Do you think atheists can be called a "discriminated against minority"? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 12:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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FTR--I am an "agnostic-atheist" and I saw you roll your eyes at my thread title :P

This thread isn't meant for debate about whether atheists are discriminated against-they are, look it up. This thread is to discuss whether atheist Americans are a united minority group that actively strives for equality. This doesn't seem to be the case and I'm wondering why not. There is no real 'movement' for change. Sure there are isolated legal suits by "militant" atheists, but there is no collective political force to be reckoned with like there is for women/blacks/homosexuals. I have no doubt there will be a female president before there's an athiest president, and a black president before an atheist president, and maybe even a homosexual president before there's ever an atheist president. The polls confirm this.


I guess I'd like to ask the other non-theists here:

Do you feel as if an organized political/legal effort to end discrimination is something that is needed?

Why do you think there isn't a more visable one already?

Do you feel like you have no real social connection to other non-theists so these issues aren't a concern for you?

Do you wish atheists in America were more of a "community" than they are? Or would that turn atheists into just another organized religious group? (oxymoron, but I know some people think that)
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#2 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 01:11 AM
 
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Well, we aren't VISIBLE. It's easy, in general, for fellow POC to recognize each other in the grocery store and instantly recognize shared experiences. I don't know about the rest of you, but to all outside appearances I am "one of them".

There is an organized effort to end discrimination in the form of the FFRF, of which I'm a paying member.

I do think it's hard to form community as we don't recognize each other, we don't necessarily have anything in common besides lack of belief in a deity, and we have no meetings already set up. It's easy for religious folk to form community because they already see each other every week at least, you know?
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#3 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 01:23 AM
 
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I do wish it was more of a community. I don't feel comfortable telling people I am an atheist. I feel very much 'in the closet' in today's society, that seems to have learned to accept other faiths to some extent, so long as you have faith, kwim?

My family knows, my DH's family probably suspects, but we've never told them, and other than that, I don't tell anyone. As a result, I can't feel a connection to others since I don't know who they are!

It's also hard to find a reason to come out as an atheist, you know? What point is there to being a 'proud atheist' and declaring it to the world? I think unlike the other groups you mention, being atheist by definition means I disagree with something you believe in, so unlike saying 'I'm proud to be a woman', saying 'I'm proud to be an atheist' comes off a lot like 'I'm proud to not believe in something you believe in' and so naturally others are upset by our very existence.

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#4 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 01:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I do wish it was more of a community. I don't feel comfortable telling people I am an atheist. I feel very much 'in the closet' in today's society, that seems to have learned to accept other faiths to some extent, so long as you have faith, kwim?

My family knows, my DH's family probably suspects, but we've never told them, and other than that, I don't tell anyone. As a result, I can't feel a connection to others since I don't know who they are!

It's also hard to find a reason to come out as an atheist, you know? What point is there to being a 'proud atheist' and declaring it to the world? I think unlike the other groups you mention, being atheist by definition means I disagree with something you believe in, so unlike saying 'I'm proud to be a woman', saying 'I'm proud to be an atheist' comes off a lot like 'I'm proud to not believe in something you believe in' and so naturally others are upset by our very existence.

Yes, this is my gut reaction too. But WHY is that? Is it really that much different than a gay person saying "I'm proud of myself and who I am" to those who want to condemn them to hell for their sins? Why should an atheist be "in the closet" out of fear of offending an already privelaged religious majority? Why not be proud of your opinion?
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#5 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 01:46 AM
 
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atheists aren't apathetic by default and as a group they do share similar values and convictions. but thanks.
I don't mean apathetic in general, I mean specifically apathetic about God, so what is there to 'fight' for? If you think nothing is out there, I am just thinking not many people would think it is necessary to 'fight' for that 'nothingness.'
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#6 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 02:01 AM
 
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nevermind, doesnt really fit with the OP
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#7 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 02:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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[QUOTE=mightymoo;9975986]

It's also hard to find a reason to come out as an atheist, you know? QUOTE]

I want to respond to this point too because I've found there have been lots of situations where I could have come out as being an atheist but I didn't because I was afraid of how people would react. I don't know if this is just a sign of my own general insecurity or a sign that there is indeed social stigmatization that I automatically try to avoid. Maybe the answer is somewhere in between.
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#8 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 02:45 AM
 
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It's also hard to find a reason to come out as an atheist, you know?
I want to respond to this point too because I've found there have been lots of situations where I could have come out as being an atheist but I didn't because I was afraid of how people would react. I don't know if this is just a sign of my own general insecurity or a sign that there is indeed social stigmatization that I automatically try to avoid. Maybe the answer is somewhere in between.
I typed out a whole response then lost it. ARG! I'll try to recreate.

