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us The stigma of being an atheist in the US


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The stigma of being an atheist in the US

 

Atheists in the US are rallying together, launching a new TV programme and providing support for those who go public with their beliefs.

 

"Sometimes things need to be said, and fights need to be fought even if they are unpopular. To the closeted atheists, you are not alone, and you deserve equality."

 

So goes the rousing speech from the American Atheists president, David Silverman, in the opening moments of the first US television broadcaster dedicated to those who do not believe in God, Atheist TV.

 

A series of testimonies from prominent atheists then follows.

 

"It's one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life and I completely advocate people 'coming out'," says Mark Hatcher, from Black Atheists of America.

"Coming out" is how many atheists in the USA describe what remains, for many, a very difficult admission to make publicly.

 

At one of the biggest gatherings of atheist students in the country, in Columbus, Ohio, Jamila Bey from the Secular Student Alliance said there were many attendees who were nervous about being interviewed and had indicated so by what they were wearing around their neck.

 

"Red lanyards mean 'You may not talk to me'," says Bey. "A number of the students we have aren't 'out'. Their parents may not know that they are atheist or questioning their religion."

 

She said many were worried about being ostracised or were even scared of violence if they revealed they did not believe in God.

 

Lasan Dancay-Bangura, 22, is happy to talk to us. He is, after all, head of his university's atheist student group. He lets out a deep, sad sigh as he recalls the moment he told his mother he was an atheist.

 

"Things were really not good to begin with. She was so angry," he says.

 

"After a while I think she just accepted it. We still don't talk about it. It looks like she's not going to kick me out."

 

Dancay-Bangura admits that he still has not told his father.

 

"I don't want our relationship to be destroyed because of that," he says. "You hear it all the time."

 

"And you hear about people being kicked out, and sent to bible camps where they're forced to be religious. I don't want to lose my father to that."

 

The parents of Katelyn Campbell, 19, from West Virginia, have been very supportive of her stance as an atheist. Her problem has been other members of the community. "In high school, when I walked down the hallway it would be completely silent, or I would be spat on," Katelyn says.

 

Two years ago, she protested against the inclusion of religion and abstinence in her school sex education classes. She is still feeling the impact.

 

"Often times I'm really uncomfortable being out in public spaces in my community at home because people often bring that discussion to my face, which is a discussion of values that are very personal and very private," she says.

 

A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre shows Americans would rather have a president who was either in their 70s, or openly gay, or who had never held any public office than one that was atheist.

 

Astonishingly, a previous poll by Pew suggested respondents in the US regarded atheists as less trustworthy than rapists. One of Atheist TV's new phone-in programmes, The Atheist Experience, has already had a taste of how many Americans perceive "non-believers".

 

"So you were studying to be a minister, and now you don't believe in God? You're the devil," one caller tells the host. "You're a Marxist, you're an atheist and you're from Russia," says another.

 

At the atheist student event in Ohio, they are trying to change things.

 

T-shirts are laid out for sale on one of the vending tables. "Godless Goddess" says one; "This is what an atheist looks like" says another.

 

Beside the stall stands Andrew Seidel, an attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation. "Many Americans think they have never met another atheist, but that is because so many are afraid to publicly acknowledge it," says Andrew.

 

"The way we'll win this fight is because of demographics. Just like it was really important for the LGBT movement to come out of the closet, it's important for us to say it loud and say it proud, 'I'm an atheist!'"

 

And it does appear the demographics are changing, particularly among the young, where the proportion of those identifying themselves as "religiously unaffiliated" is rising.

 

But America has a much higher proportion of people who say religion is very important to them as compared to European countries.

 

"America is an anomaly because, number one, we were founded by Puritans," Bay says.

 

More recently, particularly for the African-American community in the civil rights struggle, but also for many other minority communities, Bey says she feels religion became a way of gaining acceptance.

 

"It was a way to say 'I'm a good Christian, you shouldn't turn fire hoses on me, and you should let my child go to the school with little white children, Jesus loves us all'," she says.

 

The new TV channel is part of atheist groups' own civil rights movement.

 

But real acceptance, particularly for those serving in public office, in a country where no serving congressman or woman is openly atheist, could still be some way off.

 

Source: BBC News

 

If being an atheist is a problem in the country you live in, the problem lies within the country and not yourself.

