Why is atheism legal in theistic nations
WASHINGTON. (wp / hpd) Long after blacks and Jews made great strides after even Gaining homosexual respect, acceptance, and new rights, there is still one group that many Americans just don't like: atheists.
A comment from the Washington Post.
By Gregory Paul and Paul Zuckerman
Those who do not believe in God are commonly viewed as amoral, malicious, and angry. You are not allowed to join the Boy Scouts. Atheist soldiers are classified as potentially in deficit if they are not classified as sufficiently “spiritual” in military psychological tests. According to polls, most Americans refuse or hesitate to marry or vote for non-theists. In other words, unbelievers are a minority who, in practice, are still typically denied the right to hold office, despite the constitutional prohibition on the question of religion.
Seldom condemned only by the mainstream, this striking anti-atheist discrimination is incited by Christian conservatives, who themselves sharply - as rudely - proclaim that the lack of belief in God is detrimental to society, thereby portraying unbelievers as essentially questionable and second-class citizens.
Not even close
Is this knee-jerk antipathy towards atheists justified? Not even close.
An increasing body of social science research reveals that atheists, like infidels in general, are far from being those obnoxious beings they are supposed to be. On fundamental issues - issues such as the state's use of torture, the death penalty, the punitive beating of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation, or human rights - the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious counterparts, especially when compared to those who describe themselves as particularly religious.
Note that at the societal level, murder rates are far lower in secularized nations like Japan or Sweden than in the more religious United States, where a far greater proportion of the population is in prison. And even within that country, those states with the highest church attendance, like Louisiana and Mississippi, have significantly higher homicide rates than the far less religious states like Vermont and Oregon.
As individuals, atheists tend to score high on intelligence tests, particularly on language skills and scientific education. They are more likely to raise their children to solve problems rationally, to form their own opinions when it comes to existential issues, and to obey the Golden Rule. They are more likely to practice safe sex than the strictly religious and are less likely to be nationalistic or ethnocentric. You value freedom of thought.
While several studies show that secular Americans do not do as well as religious Americans when it comes to certain indicators of mental health or subjective well-being, recent research shows that the relationships between atheism, theism, and mental health and wellbeing are complex. After all, Denmark, which is one of the least religious countries in the history of the world, consistently scores as the happiest nation. And in research, apostates - people who were religious but later rejected their religion - report that they felt happier, better, and freer in their post-religious lives.
Insane surveys, sticky labels
However, non-theism is not just made up of balloons and ice cream. Some studies suggest that suicide rates are higher among non-religious people. But polls that indicate religious Americans are better off can be misleading because they include indecisive non-religious who may also believe in God, whereas staunch atheists do as well as devout believers. In numerous respected measures of social success - poverty rate, teenage pregnancies, abortion, venereal diseases, obesity, drug use and crime, and economics - high levels of secularity in First World nations consistently correlate with positive results. None of the secular advanced democracies suffer from the combined social ills like Christian America.
More than 2,000 years ago, whoever wrote Psalm 14 claimed that atheists were doing pernicious and abhorrent acts; they have all deviated and all depraved, incapable of doing anything good. These labels have sticky properties. Negative stereotypes about atheists are alive and well. However, like all stereotypes, they are not true - and perhaps tell more about those who nourish them than about those whom they slander. (...)
As with other national minorities, atheism is enjoying rapid growth. Despite the bigotry, the number of American non-theists has tripled in proportion to the general population since the 1960s. The tolerance of younger generations to endless religious squabbles is rapidly disappearing. Surveys aimed at overcoming the understandable reluctance to profess atheism have found that as many as 60 million Americans - one fifth of the population - are non-believers. The irreligious fellow citizens should be shown the same respect as other minorities.
Gregory Paul is an independent researcher in the fields of sociology and evolution, Phil Zuckerman is Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College and author of Society Without God.
Translation: Fiona Lorenz
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