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Discrimination Against Atheists/Agnostics

Half-n-Half

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I was curious as to whether anybody on the forum has been discriminated against due to their atheism/agnosticism. Similarly, have you ever seen this type of discrimination? This previous question can be answered regardless of your beliefs.

As for myself, I have not really experienced discrimination as much as I have curiosity, and even then that was in my middle school years when friends first found out. Back then they asked me questions about my beliefs and why I didn't believe in a god. However, I don't think I ever experienced true discrimination.

In light of other threads on this "Serious Discussion" forum, please avoid any hostility. In reality there shouldn't even be any, as there really isn't an issue to debate. I'm looking forward to your answers!

*NOTE*

I'd like to add that these should be personal experiences or witnessed first-hand.
 

Emoni

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Well, if you don't count hearing how you are going to hell all the time (which I consider quite offensive in the first place), then most of the situations I've run into are more angering rather than discrimination. My mom was not happy initially when she found out I didn't believe in any "divine super friend" and my grandmother has decided I'm going to burn in hell.

I haven't yet run into any discrimination yet. I've run into a lot of assumptions when I was in Japan that I'm Christian just because I'm American, but no problems when I was there when they found out I was Atheist. Then again, I live in California so... things tend to be a bit less close minded here. A bit less that is.

However, at the same time I don't openly go around saying I don't believe in any "religion" either. So it might simply not be a topic. I'm not sure if that is simply a precaution or it just doesn't come up.

To quote an interesting poll referenced in the God Delusion by Dawkins, Atheists were rated lower than Muslims in America on their chance to become the next American president. Considering the borderline hate against Islamic belief in America, that says a LOT.
 

Bellevance

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I am a college professor and a writer. I live with my wife and daughter, who is a college student, high on a hillside at the end of a long dirt road in northern Vermont, some 50 miles south of the Quebec border. We have broad views of the White Mountains across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire, but we cannot see another house from ours. Our nearest neighbors are maybe half a mile away, and yet, having lived here for some 35 years, we know almost everyone in our small community, and almost everyone knows us. Vermont is the most rural state in this country. For that reason, to a certain extent it's the most tolerant and independent-minded state as well. It was the first state officially to oppose slavery as well as the Vietnam War and nuclear proliferation. It was, for a few years (in the 1790s), its own small country.

Throughout its long history, Vermont has been known as something of "a place apart," a small-town society particularly accepting of those with contrasting philosophies about the nature of human existence.

I do not ever trumpet my atheism here, nor am I shy about discussing it when the subject comes up, and I have not ever experienced any particular disapproval or criticism on the part of students, neighbors, business people--anybody--in all the years I've been here. In fact, I am a lifelong atheist, having been raised on the shore of Long Island (New York) apart from any belief system by parents who were themselves practical atheists--even though that description was one we never used ourselves. As a topic of discussion, it seldom came up. I never attended any church as a child.

Others who attended school with me were curious about my matter-of-fact atheism, but they did not ridicule me or even question me much about it, I think because it came so naturally to me. They may have thought I was just deprived or lacking something essential through no fault of my own, I can't say, but that has been my experience. Had I grown up in the south, I'm sure I'd have another kind of story to tell.
 

ShadowSpirit

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I'm noticing a habit of mine for having to keep mentioning that I'm in the US military. As it does play a role in many of the topics I participate my opinion in. So yeah.... military guy here. In theory, I'm supposed to be safe from religious persecution while serving in the armed forces. Including atheism. This hasn't prevented spurt instances of ridicule and spite towards me. Interestingly enough, my particular job speciality (dealing with science and thus attracting mostly scientific-minded people) has placed me with a significant portion of atheists which does not give much leverage for discrimination against me.

Mostly I just deal with heated debates. Occasionally I get argued with by pious fundamentalists that don't think it's fair that creationism can't be taught in schools, that groups wanted the 10 commandments removed from the supreme court, and so forth. Though I can't openly discuss my atheism regardless, as I am under the scrutiny of my superiors that do hold religious faith. It becomes too easy to be casted out as the bastard of the group. For reasons like this, I have come to appreciate the company of other atheists.
 

Bellevance

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Take courage, ShadowSpirit. You're in a tough spot, though it's very good you have found like-minded friends. This is truly a benighted age. We will not see its end in our lifetimes. All the same, we should be proud of our ability to see clearly.

This from Dr. Terence Meaden, over on Atheist Nexus:

ORIGIN OF ATHEIST PRIDE

We have everything to be proud about when declaring our atheism.
Above all, this is because we hold the intellectual high ground in being RIGHT.

