By Chrissy Stroop
Are the nonreligious a marginalized group in America? When I brought this question up to a friend who lives in New York the other day, he was skeptical. Practically everyone he knows is an atheist, he says, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. As someone who grew up in central Indiana and Colorado Springs, where I was sent to evangelical schools, his attitude both bemused and concerned me. The disconnect just serves to illustrate that how one answers this question may vary wildly depending on where one sits—in some cases quite literally.
According to a new report from American Atheists* called Reality Check: Being Non-Religious in America, those living in “very religious” communities reported substantially more discrimination in employment, education, and other services than those living in “not at all religious” communities.
The Secular Survey, from which the report was drawn, includes data from 33,897 nonreligious Americans—those who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, humanists, skeptics, freethinkers, secular, and/or simply nonreligious. The survey’s designers consider a lack of data on nonreligious Americans an obstacle to effective advocacy for the needs of this group, which the report describes as “an invisible minority.”
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