Anything But an Atheist!

This is a depressing video, but it’s one you’ll want to watch.

It’s about how American society has no problem treating atheists like shit. As it says, we’re the “least violent, most tolerant, most intelligent, most progressive” group out there… but we’re also the most hated and mistrusted. There’s discrimination and outright bigotry against us.

But there’s also hope. More and more people — famous people — are going public with their non-belief. Some have even made a career out of it. That has an immeasurable impact that we can make even bigger by letting the people close to us know our feelings about faith. Images of well-known atheists are interspersed throughout the video.

It gets really powerful beginning at the 0:55 mark.

(via GenerationXeroFilms — Thanks to Paul for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • gobsmacked

    It really embarrasses and disturbs me to see Ayn Rand waved around as someone to prove how widespread atheism is among famous people.  The idea that I have ANYTHING in common with that destructive wacko creeps me out.

    • Anonymous

      While I clicked like on your post I think as a marketing tactic for athiests it is an interesting move.  The tea party is super majority christian but trying to push Ayn Rand as a hero.  If someone in that mindset can recognize that Rand’s Atheism that could have interesting consequences for that persons belief if they get past the double think. 

    • Christopher Spencer

      I think the point is that atheists are a diverse group, not to praise Ayn Rand.

    • http://www.stealingfirstbase.com Stealing First Base

      It always bothers me that it seems like people make the assumption that atheists are all liberals. This swings both ways.

    • GregFromCos

      Atheism is no more of a descriptor of someones political beliefs, than Theism is  to telling us what some religious person thinks. The sooner we get to understanding that Atheism is just a descriptor, much like Theism. The quicker we’ll understand that it is only important as a counterweight to the Theists, and that’s it.

      • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

        Well, if you go by numbers, atheists tend towards the left and progressiveness.  But the belief that binds atheists together also allows for many, diverse views.  I may think of Ayn Rand as a criminal – and I share no love of libertarians (like say Penn Jillette) who I think of as short-sighted – but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a well-known name who is also atheist.

  • Spurs Fan

    I like the concept of the video, but have two complaints: 

    1)  It’s a bit sappy (and I’m a sappy person).  The music makes it sounds like we’ve been killed in a genocide. 

    2)  Pat Tillman was a veteran, but only for conflict in Afghanistan.  To the best of my knowledge, he didn’t serve in Iraq. 

    • Rieux

      No, Tillman participated in the initial invasion as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Only later (after finishing Ranger School) did he serve in Afghanistan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dj-Nash/100000103380335 D.j. Nash

    Yeh I’d have preferred they left her out as well. Cheering video anyway…

  • David McNerney

    I’d love to see a survey where they asked people how much they admired/trusted various famous people. 

    I wouldn’t be surprised if atheists came out on top.

    • GregFromCos

      Wonderful idea. It’d be fun to see a ranking of historical scientific figures and then compare it to whether people would vote for the demographic group they belong to. It might be a wake up moment for the US.

  • David McNerney

    I’d love to see a survey where they asked people how much they admired/trusted various famous people. 

    I wouldn’t be surprised if atheists came out on top.

  • Drew M.

    The image of Jamie and Adam kept me from clicking play out of general principle.

    • Wren Combs

      Why?

      • Drew M.

        Short answer: Because I am a mechanical engineer.

        Somewhat longer answer: 

        They are entertaining, yes, and occasionally prove something. Unfortunately, their tests are designed for entertainment, rather than accuracy. It is not science (regardless of what XKCD thinks) and far too many people take Mythbusters results as gospel.

        Nothing irks me more than someone citing Mythbusters as proof/disproof.

        • Anonymous

          Fair enough, but two points. First, one of their stated goals for that entertainment, accurate or not, is to at least build up interest in thinking about science and seeing it in a positive light. The hope is, in part, that kids will want to become scientists, or at least learn more about science. Second, they’ve done a lot for the freethought movement outside the show, and I think there’s more than a little credit for them to be had there.

          So you’re right, it can be a bit of a bother when people cite Mythbusters as scientific fact, but I wouldn’t personally hold that against them.

          • Silent Bob

            I have liked your comment but would add a third point:

            The whole point of “Mythbusters” is to introduce the concept of skepticism and critical thinking “under the radar”.

            That is; I think if the goal of the show was to depict some erudite gentlemen patiently and scientifically investigating a claim to determine it’s veracity – the show would never have made it to air!

            On the other hand, if the goal of the show is to have fun building stuff and blowing it up (while incidentally debunking some myths) it is likely to attract a much wider audience.

            In other words, I don’t think Mythbusters sets out to be scientifically rigorous. It sets  out to be entertaining while embedding the concept of being skeptical – without  you necessarily noticing!

            It is, if you like, a subliminal advertisement for skepticism – and what the hell’s wrong with that? :-)

        • Anonymous

          I remember seeing a video where Adam said that a lot of people complained on the forums about the way they do science but every once in a while a real scientist would say, you know what, their techniques may not be the most accurate but what they’re doing is in fact science.

          They are without a doubt following the scientific method, despite being extremely goofy. Just because they’re not in lab suits doesn’t mean shit. Plus, there’s a A LOT of work that goes on that doesn’t air because like you said, at the end of the day, it’s an entertainment show.

          • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

            I’m pretty sure those white coats they often wear are indeed lab coats.

    • Wren Combs

      Why?

