It is a rather strange coincidence (or may an act of god?) that, just as my fellow Skeptic Ink blogger Prussian wrote a piece wondering if we, atheists in the US, are crybabies, a new study came out specifically examining our grievances. It seems the overwhelming majority of us have noticed some form of discrimination, in one form or another:
The five forms [of discrimination] most frequently reported were: witnessing anti-atheist comments in newspapers or on television (94.7%), being expected to participate in religious prayers against one’s will (79.1%), being told one’s atheism is sinful, wrong, or immoral (75.2%), being asked to attend religious services or participate in religious activities against one’s will (74.4%), and being treated differently because of one’s atheism (67.5%).
Despite the documented recent growth in secular and atheist groups at both the local and national levels… many respondents reported experiencing stress at the perceived lack of social, group, and community support for their atheist identities and viewpoint. The relative preponderance of religion, and the lack of an alternative atheist counterpart, in volunteer opportunities, charitable work, and community support was a source of frustration for many respondents. Though the social and symbolic boundaries between theism and atheism are important for atheist identification… the marginalizing aspects of being an atheist in the United States, including the perceived absence of some of the important social, cultural, and organizational resources which their religious counterparts enjoy, is a clear source of stress for some atheists. The lack of secular/nonreligious, in comparison to religious, holidays was a frequent example… Interestingly, a few participants even remarked on the additional stress they experienced while trying to “not make trouble” for others during religious holidays or other events. In the words of one respondent “… it seems like my atheism makes OTHERS feel stressed around the religious holidays that I don’t share. It’s as though they feel like I’m snubbing them because I won’t go through the motions on their holidays.”
Gee, how dare we complain!
And have we forgotten that even in 2012, almost 50% of American would never would for an atheist to be president, reflecting a worse public perception than about all other groups?
But it is all OK, people are willing to look the other way, as long as we are invisible. If we try to stop being second class citizens through litigation…well, just ask Jessica Ahlquist. I have personally met her, and found her an extremely courageous young woman. I don’t think the “crybaby” stigma against her is all so fair. If we try to get the attention of our elected leaders? Why, nice christians make death threats, and we have to back off. And speaking of our elected leaders, they are more than happy to throw us under the bus, for the sake of political convenience.
Prussian makes remarks about the rise of ultra-right groups in Europe, and tells us the our religious right is not as bad. With all due respect, I think he is wrong. I despise the ultraright groups as much as anyone. But I don’t see them (with some exceptions, most notably in Greece and some East European nations) as a problem to atheists specifically. They are problems for their whole nations, not specific groups. As for Le Pen’s National Front in France, they are likely a problem to Muslims a lot more than atheists. The societies in nations such as France and Scandinavian nations as a whole a lot more secular than the US, and an atheist would be a lot less marginalized.
Lastly, he points out that Muslim extremists are a lot more violent than their Christian brethren in the US. I absolutely agree with that, and I have written about it before. But I do not think setting the bar that low is a good idea. Further, I do not see Islamists anywhere near dominating whole nations and governments in Europe, unlike the Christian Right here.