Atheists have a pretty bad rap.
In a recent study at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon, 350 American adults and 420 Canadian college students were told a fictional story about a teacher who found a wallet, took the money, damaged a parked car, and left the scene. Groups of subjects were asked if they thought the character in the story was a rapist, a Muslim, a Christian, or an atheist. The psychologists offered four options so they could see if people associate the illegal acts with a certain group of people. The results of this was “pretty remarkable,” said Azim Shariff, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the study.
According to the results, atheists are less trusted than rapists. This said, think about what it’s like to be an atheist. The United States is a highly theistic nation, with 70.6% of the population identifying as Christian. As a result, the 3.1% that identify as atheist put up with Christian traditions, like having to say “One Nation, under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and having “In God we trust” as a national motto. Why would you even come out as a non-believer when rapists are more trusted than atheists?
According to The Guardian, Ansarullah Bangla Team, an Islamic militant group, has compiled a “hit list” of 84 atheist bloggers. So far, four bloggers on that list have been killed. One of the more recent murders was that of Niloy Chatterjee, who was found in his apartment, beheaded and without hands. Knowing this, the world is a very scary place for an atheist growing up. Some atheists go to church only because their parents make them. Coming out as an atheist is risking being disowned by your own family.
To a religious person, someone who does not fear or follow God is a frightening concept. So imagine being an atheist and knowing how many people in this world are scared and angry at you just for your beliefs. Put yourself in the shoes of an atheist in school in the extremely conservative Wright County.
“People find atheists very suspect,” Shariff said. “They don’t fear God, so we should distrust them; they do not have the same moral obligations of others. This is a common refrain against atheists. People fear them as a group.”
America was founded on the freedom to believe in whatever you want or not believe at all, with the first amendment of the constitution stating the freedom of religion. If we begin to deny an entire group of people their constitutional rights just because of their beliefs, everyone should always have the same rights, regardless of religion, race, or creed. Atheism should be treated no differently than religion.
Article by Jack Stonecipher