  • http://twitter.com/eeeegads eeeegads

    As a mom with a child about the same age, the 3:33 mark is pretty powerful

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    Well our Christian brothers and sisters believe God will torture us (or at least remain separate from us) for eternity in an afterlife and to show their love for God, Christians are simply emulating what they feel their God wants by ostracizing atheists.   If God does it (so their logic goes), it must be good by definition.  Convenient isn’t it?

  • Tesla4Life

    lol, can we leave out Edison? He was a dick. Tesla 4eva.

    • Anonymous

      Just because he was a jerk doesn’t mean he didn’t accomplish some incredible feats in his lifetime. At least DC current(Edison’s favorite) has easy math associated with it. AC current(Tesla’s favorite) is a pain in the ass with all of its complex angles :P.

      • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

        Simple does not mean best, alas.

    • Jamie

      I thought Edison was a deist. Where does it say he was an atheist?

    • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

      I will acknowledge that Edison made bad business decisions regarding Tesla, as well as on other projects (the talking doll, anyone?); I will also acknowledge that Edison wasn’t a very good father or husband (based on what history tells us). But a “dick”, as you so misogynistically put it? Overall, I doubt it – he was really a person of his time. I, too, used to feel as you apparently do – then I read a few biographical accounts of his work and person, as well as other works regarding that era in American history. Yes, Edison made mistakes - but at the same time he was a figure writ large in the history of our nation, and of the world. His contributions to invention and discovery, along with Tesla’s, Marconi, and others - ultimately paved the way to our modern era. For that he should be remembered, and celebrated.

      • Kevin S.

        How is calling a guy a dick misogynistic? Vaguely misandristic, I guess, in the same way people consider “pussy” to be misogynistic, but insulting a man using a slang term for a piece if male anatomy that is generally used as a put-down of men isn’t really being hateful towards women in any way.

        • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

           After thinking about it through the day, I realize that the term “misogynistic” was incorrect; my apologies.

      • http://www.stealingfirstbase.com Stealing First Base

        “But a “dick”, as you so misogynistically put it?”

        I don’t think that word means what you think it means…

        http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/misogyny

        • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

           See my comment to Kevin S. – my apologies.

  • Lynn123

    Great video.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    The claim at the 50 second mark that athests are the most hated and mistreated minority is simply not backed up by the data. The study in question did not in any useful way establish that claim. 

    Did learn something from the video though. I didn’t know that A. Philip Randolph was an atheist, and internet sources seem to confirm that.  That’s actually a very interesting tidbit. 

    • Anonymous

      There was at least one study if not more that showed that americans would vote for all minorities (for president) before they voted for atheists. Even an homosexual would be more likely to be named President. Don’t you think that tells a lot?

    • Rieux

      The study in question did not in any useful way establish that claim.

      Oh, bull.

      First, you are misrepresenting the claim in the video. The video does not assert, as you pretend it does, “that athests are the most hated and mistreated minority.” The actual claim in the video (at 0:50) is that atheists are “the most hated and mistrusted minority in the United States.” It reflects poorly on you that you see fit to respond to that claim by dishonestly misrepresenting it.

      Then, the University of Minnesota study ( http://tinyurl.com/mnljwa ) found, on the basis of a wide range of survey results, that “atheists are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others from a long list of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups”—a status that the researchers noted was a severe “distrust of atheists.” That is precisely what the claim you are attacking asserts. How, pray tell, could one possibly find sociological evidence of hatred of a minority, other than in the very findings the Minnesota data support?

      The study in question did not in any useful way establish that claim.

      I don’t think anyone asked you what is or is not “useful.” And your willful blindness to the atheophobia that’s all over the Minnesota researchers’ results doesn’t amount to much.

  • cbc

    1. That’s an awful lot of white dudes. 
    2. I understand that a lot of progressive-minded folks resent being grouped in with Ayn Rand, but think about it this way: it really backs conservatives into a rhetorical corner when you point out that their beloved hero’s philosophy was centered on godlessness. 
    3. Agree about the sappiness. We do need to maintain perspective.

    • http://www.stealingfirstbase.com Stealing First Base

      Christopher Hitchens is a neo-conservative (and kind of an asshole), but people don’t seem to feel uncomfortable associating atheism with him. Karl Rove is reportedly an atheist as well. Atheism doesn’t always denote left wing political views.

      • Rich Wilson

        Hitchens is a hawk, but that doesn’t make him a neo-con.

        http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/07/conservative-course-presidency

        New Statesman: Would you say you’re a neo-conservative now?Hitchens: I’m not a conservative of any kind. A faction willing to take the risks of making war on the ossified status quo in the Middle East can be described as many things, but not as conservative.

        • http://www.stealingfirstbase.com Stealing First Base

          He’s always rejected the “neoconservative” label, but his political views fit the mold. I would agree with him that he’s “not a conservative of any kind,” but then, I would say neoconservatives aren’t conservatives either, at least not in the classical sense. Neocons are closer to the old Southern Democrats. Conservatives (and the Republican Party) prior to the 1980s and the Reagan era were much closer to what we would today call Libertarians. This clip of Ron Paul at a 2008 Republican debate addresses that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ_Z_XG0L2c

          But it’s playing semantics, really. Milton Friedman always said he considered himself a liberal because he didn’t want to keep the current system, which he saw as flawed, he wanted to change it back to an older system. By changing it, by dictionary definition, he would be a liberal. But the way most people use the words, Friedman was most definitely a conservative. Similarly, Hitchens may not identify himself as a neoconservative, but by the definition that most people understand of “neoconservative,” he fits the mold.

      • cbc

        Sorry, meant to say “religious conservatives.” The people who co-opt her philosophies with no regard for their foundation in staunch atheism. 

