By Todd Stiefel
Many groups are victims of prejudice in America. Women earn less for the same job as their male counterparts, African Americans still face disgusting hostility, and gay people are denied the right to marry those they love. Yet, a different group consistently scores worse than all others in polls gauging discrimination: the nonreligious. The nonreligious may face less severe prejudice than others, but the bias comes from far more people.
This may surprise you, but I can tell you, as an openly secular person, I have experienced it firsthand. On several occasions, my donations to charities were rejected because, amazingly, groups would rather avoid being associated with me than receive badly needed funding. My wife, Diana, has been told by friends that mutual acquaintances have said, “Diana is really nice, but her husband is an atheist.” I have been told point-blank I will be unable to teach my children values, simply because I answered, “I am not religious” to the ubiquitous Southern question, “Where do you go to church?” I have been flipped off and insulted, but at least I have not received the death threats that are common among my friends in the secular movement.
Here are five things you should know about discrimination against the nonreligious, particularly against atheists and agnostics.
1. We are assumed to be immoral.
The worst thing someone can consider you to be is evil. Judgments based on poor appearance, athleticism, or intellect all hurt. But nothing pains like the completely dehumanizing assumption that someone is ignoble and despicable. Having that opinion of someone is to believe that the person’s very character is corrupt to its core. Unfortunately, that is the belief nearly half of American’s have regarding atheists and agnostics.
In a recent Pew Research, 45 percent of people said a belief in God is necessary to be moral. Those who disbelieve or are unsure of the existence of God are simply presumed to be unethical. This is the real root cause of the discrimination faced by the nonreligious. If you are assumed to be a bad person, it is not surprising you will be treated differently.
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