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Old 02-12-2012, 01:52 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question The Victimization of Atheists

There's a new article in Slate about atheists in America, and a lot of them feel victimized. I am not personally religious, but I find atheist activists embarrassing. I can see why you'd need them in an overwhelmingly religious area, but unlike gay people, atheists aren't exactly being actively persecuted.



Well, sometimes their family members won't talk to them.

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The most extraordinary story I heard was from a woman in Tuscaloosa county, Alabama. She grew up in nearby Lamar county, raised in the strict Church of Christ, where there is no music with worship and you can’t dance. She says her family love her and are proud of her, but “I’m not allowed to be an atheist in Lamar County”. What is astonishing is that she can be pretty much anything else. “Being on crack, that was OK. As long as I believed in God, I was OK.” So, for example, “I’m not allowed to babysit. I have all these cousins who need babysitters but they’re afraid I’ll teach them about evolution, and I probably would.” I couldn’t quite believe this. She couldn’t babysit as an atheist, but she could when she was on crack? “Yes.” I laughed, but it is hard to think of anything less funny.
Atheist activists model their awareness campaign on civil rights and women's movements.

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Data backs up anecdote. A now famous University of Minnesota study concluded that Americans ranked atheists lower than Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society”. Nearly 48 per cent said they “would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group” (many more than the next most unpopular category, Muslims, at 33.5 per cent).

...

“We want people to realise that some of their best friends are atheists, some of their doctors, and lawyers and fire chiefs and all the rest of them are atheists,” says Dennett.
Perhaps I'm being wrongheaded about this, but I feel like the very idea of creating an organization of atheists is antithetical to what being an atheist is. It's like having a group of people who hate boats, The Boat Haters of America. What do they do when they have meetings? I'm not even trying to suggest that atheists "hate" religion, rather that it doesn't occur to them. If you don't (and never have) smoke cigarettes, do you spend your days wishing you did?

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The neuroscientist Sam Harris is one of America’s best-known atheists; his 2004 book, The End of Faith, sold over half a million copies. He agrees that the situation for atheists is “analogous to being gay and in the closet for many people”, and it is striking that virtually every atheist I spoke to talked the language of being “out” or “in the closet”. Nevertheless, Harris argues “it’s a losing game to trumpet the cause of atheism and try to rally around this variable politically. I’ve supported that in the past, I support those organisations, I understand why they do that. But, in the end, the victim group identity around atheism is the wrong strategy. It’s like calling yourself a non-astrologer. We simply don’t need the term.”
Why do people buy those t-shirts with the atheist "A" on them?

David Silverman says that the Internet is a good reason for why I don't personally feel persecuted:

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When it comes to identifying the main cause of atheism’s recent growth, most people agree. “It’s all about the internet,” says Silverman. “The reason that atheism is on the rise is because there is no way that a person who is an atheist can think they’re alone any more. When I was growing up, I was the only atheist I knew. I had to get on my bike, ride to the public library and take out the one atheist book that they had in the whole library: The Case Against God by George Smith. Now any atheist can go on Facebook or Myspace and find literally millions of friends.”

Johnson can testify to the power of the web. “I found the East Texas atheist website, and through that the Fellowship of Freethought, the Dallas atheists, the Plano atheists and all these different other groups and I’m like, ‘oh, I’m not alone’ … Just knowing that there are 400-plus people at least, maybe thousands, an hour and a half from here that have similar beliefs is enough that I don’t feel isolated.”
What do you guys think? I think that joining an atheist group is stupid (I wouldn't join one, personally, it would feel a bit too much like joining a church).

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Old 02-12-2012, 01:56 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I have not read any of the refs listed. Go try living as an atheist in Polk County Florida.
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Old 02-12-2012, 01:57 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:04 PM   #4 (permalink)
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What do you guys think? I think that joining an atheist group is stupid (I wouldn't join one, personally, it would feel a bit too much like joining a church).
Just going by that OP, I think you don't really understand what an atheist is.

Would it be alright to ostracize and persecute someone because they didn't believe in a Tooth Fairy?
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Ann Otoole View Post
I have not read any of the refs listed. Go try living as an atheist in Polk County Florida.
Or any of the 105 counties in Kansas.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:12 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Seyla Warden View Post
Just going by that OP, I think you don't really understand what an atheist is.