        • http://www.stealingfirstbase.com Stealing First Base

          Ah, well, that’s true.

  • Siamang

    …”the least violent, most tolerant, *MOST INTELLIGENT*, ”?!!!?  

    WTF?  Is this person actually making the claim that we’re more intelligent than homosexuals (Jews, Muslims, etc?) ??!?!  WTF does that even mean?  Some of us ARE gay, Jews, immigrants, whatever…

    Sorry, count me out.  I can’t back this mawkish pity-party.  Let’s all get in a circle and cry over how we’re so misunderstood.

    • Dávid Kerekes

      Let’s say, atheist’s average IQ is the highest amongst religious groups in the US, and we’re there. (I don’t know if this is true or not, but it is a possible answer.)

    • http://www.stealingfirstbase.com Stealing First Base

      “WTF?  Is this person actually making the claim that we’re more intelligent than homosexuals (Jews, Muslims, etc?) ??!?!”

      Not sure where you got this impression

    • Anonymous

      There has been a study that showed that there’s an inverted proportional relationship between religion and education, as in the more educated you are, the least religious you are and vice-versa.

    • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

      Some states have ‘lower’ average IQs than others.  It just happens.

      • Rich Wilson

        Only if you measure to statistically insignificant levels.  And even then it will reflect the normal social bias problems already inherent in the test.

  • Rich Wilson

    Not sure I agree with the “Least violent, most tolerant, most intelligent, most progressive part”.  I think as a group, Quakers probably have us on least violent.  Intelligence is just such a flaky thing- and education intelligence.  I don’t think our reputation for intolerance is completely unfounded, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  One could argue that all our lawsuits against state sponsored prayer are a sign of intolerance.  I know, I know.  But if we were really tolerant wouldn’t we just “go with the flow?”  Sometimes I’d rather not be tolerant.

    • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

      Perhaps.  But those are just paraphrasing polls and studies.  Too few people identify as such for it to be very statistically meaningful.

      • Rich Wilson

        There’s paraphrasing and there’s going so far out on a limb that you lose credibility.  And what group do you mean with “too few people identify as such”?  There are enough self identified atheists in this country to make statistically meaningful statements.

        What for me makes the ‘non voilent’ thing worse is that even if it’s true, it’s a correlation, not a causation, so we bring back the Stalin/Pol Pot/Mao thing.  

  • Molly

    I thought this video was a bit over dramatic to the point of silliness.  That said, I did like montage of famous/notable atheists,  many of whom I wasn’t aware that they share my nonbelief.

    • gsw

      but I missed Robert A. Heinlein  – who was outspokenly rude about all forms of superstition, in spite of what the movie people (Paul Verhoeven?) did with his Starship Troopers in film 3.
       
      Why bother to call it atheism – a lack of susceptibility to superstition and rejection of century old con-games is my preferred description.

  • Anonymous

    As much as I hate Ayn Rand like most of the liberal minded posters here, atheism is only an agreement on a single issue and on that issue I happen to agree with her.

  • Jamie

    I wish someone made an “it gets better” video/campaign for atheists. Showing famous people who are non-believers isn’t enough. I’d like to see the more famous people like Angelina and Brad (most people probably don’t know they’re atheists anyway) encouraging atheists to express themselves and not be afraid.

    • http://twitter.com/gabrielbrawley Gabriel Brawley

      I’ve been thinking that forever. I would like to see a “it gets better” for both atheists and high school students. One of the things I tell my kids over and over again that life gets so much better after high school.

  • Anon

    could that music be any worse?

  • Jim Baerg

    Does anyone know of similar vilifying of atheists somewhere in Canada? I’ve lives in a few fairly large cities in Canada & not experienced anything near as nasty as the cases mentioned in the video.

    • Anonymous

      It varies, though it’s certainly not as bad on the whole. But like the US there are sectors of religious conservatism (more likely to be found, for example, in the prairies than in BC or Ontario), and small towns are much more likely to have this problem than big cities.

  • http://www.stealingfirstbase.com Stealing First Base

    To everyone complaining about the inclusion of Ayn Rand:

    1. It kind of goes against the “most tolerant” idea, now doesn’t it?

    2. You should read this: http://bitchspot.jadedragononline.com/2011/07/20/its-depressing-being-a-conservative-atheist/

    • GregFromCos

      Well said. I think so often Atheists put way too much into the word that is not there. So many try to co-opt the word to somehow encompass the entirety of their worldview and it just does not work.

      It simply means that we don’t believe there is evidence for the existence a god. The only way it affects our ethics, is in that we roundly reject the idea that anything is somehow moral because their deity says that it is.

      I think PZ did a grave disservice to the community when he tried to shame people into being ashamed of being a dictionary atheist. The reality is that being an Atheist is no more descriptive to me, than being a Theist is to a Christian. It only tells you a little bit about the person.

      It also would allow us to get away from the silly comparison to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others. Because it would then be like forcing a Christian to defend Osama bin Laden. They are both Theists, No?

      • Anonymous

        ” The reality is that being an Atheist is no more descriptive to me, than
        being a Theist is to a Christian. It only tells you a little bit about
        the person.”

        I think you’re being a little naive here. In most cases, I repeat, in most cases, when you learn that someone is an atheist, you automatically can deduce that they value rational thinking and scientific evidence. Again, not all atheists but I’d say a big majority. While atheism is not a doctrine or an ideology by any means it does tell a little bit more about the person then just the lack of belief in god. As Sam Harris once said, Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs…this usually equals rational thinking.

