Monday, June 27, 2011

America Hates Gays, but Hates Atheists Even More!

Last week's victory legalizing gay marriage in New York was a huge step forward. Although the pace of the civil rights campaign for gays is far too slow, it's great to see steady progress.

But now there's a new cause for celebration! A new Gallup poll shows that gays have achieved another huge victory: they're far more popular than atheists! When one oppressed minority gains ground on another, isn't that cause for celebration?

No, I'm just kidding (in case anyone misses the humor). I'm really pleased that America is slowly overcoming the religion-inspired discrimination and hatred against the LGBT community. But it's rather alarming that atheists are still so widely reviled. It's a testament to the power of religious discrimination that the Christian dogma machine has managed to instill such fear and loathing of America's most law-abiding group.

For your amusement, here is the Gallup breakdown of the most-reviled minorities in America. We atheists take the prize at the bottom of the heap:
GroupWouldn't vote for
A Woman6%
Gay or lesbian32%
An atheist49%
It's weird. Atheists are everywhere. We make up something like ten to fifteen percent of America. Almost everyone in America knows at least one atheist, and probably knows many. Not only that, but most atheists are well respected and liked by their friends and neighbors. They're just ordinary good citizens.

So why is the second-largest "faith" group in America so reviled? Why is the most law-abiding minority in America deemed unfit for public office?

The problem is that atheists continue to hide in plain sight. Most minorities can be "outed" by their skin color, worship practices, or the fact that they live with someone of the same sex. But atheists are everywhere and nobody knows it. Most atheists deliberately hide their atheism, because admitting it leads to nothing good and triggers the very discrimination revealed by the Gallup poll.

The result is that we remain the most reviled group in America, and it's going to stay that way as long as we continue to hide. I know that there are many of my fellow atheists who have genuine reasons to hide. The discrimination is real. Not everyone can be a Dr. King, Rosa Parks or Harvey Milk.

But more of us need to speak out. As more and more of us come out of the closet with our atheism, it will be harder for ordinary Americans to keep their misconceptions. Hatred and revulsion of atheism are based on ignorance and misinformation that's perpetrated by outdated religious dogma. When Christians, Jews and Muslims discover that their friends and neighbors, people whom they've known and respected for years, are atheists, it will be hard for them to remain biased.

If you're an atheist and you want to stay in a world where 49% of Americans would bar you from public office, then keep your atheism to yourself. But if you want to make a difference, then consider being open and honest about your beliefs. It will make a difference.


  1. This is a nice post, Craig. It harks back to when Harvey Milk told California's gay community to "out" themselves to as many people in their lives as possible. I think that our doing so, while initially uncomfortable, will in the long run make a big difference. So many "believers" treat religion as merely a social opportunity (not that there's anything wrong with that) that I think we could see a swelling of our ranks as people realize that it's not social death to consider the Tooth Fairy and Jehovah as equally implausible.

  2. Thing is, unlike every other discrimination issue, Atheists shouldn't be treated as equals. That implies that religion has some merit, when in fact it is all BS, and detrimental to society. Everyone should be an Atheist, believing in things that aren't real is a sign of a mental disease. People who are Atheist for the right reasons simply have a healthier mind than everyone else. I don't think we should ever bother trying to be accepted by religious fools, instead we should keep on refuting their claims using logic and science. We are a growing minority, and eventually, hopefully, the entire world will only believe in reality.

  3. Jack - There are really two separate issues: What people believe, and whether they respect one another. The first goal is to get more of us to go public. Once that happens, I hope you're right that the social pressures are eased. Right now, people can't even contemplate atheism in many parts of the country because it's social suicide.

  4. Anon -- without even addressing the merits of whether religion is a "mental disease," your approach is counterproductive. At the risk of sounding self serving, I suggest that you read my book, The Religion Virus.

    Religion is very appealing and "infectious." What you're doing is like blaming someone for catching the flu. It doesn't do any good to criticize and berate someone because they believe the same thing that the great majority of society believes. Especially when the ideas have evolved over many thousands of years to be incredibly appealing and infectious.

    A better approach is what I'm suggesting in the blog: admit who you are, and thereby help to normalize atheism in society. This, along with efforts to keep accurate science and history in our schools, will do more to promote rational thought and a secular country than we can achieve through insults to our theistic friends and neighbors.

  5. Note to Anon - I deleted your link about gay marriage because your web site is infected with malware and tries to attack your visitors' computers.

  6. To Anon - I am a proud atheist and where i come from (Québec) atheists talk very openly of their ''beliefs''. I would say religion is a superficial aspect of our lives here. Religious people of all sort and also atheists all live along. But anybody here who would read your comment (religious or not) would be equally shocked. Talking this way will certainly not help your cause. I do not agree on the dogmatic effect of religion (and so religion itself), but in no way would I talk of someones beliefs as an infection. There is a MAJOR differentiation between dogmas and faith. The way you say religion is wrong is exactly what i find disgusting about religious institutions. The lack of a broader and accepting vision of ''reality''. I do not beleive in God or any entity of this kind but until it is proven wrong i shall keep my thoughts for myself. I and only I have lived and seen what I have. Everybody has their own path leading to who they are, religious, atheist, good or evil. Personally i think respect outweighs any other ''belief'', whichever.


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