Atheism is the rational and only correct way to observe and interpret Life and the Universe.

By contrast, the religious pitifully prostrate themselves at the level of the intellectual low ground because—often through little initial fault of their own, having been indoctrinated when young—they are not aware that religion is the mistaken, indeed bogus, way with which to regard the universe and its splendorous life.

Atheism is not a belief. It is the default situation into which every innocent is born.

Religion is something imposed on children’s initially-free mentality by the perverse will of elders, whether parents, school, church, synagogue or mosque

One does not need to be a scientist to understand and agree to the atheistic viewpoint. What is needed is commonsense and a readiness to accept the results of what millions of elite scientists have discovered during the course of their hundreds of millions of experiments, particularly those carried out in the last two centuries.

The world can be proud of the history of its scientific achievements, all of which steadfastly point to an ancient universe and a neo Darwinian interpretation of the story of Life and Humanity.

Sadly, we accept that most religionists will never give in. Their prejudiced minds are made up. They will not absorb knowledge that is new to them.

Just as we loudly proclaim our atheistic world view, we can look at the religious with pity as they humble themselves and grovel before their imaginary gods that exist nowhere but inside their heads.
 

Emoni

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One of the most dangerous judgments on those who do not have a religion or those that do not have a belief system that matches up enough with western-based beliefs often have one universal assumption it seems; and that is that without religion you have no moral compass. This couldn't be further from the truth, and is of course a very foolish assumption to belief that religion is the basis of morals (and also arrogant); however, it is an argument I've heard far too many times.

I REALLY wish NiceGaijin would jump in on this thread. He was telling me some good stories recently about what he has had to put up with. I'll link him this to see if he is open to ranting.
 

Tsuyoiko

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I've never experienced any prejudice, but then I don't really discuss my beliefs with anyone face to face. It's a topic that doesn't often come up in conversation here. My husband does encounter some negativity, but then he does find himself in situations where religion is being discussed more often than I do. There are two very religious ladies in his team at work, and their attitude toward his beliefs is largely one of fear. They often reach a point in their discussion where the lady concerned will either refuse to talk any further on the topic, or run away crying. At such times, he knows he put across a point that they are incapable of countering, so chalks it up as a victory.

Overall, I consider myself fortunate to live in a country where most people hardly care about religion at all.
 

Bellevance

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One of the most dangerous judgments on those who do not have a religion ... is that without religion you have no moral compass.

You're right, Emoni. But this common and profound misconception is fairly easy to refute--at least for those willing to listen to reason. (It doesn't necessarily have to impinge on religion, either, because it is not to religion's shame that the shamans and priests adopted existing moral precepts as good guidance for believers.) One useful book on the subject is Marc Hauser's MORAL MINDS.

The following pertinent material is from the Atheist Nexus site, Dr. Terence Meaden's discussions:

ORIGINS OF RELIGION, MORALITY AND BELIEF

“If we go back to the beginning we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that fancy, enthusiasm, or deceit adorned or disfigured them; that weakness worships them; that credulity preserves them, and that custom, respect and tyranny support them in order to make the blindness of men serve its own interests.”

--Baron D'Holbach

On Natural Morality:

If human morals and values do not arise out of divine command, then where do they come from? They come from our common humanity. They can be properly called humanistic.

A considerable literature exists on the possible natural (biological, cultural, evolutionary) origins of morality. Darwin saw the evolutionary advantage of cooperation and altruism. Modern thinkers have elaborated on this observation, showing in detail how our moral sense may have arisen naturally during the development of modern humanity.

We can even see signs of moral, or proto-moral behavior in animals. Vampire bats share food. Apes and monkeys comfort members of their group who are upset and work together to get food. Dolphins push sick members of a pod to the surface to get air. Whales will put themselves in harm's way to help a wounded member of their group. Elephants try their best to save injured members of their families.

In these examples we glimpse the beginnings of the morality that advanced to higher levels with human biological and cultural evolution. You may call them instinctive, built into the genes of animals by evolution. But this is a plausible mechanism for the development of human morality as well—a purely natural process, arising out of matter alone. Nothing ‘spiritual’ is involved because there is no substance separate from matter that we can call ‘spirit’. (I suggest the name of this magazine be changed to Science & Nothing.)

