Why Are the Openly Secular Openly Disdained?

46

Which moral position is worse, cheating on one’s spouse or rejecting religious dogma? Are you less trustworthy if you use an illegal drug or reject supernatural explanations for life?

These questions were recently put to Americans by the Pew Research Center in a poll asking what traits would make someone less likely to vote for a candidate for president of the United States.

The trait people identified as the least desirable in a president: “Atheist.” 53 percent of Americans said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who is an atheist. It beat out pot-smoker and adulterer. People found atheism a bigger barrier to high office than someone who is gay or lesbian, or even someone who lacked any political experience.

Wow. The Christian Right complains there is a war on them, but here’s proof that it’s just the opposite. A politician’s strong religious beliefs do not harm his or her chances for public office. But Americans willingly share their bias against non-believers with pollsters, as if it is self-evident atheists are not to be trusted.

Meanwhile, the media goes along.

For instance, Denver radio host Dan Caplis recently tossed this out when discussing Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments: “All racists are, at the end of the day, atheists.” What? On what basis is he making this claim? And where was the corresponding outcry by the press for such a baseless and callous assertion?

Then there’s Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, who recently threw around the term “atheist” as a way to discredit an organization that fights for church-state separation in the military. Kelly labeled Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an atheist — though he’s not — as a pejorative, signaling to viewers that this man should not be trusted because his complaints come with an anti-God agenda.

Okay, that’s Fox News, but even the New York Times is guilty of knee-jerk bias. Columnist Nicholas Kristof, in a recent column on Americans’ shocking lack of basic knowledge on religion, singled out non-believers as particularly clueless, saying, “secular Americans are largely ignorant about religion.”

In fact, polls show that secular Americans are more knowledgeable about religion than those who profess to follow one.

Written By: Robyn Blumner
continue to source article at huffingtonpost.com

46 COMMENTS

  1. What stunned me most with the results of this poll, is the mere possibility that respondents would trust more, as president, “someone who lacked any political experience”…. than an ‘open’ atheist.

    I couldn’t believe that such a crackpot attitude could even exist !

    Then i made up my mind, and thought that after all, it fitted perfectly with the basic definition of the word ** creed :** something you trust without any experimental knowledge of it.

    So i guess that, by answering that they’d prefer to be ruled by a politician who doesn’t have any experimental knowledge about what he is supposed to do, such people would feel more like being… at home ?

    • To play the devil’s advocate, Hitler probably has higher approval ratings than the current members of Congress. And close to one half of the electorate do not like President Obama. People’s disdain for career politicians crosses party lines. So the imaginary presidential candidate who lacks any political experience may be appealing to an electorate who desire change, since career politicians have proven to be completely incompetent, corrupt, or both. Of course, time and again Americans go to the polls and vote for career politicians in spite of their utter disdain for them. This reflects two truths: (1) people are inconsistent; and (2) certain people are more content when they have someone to blame for their problems.

      In reply to #1 by x-bone:

      What stunned me most with the results of this poll, is the mere possibility that respondents would trust more, as president, “someone who lacked any political experience”…. than an ‘open’ atheist.

      I couldn’t believe that such a crackpot attitude could even exist !

      Then i made up my mind, and th…

  2. It must be the lack of evolution within the human psyche that inflict so many humans with mass hysteria and immovable ignorance. One would think that reality and common sense would trump emotional delusion. It’s amazing humanity survied the rigors of nature and reality. I once believed in the delusion with many reservations about the gaps of information connecting spirituality to the reality of nature. I am a man of average intelligence and can only surmise that it is basic fear of eventual and eternal damnational that prevents the transition from delusion to reality.

    • In reply to #2 by AlGarnier:

      .I am a man of average intelligence and can only surmise that it is basic fear of eventual and eternal damnation that prevents the transition from delusion to reality.

      No, just the fear of death and the deep desire to live forever. Just pure unadulterated wishful thinking accompanied by strong positive reinforcement from the people who like them, choose to believe in the same reassuring, juvenile nonsense.

