Are self-declared atheists still treated as (social) pariahs?

Here in Australia we are well known for our religious indifference, much to the chagrin of the faithful. However even in this environment many will openly profess disbelief in God, typically Christian, though still reluctant to embrace the term 'atheist'. I'm willing to use the term and, to be honest, have not felt any particular antagonism from others including family members. Admittedly, most of them are atheist or atheist-friendly any way.

From postings at Atheist Nexus, though, many members feel threatened by the public knowledge of their atheism. It appears that, in many communities, atheists are still treated more contemptuously than other traditional social outcasts. Is this particularly true in parts of the US?

Alex
Alex's Heresies - Embracing a Physical Reality

Tags: acceptance, atheism, society

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I'd definitely say that there has been some. One time when it got out at work that I wasn't religious, I had about a third of the staff at that library trying to tell me to convert - and that was at a government job, where there are regulations on that kind of thing. If it had been a private job, who knows? I could've been fired.
Be interested to hear more, Aaron. I've worked in 2 academic libraries as a cataloger but I always kept my (anti-)religious opinions to myself on the job. I'm mostly an "out" atheist to friends and I wear atheist t-shirts on weekends and hang out at Atheist meetup groups. I didn't hide my atheism but I didn't go out of my way to express it on the job (though I did have an atheism-themed screen saver with various quotes from philosophers promoting freethought/skepticism). No one ever tried to talk to me about religion at all, much less urge me to convert. I'm disturbed that would happen to you at a library that was a state institution; I would have complained to H.R. myself. I've applied to library jobs at religious institutions but I always withdraw my application if they send me any kind of "statement of faith" bullshit. Catholic and Jewish institutions don't seem to mind hiring atheists, but Protestant institutions seem to care more about one's religious convictions than one's professional qualifications.
I don't know how much you wanted to hear, but this is the story...

It was when I was working as a shelver at a county public library. I worked at one library, where I never revealed my religious (non-)beliefs, but was on transfer to another as part of an internal exchange program meant to help spread ideas around from different branches.

Anyhoo, I was in the back, processing returned items, and there was this one guy my age being really friendly, and he asked me if I'd read the Tennis Shoes series (which is a "faith-building" teen book series for Mormons). I said no, it wasn't really my kind of thing, and he asked me about Eddie Fantastic (which is done by the same author as the Tennis Shoes series). I said I wasn't really interested in that kind of thing, but he kept encouraging me to read them, so I eventually told him that I wasn't actually a Mormon.

Cue the deer-in-front-of-the-headlights eyes :P So, he starts witnessing to me, and I tried to tell him I wasn't really interested in becoming a Mormon, and he asked why. So, I told him that their theology didn't make sense to me, and I didn't agree with lots of the moral principles the Mormon Church promoted. Eventually one of the other people in the back started witnessing to me as well, telling me that she was a Mormon because it offered "community", and I said I didn't see why I couldn't get that at other places. Soon a 3rd person joined in, asking me what proof there was that Mormonism wasn't true, etc., and I cited scientific studies that concluded that pornography doesn't lead to sex addiction, evidence that the Native Americans didn't seem to be from Israel, and so on. After an hour or two like that, I was due at the customer service desk, and we didn't talk for the rest of the day. It was a bit uncomfortable :P

These days I might complain about something like that, but it was several years ago and my only interest was in avoiding trouble as much as possible. Plus, it wasn't a library I had to visit on a regular basis, so it's not like it created any ongoing problems. I don't think this sort of thing is necessarily widespread, either - from what I heard, the library closest to where I live has an open atheist as a librarian, so at least it's not like atheists get fired or something.
Yes, very true of the US and particularly in the Bible Belt. When I moved to Texas 7 years ago, I didn't really think about religion or non-religion. I was just who I was, a non-believer. As I started making friends, they would start to invite me to their churches. I started thinking more, and I told them honestly that I had no interest in church or god. I am not friends with any of these women anymore.

It is a very hot issue here, with fundamentalists picketing gay funerals, going on television and claiming that atheists do the devils work, and if you have any atheist friends, you must denounce them and ignore them. Don't let them into your heart. Rush Limbaugh, a religious-right-fundy, is constantly blaming Americas ills on the Atheists, without any proof or evidence to back this up.

You can search YouTube for videos of fundamentalists demanding the death of Atheists in America. We aren't just considered social pariahs, we are evil, and must be destroyed. Fundamentalists make up a small portion of Christians in America, but they have a very loud voice.
I'm sorry your experience with Texas Christians was so negative. I moved to Texas nine years ago now? And I developed my atheism while here. It hasn't been much of an issue in central Texas. Did you locate out east where more of the fundies are?
It wouldn't be good for me to be open. I would lose customers no doubt. A few years ago, i went to my nephew's football game. The announcer got on the mic and said a prayer. I was very surprised that it was happening, because it's against the law. I was definitely alone at that game even though i was with family.
It happened at a football game I went to for my high school, as well. I thought it was illegal but wasn't sure because it was apparently happening right in front of me.
My experience in the Southeastern US is that it is viewed with distaste but not outright violence. Most of the believers in my country suburbs here wouldn't actually know what atheism is, exactly, and would consider it a religion of sorts.

I wouldn't advertise it in a business setting because there are enough folks around here that their religion seriously and it could hurt business prospects. On the other hand, there is enough of a bias against me here because I"m from the North that my atheism doesn't really move the needle.

No violence or even outright ostracization at the golf club, but there IS a mild discomfort if people know I'm an atheist.
In the small town (PA) I live in, "casual" chit chat includes asking all kinds of personal questions. This often includes asking what church you belong to. The answer "none" is excepted, but, I notice I don't get invited to many picnics.
In America - to me - it is something of a mark of honor. OMG (lol) even people who like you look at you funny when you say you don't believe in god. But it trips them up when it keeps turning out to be the smartest people they know.

Look - I work and play with extremely well-educated and intelligent people and many will claim they believe in god. Some come from what I call WTF-land - a kind of intellectual ghetto where very smart, kind, insightful people learn to live with an almost fanactical form of cognitive dissonance that lets them program a computer, do high level maths AND think Rush Limbaugh is smart.

But, for the most part, when they listen to people like Sarah Palin and then listen to people like me - well, frankly, they begin to admit that they would rather be associated with people like me in terms of ideas, wit, knowledge of the world, etc. they see in that spectrum.

I don't evangelize for the anti-faith, anti-dogma of atheism. But, when I explain that we all seem to be okay without having existed for billions of years before we were born, that the universe will be around for billions of years after all humans have gone, and that I don't understand how anyone - even if they believe - can think they can retain their identity without their bodies, brains, flaws, drives, quirks, challenges, ambitions, etc. they start to 'see the light' - so to speak.
NZ is much the same as Australia in this respect, but I'm still very careful to be ambiguous when asked about my religious beliefs. While agnostics are acceptable, being an atheist is still anathema.
Interesting and I hoped NZ would be more enlightened (or less caring about religious sensibilities) than OZ. You're right that many still equate any self-naming of 'atheism' with god-rejection fundamentalism, just as unreasonable as any fundamentalist Christians. It's also amusing how the coined term 'agnosticism' has become reworked to 'having reasonable debelief'.

It's hard to see how the term atheism will ever be without prejudice for the majority, very frustrating when adherents.com estimate that there are 1.1 billion disbelievers in the world (3rd largest 'religion') Alex's Heresies - Non belief third largest religion
Alex

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