        By the same token, when I meet someone who’s religious, I immediately think, either they don’t value evidence and don’t know how to think critically or…they have either been indoctrinated/ are self-deceived/ have a poor education/ have fallen pray to psychological and emotional needs.

        • GregFromCos

          Having grown up a Theist, I’d disagree with your points. I know many Theists who “value evidence” and think very “critically”. They simply compartmentalize their religious beliefs into an untouchable box. Often due to brainwashing since they were children.

          Also, go look at the comments over on Sam Harris’s facebook page on the Vaccine article he put up last week. You will see very clearly there, there are many atheists, that are prone to conspiracy theories. And could care less about evidence and critical thinking. As another example, look at the rush to judgement of the Norwegian shooter as being representative of the Christian Faith. Even though the evidence shows that at best is an overstatement of the truth.

          All that said, I just don’t think the evidence supports your generalizations about Atheists and Theists. Possibly had you added “about religion” to your descriptions I would have agreed.

          • Rich Wilson

            “You will see very clearly there, there are many atheists, that are prone to conspiracy theories.”

            *cough*Bill Maher*cough*

            Yeah,  know, he calls himself an agnostic.  Same diff in that case.

      • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

        They are also possibly extremists, too.  Big groups have less in common than narrow groups.

  • icewings

    I’m a female atheist and my husband is an Hispanic atheist. Believe me, we’ve been discriminated against and had terrible epithets thrown our way, but never because of our lack of religion. Prejudice against ethnic minorities and the “weaker sex” is, in our experience, much more prevalent than hatred of atheists.

    Also, I do not consider myself any more intelligent, progressive, or tolerant than any other group. Where did that idea come from anyway? There’s no correlation at all, imo.

    • http://disienai.tumblr.com/ Semipermeable

      I will agree, I get far more flack for being a woman then I do for being an atheist, though it isn’t like people can tell I am an atheist when they see me, and I only speak about it when I am with people I know and am comfortable with. 

      There may be a correlation between atheism, education and affluence, but I don’t know any numbers concerning that. I would hypothesize that if you are higher up the social ladder in other regards, it is easier to be open about having unpopular positions concerning religion and other things.

    • Rich Wilson

      By my own anecdotal measure of both online comments and brushes of face to face harassment, I face much more distrust and outright animosity as a cyclist than as an atheist.  It’s one thing to have someone say you’re going to a hell you don’t believe in, it’s quite another to have someone use their car to try to send you there.

    • http://twitter.com/alexandra_opny alexandra_opny

      I’ve received much more flack for being a woman and for being gay than I ever have for my godlessness. Once kids start saying “that’s so atheist” and “heathen” to bully each other, then I’ll start to agree. Once there are laws telling atheists who we can marry or what we can do with our bodies, then sure.  As an atheist I am not LEGISLATIVELY discriminated against. However as a woman and a lesbian, I am.

      Since when are atheists the most progressive? What evidence do you have to support that? My parents are atheist/agnostic and they were still mad at me when I came out as a lesbian! Also, they’re both Republicans.

      • Rieux

        I’ve received much more flack for being a woman and for being gay than I ever have for my godlessness.

        That’s your experience. It’s the experience of plenty of other people as well, but not everyone. I don’t see where declaring that bigotry against minority X is worse than bigotry against minority Y gets anyone anywhere.

        By some measures (as the studies the video quotes found), atheists are the most distrusted and despised minority in the United States. That does not mean that atheists face more open discrimination or abuse than other minorities do—in part because it is generally very easy for atheists to stay in the closet, and millions do. Please don’t use the very real hell that so many GLBT people live in to try to claim that the very real hell plenty of atheists (such as some of the folks interviewed in the video) live in doesn’t exist or matter. The Oppression Olympics doesn’t help anyone. (If you’ve never heard a homophobe who happens to be African-American blast gay folks for daring to call themselves oppressed—when were gays held in slavery? When were they forced to drink from separate water fountains?—you haven’t been paying much attention to these kinds of discussions.)

        I’m afraid that you’re seriously wrong about bullies not using atheist-related epithets to abuse nonbelieving kids. Again, that you have not experienced such things does not demonstrate that they don’t happen.

        As an atheist I am not LEGISLATIVELY discriminated against.

        You are if you live in one of the U.S. states that legally bars atheists from holding political office or testifying in court. And what’s so magic about legislatures? In the United States, atheist parents (like GLBT ones) are routinely denied custody of our children by judges on the specific and overt grounds that the parents are not religious. Unlike gay parents, no American court has ever held that it’s illegal to discriminate against irreligious parents that way.

        And then there is “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance; “In God We Trust” on currency and public buildings; “so help me God” in public oaths; “God bless you, and God bless the United States of America” in presidential speeches; Congressional, legislative, and military chaplains; “faith-based initiatives”; and plenty more. If you seriously think that atheists are not legally discriminated against in the United States, you are sorely mistaken.

        Finally, what’s so exclusively important about law and government? Several of the people interviewed in that video were harassed by private actors—classmates, neighbors, landlords—because of the victims’ atheism. Exactly how does it help them that they are not, in those particular instances, being “LEGISLATIVELY discriminated against”?

        Please don’t ignore or deny the very real suffering of innocent people.

        Since when are atheists the most progressive?

        Several studies have shown that. For example, check out the Pew Research Center study at http://tinyurl.com/4rxehe , specifically the table on page 18; you’ll see that atheists are the most pro-choice demographic (albeit in a statistical tie with Buddhists), and agnostics the most pro-gay (atheists are third, behind only agnostics and Buddhists), in the United States. Note also that every single Christian demographic is vastly worse. Plenty of other studies of religious and political affiliation have come to similar conclusions.