It seems likely that this is where we humans have learned our sense of right and wrong. We have taught it to ourselves.

from "Do Our Values Come from God? The Evidence Says No." Victor J. Stenger. August 2005


Religion can be seen as another special ingredient of human societies, though one that emerged thousands of years after morality. There are clear precursors of morality in nonhuman primates, but no precursors of religion. So it is reasonable to assume that as humans evolved away from chimpanzees, morality emerged first, followed by religion. “I look at religions as recent additions,” he said. “Their function may have to do with social life, and enforcement of rules and giving a narrative to them, which is what religions really do.”

from "The Beginnings of Morality lie in Primate Behaviour." Frans de Waal. New York Times. March 2007.
 

ShadowSpirit

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Take courage, ShadowSpirit. You're in a tough spot, though it's very good you have found like-minded friends. This is truly a benighted age. We will not see its end in our lifetimes. All the same, we should be proud of our ability to see clearly.

This from Dr. Terence Meaden, over on Atheist Nexus:

ORIGIN OF ATHEIST PRIDE

We have everything to be proud about when declaring our atheism.
Above all, this is because we hold the intellectual high ground in being RIGHT.

Atheism is the rational and only correct way to observe and interpret Life and the Universe.

By contrast, the religious pitifully prostrate themselves at the level of the intellectual low ground because—often through little initial fault of their own, having been indoctrinated when young—they are not aware that religion is the mistaken, indeed bogus, way with which to regard the universe and its splendorous life.

Atheism is not a belief. It is the default situation into which every innocent is born.

Religion is something imposed on children’s initially-free mentality by the perverse will of elders, whether parents, school, church, synagogue or mosque

One does not need to be a scientist to understand and agree to the atheistic viewpoint. What is needed is commonsense and a readiness to accept the results of what millions of elite scientists have discovered during the course of their hundreds of millions of experiments, particularly those carried out in the last two centuries.

The world can be proud of the history of its scientific achievements, all of which steadfastly point to an ancient universe and a neo Darwinian interpretation of the story of Life and Humanity.

Sadly, we accept that most religionists will never give in. Their prejudiced minds are made up. They will not absorb knowledge that is new to them.

Just as we loudly proclaim our atheistic world view, we can look at the religious with pity as they humble themselves and grovel before their imaginary gods that exist nowhere but inside their heads.

Thank you for your sentiments. I do find the religious mindset that circulates in the US military to be enlightening to a degree. Especially in the metaphoric symbolism of military personnel clutching a rifle in one hand, and the King James bible in their other (not to pick on Christians, but this particular religion holdest the strongest demographic currently in the US military.) This brings a fearful realization to my obedient attention of how seriously embedded religion is and the twisted logic some religions can compromise a person with.

I do agree with the lecture you posted by Dr. Meaden. However I'd have to say that from a personal standpoint, I was inducted into religion. Catholicism to be precise. Baptised soon after my birth and raised on the word of the Holy Spirit. My home advertised the Catholic faith with its subject-related trinkets. I also attended a Catholic Pre-school.

To be presumptuous, I'd say a Catholic zealot would describe myself as not having been touched by god. As young as 5, I had to say it didn't make any sense to me. This whole religious ordeal. No spirits were talking to me. The concept of a supreme being controlling the universe from beyond my view was too profound for me to absorb at that age. I figured I would just assume that it is true and that in time it would make sense. That was until I reached the age of 9 and started suspecting that bullsh*t was admist. Still not touched by god, the stories of the bible sounding preposterous even in my ripe youth, and the lingering doubt that I noticed was exchanged amongst different minded people regarding religion. This hindered my acceptance of religious dogma further and set me on a path of religious reluctance.

For extremely personal and depressing reasons surrounding the loss of someone close to me. I did want to prove myself wrong. I had researched feverishly in hopes of understanding why theism exists. I figured that perhaps the source material has truth to it, but that it had been lost in translation over years and now greatly misunderstood by the masses. That a light to my hollow attitude towards religion could be sought if I invested enough of my time and belief to find the answer. In retrospect, my efforts only reinforced my lack of confidence in theism.

The point in my personal experience is that I don't think it is necessary for a child to be born from the grasp of theism to mature into an atheist minded individual. It's also possible for a person to seek out a religion even if they've never been accustomed to one before. Religion becomes what a person wants it to be. In this clustered world we live on and its countless cultural mixtures, I see religion as something that seeds confusion more than any other barrier. It can divide brothers or nations.
 

