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
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