Questionable Motives

January 15, 2010

Is there a bias against atheists?

A majority of Americans consider belief in God essential to morality, the Pew Forum confirmed in 2007; and Pew recently found that most Americans do not want their family members marrying atheists.  (Note to Brit Hume: I doubt that most Americans would exhibit comparable hostility toward Christians.) The new Pew Research Center report on increased optimism among African Americans notes that while “interracial marriage is now widely accepted by Americans of all racial groups … there is one new spouse that most Americans would have trouble accepting into their families: someone who does not believe in God.”  Resistance among people affiliated with a religion to intermarriage with atheists may be stronger than their resistance to gay marriage: seven in ten religious people surveyed by Pew would oppose or resist intermarriage with an atheist.  And while comparably high percentages of the most regular churchgoers oppose gay marriage, opposition declines significantly among the less devout.

So I’m not ignoring the beginnings of what some consider an atheist liberation movement (although American atheists are not exactly oppressed).  And I’m not complaining:  I don’t care if religious people consider me amoral because I lack their beliefs in God.  I do, however, care deeply about efforts to turn religious beliefs into law, and those efforts benefit greatly from the conviction that individually and collectively, we cannot be good without God.

Persistent hostility toward atheism may not be a source of educational or employment discrimination for individual atheists (although it does engender significant discrimination in the military), but hostility toward atheism is a threat to freedoms of conscience and religion that all of us share.  It’s an often overlooked irony that atheists who regard all religions with equal disrespect, favoring no one faith over another, are sometimes the most reliable defenders of equal religious rights.  But you shouldn’t have to be irreligious to consider religious liberty transcendent.

From Wendy Kaminer’s article No Atheist Need Apply at The Atlantic

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2 Comments »

  1. “It’s an often overlooked irony that atheists who regard all religions with equal disrespect, favoring no one faith over another, are sometimes the most reliable defenders of equal religious rights.”

    So long as those ‘religious rights’ do not infringe human rights.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — January 15, 2010 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

  2. And, I would add, remain private.

    Comment by tildeb — January 15, 2010 @ 7:21 pm | Reply


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