      • In reply to #3 by NearlyNakedApe:

        No, just the fear of death and the deep desire to live forever.

        Well… I’d rather agree with Al : the “fear” (!) of eternal damnation is a very powerful tool to avoid too rapid a general bunk off away from their dogmas… Especially, as we don’t have any real means to get sure that all this is actually mere BS !

        I remmember quite well thinking : “And what about if it was true, after all ?”….. It’s silly, seen from now as it is so far away, but when you’re still “in it”, you can’t help grumbling and grinding all that indoctrinated stuff in your head…

        This is exactely how religious clerks, in every single religion –buddism included, with their successive “reincarnations”–, hold you by….. [whatever part you're thinking of, whether you are male or female] !

  3. I don’t give a toss about this!

    Any disdain directed towards me is reciprocated by me in spades.

    I have no need for blind faith, I can call upon evidence.

    If I don’t know about something – and boy, is there a lot I don’t know about – but that something seems interesting and worth knowing about, I make it my business to learn about it; that doesn’t mean to say that I’ll always be capable of understanding it.

    But, if it’s beyond me at any given time, I’ll say so. However, if my interest persists, my curiosity will be motive enough for me to carry on endeavouring to comprehend it.

    I don’t start making things up and pretending, claiming to know things which can’t possibly be known because there’s not a scintilla of evidence for them.

    In that regard, I’m honest. You might even go as far as to say that atheism makes me truthful, but since I have no evidence for it I won’t make that claim.

    If I’m then told that that makes me a bad person, my response won’t be to whinge and cry “I’m offended!” it’ll be to ask, why?

    I must stop now, because I’m beginning to feel the urge to swear; words that is, not an oath.

  4. Actually I welcome this. This sort of information is the perfect answer to the nonsense about aggressive fundamentalist secularism. Having briefly spoken to Richard on a book tour I would bet that even at his ‘shrillest’ and most aggressive he makes my attempts to be charming and ingratiating look like the clumsiest rantiest outpourings of a drunken preacher. I admit this says more about me than about him, but compared to these Fox commentators and the people who voted in this poll we most both rank among the most reasonable people on the planet, albeit at different places on the scale.
    With this going on it should be open season for us to totally let rip at these idiots and still be seen as the reasonable ones.

  5. There was a little something drawn up and signed in December 1789; how many of those questioned know what it is?

    How many Christians know what the first book of the New Testament is?

    How many Muslims know how many Sura there are in the Qur’an?

    How many Muslims know what the first Sura is entitled?

    Were any of these questions posed in the survey?

    And if not why not?

    If I’d been asked any of these questions I would have given the correct answer.

    Not because I’d just gleaned them from Wiki, but because I’m an atheist.

    Confused?

    Well, anyone can be unthinkingly religious; atheism calls for a little effort to be made.

  6. I suspect these survey results are unique to the USA. Then we could start looking at why that might be so, and deal with the answers. Too bad the questions did not include “Why do you feel that way about atheists ?” and include a blank section for free text. Another commenter said something that made me wonder if believers who fear god/hell etc. are jealous and lack trust of those who have no such fear. That might explain some of it.

    Could RD.net sponsor such a mini-survey ? How much would such a survey cost ?

    It would be interesting to see if similar surveys have been done in other countries, especially if they included some moslem ones. One response I like when asked about atheism is “Since I was old enough to think, I suppose. Around 11 years old.”

    • In reply to #8 by rod-the-farmer:

      I suspect these survey results are unique to the USA.

      The other day, after noticing Amish horse-buggy / big confederate flag / plethora of churches, I concluded a brow beating would result from dissing / dismissing the big kahuna, way more than a momentary lapse into sinsville.