        My parents are atheist/agnostic and they were still mad at me when I came out as a lesbian! Also, they’re both Republicans.

        Surely you recognize that that’s a risible attempt to turn an anecdote into data. Naming two atheist Republicans does not refute broad demographic studies that find that nonbelievers are overwhelmingly likely to be (especially socially) liberal.

        • icewings

          I didn’t say it as well as you did, but this is exactly what I meant. The video says atheists are the most hated group, then went on to say we’re also the most intelligent, etc. That didn’t sit well with me because it ignored the fact that every atheist is unique.

          We may be just another “minority”, although I don’t even like resorting to that kind of self-classification. It’s dangerous to try to put people into categories and then start defining that group’s general characteristics. It leads to stereotypes and to what you so eloquently called the “oppression Olympics”.

          Pick two atheists at random. What are the odds they have anything else in common? No more than any other two people!

          • Rieux

            The video says atheists are the most hated group….

            Well, as repeated social science as shown, by several measures we are. And that fact is callously and ignorantly pooh-poohed all the time, including on this thread.

            The fact that atheists are mistreated by the believing majority in American society is not a minor, marginal quibble. We have human rights, just like anyone else, and it’s not inappropriate or stupid for us to point out that they frequently are disrespected and ignored by powerful people and institutions.

            The Oppression Olympics involves arguing that your minority is treated worse than any other one, and that therefore others’ complaints and demands are illegitimate. It’s disgusting because such comparisons trivialize very real injustice. Social science showing that Americans profess to hate atheists more than they do other minorities is not the Olympics, especially because more hate ≠ worse treatment. (Hate, especially of the kind measured by those studies, is not equivalent to Oppression.)

            GLBTs and ethnic minorities, among others, generally do get more potent abuse in the United States than atheists do. The point of calling out the Olympics is to recognize that making that comparison has no benefit but plenty of cost. Atheophobic mistreatment is wrong and should be corrected regardless of whether it’s worse or less bad than other kinds of mistreatment.

            …then went on to say we’re also the most intelligent, etc. That didn’t
            sit well with me because it ignored the fact that every atheist is
            unique.

            I think “most intelligent” is stupid (we have human rights even if we’re ignorant morons), but what does our uniqueness have to do with anything? Every gay man and lesbian, every member of an ethnic minority, every woman is unique, too. That shouldn’t, and generally doesn’t, prevent those minorities from advocating for their shared interests. Atheists’ uniqueness is not itself unique.

            We may be just another “minority”, although I don’t even like resorting
            to that kind of self-classification. It’s dangerous to try to put
            people into categories and then start defining that group’s general
            characteristics.

            Well, tough. We’re a category whether any of us likes it or not. As the social-science data demonstrate, Americans have no problem categorizing (and despising) us regardless of whether we want them to do so. Fighting the very idea that atheists have anti-bigotry and anti-discrimination interests in common doesn’t do a thing to make us less of a category (and thus a minority and, indeed, a community); it merely makes it harder for us to fight the majority’s privilege and abuse.

            We have no choice whether to be a minority, a category. That status is thust on us by the atheophobic society we live in. The only choice is whether to fight back or not—and if we do, there is unavoidably strength in numbers. That happens to be the same position that every despised minority in American history has been in.

            Pick two atheists at random. What are the odds they have anything else in common?

            Pick two gay men at random. What are the odds they have anything else in common? No better than the same odds for two random atheists. And yet the GLBT community is, as it should be, a political force.

            Recognizing the way we, as a minority community, are seen and treated by the majority does not deny individual uniqueness. It merely takes seriously the way that individual atheists actually are treated. Atomistic disorganization doesn’t help anyone but the bigots who benefit from standing on our necks.

            • vp4

              As someone who’s studied social science and read the Minnesota polls, I still don’t see where “repeated social science [h]as shown, by several measures we are [the most hated group]”

              I’m not pooh-poohing, I’m just sincerely interested in a citation for what you’re referencing.

        • http://twitter.com/alexandra_opny alexandra_opny

          This video tried to play oppression olympics claiming atheists are more hated than anyone else in this county. I was just trying to point out that a pole indicating people don’t think we share their vision of America doesn’t translate to us being the most despised minority.

          In no way did I say that the discrimination faced by women or gender and sexuality minorities is worse that that faced by atheists. That’s why I said this is the discrimination “I’ve experienced.”  I never argued anti-atheist prejudice doesn’t exist.  I never said discrimination has to be from the government for it to matter.  That’s why I mentioned verbal harassment as a form of discrimination.  And I mentioned my less than tolerant non-theist parents  as an example of how we are not some monolithic  group like the video claims.

          • Rieux

            Alexandra:

            This video tried to play oppression olympics claiming atheists are more hated than anyone else in this count[r]y.

            No, that claim is the finding of a substantial amount of social science. And given that hatred is not oppression, it’s not the Oppression Olympics, either.

            As numerous studies have shown, more Americans are willing to attest to antipathy toward atheists than toward any other minority. That’s a fact, not a complaint about oppression.

            I was just trying to point out that a pol[l] indicating people don’t think we share their vision of America doesn’t translate to us being the most despised minority.

            You clearly haven’t read the University of Minnesota study. The point about respondents believing that atheists don’t share their vision of America was one portion of the Minnesota researchers’ conclusions; it isn’t even close to the extent of the atheophobia the study found.

