Sometimes you see a story about America and you realize how ignorant some Americans are. The “story of an atheist who was harassed in the military”: is one of those stories:

bq. Known as “the atheist guy,” Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and — just as severe to some soldiers — gay, none of which, he says, is true. Hall even drove fellow soldiers to church in Iraq and paused while they prayed before meals.

Note that the author couldn’t just write that he’s not immoral, a devil-worshipper or gay, they had to qualify it with a “he says” because even the author of the story about prejudice isn’t quite sure if it’s possible for an atheist to be moral, straight and not believe in the devil.

It reminds me of my high school life in Virginia where other kids were shocked, shocked!, to find out I was an atheist. Most equated atheism to satanism and some were brave, or maybe stupid, enough to ask if I held “rituals” or believed that sacrificing animals or humans was okay. If I could keep from rolling my eyes, it was fun to answer “it depends on the person” and just stare at them. Ahh, high school, those were the days. There was even one football player, who was a big guy and much bigger than me, who I had been somewhat friends with, never talked to me after he found out I was an atheist and he admitted that he avoided me in the halls out of _fear_. Fear! Granted, that’s redneck-ville Virginia, but I bet most Americans have similar feelings today. According to Gallup polls, “that’s true”:

bq. 52% [of Americans] have a mostly unfavorable or worse attitude [towards atheists]

It turns out that atheists are the most hated minority in America. In fact, I’m more discriminated against than Scientologists! Oh well, at least I’m in good company. Here’s a list of famous atheists:

Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Aldous Huxley, Andrew Carnegie, Ernest Hemingway, Arthur C. Clarke, Charles Darwin (duh!), Ayn Rand, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo, Leo Tolstoy, Kurt Vonnegut, John Lennon, Walt Disney, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alfred Hitchcock, George Orwell, Charles Schultz, Robert Heinlen, Mark Twain, Robert Frost, Susan B. Anthony, Vincent Van Gogh, Thomas Jefferson (woo hoo!), Thomas Edison, Thomas Paine, Ingmar Bergman, Sigmund Freud, Oscar Wilde, David Hume, Albert Camus, Brian Eno, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, Robert Smith, Bob Odenkirk, Michael Lewis, Ian McKellen, Douglas Coupland, Warren Buffett, Douglas Adams, Howard Stern, Robin Quivers, Michael Crichton, Woody Allen, Linus Torvalds, Sarah Vowell, Noam Chomsky, John Malkovich, Frank Zappa, Salman Rushdie, Berkeley Breathed (former Vashon-Islander!), Ricky Gervais, Lance Armstrong, Isaac Asimov, Chumbawamba, Marlon Brando, Richard Branson, Isaac Brock and Peter Buck (that makes 75% of R.E.M.!) and, of course, Richard Dawkins.

The list goes “on and on and on”:…

11 thoughts on “Atheism

  1. I think many in your list are/were agnostic and not atheistic… BIG difference. To me, atheists are more like christian evangelicals… both are professing the two different sides of the coin. One says there is something next, the other says no. Agnostics are neutral “don’t know” types…

  2. Which ones? I believe all are atheist, not agnostic. I specifically didn’t list agnostics. And Christian Evangelicals are not the only ones who believe in a god.

    To me, believing in a god or not is not a choice. It’s like enjoying beer — you either do or you don’t. You don’t choose to like beer. You may choose to admit you like or don’t like beer, but you either like it or you don’t. I think agnostics are either afraid to admit what they believe or they don’t care enough about the topic to consider what they believe.

  3. I don’t believe in the Christian god any more than the Christian believes in Zeus or Thor or Ra or Isis or any of the other thousands of supernatural beings imagined to account for our human gaps in knowledge.

    There is simply no evidence for any of them, so I am an atheist. I am also a loving husband, father of three wonderful children, police officer and community activist/volunteer.

    Atheism is not an ideology…it is simply a position regarding the lack of evidence for claims regarding God(s)ess(es).

  4. I would be interested in the source of your information about that atheist list. It also doesn’t just go without saying that Charles Darwin was an atheist–many, if not most, Christians have no problem with evolution, but I have read that Darwin struggled with the issue, since his wife apparently was a devout creationist-Christian. Was Lincoln really an atheist? Maybe it’s in the stars, as he was born the exact same day as Darwin (Feb 12 1809). (That’s a joke–I believe in astrology even less than I believe in God).
    …OK, I see you did give a source, and Charles Darwin is listed there as agnostic, not atheist as you state I wonder about Charles Schultz, as I remember a series of booklets he wrote about children and church (featuring his Peanuts characters) that were certainly nothing an atheist would write. They probably date from the early Peanuts days, so he could have changed his attitude. Thomas Paine was a great atheist–if you haven’t done so, read his writings (I think “Common Sense” is the pertinent one).

  5. When I finally admitted to my coworkers that I am an athiest, they treated me like I confessed I was from another planet! I was inundated with questions, and frequently get asked if I feel uncomfortable with some things at work. Especially when I have customers that call in (I’m a telephone customer service rep for an insurance company) and “bless me” at the end of the call, or remind me that Jesus loves me, etc. I just let it roll off. But there is no doubt that I am treated differently now than before I “came out”. The hardest times are at Easter and Christmas. One person actually asked me, that as an atheist, am I “allowed” to put a Christmas tree up in my home? I said sure, as long as it was fake! Seriously, I believe I would be persecuted more in the public eye for stating I’m an atheist than if I confessed to murder.

  6. As a former US Marine and Christian, I am deeply ashamed of any discrimination this soldier faces/faced after volunteering to serve his country. He is – first and foremost – an American and this is ALL you should be concerned about.

    Even in our own country, we are too worried about protecting the rights of extremeist muslim citizens who immigrated to our land yet an Americvan-born soldier needs to face fear for his beleif/lack there of? Embarassing!

  7. Ive got to agree with mike, several of the people on your list are not atheists. Einstien and Woody Allen are Jewish, Huxley wrote several essays on god, and Jefferson and Franklin were deists. That being said, I concur that treatment like this is inexcusable.

  8. You might be right about Huxley, but there’s no evidence that Jefferson or Franklin were deists (unless you ask a religious zealot). They use the term “god” in respect to the beliefs of others and in the general sense only. But Einstein was an atheist:

    Einstein in a letter in 1945 refuting a Jesuit priest’s claim that he had converted Einstein from atheism:

    “I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.”

    More of Einstein’s quotes:

    Thomas Jefferson: “Religions are all alike — founded upon fables and mythologies.”

  9. I’m pretty sure that Huxley was an atheist. I teach Brave New World to my students and in the introduction of the edition that I have, it states that he was one.

    What amazes me about being an atheist is that people seem to believe that I can’t be moral without a deity telling me to be moral, as if I have no way to figure out morality on my own. What does that say about the ones who need a deity? Are they not capable of determining right from wrong without a bible?

  10. Good point Elizabeth. I’ve always thought that people who need a book or a teacher to tell them how to be moral are the ones to be scared of. What if they skipped a chapter or missed a lesson? What if they have a bad teacher? What if they misinterpret the teachings (as many religious leaders have done)? What if they forget whether something is right or wrong — it’s a 50/50 answer — it’s easy to forget and guess wrong if you don’t understand the reasoning behind morality. If you don’t really understand morality, you’re unlikely to be consistently moral or apply it to new situations correctly.

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