    • In reply to #8 by rod-the-farmer:

      I suspect these survey results are unique to the USA. Then we could start looking at why that might be so, and deal with the answers. Too bad the questions did not include “Why do you feel that way about atheists ?” and include a blank section for free text. Another commenter said something that…

      My hypothesis is that the US being the dominant power in the world these past decades offered a sense of false security. There was no need to seek improvement, “We’re #1 so we must be doing something right.” There has been no urgency to improve the education system or the general scientific knowledge of the population, to remove junk science, no need to learn about other cultures, no impetus for change. If and when, as history shows no nation prospers forever, life becomes less stable, this society will self-examine then…or collapse.

  7. President Dwight Eisenhower once said that Jesus was ever-present in the Oval Office. I do hope the so-called son of God was a gentleman, and removed himself when Bill was entertaining Monica.

  8. I think its to do with “better the devil you know than the one you don’t” type thinking. The beliefs of athiests are unknown to the masses ie if you don’t believe in god, you MUST believe in something else… what is that..the devil maybe??
    If the research used words like ‘humansist’ or ‘secularist’, my guess is the results would be very different…much more like the responses to religions. Words like ‘athiest’ have centuries of negative propaganda against them so I am not surprised by the results at all.
    Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to create a new name that doesn’t have the historical baggage. The ‘Brights’ is an attempt to do this but I fear that that name also has implications.

    Perhaps it would be a more sucessful strategy to minimise the status of religions …interesting that the Catholics faired so badly …probably becauae of the paedophile scandals?
    Perhaps religions could be reframed as ‘clubs’ like any other club of like minded people to reduce their status from being a unique club with special priviledges. We could refer to the catholic church as the catholic club in future…do you belong to the golf club or music society or anglican club or none of those?
    Its frustrating to be labelled as ‘A – something’ ie ‘not’ something. The ‘something’ needs to be relabelled..eg ‘goddists’ or ‘AAtheists’ !

    • In reply to #10 by Richard01:

      Perhaps religions could be reframed as ‘clubs’ like any other club of like minded people to reduce their status from being a unique club with special priviledges. We could refer to the catholic church as the catholic club in future

      I like this idea… But the obvious trap waiting for us is that atheism would be, too, considered as ‘a’ club, just one among thousands of others ! ! Look, already, at today’s situation : a majority of so-called “believers” are deeply convinced that atheism is just a creed, like any other creed !

      We would have to make sure, day after day, that NOT believing in any deity… is something which cannot constitute a single-minded club. It belongs in another domain of thought.

      As i always say : “There are about 700 religions, but there is only ONE science. When scientists meet –whether they are melanesians, inuits or born in the Bronx– , they always come to the same conclusions on any topic they talk about —be it to say that it hasn’t been resolved… yet.

      On the other hand, religious people never agree on anything… QED.

      The same pattern is to be applied with atheism, of course.

      • Atheism might be called a club as you say…the big difference is that it would be imaginary say compared to ‘the mormon club’ or ‘catholic club’ which have a definite membership. A club of ‘atheists’ would be like a club of non golfers or of people who do not collect stamps…. as you say non belief falls into a different domain….
        A typical frustration is that a non golfer for example could never be expected to pay for the maintenance of a golf course whereas a non ‘religious person’ has to pay for maintenance of religious club facilities like churches via taxation!
        In reply to #14 by x-bone:

        In reply to #10 by Richard01:

        Perhaps religions could be reframed as ‘clubs’ like any other club of like minded people to reduce their status from being a unique club with special priviledges. We could refer to the catholic church as the catholic club in future

        I like this idea… But the obvious…

  9. Rod-The-Farmer (Comment 8) asks Could RD.net sponsor such a mini-survey ? How much would such a survey cost? Freedom From Religion Foundation has a quiz which asks 50 questions and rates your score against the average. Try it at FFRF.org. Atheist me scored 30/50, which rates me above the average.

    • In reply to #12 by 78rpm:

      Atheist me scored 30/50, which rates me above the average.

