY, Mr. FRANKS, Mr. JORDAN, Mr. WAMP, Mr. LAMBORN, Mr. GOHMERT, Mr. AKIN, Mr. CARTER, Mr. MARCHANT, and Mr. MCGOVERN) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

    Whereas the Bible has had a profound impact in shaping America into a great nation;

    Whereas deep religious beliefs stemming from the Old and New Testament of the Bible have inspired Americans from all walks of life, especially the early settlers, whose faith, spiritual courage, and moral strength enabled them to endure intense hardships in this new land;

    Whereas many of our Presidents have recognized the importance of God and the Bible, including George Washington; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Harry Truman; John F. Kennedy; Ronald Reagan, who declared 1983 as “The National Year of the Bible”; and especially Abraham Lincoln, whose 200th Birthday Celebration in 2009 highlighted freedom for the slaves;

    Whereas shared Biblical beliefs unified the colonists and gave our early leaders the wisdom to write the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, both of which recognized the inherent worth, dignity, and inalienable rights of each individual, thus unifying a diverse people with the right to vote, and the freedoms of speech and vast religious freedoms, which inspired courageous men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to lead the Civil Rights Movement;

    Whereas the Bible has been the world’s best selling book since it was first published in English in 1526, and has influenced more people than any other book;

    Whereas the Bible has been a cornerstone in the development of Western civilization, influencing the nations in the areas of history, law, politics, culture, music, literature, art, drama, and especially moral philosophy;

    Whereas the Bible, used as a moral guide, has inspired compassion, love for our neighbor, and the preciousness of life and marriage, and has stimulated many benevolent, faith-based community initiatives and neighborhood partnerships that have healed and blessed our families, communities, and our entire Nation, especially in times of war, tragedy, and economic and social crisis;

    Whereas the Bible has inspired acts of patriotism that have unified Americans, commemorated through shared celebrations such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas; and

    Whereas 2010 is an appropriate year to designate as “The National Year of the Bible”: Now, therefore, be it resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the President is encouraged—
    (1) to designate an appropriate year as “The National Year of the Bible”; and
    (2) to issue a proclamation calling upon citizens of all faiths to rediscover and apply the priceless, timeless message of the Holy Scripture which has profoundly influenced and shaped the United States and its great democratic form of government, as well as its rich spiritual heritage, and which has unified, healed and strengthened its people for over 200 years.

    Posted by PG | June 10, 2010, 11:09 pm
  12. Opps, the above is the new resolution for “The National year of the Bible”. Lots of kind words for the Bible, no?

    Posted by PG | June 10, 2010, 11:22 pm
  13. Here is the 1982 law…

    97th Congress Joint Resolution

    [S.J.Res. 165] 96 Stat. 1211
    Public Law 97-280 – October 4, 1982

    Joint Resolution authorizing and requesting the President to proclaim 1983 as the “Year of the Bible.”

    Whereas the Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people;

    Whereas deeply held religious convictions springing from the Holy Scriptures led to the early settlement of our Nation;

    Whereas Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the constitution of the United States;

    Whereas many of our great national leaders—among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson—paid tribute to the surpassing influence of the Bible in our country’s development, as the words of President Jackson that the Bible is “the rock on which our Republic rests”;

    Whereas the history of our Nation clearly illustrates the value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the Scriptures in the lives of individuals, families, and societies;

    Whereas this Nation now faces great challenges that will test this Nation as it has never been tested before; and

    Whereas that renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through Holy Scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national “Year of the Bible” in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our Nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

    Approved October 4, 1982.

    1 U.S. Cong. & Adm. News ’82-29 96 Stat. 1211

    Posted by PG | June 10, 2010, 11:24 pm
  14. I actually meant to post my last response to PG on this entry but I accidently did it on the Chris Hedges one, but it bears repeating

    PG you do realize that you are making it extremely easy for bad mean atheists to hold on to the stereotypes of Theists as you complain about said stereotypes?

