Are Atheists The Most Hated Group In America? Well . . .



On Tuesday night, CNN did a special on atheism in America. I didn’t watch it because I had a feeling CNN wasn’t going to get it right. Whenever the mainstream media talks about atheism, it usually portrays us as little Richard Dawkins clones running around telling religious people how stupid they are (although most stereotypes contain a hint of truth). Based on what Hemant Mehta and Vlac Chituc wrote, though, it looks like the special had its pros and cons. My biggest pet peeve, however, was when David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, said at one point, “The fact is we’re the most hated group in this country.”

Really? Really?

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t deny that atheists face discrimination, stigmatization, and social marginalization in America. According to a 2012 article on Scientific American’s website, “Only 45 percent of Americans say they would vote for a qualified atheist presidential candidate, and atheists are rated as the least desirable group for a potential son-in-law or daughter-in-law to belong to,” according to studies. The studies, published by William Gervais of the University of British Columbia, also reveal that atheists are least likely to be hired by daycare centers than religious people. Also, there have been plenty of documented cases of atheist discrimination in child custody hearings, the Boy Scouts, and in volunteer organizations.

So, yes, atheophobia does exist. There’s no denying that. But are atheists the most hated group in America?

Consider the fact that, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 75% of reported hate crimes were against transgender women in 2013, and 90% of them were trans women of color. Consider the fact that, according to a 2011 study conducted by the National LGBTQ Task Force, one in five trans people have reported experiencing homelessness, including 38% black trans people and 29% Latino/a trans people. Consider even the recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, which allows business to discriminate against LGBTQ people on religious principles.

I say all this not to get into a pissing contest or play the Oppressed Olympics. On the contrary; I say all this as a reminder that we all have parts to play in each other’s liberation.

This is why allyship is so important in the fight for social justice. For so many of us, marginalized identities intersect: queer and of color, queer and atheist, trans women of color, queer and disabled, etc. If I fight for my right as a genderqueer person to exist but ignore the cries of trans women of color, what good is my activism? As one of my favorite writers, Leslie Feinberg, once said:

We are pitted against each other in order to keep us from seeing each other as allies. Genuine bonds of solidarity can be forged between people who respect each other’s differences and are willing to fight their enemy together. We are the class that does the work of the world, and can revolutionize it. We can win true liberation.

So let’s stop playing the Oppressed Olympics, and let’s start working together for our liberation.

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