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Atheists: Most Mistrusted Group, Evil, and Immoral!

Guess who’s coming to dinner: oh no, not an atheist!

Some of you might remember Mr. Obama's inauguration speech wherein he made an explicit reference to non-believers. Apparently, this was the first instance where an incoming American president has formally recognized the existence of this group of Americans (which incidentally includes the great majority of intellectuals, scientists, and philosophers). Does this imply that atheists are now largely accepted within the greater American society? Are they respected for their non-belief in imaginary narratives of invisible deities? Regrettably, the answer is an emphatic no!

In a recent article published in the American Sociological Review, Penny Edgell, Joseph Gerteis, and Douglas Hartmann reported their findings, on how atheists are perceived, based on data from a national survey. To the question, "This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society," ten groups were listed as options: religious groups (Muslims, conservative Christians, Jews), racial groups (Hispanics, Asian Americans, African Americans, and White Americans), homosexuals, recent immigrants, and atheists. By far, the most "detested" group were the atheists. To the question, "I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group," eight of the latter groups were included (homosexuals and recent immigrants were excluded). Again, the least desired group were the atheists. This might be one of the saddest scientific findings that I have ever read.

Hey, Francis Crick, James Watson, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey, Linus Pauling, Steven Pinker, Noam Chomsky, Ivan Pavlov, Carl Sagan, Oliver Sacks, Steven Weinberg, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Jacque Monod, David Hume, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Popper, Emile Durkheim, and Herbert Simon: You are all unfit to date my daughter. Yes, you are all great scientists, philosophers, and literary giants. It is indeed true that many of you are Nobel laureates. However, you are eliminated from contention, as you are all godless atheists. Sorry I cannot trust Satan's helpers with my daughter. I would much prefer an unemployed man who has otherwise accepted the Lord in his heart. Should the classic Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) be remade, the "shocking" guest will no longer be a highly accomplished, educated, and sophisticated black man (Sidney Poitier) but a highly accomplished, educated, and sophisticated atheist.

Think about it for a moment. Suppose that we had an extraordinarily accomplished would-be President who proclaimed her atheism. Let us assume that this person is a great orator; a righteous person with great personal integrity; a speaker of four languages; and a Nobel laureate. If she were to declare that she does not believe in the existence of a "celestial dictator" (to borrow the term from the remarkable Christopher Hitchens), she would be automatically deemed unfit to serve in political office and/or to date your son. Nobel Prize, Schmobel Prize. If she does not believe in one of the fairy tales (even though these conflict and contradict one another), she is not to be trusted, as Satan undoubtedly possesses her. She is probably immoral and evil. Let us exorcise the demon spirits out of her. Let us pray for her lost soul as a means of hopefully averting her from burning in the eternal fires of hell. You might have detected my sarcasm here however this dreadful set of reactions is rooted in an all-too-common anti-atheist reality.

Frankly, it is both sad and astonishing that in the 21st century, the populace of the most advanced civilization in history can still hold such backward views. The greatest intellectual framework that the human intellect has ever generated is the scientific method. On so many levels, it has freed us from the shackles of barbaric, divisive, and infantile superstition. Yet, all presidential candidates parade their faiths (even the closeted atheist Obama) as though it were a virtue to believe in virgin births, burning bushes, and flying horses.

For those readers who might be interested in some of my earlier posts that dealt with religion, please see here, here, here, and here.

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