    You are creating the situation that you are complaining about [that accusation seems familar].

    When I was a Theist I wanted to break the sterotype of Theists being ignorant and arrogant, so I avoided being ignorant and arrogant.

    Funny how that works eh?

    Posted by cptpineapple | June 10, 2010, 11:54 pm
  15. That’s right, PG. When lighting yourself on fire, don’t forget to run faster to fan the flames!

    (For those who might not know, Congressman Broun – in whose district I have the misfortune to live, thanks to the Georgia Republicans gerrymandering a line right through the middle of my community – is Michelle Bachman’s only real rival for the most embarrassing member of the House. Seriously, folks. This clown makes Sarah Palin look like a MacArthur Genius Grant winner.)

    Posted by G Felis | June 11, 2010, 1:20 am
  16. Hey G,

    Too bad theres not enough Atheists in your district to field a softball team, let alone to vote him out of office.

    And when it comes down to it, isnt that the hardcore truth about your discrimination issues. Theres not enough of you all to make any difference in your plight. But let me give you a hint. Continuing to refer to the rest of society as being ignorant or arogant will not further your cause or your numbers..


    Posted by PG | June 11, 2010, 1:32 am
  17. think about this..

    “Whereas Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the constitution of the United States” – Public Law 97-280


    Posted by PG | June 11, 2010, 1:35 am
  18. PG, I am not referring to “the rest of society” as ignorant and arrogant. I am observing that YOU are ignorant and arrogant. Most Christians I know are not flag-waving, Constitution-ignoring, tyranny-of-the-majority/fuck-you-it’s-OUR-country spouting asshats like you. They are, in fact, decent people who were unfortunately raised in a fashion that stunted their capacity for critical thinking, but their instincts are basically egalitarian and generally accepting of others. You, however, are an intolerant asshat who fails to understand even the most basic ideals at the foundation of a free society. But you are also a glorious spokesman for hate and ignorance, waving the flag of your asshatery for all to see – so by all means, continue.

    Posted by G Felis | June 11, 2010, 9:27 am
  19. Felix,

    Im not a Christian. Your idiot assumption just proved that in reality it is YOU that are really the ignorant, arrogant, bigot.with the stunted capacity for critical thought for assuming that all people who disagree with your point are view do not have a capacity for critical thought.

    Does my simple quoting of the laws of this land cause you to drop all assemblance of civility and to lower yourself down to the very kind of arogant, ignorant, non critical thinking being that you detest?


    And it only took a couple of my keystrokes to accomplish the task.

    Now, why dont you use your critical thought on the following Law:

    “Whereas many of our great national leaders—among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson—paid tribute to the surpassing influence of the Bible in our country’s development, as the words of President Jackson that the Bible is “the rock on which our Republic rests”- Public Law 97-280


    Posted by PG | June 11, 2010, 10:34 am
  20. BTW Felix,

    Many of your posts continue to espouse the theme of what others think about you and your ideologies. Real critical thinkers are not concerned about what others think about them or their ideologies, but you do. The fact that you are constantly being shunned by the rest of society is definitly an issue to you and obviously supercedes your need for critical thought. You definitly have a need for acceptance. Im sure their must be some Atheist support groups for you.

    Give it some criticalthought!


    Posted by PG | June 11, 2010, 10:52 am
  21. PG, what do you think of this Albanian Constitution article enacted by Enver Hoxha in 1976

    The state recognizes no religion whatever and supports atheist propaganda for the purpose of inculcating the scientific materialist world outlook in people.,%20Science,%20Culture

    Since it’s in Albanian law was the persecution of religious people under Hoxha justified or moral?

    Posted by cptpineapple | June 11, 2010, 7:53 pm
  22. Ooooh! Thank you, Alison! I’m going to give you the props you deserve here. This is the first time I’ve seen the words “atheist propaganda” in anything other than a theist’s rant.