You are right. There aren't no reasons. I cut that down from a much longer thought that basically the reasons don't seem to outweigh the negatives. I mean I want my son to be able to be a boy scout if he wants without having to pretend he isn't atheist (well I would if they didn't also discriminate against gays) and other things like that, but when weighing that against the discrimination I'd feel, it doesn't seem worth it.

I feel like that dislike, discrimination, whatever is there, but I can't put my finger on just what it is. I just know that there are folks I just don't want to know I'm atheist, usually the ones that are most devout, obviously religious. Perhaps some of it is in my mind, I don't know.

I think a big part of the problem is the assumption that you believe. There isn't much opportunity to let people know you are atheist because most of the people I know just assume I'm not. So rather than being an answer to a direct question, it's something I'd have to interject into conversation, and feel extremely awkward about it.

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#9 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 03:11 AM
 
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DH is an atheist. I am not. We've had some really thought-provoking chats about this.

Can you imagine being an atheist 20 or 30 years ago? 100 years ago? Wasn't there a time when you would have been burned alive for even entertaining the idea that there is no God?

Not to say that there is no discrimination against atheists. Awareness and tolerance takes time, KWIM?
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#10 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 03:16 AM
 
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Not a non-theist here but..

I think yes, there is definately discrimination, but I think it begins with the basic misinformation out there regarding non-theism/atheism. As in you believe in nothing.

Most people don't realize that atheists/non-theists have a system of beliefs (honesty/loyalty/integrity/trust/kindness, spirits/souls/concience etc). They really believe that you believe in nothing! It's difficult to broach the subject since people take offense right off the bat upon hearing the word atheist. Gut reaction says you are a person with no beliefs therefore anything you have to say will be discounted. It's hard to approach others/form any kind of community if you're constantly on guard against uninformed bias.

Perhaps take a look at the Humanist movement in England??
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#11 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 03:19 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mz_libbie22 View Post

I want to respond to this point too because I've found there have been lots of situations where I could have come out as being an atheist but I didn't because I was afraid of how people would react. I don't know if this is just a sign of my own general insecurity or a sign that there is indeed social stigmatization that I automatically try to avoid. Maybe the answer is somewhere in between.
I feel what you're saying here. My sense is that atheism is definitely not something to be touted in our society...

In love with Dh since 1998. We created Ds (7.1.03), Dd (10.16.06) and Dd (3.16.09).
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#12 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 08:31 AM
 
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Not a non-theist here but..

I think yes, there is definately discrimination, but I think it begins with the basic misinformation out there regarding non-theism/atheism. As in you believe in nothing.

Most people don't realize that atheists/non-theists have a system of beliefs (honesty/loyalty/integrity/trust/kindness, spirits/souls/concience etc). They really believe that you believe in nothing! It's difficult to broach the subject since people take offense right off the bat upon hearing the word atheist. Gut reaction says you are a person with no beliefs therefore anything you have to say will be discounted. It's hard to approach others/form any kind of community if you're constantly on guard against uninformed bias.
May I assume you're at least polite/non-hostile when you inform people you're an atheist? Many of the folks I've run across who've "informed" me they're atheists were rather hostile and overly militant about it. That's what was offensive. They brought it up in totally unrelated conversation and attacked you with the info. And no, I'm not an Evangelical Protestant (I'm Eastern Orthodox), and we don't go around asking people "Are you saved?": That's as offensive to me as it is to you.

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#13 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 09:47 AM
 
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Can you imagine being an atheist 20 or 30 years ago?
Um, I *was* an atheist 20 years ago. The level of crappy treatment I get for it now is actually about the same as it was in the early 80's

I never believed in God, ever, and my first conscious act of rebellion against authority was when I was in 5th grade. I quit the (public) school chorus because our music teacher kept making us sing hymns and gospel songs. She pretty much taught us all the songs that she had her church choir sing. This was in a small town in the South, and you can bet that it had a lot of negative repercussions. Nothing like being told by your classmates that you're going to burn in hell because you don't believe in Jesus, and that you must be a Satan-worshipper!

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May I assume you're at least polite/non-hostile when you inform people you're an atheist?
Out of curiosity, what do you think would be a "polite" way to say it? This is a conversation I had with a co-worker years ago, and is pretty typical, ime.

Co-worker, on a Monday morning: I'm glad to be at work today; this weekend wiped me out. I never have time to get everything done that I need to - I'm 4 loads behind on laundry and I haven't vacuumed in nearly a month!

Me: What did you do this weekend that took up so much time?

Co-worker: Saturday the kids had baseball all day, and then we got up at 6 yesterday to go to church, went to a service, went to my parent's house for a family lunch, and then went back to church.

