According to a recent study by the University of Minnesota, atheists are the most distrusted and hated group in the United States. Furthermore, American voters would rather elect a homosexual or a Muslim as president than an atheist. They are also the group that parents say they would least like to see their children marry. The study makers called more than 2,000 households to compile their answers. Atheists make up an estimated three-percent of the American population.
Why so much hatred in a country that was built on religious—or non-religious—freedom?
Researchers in the study try to explain this hatred of atheists. They say that most Americans feel that the quality that makes Americans trustworthy and connected is a belief in God, in whatever house of worship that God may come in, it seems. They also say that in today’s society that atheists play the “other” role that Communists, Jews and Catholics have played in the past—atheism is where acceptance in American society ends.
America is alone in its intolerance of atheists. A high percentage of Europeans and South and Eastern Asian people claim no relationship with any deity, and are accepted into their various societies. Notably, these countries are often more peaceful than the United States—something that certainly seems to have a high correlation.
It seems that one of the reasons that atheists are so persecuted in this country is because Christians think that they are encroaching on Christian rights to practice their religion in public spaces. Atheists should not have to bear the brunt of this country’s historical founding on the separation between church and state, but far, far too often, they are blamed for fighting to eliminate prayer in schools or Biblical verses in public spaces.
Like other groups that have fought battles against prejudice, atheists need to be humanized as thinking and feeling people who are trustworthy and have moral consciousnesses. Also, as is to be expected, too many atheists are forced into the closet with their beliefs. Atheists do not need to be converted—they can choose no spirituality for themselves, just as any other thinking person should choose his or her religion, rather than simply being born into it. Additionally, atheism is a difficult thing to accept because it comes in so many forms and packages—there is no huge body of atheists that gather together.
What do you think about atheism in America? Why do you think it’s so hard to embrace?