            I wonder: what evidence would you accept as support for the notion that X% of Americans hate atheists? What would it take? Do you expect poll respondents to answer “yes” to the question “Do you hate atheists?” Do you doubt any assertion about homophobia, sexism, or racism that isn’t backed up by declarations that are that overt?

            In no way did I say that the discrimination faced by women or gender and sexuality minorities is worse that that faced by atheists.

            Oh, please. That’s precisely what your entire account implies:

            I’ve received much more fla[k] for being a woman and for being gay than I ever have for my godlessness. Once kids start saying “that’s so atheist” and “heathen” to bully each other, then I’ll start to agree. Once there are laws telling atheists who we can marry or what we can do with our bodies, then sure.  As an atheist I am not LEGISLATIVELY discriminated against. However as a woman and a lesbian, I am.

            What exactly is the point of any of that, if not to argue that “the discrimination faced by women or gender and sexuality minorities is worse that that faced by atheists”? Every distinction you draw in that paragraph has no purpose other than that.

            Come on, now. Stop running away from what you very clearly argued.

            That’s why I said this is the discrimination “I’ve experienced.”

            Right—you were trying out the old “the plural of anecdote is data” argument. Unfortunately, it’s a fallacy.

            I never argued anti-atheist prejudice doesn’t exist.  I never said discrimination has to be from the government for it to matter.

            No, you just implied those things, by sarcastically writing about bullies using “that’s so atheist” and “heathen,” and by shouting “LEGISLATIVELY.” Again, you’re just pretending you didn’t say what you obviously said. It doesn’t work.

            And I mentioned my less than tolerant non-theist parents  as an example of how we are not some monolithic  group like the video claims.

            Nonsense. That video never asserts that we’re anything close to “monolithic.”

            Come, now. Such evasion and disingenuousness is beneath you.

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      IMO racial prejudice is a different kind of thing than prejudice
      against atheists.  Prejudice against atheists is probably more closely
      related to prejudice against gays and women’s rights.  When there is a physical trait that can be
      associated with the prejudice, then there is the opportunity to want to
      segregate those that have that physical trait from the others.  Optimistically, the prejudiced people would
      be content if those that had that physical trait just lived somewhere else.  Pessimistically, you might have a genocide,
      ethnic cleansing, or a holocaust.

       

      Atheism (and to some degree sexual preference and women’s rights)
      is seen as a more fundamental existential threat to their way of life.  The idea of atheism (or the idea of being
      free to act on your sexual preferences or women’s rights) is seen as a threat
      too close to home.  The prejudiced people
      then must create a culture where the mere mention of atheism (or gayness or women’s
      rights) has severe consequences.  “Agents
      of Satan”, “fags”, and “fem-nazies”.  A
      mere book about atheism (or that Johnny has two moms, or something about
      needing a village) is often viewed by the prejudiced people as something that
      can corrupt the innocent Christians and must be fought on every front.

       

      Who do the Fundies hate the most?  In my experience it is Dawkins, Hillary, and “teh
      gay”.  The racially motivated prejudiced
      people may simply want to “clean up” their neighborhood first before getting to
      the other issues.  Of course there are
      some Fundies that are not racially prejudiced.

      • Anonymous

        I’m both gay and atheist, but I do find the gay part much harder to hide. I’m quite streotypically masculine so I don’t give it off that way, but I have doubd it much harder to hide a partner / spouce than religious beliefs … especially if you own a house and such together.

    • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

      Do you carry an atheist sticker on your forehead?  Incidence of intolerance ≠ intensity of intolerance.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZPNLSZQAZWHZJZZNZ4UMDCE6VQ D

        1.
      Atheists have the lowest percentage of inmates both for violent crime
      and crime overall, as reported in 2009 (and since then, I believe), both
      relative to the population of atheists and directly compared to other
      groups.

      “Citing four different studies, Zuckerman states: “Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious nations where belief in God is widespread.” He also states: “Of the top 50 safest cities in the world, nearly all are in relatively non-religious countries.”Within the United States, we see the same pattern. Citing census data, he writes: “And within America, the states with the highest murder rates tend to be the highly religious, such as Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with the lowest murder rates tend to be the among the least religious in the country, such as Vermont and Oregon.”And these findings are not limited to murder rates, as rates of all violent crime tend to be higher in “religious” states. Zuckerman also points out that atheists are very much under-represented
      in the American prison population (only 0.2%).” — summary from
      Psychology Today of part of an article by Phil Zuckerman.Article itself
      (In PDF): http://www.pitzer.edu/academic

      2.  Atheists average roughly 6 points higher than their religious
      counterparts, and there’s a high correlation between low religiosity and
      high IQ and it’s inverse: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R….

      3.  Related to #1, and most of the direct evidence ranges from
      anecdotal to being somewhat unclear in methodology.  It’s really a hard
      thing to put numbers to, aside from looking at crime stats… unless, ya
      know, you count that while there are countries executing people for how
      they were born based on religious law, no secular nations do such a
      thing, I suppose.  I agree with the premise, both personally and through
      the law, but I see no discernible way to present a positive case
      logically. 

      Note that there is no direct statement concerning whether or not
      atheism/irreligious stances cause these behaviours or the inverse, but
      the group as a whole *does* have these observable characteristics,
      regardless of source.

  • http://twitter.com/meyekael Meyekael

    I think the best way to combat prejudice against atheists is to keep pointing out that all theists are atheists too when it comes to the gods of religions other than their own.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    I weep for your society: of the advanced, liberal democracies yours is the most backward in being rife with superstitionists in positions of power and influence.  Atheism in western Europe isn’t a show-stopper, and while we have to fight the influence of Xians and others we aren’t considered traitors or outcasts.