Me: That sounds busy. I generally do all my cleaning on Sunday mornings, after we sleep in late.

Co-worker: So you go to afternoon services?

Me: Huh?

Co-worker: When do you go to church?

Me: I don't go to church.

Co-worker: Why not? You haven't found one you like since you moved here?

Me: No, I don't go to church at all. I'm not a Christian.

Co-worker: Are you Jewish?

Me: No.

Co-worker: Are you Mormon?

Me: No.

Co-worker: What ARE you?

Me: Nothing, I'm an atheist.

Co-worker: An ATHEIST? Oh my god! How can you not believe in God? What's wrong with you?

This conversation has played out *dozens* of times in my life, and every time it starts with a "believer" talking about church or holidays or prayer or something and when I don't immediately chime in with my own similar beliefs, I get interrogated, and then they get offended when I tell them I'm an atheist. What else am I supposed to do? Lie to placate them? Believe me, trying to change the subject doesn't work once you tell people that you don't go to church or celebrate whatever - they want to know *why* you're not like them.


To answer the OP:
I agree with those who said that non-theists aren't visible to others, so it's easy to feel like you're fighting a losing battle by yourself. Also, because we're a minority, it's easier to be quiet sometimes than deal with an overwhelming majority who get extremely offended because you don't have the same beliefs as them.

A few years back there was a march in DC, Godless Americans, iirc. I emailed the organizer and asked if they had thought about trying to promote a specific symbol that non-theists could wear to identify themselves to others, and he responded that he thought it would be impossible to reach a consensus.
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#14 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 10:10 AM
 
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#15 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 10:15 AM
 
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Originally Posted by whateverdidiwants View Post

Out of curiosity, what do you think would be a "polite" way to say it? This is a conversation I had with a co-worker years ago, and is pretty typical, ime.

Co-worker, on a Monday morning: I'm glad to be at work today; this weekend wiped me out. I never have time to get everything done that I need to - I'm 4 loads behind on laundry and I haven't vacuumed in nearly a month!

Me: What did you do this weekend that took up so much time?

Co-worker: Saturday the kids had baseball all day, and then we got up at 6 yesterday to go to church, went to a service, went to my parent's house for a family lunch, and then went back to church.

Me: That sounds busy. I generally do all my cleaning on Sunday mornings, after we sleep in late.

Co-worker: So you go to afternoon services?

Me: Huh?

Co-worker: When do you go to church?

Me: I don't go to church.

Co-worker: Why not? You haven't found one you like since you moved here?

Me: No, I don't go to church at all. I'm not a Christian.

Co-worker: Are you Jewish?

Me: No.

Co-worker: Are you Mormon?

Me: No.

Co-worker: What ARE you?

Me: Nothing, I'm an atheist.

Co-worker: An ATHEIST? Oh my god! How can you not believe in God? What's wrong with you?

This conversation has played out *dozens* of times in my life, and every time it starts with a "believer" talking about church or holidays or prayer or something and when I don't immediately chime in with my own similar beliefs, I get interrogated, and then they get offended when I tell them I'm an atheist. What else am I supposed to do? Lie to placate them? Believe me, trying to change the subject doesn't work once you tell people that you don't go to church or celebrate whatever - they want to know *why* you're not like them.
Naw, I'm not talking about that. The conversations have been about weather, office stuff (previous offices), TV, etc., when all of a sudden, "I'm an atheist" comes out of their mouth, and when they don't get a rise out of you, they get nasty.

I'm not talking about hiding your beliefs. I'm talking about folks who are militant about it, and become unpleasant to be around.

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#16 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 11:45 AM
 
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This is kind of a weird thread to have in religious studies since obviously there's only one right answer to the OP's question.
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#17 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 12:23 PM
 
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But to the people that believe it, it IS a fact. It's a fact to atheists that there is no God, right? Isn't that the whole point and why there's a distinction between atheism and agnosticism?
Not in my mind. Atheists believe there is no god. Agnostics do not know. I believe there is no god, I don't have any proof that there isn't, therefore, I don't say its a fact. A fact is a statement whose validity can be positively proven.

Of course like everything, there are many different views on it.

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#18 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 12:39 PM
 
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To address the question aimed at me. My first sentence states that I am not an atheist/non-thiest. In fact, I'm Catholic like Stacy L; just goes to show how different two people can be that hold the same religious beliefs. Perhaps we could give non-theists the same "benefit of the doubt"?

Secondly, this entire "discourse" demonstrates why atheists hesitate to "come out". If this mentality exists on MDC where oh where are they safe? The responses I've seen just in this thread are disheartening and disturbing, full of bias and discrimination.