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As an atheist, i'm sick of the new hardcore atheist movement.

Can't we just know we're right and be done with it? :p

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As an atheist, i'm sick of the new hardcore atheist movement.

Can't we just know we're right and be done with it? :p

 

Why can't we just create our own religion? With blackjack? And hookers?

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Why can't we just create our own religion? With blackjack? And hookers?

 

Yes, yes! Make it so!

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I bet the show will just mock Christians. There will be absolutely nothing shown regarding Islam (too risky).

 

Yeh, go on, blame the Christians (because they're weak and don't fight back)... Look up the age that 'women' can legally get married at in Islam. Would you be happy to give up your daughter (of that age) if you didn't have a choice?

 

Go on, say I'm wrong. This is flame bait news.

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being atheist in US are actually very lucky compared being an atheist in predominates Muslim countries.

atheists in US should have been grateful for where they are.

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I bet the show will just mock Christians. There will be absolutely nothing shown regarding Islam (too risky).

 

Yeh, go on, blame the Christians (because they're weak and don't fight back)... Look up the age that 'women' can legally get married at in Islam. Would you be happy to give up your daughter (of that age) if you didn't have a choice?

 

Go on, say I'm wrong. This is flame bait news.

 

Of course they'll likely talk a lot more about christianity, that's the major religion of the country they live in.

It's not blaming christianity, it's the simple fact of people around them holding negative views about atheists happening to be christians.

 

I bet the small yet increasing number of atheists in Saudi Arabia aren't talking about christianity but about islam in social networks (they'd be risking their lifes if they did so openly, of course).

 

 

being atheist in US are actually very lucky compared being an atheist in predominates Muslim countries.

atheists in US should have been grateful for where they are.

 

Yet they are very unlucky compared to being an atheist in the EU.

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Why can't we just create our own religion? With blackjack? And hookers?

Make it poker and I'm in

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Forget the President, I'd rather a Congress that was agnostic. The US is a religion free state, yet somehow that damn book rules our daily lives, and governs our courts.

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I bet the show will just mock Christians. There will be absolutely nothing shown regarding Islam (too risky).

 

Yeh, go on, blame the Christians (because they're weak and don't fight back)... Look up the age that 'women' can legally get married at in Islam. Would you be happy to give up your daughter (of that age) if you didn't have a choice?

 

Go on, say I'm wrong. This is flame bait news.

 

 

 

Does that mean anything deemed controversial is flame bait?

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I have found some of the biggest douches I know to be firm believers, go figure. (and fanaticism here in Italy apparently is not even remotely comparable to how bad it is in the US, and our catholicism doesn't just requires to believe but also to behave entirely according to the most religulous teachings (even a single violation without confession = hell).

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... The US is a religion free state, yet somehow that damn book rules our daily lives, and governs our courts.

 

Where did you get this from?  Freedom of religion ( not from ) was the main reason for seperation from England, that led to the formation of our country.

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Are things really so bad in the USA that people are actually afraid of saying they're atheists? Are you lot living in the middle east or something? :o

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Are things really so bad in the USA that people are actually afraid of saying they're atheists? Are you lot living in the middle east or something? :o

 

Shockingly worrying isn't it?

 

Saying you're an Atheist in the EU doesn't even usually get a raised eyebrow.

 

THANK GOD (see what i did there?) :p

 

Can someone from the US (preferably an atheist) clarify how bad it really is? Would be good to hear from real people rather than biased media outlets for once.

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Turning atheism into a "movement" with TV programs and organized anti-religious gatherings (atheist "churches") is just about as bad as what they're trying to combat.

 

 

Are things really so bad in the USA that people are actually afraid of saying they're atheists? Are you lot living in the middle east or something? :o

 

No. Nobody forces you to go to church or say you believe one way or the other. People would actually have more fear saying they support Windows Phone than saying they are atheists.

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"You're a Marxist, you're an atheist and you're from Russia,"

 

What the stupid hell?

 

Anyways, they're doing it wrong. Part of not giving a crap about religious crap is not giving a crap. Or is atheism now a religion too, and it needs special support groups and whatever?

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Turning atheism into a "movement" with TV programs and organized anti-religious gatherings (atheist "churches") is just about as bad as what they're trying to combat.