    And by the way, I’ll go on the record and say that I do not support any suppression of access to information. But then, I’ve already taken my stand against ideologies like Marxism before, so I’m just repeating myself. But I figured it needed to be said in context.

    Posted by hambydammit | June 11, 2010, 10:32 pm
  23. Hamby, I can’t tell which hand you gave that with or whether your tongue was in your cheek.

    I was just trying to take away one of PG’s rationalizations by extending his logic to other things.

    Posted by cptpineapple | June 11, 2010, 11:36 pm
  24. That was… um… right handed? I was serious. I’ve never seen any (modern) use of “atheist propaganda” in anything except theist propaganda. I hate being called out for things I don’t know, and now I know better than to say there’s no such thing as atheist propaganda. I also know where to point people to find real atheist propaganda. It’s good information that I am happy to have.

    Posted by hambydammit | June 12, 2010, 2:46 am
  25. “I’m more concerned with the prevailing attitude in America that it’s good to discriminate against atheists. I can’t think of another group that elicits scorn when it suffers. Sure, sexual discrimination still takes place. But when it does, the victims are given sympathy, and the offenders are the ones who get ostracized and shunned. ”

    I think there would be a large overlap between those that don’t sympathize with an atheist being discriminated against and those who don’t sympathize with those who are victims of sexual orientation discrimination.

    I’m also willing to stick my neck out there and say that transgendered individuals face more discrimination than atheists and homosexuals.

    Posted by MKandefer | June 14, 2010, 12:59 pm
  26. Of course, we could also just look at the data:

    Anti-homosexual hate crimes far exceed anti-atheist/agnostic. I’m open to other resources.

    Posted by mkandefer | June 19, 2010, 7:08 pm
  27. mkandefer, on June 19, 2010 at 7:08 pm Said:
    Of course, we could also just look at the data:

    Anti-homosexual hate crimes far exceed anti-atheist/agnostic. I’m open to other resources.


    PG says:

    Since you are open to other resourses,, I bet your statistics on crimes against anti-theists go through the roof when you include the artrocities of Atheist countries against Theists…


    Posted by PG | June 19, 2010, 7:16 pm
  28. You’re right, MK. How thoughtless of me. If atheists are not the victims of the most hate-crimes out of all discriminated groups, we have no right to gripe. Heaven forbid if we had two groups that were victims of discrimination. Too much information for bumper stickers.

    And actually, MK, the statistics don’t seem to back you up about overlap. Atheists are the group most disliked and distrusted by half the population according to the 2006 University of Minnesota study. A little extrapolation shows that pretty much the only group widely sympathetic to atheist discrimination is… atheists. Go figure.

    Posted by hambydammit | June 20, 2010, 2:11 pm
  29. Hamby,

    I don’t think I accused you of thoughtlessness, and certainly didn’t say there was no reason to gripe. I was merely challenging your assertions that you “can’t think of another group that elicits scorn when it suffers. Sure, sexual discrimination still takes place. But when it does, the victims are given sympathy, and the offenders are the ones who get ostracized and shunned.”

    I don’t deny that there are hate crimes against atheists, or other issues aren’t important, such as electability. I pointed out your particular assertion, because I feel it undermines the problems homosexuals still face, and it doesn’t mesh with my experience. I have never had a hate crime inflicted on anyone in my local atheistic community. There have been three crimes against homosexuals in Buffalo, NY recently (one resulting in a man undergoing 5 reconstructive surgeries).

    I am both an atheist and a homosexual. I fear more showing affection to my partner in public, than I do telling a stranger my beliefs. I have received scornful looks and hateful words holding my partner’s hand, or daring to share a kiss. I have only received questions, and some frustration, when I tell people my beliefs.