    I don’t want to patronise you, my American friends, but somewhere from the DoI by educated and cultured men your society has been hijacked.

    • Rieux

      No, no, you’re right, and plenty of us know it perfectly well. We’re working on the problem; thanks for the support.

  • Jeanette

    Um. Bit of a stretch to say atheists are the “least violent, most intelligent, most tolerant” group of people. Generalizations like that call the “most intelligent” part into question for sure.

    • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

      It’s just a reference to social studies.  Correlation does not imply causation.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZPNLSZQAZWHZJZZNZ4UMDCE6VQ D

      1. Atheists have the lowest percentage of inmates both for violent crime and crime overall, as reported in 2009 (and since then, I believe), both relative to the population of atheists and directly compared to other groups.

      “Citing four different studies, Zuckerman states: “Murder rates are
      actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious
      nations where belief in God is widespread.” He also states: “Of the top
      50 safest cities in the world, nearly all are in relatively
      non-religious countries.”Within the United States, we see the
      same pattern. Citing census data, he writes: “And within America, the
      states with the highest murder rates tend to be the highly religious,
      such as Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with the lowest murder
      rates tend to be the among the least religious in the country, such as
      Vermont and Oregon.”
      And these findings are not limited to murder
      rates, as rates of all violent crime tend to be higher in “religious”
      states. Zuckerman also points out that atheists are very much
      under-represented in the American prison population (only 0.2%).” — summary from Psychology Today of part of an article by Phil Zuckerman.Article itself (In PDF): http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf

      2.  Atheists average roughly 6 points higher than their religious counterparts, and there’s a high correlation between low religiosity and high IQ and it’s inverse: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity_and_intelligence#Studies_comparing_religious_belief_and_I.Q.

      3.  Related to #1, and most of the direct evidence ranges from anecdotal to being somewhat unclear in methodology.  It’s really a hard thing to put numbers to, aside from looking at crime stats… unless, ya know, you count that while there are countries executing people for how they were born based on religious law, no secular nations do such a thing, I suppose.  I agree with the premise, both personally and through the law, but I see no discernible way to present a positive case logically. 

      Note that there is no direct statement concerning whether or not atheism/irreligious stances cause these behaviours or the inverse, but the group as a whole *does* have these observable characteristics, regardless of source.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    I think I may start calling myself an “Atheist Troll”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zachary.d.forbes Zach Forbes

    You know what was more depressing? The reaction I got from other atheists when I posted this earlier on my blog. I was told, verbatim: “Yeah, then look as the social and economic position of most atheists and see that how ever much people say they hate Atheists, your not the recipients of centuries of institutional and cultural violence. grow the fuck up. ”

    Apparently hate is okay and shouldn’t bother me if it’s not institutionalized.

    • Rich Wilson

      Ya, I’ve gotten that.  Until atheists are lynched, we should shut up and stop whining.

    • http://twitter.com/meyekael Meyekael

      Just exactly how much persecution does a minority have to suffer before it before it becomes okay for them to complain about it?

    • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

       With a number of US states still having state constitutions that explicitly deny atheists the right to office (even if it isn’t enforceable), how much more institutionalized do they need it to be?

    • Rieux

      And in fact plenty of atheophobia is institutionalized. It constantly frosts me that so few people are aware that atheist parents in the U.S. are routinely denied custody of their children in divorce disputes, on the overt and specific grounds that the parents in question aren’t religious. (UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh compiled 70+ court decisions to this effect at http://tinyurl.com/yov2rh .) No American court has ever ruled that it’s illegal to discriminate against irreligious parents this way.

      How the hell could the abuse be more “institutionalized” than that?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

    It still beats Christians poorly singing about the glory of their God.

  • WingedBeast

    Let me preface this by saying we should be fighting anti-atheist prejudice.

    But, we should also be applying some perspective.  Atheists are the last group that it seems socially okay to hate.  Yet, compare the worst that atheists get in America today with the average that someone who was homosexual, African American, or a woman would get in the 1920s.

    Again, we should fight the prejudice.  But, we shouldn’t give the impression that we think our own suffering is as bad as every other group’s.

    • http://twitter.com/meyekael Meyekael

      Yeah, we’re lucky in that you can’t tell if a person is an atheist just by looking at him, and atheism isn’t something that most people are willing to be martyred for, so it’s easier to stay in the “closet” about it. So we’ve been able to escape the brunt of the religious persecution.

       

      • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

        Indeed, and it is apparent in the amount of people who are manifestly atheist according to their stated outlook when they describe it, but they shy away from the term ‘atheist’ like the plague (often repeating the old canard that ‘atheism requires absolute certainty’ along for good measure.)

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZPNLSZQAZWHZJZZNZ4UMDCE6VQ D

           Which is annoying… it’s right up there with people not knowing the difference between Agnostic and Gnostic as applied to Theism and Atheism…  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stated “I’m an Agnostic Atheist” only to be told that it’s an oxymoron.

          But yeah, if you could actually explain these things to people it’d solve 90% of the problems.  Just like I don’t mind 90% of christians… just the 10% who knock on my door in the morning or who beat the hell out of me at school as a kid.

      • WingedBeast

        Even if you could tell an atheist just by looking, in this day and age, we’d still have it better than most groups (including atheists) in the 1950s.

        No, we shouldn’t roll over and accept it.  But, one of the easiest ways to make what atheists go through seem piddling and not worth time to look at is to compare it against things that were blatantly worse.