Would it be alright to ostracize and persecute someone because they didn't believe in a Tooth Fairy?
No, it wouldn't. I don't think it's right to persecute anyone because of their beliefs. Except for Libertarians, fuck those guys.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:14 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I think if everybody would just shut the fuck up about their belief system or lack of belief system everybody would be just hunky dory. That won't happen though.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:19 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I would probably feel different about this if I ever felt that I was being treated unfairly. As it is, the closest I've felt to being victimized for not being involved with something is when I told people that I didn't care about sports.

Is the lack of something that obvious?
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:20 PM   #9 (permalink)
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George H. W. Bush: "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

In surveys, people say they would not hire an atheist for a position of trust. Routinely, political and religious leaders assert that atheists have no moral foundation since they erroneously believe that religion precedes morality.

Believers seem quite gleeful when asserting "You're going to hell," which since they believe that, it is really quite atrocious. I have not heard of bands of atheists knocking on people's doors to tell them they will rot in a box.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:27 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cajsa Lilliehook View Post
George H. W. Bush: "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

In surveys, people say they would not hire an atheist for a position of trust. Routinely, political and religious leaders assert that atheists have no moral foundation since they erroneously believe that religion precedes morality.
Positions of trust? Do you mean politicians, or do you mean, like, bankers? Do people feel more secure with their psychiatrist if they know their psychiatrist is a Christian?

Is this really a frequent subject of discussion? Obviously, most politicians must make a show of being godly if they want to be elected, even if internally they don't care much. I do think this is annoying, but compared to other pressing social concerns, it rates much lower to me than, say, welfare.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:32 PM   #11 (permalink)
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George H. W. Bush: "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

In surveys, people say they would not hire an atheist for a position of trust. Routinely, political and religious leaders assert that atheists have no moral foundation since they erroneously believe that religion precedes morality.

Believers seem quite gleeful when asserting "You're going to hell," which since they believe that, it is really quite atrocious. I have not heard of bands of atheists knocking on people's doors to tell them they will rot in a box.
To further this, the issue is not that believers... believe... this.

The issue is that the President can say atheists aren't citizens, and it is accepted.

People think/are taught that 'atheist = no morals' and it is accepted.

The issue is that telling people that they'll be damned for all eternity is commonly accepted.

You said you don't see it, Lo. But you don't see it because it's an accepted part of society. It's everywhere.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:33 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Obviously, most politicians must make a show of being godly if they want to be elected, even if internally they don't care much.
Why is this 'obvious' if not another example of bias/persecution?
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:35 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Positions of trust? Do you mean politicians, or do you mean, like, bankers? Do people feel more secure with their psychiatrist if they know their psychiatrist is a Christian?

Is this really a frequent subject of discussion? Obviously, most politicians must make a show of being godly if they want to be elected, even if internally they don't care much. I do think this is annoying, but compared to other pressing social concerns, it rates much lower to me than, say, welfare.

In many locations, it honestly *is* a frequent subject of discussion. Questions about "what church you attend" are a way to gauge who you are as a person. In places that tend toward being very religious, particularly those with religious homogenization, people actually DO care what religious denomination their psychiatrist, or their banker or any other position of trust is, because that's what "makes them trustworthy", or in the case of say, a mental health professional, allows them to counsel from a (insert denomination here) perspective.

Where I live it doesn't matter. This is one of the (nigh infinite) reasons I'll never move. I know all too well it matters a LOT in some places.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:37 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Lo Jacobs View Post
Positions of trust? Do you mean politicians, or do you mean, like, bankers? Do people feel more secure with their psychiatrist if they know their psychiatrist is a Christian?

Is this really a frequent subject of discussion? Obviously, most politicians must make a show of being godly if they want to be elected, even if internally they don't care much. I do think this is annoying, but compared to other pressing social concerns, it rates much lower to me than, say, welfare.
I'm thinking you haven't experienced much small town life.

In large swaths of the US, "What church do you attend?" is as common a question as, "What do you do for a living?", etc.

"None" is NOT the correct answer. VERY not.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:39 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I know all too well it matters a LOT in some places.
Nothing will bring a conversation screeching to a halt down here in Louisiana like the question 'So which church do you go to?'

eta: I see Casey and I are on the same wavelength here.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:42 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Okay, I accept that atheistic activism is needed in many areas in America. However, it doesn't change my impression that atheist activists are embarrassing. I'm no Bill O'Reilly fan, but he does have a point about the billboards that the American Atheist organization put up -- "You Know They're All Scams." It does seem kind of harsh. I'm personally anti-negative advertising.

