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Whodathunk: Why do Americans Still Dislike Atheists?

On the Opinions page of the Washington Post, Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman ask, “Why do Americans still dislike atheists?”

I must say, up front, that there are no good reasons to dislike Atheists. I know many fine Atheists. Some are family members. Some are friends. I do not dislike them. Intellectually, I agree with almost everything they say until it comes to religion. I agree with them on evolution, the possibility of a multi-verse and/or string theory and just about anything scientific – up to the extent to which I can understand it – I try. When it comes to religion, I believe. Plain and simple and pretty much what is in the Nicene Creed.

There are some bad reasons to dislike Atheists. Paul and Zuckerman need to explore this. Read on. But first, here is some of what they say:

Long after blacks and Jews have made great strides, and even as homosexuals gain respect, acceptance and new rights, there is still a group that lots of Americans just don’t like much: atheists. Those who don’t believe in God are widely considered to be immoral, wicked and angry. They can’t join the Boy Scouts. Atheist soldiers are rated potentially deficient when they do not score as sufficiently “spiritual” in military psychological evaluations. Surveys find that most Americans refuse or are reluctant to marry or vote for nontheists; in other words, nonbelievers are one minority still commonly denied in practical terms the right to assume office despite the constitutional ban on religious tests.

Rarely denounced by the mainstream, this stunning anti-atheist discrimination is egged on by Christian conservatives who stridently — and uncivilly — declare that the lack of godly faith is detrimental to society, rendering nonbelievers intrinsically suspect and second-class citizens

Is this knee-jerk dislike of atheists warranted? Not even close.

A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.

Consider that at the societal level, murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States, which also has a much greater portion of its population in prison. Even within this country, those states with the highest levels of church attendance, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, have significantly higher murder rates than far less religious states such as Vermont and Oregon.

As individuals, atheists tend to score high on measures of intelligence, especially verbal ability and scientific literacy.

What’s not to like? Let’s see how PZ Myers, America’s most vocal and famous Atheist blogger, puts it with a quote from the above article including the last sentence from above:

. . . Are we smug and arrogant? Damned right, and with good reason. . . . “As individuals, atheists tend to score high on measures of intelligence, especially verbal ability and scientific literacy. . . .”

What’s not to like – smuggery and arrogance? See where I’m going?

Remember, of course, the recent billboard: “You KNOW [religions are] all SCAMS.” Or the one in front of the Lincoln Tunnel at Christmastime. What’s not to like?

How did American Atheists Group president David Silverman put it? “Scam means deliberately misleading people. . . . A scam and a myth. The myth and religion are the same thing.” What’s not to like?

Richard Dawkins is so vociferous in his call to eliminate all religion that he tells us that raising children as Christians is a form of child abuse. What’s not to like if you are a Christian parent?

The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist," says Michael Ruse, Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. It’s no wonder. Dawkins’ book is a masterful put down of Christians.

Look at the lingua franca  of the New Atheist movement. Visit the blogs. In fact, spend five minutes in the comment section of CNN’s Faith Blog for countless examples. God is a Christian’s “imaginary friend.” Christianity is “mental illness.” Religion is “superstition.” What’s not to like?

It has become so bad that one Atheist, Hemant Mehta, has created a blog called The Friendly Atheist, in an attempt at civil blogging.

Go back to PZ Myers for a second. You remember, perhaps, how this college professor publically and intentionally desecrated a stolen consecrated communion wafer, taken from a Catholic Mass by a volunteer pretending to take communion. You may recall that he called it an *expletive* cracker. You remember, certainly, that he nailed the wafer to a page of the Quran (Koran), which he then threw in a trash bin with coffee grounds and garbage. He photographed this act and posted pictures on the internet. What’s not to like?

Granted, some Christians can be just as stupid as Myers. But, my point is that one reason why some Americans dislike Atheists is because some Atheists ask us to not like them and some of us think they are representative.

Full WaPo article: Why do Americans still dislike atheists? – The Washington Post

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