    Finally, I think we both can be accused of being selective here. Discrimination is a broad term and it covers several categories. Hate crimes, as I pointed out, and electability and distrust, as you’ve pointed out. What do you think would be an acceptable way of measuring total discrimination against a group? I would definitely include hate crime statistics, and political power. Electability is part of political power, but so is existing legislation. On this front atheists do quite well with the separation of church and state and anti-religious discrimination legislation, as well as being considered a “protected class” under federal law. Homosexuals still can’t get DADT or ENDA passed, even without trans-gendered provisions in the latter. One of the conclusions of expert testimony in the proposition 8 trial was that homosexuals lack political power.

    I do not mean to offend, or undermine what you are doing. I think both are good battles to fight, and you have good reason to raise the issue of discrimination against atheists, especially being one yourself. Just please understand that homosexuals are still several battles away from being treated as equals under the law. At least, atheists can claim they are equals under the law, though it doesn’t appear to be by popularity.

    Posted by MKandefer | June 22, 2010, 12:44 pm
  30. MK, you keep talking about hate crimes. I’m not sure why. I never said that the primary form of atheist discrimination was hate crimes. In fact, I even pointed out that some prominent atheists thought there weren’t any at all.

    You’ve said what I’m saying, and yet I feel like we’re disagreeing. The main form of discrimination against atheists is the silent “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule. If you’re running for office, don’t mention being an atheist. It’s political suicide for the rest of your life.

    I also don’t deny that there’s still plenty of discrimination against homosexuals, and if you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I’m an outspoken advocate for gay rights — especially legal rights.

    If your main gripe is that I think it’s more widely acceptable to discriminate against atheists than gays, then we might just disagree. Maybe it’s a matter of where we live, but I can name a handful of gay public officials in my state, which is painfully red. I can’t think of one atheist. I can’t remember the last time FOX News engaged in gay bashing, but they regularly bring people like Ann Coulter on to talk about “God and Country,” and disparage anyone who isn’t on board with that program.

    Let me be as clear as possible: I’m not saying that gays don’t suffer, or that it’s a piece of cake to be affectionate with your partner in public. But there is no major media outlet that still engages in gay bashing. The “official story” is that it’s wrong to discriminate against gays.

    Posted by hambydammit | June 22, 2010, 1:29 pm
  31. Hi PG,

    You said,

    “Since you are open to other resourses,, I bet your statistics on crimes against anti-theists go through the roof when you include the artrocities of Atheist countries against Theists…”

    My statistics are about hate crimes, in particular, hate crimes in the United States of America in 2008. Thus, pulling statistics willy-nilly from different countries, or different decades wouldn’t help build a picture of hate crime in America today.

    That said, there is no doubt that communist movements have committed hate crimes against religious individuals. However, as has been pointed out to you numerous times before I’m sure. It is the communist philosophy that causes communists to act this way. Communists just happen to be atheists. A lack of belief in god is not enough on its own to prescribe ways of acting. I think we both agree that communist morality is horrendous.

    On the other hand, some beliefs of some Christians informed by the Bible and/or their religious leaders do lead to hate crimes. For example, recently in Uganda there has been legislation proposed making the penalties for homosexuality even more strict. Once one could expect jail time in Uganda, under the new bill they can expect the death sentence. Their Christian beliefs are being used to support that position.

    Here in the US, some Christian use their beliefs to justify assaults on homosexuals, as well as prevent homosexuals from gaining equal rights under the law. Just recently the Texas Republican Party released their 2010 platform. It’s littered with conservative Christian talking points, including a desire to reinstate the unconstitutional “sodomy” laws.*

    Thankfully, there are now Christian allies of the LGBT community that can point out that one can believe in Jesus and not discriminate against homosexuals. I hope we count you among them PG. 🙂

    * – It is also internally inconsistent, but that’s another matter.

    Posted by MKandefer | June 24, 2010, 10:05 am
  32. Your post was a great MKandefer.

    I do not perscribe to any institutinal religion for the very reasons you cite and I agree, Christians need to set examples of love, not legalism!. No descrimination is acceptable.

    Count me in! : )

    Posted by PG | June 24, 2010, 10:36 am

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