ShadowSpirit

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ツ“If we go back to the beginning we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that fancy, enthusiasm, or deceit adorned or disfigured them; that weakness worships them; that credulity preserves them, and that custom, respect and tyranny support them in order to make the blindness of men serve its own interests.ツ”

--Baron D'Holbach

Very eloquently put and nicely packaged. I like that quote a lot. It summarizes theistic doctrine nicely.

As for the debate of requiring religion for morality. I interpret that as a smokescreen to help promote the alleged necessity for religion. The very idea that humans can't be morally sound without religion is as insulting as it is absurd. For the very reasons that have already been articulated in comparison to other living creatures' behaviors.
 

Bellevance

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The very idea that humans can't be morally sound without religion is as insulting as it is absurd.

Well said. It's amazing to think that so many people actually believe that they themselves wouldn't know how to do right without religion. Not only do they delude themselves, but they insult themselves without realizing it.
 

Bellevance

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From the mind and pen of a brave and outspoken woman:

“. . . the being cannot be termed rational or virtuous who obeys any authority but that of reason.”

-- Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

Her daughter, also named Mary, ran off as a teenager with the poet Percy Shelley and wrote the classic novel FRANKENSTEIN at age 19. Wollstonecraft was a rationalist who adopted an agnostic point of view toward the end of her life.
 

ShadowSpirit

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From the mind and pen of a brave and outspoken woman:

ツ“. . . the being cannot be termed rational or virtuous who obeys any authority but that of reason.ツ”

-- Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

Once again, well referenced.

The time period of that quote triggered me to ponder on the age of advancement for those times. Before the technological marvel of electronic networking, before space exploration, even before the invention of the lithograph; people still questioned dogmatic influences. I consider myself to live in a time where science is albeit not flawless, but indisputable nonetheless.
 

Half-n-Half

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As for the debate of requiring religion for morality. I interpret that as a smokescreen to help promote the alleged necessity for religion. The very idea that humans can't be morally sound without religion is as insulting as it is absurd. For the very reasons that have already been articulated in comparison to other living creatures' behaviors.

There is nothing moral in the world that requires religion. Anything good that can be done does not require religion as a precursor.

I appreciate all of the wonderful posts regarding atheism, but please if we could, I would like to stay on the topic of discrimination you have faced or seen due to yours or another's atheism. Perhaps discussing atheism and morality are best reserved for a new thread.
 

Haruspex

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Problem I see here is ethics. Now, when other people say morals or ethics, I say "I think." Why do I say it? Cause there's no bloody morals or ethics. The next time I try to cheat a person, and the laws of nature prevent me from doing it, I'll say there just might be something, but until then, all I can do is laugh and at the same time cry in disbelief that people are so blind in their self-worshiping that they refuse to even acknowledge their own behaviourism.

Epic fail humanity, epic fail.
 

Bellevance

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I appreciate all of the wonderful posts regarding atheism, but please if we could, I would like to stay on the topic of discrimination you have faced or seen due to yours or another's atheism.

Good enough, Half-n-Half, and thank you for opening and guiding the thread.

It's fair to point out, though, as Shadow did, that one of the most withering forms of discrimination and insult a declared atheist often has to endure (and to counter) comes when a believer asserts that because he has no faith the atheist has no morality. Thus the atheist deserves neither trust nor respect.

"You atheists think you can do anything!" they often insist. Strange as it seems to us, that one can be hard to deflect. You know how it goes. Then Hitler, and Stalin, and Pol Pot get trotted out. "This is the kind of world you atheists want for us!"

When we suffer this kind of assault, we need to have strong, well-reasoned responses at the ready.
 

Haruspex

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Strong well-reasoned responses? There can be only one response to a their arguments: "What do you base your premises on?"
And when they employ their ace arguments, Christ, Allah, God, Jahveh, thats when you tell them to buy a rope and a chair.
 

Emoni

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Strong well-reasoned responses? There can be only one response to a their arguments: "What do you base your premises on?"
And when they employ their ace arguments, Christ, Allah, God, Jahveh, thats when you tell them to buy a rope and a chair.

Ok, how about I rephrase it. What is needed is a sane and rational response.


Something along the line of explaining social behavior, pointing out that society advances with order and mutual consideration, and comes progress comes to a halt under total chaos and turning on each other erratically. Pointing out that a majority of the world is not under a Christian faith/insert any faith here, and that by their logic this would mean the world is full of maniacs.

The best argument I can come up with in response to the "do you want a bunch of Hitlers?" crap, is pointing out inquisitions, witch burnings, and all sorts of things that have been done in a religions name. Then explaining to them that it doesn't mean I think that every person who believes in a God is a total psycho who is intent on murder and totalitarian behavior.
 