 

 

This is what i'm getting at. There's just no need for radical atheism.

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It really depends on where you live. Live in the city and no one would bat an eye at you saying your an atheist. Live in the burbs and out in the country, you could get anything from dirty looks to being shunned by your neighbors. Few years ago further out from where I am, about 40 mins from Chicago, a home was vandalized with anti-atheist spray paintings. They thought it was kids picking on the kid and family who lived there. 

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a home was vandalized with anti-atheist spray paintings. They thought it was kids picking on the kid and family who lived there. 

 

flippin'eck. I just find it really impossible to even imagine that happening here. Thankfully.

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This is what i'm getting at. There's just no need for radical atheism.

 

Maybe so but if people are afraid of expressing their beliefs (or lack of them) then it's good to know there are groups of like-minded individuals. Atheism at it's core is just the answer to one question "Do you believe in the existence, past or present, of one or more gods.?"

 

I think I saw a graphic posted on here a few weeks back that religious Americans regarded Atheists as not much better than terrorists (They were asked to rate different belief systems) which is a scary stat, though I'm well aware those asked were hardly a representative demographic of the USA.

 

The louder Atheists shout the more people will shout too.

 

Having said that, what should really be promoted is scepticism & believing in that which can be proven and verified with empirical evidence. Religion is just one aspect of the human psyche that needs addressing.

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What the stupid hell?

 

Anyways, they're doing it wrong. Part of not giving a crap about religious crap is not giving a crap. Or is atheism now a religion too, and it needs special support groups and whatever?

 

 

It's a double edge sword, doing nothing essentially leads to a need to stand up to the other side's attempt at governing by their religion. There have been a few loners who have made noise in the name of atheism, not always in the best interest of atheism, but most of the time it's atheist fighting back against someone else who started something. The reality is, atheist have as much of a right to express themselves as anyone else. The reality is also that most arguments, issues, conflicts, noise, ect, are done by a minority of any one group. Because they get their 15 mins, regardless of what view they hold, that 15 mins of coverage makes what ever they are fighting against/for seem like it's some greater fight then it actually is. The minority of any group, tend to make the biggest noise in order to be seen and heard. Often times not in the larger groups best interest. 

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What the stupid hell?

Anyways, they're doing it wrong. Part of not giving a crap about religious crap is not giving a crap. Or is atheism now a religion too, and it needs special support groups and whatever?

I think you're confusing being atheist with being apathetic.

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Shockingly worrying isn't it?

 

Saying you're an Atheist in the EU doesn't even usually get a raised eyebrow.

 

THANK GOD (see what i did there?) :p

 

Can someone from the US (preferably an atheist) clarify how bad it really is? Would be good to hear from real people rather than biased media outlets for once.

Sure, i'm one. funny this article mentions Columbus, OH as i am from there originally.

 

in everyday life religion doesnt matter as the topic almost never comes up. When the topic does come up, however, people love to say theyre Christian, or whatever, but it's looked down upon if you say youre atheist. People dont really know what the word means, and it sounds like a negative word, so people dont like it.

 

People like to say "oh, im catholic" like it's their birth right... like it's their heritage. it makes them feel warm and tingly even though they dont practice at all. this is true all over the world, though.

 

Here, the word atheist is instant condemnation. people will look down on you and instantly assume youre less of a person. ironic, since Christianity is supposed to be all-loving, turn the other cheek, and love thy neighbor.

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Looks like people are out looking for oppression. Being a victim is en vogue nowadays.

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I bet the show will just mock Christians. There will be absolutely nothing shown regarding Islam (too risky).

 

Yeh, go on, blame the Christians (because they're weak and don't fight back)... Look up the age that 'women' can legally get married at in Islam. Would you be happy to give up your daughter (of that age) if you didn't have a choice?

 

Go on, say I'm wrong. This is flame bait news.

 

Are the Muslims the ones doing the oppression of atheists in the US? Anger at a group that's been oppressing you for years is natural.

 

being atheist in US are actually very lucky compared being an atheist in predominates Muslim countries.

atheists in US should have been grateful for where they are.

 

Not from where I'm sitting. Being treated with hateful disdain simply for not believing the most prevalent delusion in your geographical location should not make you the subject of hate in a (supposedly) first world country.

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