        • http://twitter.com/meyekael Meyekael

          Who’s comparing it to something worse?

  • Trace

    “least violent, most tolerant, most intelligent, most progressive”

    Don’t forget handsome and modest :)

  • Justin McKean

    I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Virtually no one cares that I’m an atheist as far as I’m aware. Even when I worked across the street from Oral Roberts University. Nobody cared.

    The local Atheist community put up these cool billboards all over town. Nobody cared. It just wasn’t a big deal. And if it isn’t that big a deal here, then it’s probably not that big of a deal elsewhere. (Hint: if you live in a town whose population only needs four or fewer digits, move. Not because you’re an atheist and might get persecuted by the inbred hillbillies that live in those sorts of towns. Do it because small towns are creepy.)

    I agree that a lot of people don’t really “get” us, but that’s just a matter of having dinner together more often, is all. I think the US is a lot farther along than FOX and CNN (or videos made with clips from those sources) like to pretend.

    We exacerbate misunderstanding, too, I suspect, by allowing ourselves to be defined by what we don’t believe. I am open about being an Atheist, but I always go on to say that I’m a Humanist. Tons of common ground upon which to build a good relationship with my believing neighbors.

    Oh… and I am most certainly not more tolerant than they are. I’m a confirmed snob and proud of it, thanks.

    • Rieux

      I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Virtually no one cares that I’m an atheist as far as I’m aware. Even when I worked across the street from Oral Roberts University. Nobody cared.

      I’m sure that comes as a great comfort to the interview subjects in the video who were abused and discriminated against because of their atheism. Sorry, folks: Justin McKean of Tulsa, Oklahoma, thinks “virtually no one cares” about his atheism, so I guess we should just ignore your carping.

      Is the very concept of empathy foreign to you?

    • Roachiesmom

       I live in the south.  The population of my town is roughly 25,000 people.  For decades, I’ve been hassled for my lack of christian beliefs by family, “friends”, strangers on the street and my own lawyer during the divorce my born-again husband wanted when ‘god’ told him he needed to be with his christian whore.  I’ve had people who knew me for said decades who did not know my beliefs, who found out and suddenly in the 1.5 seconds it took them to process the information decided I changed and was no longer worthy of knowing.  My “evil” might rub off on them.  And they were also offended that I put their immortal souls in jeopardy because any and every thing I had done for them in the past was now suspect and tainted.  It’s a little hard to misunderstand when that sort of thing is said outright to your face.  It’s also difficult to ‘have dinner’ with people to help bridge understanding when those people will no longer associate with you at all.  Not discounting your experience.  Just my mileage has varied. 

      • Rieux

        Not discounting your experience.

        Why not? He did yours.

    • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

      I find your claim dubious based upon the law, judiciary, and schools in your area.

  • gsw

    I am surprised that so many people are surprised that atheists are hated in America.
    In England, religion is closely linked to patriotism, Queen EII is the head of the church, one is therefore respectful.  But that’s about it. The local vicar is usually the vicar because it is a family tradition, like coal mining once was. Local Anglican private schools are actually the cheapest form of private (called public) school – by a factor of 1:10 – so a good place to send the children!
     
    However, in America religion is BIG BUSINESS, televangelists making millions, huge rallies being organised, summer camps, books, weddings, collections every Sunday.

    For the average hard working American, it would hurt to admit that they have been conned out of their money (up to 10% of their income), and that their parents and their parents’ parents, for generations, have been giving it away to parasites who have been selling pie-in-the-sky and jam-tomorrow* and never had to deliver.
    So they deny it, and since these crooks want to go on making money from their lies (even if a priest believes in a god, saying he knows what that god is thinking is still a lie) they have to pretend we are evil people since we teach freedom from dependency.

    In a nutshell, the pushers hate people who try to wean their ‘clients off the drug, and so they tell the junkies that we are trying to kill them.

    Of course they hate us! Wouldn’t you?

    *(The much quoted, non-conned R.A.Heinlein.)  

  • Stephane Varin

    Seeing this from France, I have to admit it is hard for me to imagine that this is actually happening, nowadays, 2011, in the States. 

    We have our own issues (don’t you bother listing them ;-) but at least I have the feeling this is one we don’t share with you, at least not that much.

  • http://twitter.com/TPRyan007 tpr007

    Atheism has a morality far more inclusive and advanced than any theology. The arguments for being ‘religious’ get weaker by the day, hence the increased hate from theists I think. I wrote a bit more about it today - http://wp.me/p1u5Um-9T – and hope it helps someone make their own case for why Atheism is the more rational choice.

    • Silent Bob

      “Atheism has a morality far more inclusive and advanced than any theology.”

      Tony, I’m sorry to be a pedant, but atheism has no morality whatsoever.

      Describing the morality of atheists is akin to describing the morality of people who don’t believe in leprechauns.

      • Anonymous

        Atheism isn’t itself a moral system, but I’d argue that most atheists are more moral (or at least have better morals) than the religious. The abrahamic religions in particular have a lot of trash “morality” mixed in with the few good obvious things.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZPNLSZQAZWHZJZZNZ4UMDCE6VQ D

         Alternatively, having *no* morality is better than having a false morality.  I’d rather deal with someone who has no MO compared to someone who has one so set in stone he’d kill people for it….

  • Manthing

    Why is Ayn Rand in there but not HP Lovecraft? Something is messed up here.

  • Ann

    This is sad, but it shows who’s doing the majority of hating, and it’s not atheists.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X