1) atheists are angry and hostile
2) atheists believe in nothing
3) since atheists don't believe in God or an afterlife they must have no value system
4) Atheists like to get a rise out of people
5) It's perfectly fine if theists view athiests as "less than".

just to name a few.

I just want to point out as an FYI...many people include Buddhists on the list of "atheist held beliefs", because they believe there is no God and no "afterlife" as christians describe it. Do you believe that Buddhists hold no belief system? Believe in "nothing"?

Stereotypes regarding atheists/non-theists will continue as long as organized religion is "threatened" by a system of beliefs that don't include the all-powerful diety, IMO.
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#19 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 12:40 PM
 
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Yes, I do wish that atheists had more of a community, if only to have some support in the face of overwhelming discrimination and dismissal. However, there is such a divergence of opinion among atheists, I think it would take a strong uniting voice to bring us together.

I feel silly taking the bait offered above, but I'm pretty offended at the statement that I believe in nothing. I have strong set of moral values, grounded in philosophy and a deep love and appreciation for mankind. I also believe in the eternal balance and rhythm of nature, and hold it in great awe and respect.

edited to subscribe to thread
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#20 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 01:00 PM
 
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Thank you, attachedmamaof3, beautifully said!
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#21 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 07:49 PM
 
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I have removed many posts from this thread that were either violating the User Agreement or referenced removed posts. Please keep all posts in line with MDC's User Agreement and the Religious Studies guidelines. If you have any questions, please contact myself or Penelope. Thank you.
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#22 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 09:02 PM
 
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This is the story of an atheist family who was harrassed and prosecuted for their beliefs - http://atheism.about.com/b/a/257793.htm

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#23 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 10:28 PM
 
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I am an atheist.

I see several distinct possible reasons for the lack of an "atheists' rights movement."

1. Atheism is essentially solitary; movements require leaders.

2. I think that most atheists tend to be privileged in other ways (class, education), and thus the force of discrimination against them is effectually muted.

3. Overall, the 90% of people who profess faith in a higher power are doing an admirable job of saving religion for Sunday morning. Our quotidian society is so secular that it's possible to "pass" as an atheist most of the time.

Of course, I live in New England, and MDC often reminds me that my experience of "America" is through navy blue glasses, so I might be wrong about that third one.
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#24 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 10:44 PM
 
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3. Overall, the 90% of people who profess faith in a higher power are doing an admirable job of saving religion for Sunday morning. Our quotidian society is so secular that it's possible to "pass" as an atheist most of the time.
I am not an atheist. I'm a Christian and lurking this thread because it's very interesting. I just wanted to come out of lurkdom to say that I completely agree with #3.
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#25 of 141 Old 12-11-2007, 10:51 PM
 
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3. Overall, the 90% of people who profess faith in a higher power are doing an admirable job of saving religion for Sunday morning. Our quotidian society is so secular that it's possible to "pass" as an atheist most of the time.

Of course, I live in New England, and MDC often reminds me that my experience of "America" is through navy blue glasses, so I might be wrong about that third one.
I agree too, but I am also in MA - and my experience living in the Pacific NW is the same. However, the experiences I've had visiting the midwest (with DH's relatives in rural SD that kind of thing) are a bit different.

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#26 of 141 Old 12-12-2007, 02:05 PM
 
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Until the polls don't show that we are the most untrusted minority, until they don't show that we are the least minority parents would want their children to come home with romantically. Until our ex-living president takes it back that atheists can't be patriots and shouldn't be considered citizens.

Until an atheist doesn't have to be secretive about his beliefs in most workplaces.

We are discriminated against in child custody cases, boy scouts, politics.

I would answer the original question with a yes.
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#27 of 141 Old 12-12-2007, 02:16 PM
 
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3. Overall, the 90% of people who profess faith in a higher power are doing an admirable job of saving religion for Sunday morning. Our quotidian society is so secular that it's possible to "pass" as an atheist most of the time.

Of course, I live in New England, and MDC often reminds me that my experience of "America" is through navy blue glasses, so I might be wrong about that third one.
I live in Vermont so that's true here. In fact I hardly know anyone here that goes to church even. However, when I go to visit my family back in Indiana that's not the case. Not with the proliferation in GOD we TRUST license plates on the roads.

A blog entry about it so you can also see what they look like -

http://www.takingdownwords.com/takin..._we_trust.html

And I agree with Orangbird's assessment of the situation.
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#28 of 141 Old 12-12-2007, 02:55 PM
 
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I agree with mom de terre's post.

Trying to turn hearts and minds toward universal healthcare, one post at a time.
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#29 of 141 Old 12-12-2007, 04:33 PM
 
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orangebird<

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#30 of 141 Old 12-12-2007, 06:12 PM
 
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Nevermind.
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