      ‘American Bible Challenge’ show was on the air other night. Plenty of atheist folk probably would breeze through this. But(!) the show is intended to be “fun”, i.e., factual knowledge of the book is almost secondary to ‘heart-warming anecdotes’.

      No Skeptics Annotated Bible allowed, lol.

  10. Pretty Scary!!!! To ply your trade as a motor mechanic in the US you must first pass a licensing exam. To become president all you have to do is say you believe a Galilean man once walked on water.

  11. Wow. To my enlightened American friends, I am sorry that you have to live in such an environment.
    Does anyone know of any similar polls in other developed nations? Maybe there’s no demand for such a thing since most other countries don’t have such an evangelical population.

  12. It might be worthwhile to unite in our messaging using similar sound bytes.
    – More moral More knowledgeable Better ethics Less crime etc –
    Unfortunately reasoned arguments will work on the unreasonable.

  13. In my native Latvian one just have to change one letter in the word aheist and you get somebody who is fond of latrines. And, yes, people do like these linguistic transformations. Well, ok, they have that perverse “logic” Soviet Union was occupant, which is bad, they did not like Christians, so we must be Christians….But there is also that longing for predictability and helping hand when course of things become unclear and when it is mixed together with black or white perception of the world, taught, for example, by unscrupulous priests….

  14. This is believable and unfortunate at the same time. 53% of Americans would feel more comfortable having a President who was an illegal drug user or cheated on their spouse than an atheist. Atheist does not equal (evil). Atheist equals (not convinced). That’s all. There is no shedding of morality when one decides they are an atheist. I have many faults, but beyond a shadow of a doubt, I am a much more compassionate and caring person now than I ever was when I believed in God or Jesus as the Son of God.

    An interesting side note to consider. Many of those who voted that adultery is more acceptable than atheism will also be the ones who want the 10 Commandant’s chiseled on every court room wall in this country.

    Maybe we should give them what they want. Maybe adultery isn’t so bad. Yep, it’s settled. I’m all for it……

    Hold old news bulletin. Gosh I didn’t know this, adultery is actually considered to be a moral sin in the Torah. Oh boy this could be trouble.

    In fact the 7th Commandment forbids it. Moreover the punishment is Death, and nowhere in the bible including the New Testament is it retracted by God or good old Jesus. Some examples: Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery.” Deuteronomy 22:22 “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die.” Leviticus 20:10 “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.” Proverbs 6:32 “But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.” Leviticus 21:9 “And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.”

    Perhaps we should begin immediately. I motion we have trials, like the witch trials or those that fueled the Inquisitions. My second motion, we start with focus groups, such as, let’s see…. how about church members and congress. Yes that should yield quite a significant number of violators. Let the fun begin.

    Final thought. Judge not, least you be judged!

    • In reply to #20 by bjgherc:

      This is believable and unfortunate at the same time. 53% of Americans would feel more comfortable having a President who was an illegal drug user or cheated on their spouse than an atheist. Atheist does not equal (evil). Atheist equals (not convinced). That’s all. There is no shedding of morality wh…

      Well, the U.S. has had a number of Presidents who were adulterers. But the U.S. has never had a President who admitted to being an atheist. I agree with Richard Dawkins that we’ve almost certainly had Presidents who were atheists. But concealing atheism is apparently easier than concealing philandering.

      Fear of the unknown is a witch whose charms can be overwhelming, especially to a person who already believes wholeheartedly in superstition.

  15. This is what happens to people after centuries of brainwashing. Believe my god, you’re good. Don’t believe, we hate you. In many parts of the US, atheists are second class citizens. Being the most power country in the world (for now) doesn’t imply anything else. It perfectly illustrates the divisiveness of many religions. The vitriol often starts in their foundational documents.

  16. *For instance, Denver radio host Dan Caplis recently tossed this out when discussing Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments: “All racists are, at the end of the day, atheists.” What? *

    Oh no! I’m racist because I want to leave the European Union and therefore vote UKIP, and now I’m double-racist because I’m an atheist. Ouch!