Haruspex

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Its right because people believe in right and wrong, and just and unjust actions that they can't accept facts as cold facts. I don't think there can ever be a convincing argument, not unless they adapt a radically different way of thinking that doesn't label everything either good or bad.
I agree with what you said about order and such, that sounds rather utilitarian, its pragmatic, but thing is, as long as they retain their current values, or rather, as long as they retain any sort of values, they will not be convinced. Not even by the most brilliant of arguments.
 

Bellevance

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I don't think there can ever be a convincing argument, not unless they adapt a radically different way of thinking that doesn't label everything either good or bad.

I am sure that, with patience and good evidence, it's possible to convince many believers that morality predates religion and that religion shrewdly and properly appropriated existing, innate, and inherited moral precepts as guides to the best in human behavior.
 

nice gaijin

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I think that both sides of the fence are capable of discrimination against the other, and without mutual respect it's difficult to reconcile these our differences. I can find countless pearls of wisdom within religious teachings, but I find the way they are interpreted and followed today totally off-putting. My religious leanings are more a denial of religious doctrine than anything else. I'm not just a godless heathen, I've had a lot of exposure to religion and I've also studied it objectively. In some ways, I've found that my rejection of religion is even more of an insult to some people.

It's especially difficult when people take for granted their beliefs and use them as a rationale for their opinions or arguments. This made political season especially difficult; I live in California and my staunch opposition to prop 8 made me the target of much derision in my very republican, very christian workplace. I think that when people with similar beliefs and opinions congregate, it makes it easier to have fun at the expense of the minority. It happens in my office where I am the only non-christian, and it happens in threads like these, where religious people are under-represented.
 

Half-n-Half

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I think that when people with similar beliefs and opinions congregate, it makes it easier to have fun at the expense of the minority. It happens in my office where I am the only non-christian, and it happens in threads like these, where religious people are under-represented.

I didn't create this thread to "have fun at the expense of the minority." In a previous thread, I came across a few people who said the discrimination they faced in America was prevalent, or at least more prevalent than what I had ever experienced. To me it had just never really been a problem. I became intrigued and wanted to learn if these were isolated cases or if they were as widespread as I was reading them to be.

I'm sorry if you interpreted it as being a thread where atheists can "share their common distaste for religious folk because they are mean and discriminate against them." That is absolutely not how I meant it.
 

ShadowSpirit

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Half-n-Half:

I believe that you are instigating. I'm not going to be so presumptuous as to speak on nice gaijin's behalf. Though I didn't interpret his post as one of accusation of this thread being a format for attacking religion. It just seems he's making an observation about the theme we're following and he's comparing that to when an atheist is in the company of the religious majority.

I find the conversation in this thread refreshing. Because I feel I'm long overdo for getting my atheist thoughts put out to people whom can relate as this group does, rather then criticize my opinion on such.
 

Mikawa Ossan

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ORIGIN OF ATHEIST PRIDE

We have everything to be proud about when declaring our atheism.
Above all, this is because we hold the intellectual high ground in being RIGHT.

Atheism is the rational and only correct way to observe and interpret Life and the Universe.
....
Just as we loudly proclaim our atheistic world view, we can look at the religious with pity as they humble themselves and grovel before their imaginary gods that exist nowhere but inside their heads.
This resembles so much to me exactly the thing I dislike about so many of the organized religions: this unfailing and patronizing belief that one is RIGHT/CORRECT and others are somehow to be "pitied" or otherwise looked down upon for their own worldview.

Regarding the OP, I wouldn't call it discrimination, but when I told my 90 plus grandmother about my bride to be before we got married, the only question I was asked was, "Is she Christian?" How do you respond to that? I simply told her that we hadn't talked about it, which was true....albeit misleading.

But in effect my grandmother was saying, "She can be anyone in the world, just so long as she's Christian."
 
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Haruspex

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The world goes around cause people have the guts to say "You're wrong!"
No morals are eternal and unchanging, and there are times of rivalry, times of clear domination. Advocating respect is truly a noble thing, but many people misinterpret respect for hurt pride.

Life's not a fair place, its not for the best that some people are under-represented, no, its a fact.
Im not willing to give ground for the sake of respect. Respect is the tool of manipulators. Both in the case of traditional values and minority opinion, I say screw it to hell and back. Why should I respect anything cause "thats the appropriate way for a person to act?"
Morals under the skin of morals, and under that even more morals. Everything reeks of it.
 
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