I was recently asked a question on my formspring account that I thought deserved a longer reply:
Do you know any atheist who has not been persecuted for his/her (lack of) beliefs?
Ah, persecution. I think this word is used far too often by privileged people. For example, overly sensitive Christians claim persecution by those who don’t agree with them and who promote secularism and equal treatment. Of course this isn’t persecution at all, but who doesn’t like playing the victim when they’re so used to getting their way? I know a childish tantrum when I see one.
Anyway, there is real persecution in the world, and no matter who is being targeted, I think we should all fight for their rights and freedoms. People are imprisoned for their political and religious beliefs in many countries across the world. Many are tortured or killed simply because they will not follow the majority. To these people of all religions and non-religions, I say I’m so, so sorry. That is what persecution truly looks like. We belittle their lives when we claim to go through the same struggles.
So how about atheists being persecuted?
As you can see, I do not think many atheists are actually persecuted in the most serious sense in the developed nations, but I know some are personally harassed or discriminated against because of weighty false assumptions about the character and morality of non-theists. This is wrong, and it should definitely stop. We do have the right to speak up about inequality and gaining respect.
Have I been a victim of this treatment? Not really, no. I’ve had many people assume false things about my character since learning of my godlessness. I’ve had to keep my atheism a secret from my work environment for fear of layoffs and general stress. I know that I could not be voted into office if I ran as an atheist. These sorts of things are not terrible hardships, however. As I see it, I’m very fortunate.
So there you have it: I don’t think many atheists are persecuted in this culture, and I certainly have not been myself. Are things unequal? Yes, they are! We’re treated as an unimportant minority even though our numbers say differently. I hope things will change in my lifetime. We may not always be a so-called “Christian nation”.