  17. From the article:

    “All racists are, at the end of the day, atheists.” What?

    What indeed. I have no idea what Dan Caplis means by this comment, but then again, I’m accused of being a racist because I want to leave the European Union, so why not be a double-racist because I don’t believe in god.

    But it seems that with individual rights trumping our old freedoms, everyman is an island and can therefore (by stretching things rather a lot) becomes his own “race”. Therefore, if anyone disagrees with you, perhaps you can call him a racist?

  18. For New Testament scholars, it should come as no surprise to learn that a higher percentage of American voters would prefer an adulterous president to an atheistic president. Read Mathew 12:31-32 and you will discover that Jesus teaches that the sin of unbelief is unpardonable. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11). St Paul even explains why God cannot forgive atheists(Romans 1:18-20). The New Testament clearly teaches that all atheists like myself will spend eternity in hell.

  19. There’s a brilliant comment from Hitchens that belongs here. As well as an acknowledgement of the redundant nature of my opening sentence.

    Spoken during the “four horsemen” chat where The Hitch hosted Dennet, Dawkins and Harris in his apartment over drinks, and second-hand tobacco smoke.

    “Since we have to live with uncertainty, only those who are certain, leave the room before the discussion can become adult.”

  20. Why Are the Openly Secular Openly Disdained?

    Why is this article talking about Secular in the title but immediately reference atheists. If the journalist, editor or publisher didn’t know the difference what chance do we have? Help!

    Even the dimmest religiot should be a secularist and support secularism, WTF!

    • In reply to #34 by alaskansee:

      Why Are the Openly Secular Openly Disdained?

      Why is this article talking about Secular in the title but immediately reference atheists. If the journalist, editor or publisher didn’t know the difference what chance do we have? Help!

      Even the dimmest religiot should be a secularist and support secul…

      You’re correct. There is confusion between the terms secularists and atheists in the title. However, there are very few believers who are secularists, at least in the US. The mentality here is “god and country” with endless assertions that this is a “Christian nation”. They would rather take complete control of the government and merge their holy text into everyday law, taking us a step closer to a theocracy like Saudi Arabia or Iran. Almost all secularists who oppose their agenda are atheists, maybe some who call themselves agnostics? It’d be interesting to find out how many believers are also secularists promoting the separation of church and state.

      • In reply to #36 by Atheos Nous:

        However, there are very few believers who are secularists, at least in the US. The mentality here is “god and country” with endless assertions that this is a “Christian nation”. They would rather take complete control of the government and merge their holy text into everyday law, taking us a step closer to a theocracy like Saudi Arabia or Iran. Almost all secularists who oppose their agenda are atheists, maybe some who call themselves agnostic

        I don’t agree. All of my friends believe in secularism but many of them are Christians or believers in other faiths. There is broad support for secularism in the US. Apx. 60 percent of all people support it, but there aren’t anywhere near 60 percent atheists in the population: Poll data on us support for secularism

        • In reply to #37 by Red Dog:

          “I don’t agree. All of my friends believe in secularism but many of them are Christians or believers in other faiths. There is broad support for secularism in the US. Apx. 60 percent of all people support it, but there aren’t anywhere near 60 percent atheists in the population: Poll data on us support for secularism” (I couldn’t embed your comment)

          I believe you about your friends and I’m sure they’re sincere. What people say to pollsters don’t always translate to their actions. Three recent cases: 1. US Supreme court ruled in favor of Christian prayers before local government meetings in a town in NY (story on this site), 2. A law suit requesting equal financial disclosure from religious organizations as other non-profits was thrown out, judge told the American Atheist, Inc, who filed to law suit, to apply for church status, 3. A law suit to display a “secular message” in another town where a 10 Commandments plaque sits on the government lawn was also thrown out. The “60% majority” was not that bothered with these rulings. It also does not show up in elections where an open atheist almost never gets elected (point of this article), which sends more religion friendly, overwhelmingly Christian, politicians in to pick those judges. In practicality, Jefferson’s wall of separation in the US is dilapidated.

