Evangelical Christians have been in the news lately with complaints of discrimination. Many of their complaints can be summed up as a belief that Christianity as a whole is under attack, despite this “attack” largely consisting of things like schools’ widespread refusal to teach religion during science class in public schools or expecting those with strong beliefs to still follow the law, ala Hobby Lobby. Other religions also complain of persecution, many with a much more solid basis in fact. In the midst of this self-styled “war,” however, the discrimination faced by atheists is often ignored. Ironically, it is the very people who claim to be under attack themselves that are the most intolerant.
Schools and education have long been a sore point when it comes to religiously minded people feeling discriminated against, though again they are generally the discriminators. The basic theory of evolution (which is only called a theory because that is how scientists talk, by the way) is under constant attack by those who want to replace it with the much more religiously slanted “intelligent design.” This despite the fact that there are enormous amounts of actual documentable evidence to support evolution, and only belief to support intelligent design. Belief is not exactly an accepted method of proof in a science classroom, but there you go. Far from maintaining the “separation of church and state,” it is often Christians who bully atheists in this country for wanting a religion-free zone in public schools.
In the political world, the numbers don’t lie, and they are not pretty. A 2012 survey shows that if an atheist were to run for president, 43% would refuse to vote for them. This is a higher bias than that shown against any other belief system, including Muslims, who unfortunately face a good deal of discrimination themselves. It is not just the office of president where atheists are at a disadvantage, either. In 2007 Pete Stark became the first openly atheist member of congress. He retired in 2012 and there has not yet been another admitted atheist elected.
In fact, there are (federally unconstitutional) laws in the state constitution in six states prohibiting atheists from holding office. This despite the fact that atheist Roy Torcaso challenged the Maryland law and was backed up by the Supreme Court when Maryland tried to refuse him office. Globally, thirteen countries take it a step further and punish atheists with death.
It is extremely strange to me that groups of people who view the earth as just a pitstop on the way to something better are more trusted to be its wardens and representatives than those who believe that the earth, now, is the only heaven or hell we will ever have and that it is humanity’s responsibility to care for its only home. And yet there it is. In many states, in many COUNTRIES, atheists face an uphill battle for respect and tolerance. Next time conservative Christians want to talk about how much discrimination they face, they should instead look inwards at their own actions to their fellow citizens.