Ok, maybe not “civil rights” but definitely social. There has been a steady shift in the last hundred years in America towards greater acceptance of particular groups of previously marginalized people. It started with women, then blacks, and now gays. Is it Atheists’ turn next?
While Atheists don’t face the same type of disenfranchisement that women and blacks faced, there are still 6 states that actively discriminate against Atheists wishing to engage in public service, despite a 1961 Supreme Court ruling on the illegality of this.
Many Atheists also feel discriminated against by things like having “In God We Trust” on our money, “one nation under God” in our pledge, and the opening of many government meetings with prayer, all in a country that is supposed to have a separation of church and state. All we want is equality. We want the state to be neutral like the law demands.
As for social persecution, where to start? I mean, our very language is used against us. “Atheist” and “godless” both have horrible negative connotations associated with them. So much so that many Atheists shy away from the label because of how it is used in everyday speech. The religious work very hard to define themselves as the very embodiment of goodness, and the Atheists the very embodiment of evil.
A good example of this negative stigma attached to Atheists is Elizabeth Dole‘s disgusting campaign ad where she accused her opponent Kay Hagan of being an Atheist in the 2008 run for the North Carolina senate seat:
Another horrible politician is Monique Davis (D) of Illinois. On April 3, 2008 she attacked Atheist Robert Sherman during his testimony to theHouse State Government Administration Committee in Springfield saying:
“I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings… I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois… This is the land of Lincoln where people believe in God… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous… It’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists… Get out of that seat! You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.”
The video of her saying this is here. This is the same Sherman that president Bush Sr. had the following conversation with in 1987:
Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
Bush: I guess I’m pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in god is important to me.
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?
Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I’m just not very high on atheists.
Can you imagine a person who is openly Atheist trying to get elected? It would be political suicide! The mere fact that it would be political suicide should show to you how Atheists are discriminated against. There is currently 1 openly Atheist person in congress. Fortney “Pete” Stark Jr. (D) of California is the only openly Atheist person in congress. ONE for 16% of the population, about 48,000,000 people! (According to CIA world factbook)
The University of Minnesota’s department of sociology did a(n) (in)famous study in 2006 that found that Atheists were the least trusted minority in the United States. Least trusted! Below Muslims and Gays! What have Atheists done?
I think it centers around this bullshit idea of “well, without god you have no morals and are dangerous.” Funny, considering in 2001 Atheists made up a whopping 0.4% of the US prison population, where as “moral” christians made up a minuscule 76.6%. Oh, and divorce rates? God loving christians account for 51% of divorces, horrible Atheists, 21%, the lowest divorce rate in the country.
People often wonder why a lot of Atheists are angry. Is it any wonder why when politicians able to make such bigoted statements without fear of consequences, the religious push to keep their god on the money, and in the pledge, their monuments on public property, when Atheists are the least trusted group in the country for no good reason? Atheists are second class citizens in this country. A country that is supposed to have a separation of church and state.
The ironic thing is, the religious often claim that they are the ones who are persecuted. To them, the mere existence of Atheists is insulting. They see Atheists’ attempts to gain equality and government neutrality as persecution of them! It makes me sick.