Atheism, the Hidden Prejudice
Prejudice has plagued our society since its conception. There have been great strides taken in educating people to the ignorance of racism, hatred, and bigotry. The majority people feel that it is wrong to judge someone based on their race, sexual preference, or sex. Mention to people that you do not believe in a god, and you will often find hate-filled stares, ignorant remarks, and judgments made. To better understand this, we will discuss the following in this paper: the history of Atheism, religious freedom in the United States, examples of religious prejudice, and some reasoning why religious discrimination occurs.
Many people feel that Atheism is a “new age” trend; this is incorrect. The term Atheism originated in approximately 16 C.E.*, but philosophical Atheistic thinking appeared between the 5th and 6th century B.C.E. (“History of Atheism”). During the Renaissance, criticism of religion became a more frequent occurrence, but being labeled as an Atheist normally led to execution. By the Age of Enlightenment, Atheism was ceasing to be a dangerous accusation, and was a position openly held by some. Although it was no longer deadly to believe in Atheism, most Atheistic literature was banned or publicly burned. The modern era has seen the greatest amount of Atheistic thought. Karl Marx, Charles Bradlaugh, and Friedrich Nietzsche were among the most outspoken Atheists. Often criticized, the works that these men created are what developed into the school of Atheistic thought we have today.
Throughout history, people of different beliefs have been persecuted. The founding fathers of our country were no exception. Many of the early Colonists came to America fleeing religious persecution (Sagan 432). The first amendment in our Constitution protects our freedoms of speech, press, and religion. It also states that no law should be made against religious establishments, practices, or beliefs. It is probably not a coincidence that this is the first amendment to the Constitution. The founding fathers new the importance of religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. They did not want the new America to become a religious government, like the English monarchy. Every person wants their rights protected and upheld; unfortunately, this is not occurring for those of non-secular beliefs.
Race, sexual preference, and religious beliefs are the most common forms of prejudice. As a society we have made great progress against racial and sexual bigotry. What seems to be without thought, religious discriminations have been left by the wayside. From 1930 to 2007, polls conducted by the Gallup Organization asked people if they would vote for the best qualified person for president who happened to be “X”. “X” represented Atheist, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Black, Hispanic, homosexual, married 3 times, and 72 years of age. Out of all the categories Atheist showed the least amount of...