For instance, "It Gets Better": pro-gay, very supportive, etc. I suppose a version of negative "advertising" for gay men would be "Aren't Vaginas gross?"
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:44 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I'm thinking you haven't experienced much small town life.

In large swaths of the US, "What church do you attend?" is as common a question as, "What do you do for a living?", etc.

"None" is NOT the correct answer. VERY not.
I've actually answered "I'm not religious" and haven't had any outrage directed at me. I wasn't invited to the next party, but who cares?

The word "atheist" carries a lot of negative emotion with it. For many, it has associations with those Godless Commies everyone was told to fear in the '50s-60s-70s-80s.

We're "out to destroy Christianity" even though I, personally, have better things to do. I just don't want someone else's religion forced on me, especially using taxpayer money.

I haven't had a Christmas tree in years but I think they can be pretty. And my biggest objection to Christmas music is that it's so corny and overplayed. Just like Valentine's Day.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:47 PM   #18 (permalink)
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For instance, "It Gets Better": pro-gay, very supportive, etc. I suppose a version of negative "advertising" for gay men would be "Aren't Vaginas gross?"
Please don't judge an entire segment of society by a vocal few.

Some atheist messages have been pretty positive. Some Christians might disagree with me, but I think this one was fairly positive:

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Old 02-12-2012, 02:52 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Believers deem atheists as untrustworthy as rapists: Study

DemocracyForAmerica.com » Blog » Texas Teacher suspended for being "Liberal" and an "atheist"

I don't agree that we should ignore the oppression of atheists because there are more pressing concerns. We are multi-taskers and can care about more than one thing at a time.

The thing is, oppression and discrimination against atheists is not a salient issue because people don't care about atheists and because it's still an acceptable bigotry. You don't read a lot about it because the majority of Americans think it's acceptable to discriminate and really don't care.

In the vast majority of this country no untenured teacher would ever admit to being an atheist and few tenured teachers would either. The same is true for doctors, child care providers and all sort of people in jobs where being openly atheist would be damaging to their careers.

If you have never lived in a small town, you have no idea how central religion is to life. In many villages the only social center is the church, particularly in the many, many towns without even a school. If there is a school, it blithely ignores the Court's rulings and continues on its merry way with an implicit and explicit Christian worldview permeating it since it rests secure in the knowledge that no one would ever sue as that would be social suicide.

It might also have a VFW, which will also be overtly Christian. That is what rural America is like. These are communities that fly under the radar screen and happily go about their way with their Christianity on full display.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:55 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Cindy Claveau View Post
Please don't judge an entire segment of society by a vocal few.

Some atheist messages have been pretty positive. Some Christians might disagree with me, but I think this one was fairly positive:

I'd like one that said, "There's probably no God. Be kind to each other anyway."
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:56 PM   #21 (permalink)
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I swear to christ every time I start saying "Well Texas has gotten better about being ass backwards" South East Texas has to fuck it all up.
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Old 02-12-2012, 03:08 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Please don't judge an entire segment of society by a vocal few.

Some atheist messages have been pretty positive. Some Christians might disagree with me, but I think this one was fairly positive:

Actually this statement is from an agnostic, an atheist would have said there is NO god,
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Old 02-12-2012, 03:10 PM   #23 (permalink)
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I swear to christ every time I start saying "Well Texas has gotten better about being ass backwards" South East Texas has to fuck it all up.
So stop saying that. Please.
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Old 02-12-2012, 03:12 PM   #24 (permalink)
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I'm thinking you haven't experienced much small town life.

In large swaths of the US, "What church do you attend?" is as common a question as, "What do you do for a living?", etc.

"None" is NOT the correct answer. VERY not.
It is just really hard to fathom. I always took it for granted that people are of different religions, non-religions, and not-quite-religions, and people searching for some belief system that would hold meaning for them.

It's really hard to imagine an environment where everybody just assumes that everybody else believes the same thing as they do. Where there aren't people who believe in something but don't like organized religion. Or families where each kid ends up adopting a different religion-- and the parents are okay with that.

It's like a whole different world.
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Old 02-12-2012, 03:17 PM   #25 (permalink)
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All I can do is laugh when people say that religion, namely christian religion, is a good morale basis. I mean the 'good book' says a rape victim must marry the rapist, has all sorts of cases on which the whole village should kill people for tiny infractions, not to mention condoning slavery by giving rules how harshly you should or shouldn't beat them. If anything Athiests have a better chance of having a good morale foundation than most christians.
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