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Atheists don’t get fair treatment

Published: Monday, September 24, 2012

Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 18:09

Contempt is an expression we’re all familiar with. You’ll notice first the lip drawn up on the dominant side, eyes unable to quite make contact. It’s more than just disgust.

Psychologists associate this look with a feeling of moral superiority, which is notable.

It’s an expression that I have earned a home on the receiving end of, because I, like almost a fifth of my countrymen, make the choice not to believe.

For a growing number of Americans, the freedom to choose disbelief is one that is exercised with considerable social penalty.

Atheism, a lack of religious observation, regular church attendance and the inability to prove one’s willingness and capacity to attend to religion with his children, has been used to deny custody to non-religious parents.

Atheists and agnostics needing a kidney transplant are less likely to receive it than Christian patients with similar medical needs.

Why are we allowing a group of citizens to be so marginalized?  Who are the non-believers, and what’s causing the animosity?
A common answer is atheists are as militant and dogmatic as the religious zealots they oppose, which is true in some cases.

But just as most Christians or Muslims are not extremists, most atheists are indistinguishable by their belief alone.

In fact, I would argue the stereotypical proselytizing atheist is missing the point.  
The central critique of a religious metaphysical world view has to be that it operates as a system of competing monologues.

Adding another dogmatic narrative to the scheme does nothing for the advancement of epistemology.

But in defense of your neighborhood anti-theist, the battles faced are considerably different. At the end of a discussion on religion, I walk away thinking at worst that my fellows in conversation are wrong.

Many of my friends really believe in a place called Hell, and really believe my outlook on life has condemned me to suffer eternally there, as if such a thing even made sense.

The step forward is to collectively prefer a dialogue over competing monologues.

The key move here is deconstruction of false representations about those with beliefs different  than ours. That street goes two ways.

Prominent critical writers like Sam Harris would discontinue use of the term “atheist” altogether, insisting that it’s a useless buzzword. After all, there is no word for a non-believer in Zeus. And that is significant.

We are all atheists about a majority of the gods that mankind has written into existence, some people just take it one god further.


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