          • In reply to #38 by Atheos Nous:

            In reply to #37 by Red Dog:

            “I don’t agree. All of my friends believe in secularism but many of them are Christians or believers in other faiths. There is broad support for secularism in the US. Apx. 60 percent of all people support it, but there aren’t anywhere near 60 percent atheists in the popu…

            Now you have changed the argument. In your previous comment you said that only non religious people in the US believe in secularism. Forget about my anecdotal data, I don’t have many friends and most of them are like me outside the mainstream of popular opinion. But the polling data clearly shows you are wrong. Now you are making another point which is that despite public opinion the congress and supreme court often don’t follow secularism. That I agree with. In fact I think it’s a general trend that applies to many other areas besides separation of church and state. On all sorts of issues: healthcare, minimum wage, military spending, gun control; just to name a few, US public opinion is further to the left than our legislatures and courts.

          • In reply to #39 by Red Dog:

            I did not say “only” atheists are secularists, though I did say very few believers were. I’ll refine my hypothesis – few believers who say they support secularism act as if they do. I also said it would be interesting to find out how many actually do, so thanks for the poll data. Meanwhile, elections are the form of polling that counts the most. Commenting on the state of the US government, Professor Dawkins said last October on the Bill Maher show, “If you think about it, 534 members of the U.S. Congress cannot all be religious. That’s just statistical nonsense.” There may be one or two who admit it openly now, not sure. Seven states in the union still forbid atheists from running for office, never mind holding one. Why is it that a belief in god is a requirement of entry whether legally or practically in the US, so much so that few, if any, unbelievers entering politics dare to admit it? Because the citizens of this country make their preferences known at the official polls.

  21. Unfortunately most of the posts here seem to ignore the difference between secularism and atheism. This is worrying, I don’t mind the deluded not liking us (the non-deluded) but it would be a disaster if they think they hate secularism.

    If you get the chance don’t let anyone make the same mistake!

  22. I’m actually pleased that only 53% of the respondents stated they would be less likely to vote for an atheist. That percentage should be much higher when one considers results from other polls. More than 80% of Americans believe in a personal god. More than 40% of Americans reject evolution, and close to 40% of Americans believe that their personal god played a role in evolution. Therefore, atheists have won over a substantial proportion of superstitious people. Contrast this with the famous (and probably apocryphal) story from the 1956 Presidential campaign: When a woman called out to Adlai Stevenson, “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person,” Stevenson quipped, “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!”

    We are making progress.

  23. Moronic superstitionists looking down their noses at atheists. Why? Because atheists ARE NOT SUPERSTITIOUS! Something wrong with that picture, wouldn’t you say?

    #StopSuperstition #StopGodWorship

  24. Denver radio host Dan Caplis recently tossed : “All racists are, at the end of the day, atheists.”

    It is easy to understand the bigotry of the likes of Faux News commentators. They wear that “God’ sheeple” who does not need to learn because they “have FAITH in what religious or company authority figures tell them” – so know it all!
    Swallowing spoon fed dogma as a badge of superiority, is flattering to the feeble mind.

    Nicholas Kristof, in a recent column on Americans’ shocking lack of basic knowledge on religion, singled out non-believers as particularly clueless, saying, “secular Americans are largely ignorant about religion.”

    To his mind, “all-knowing” church attending, god-followers could not be ignorant about “religion” so the ignorant MUST be atheists!

    It is obvious to know-it-all, goody-goody wearers of “God’s morally superior persons group badges”, that atheists must be all that’s wrong if they “deny” his version of god (ie “religion”)!
    (Remember that to the simplistic fundamentalist, there are two opposing viewpoints. – Their own and the wrong one! – so it follows that atheists MUST favour anything they despise)

    It is fundamentalist sheeple “faith-thinking 1.01.

Leave a Reply