I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
– Vice President (and soon-to-be President) George Herbert Walker Bush, 1987
This little nugget of wisdom from a former President of the United States of America was neither prescient nor reflective, wise nor foolish. It was merely an obtuse echo, and one that has been resounding since the first human decided the real loonies were the ones running the asylum. Ever since that first atheist drew a free breath, the faithful have been trying to stamp out the rational, often claiming that they – the overwhelming majority with all the wealth and power – are the persecuted minority.
American Christians, for example. Every day and twice on Sundays. Which is hilarious, given that the shoddy treatment of atheists is so ubiquitous and socially acceptable that a sitting Vice President felt no qualms about disqualifying them from their birthright as citizens of their country.
“But that was 1987, man. It was a different time, man. And George HW Bush was, like a total Nazi, man. It’s like, totally cool to be an atheist, now, man.”
Sure it is, Hippie McStrawman.
Let’s fast forward 8 years, to a 1995 Barna Group study of Americans’ attitudes toward each other:
Born-again Christians who regard the impact of these groups as negative…
Non-Christians who view the impact of the same groups as negative…
Four years more, a 1999 Gallup poll:
I would not vote for “a generally well-qualified person for President” if they were…
Four more. A 2003 Pew Research Center poll:
My opinion of Muslims is…
My opinion of atheists is…
2003 Pew version of the 1999 Gallup question:
I would not vote for a generally well-qualified person for President if they were…
Evangelical Christian: 15%
Now 19 years later. A 2006 University of Minnesota study:
This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society…
Recent Immigrants: 12.5%
Conservative Christians: 13.5%
I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group….
Conservative Christians: 6.9%
Now fast-forward to yesteryear, and a 2014 Pew Research Center study:
And finally somebody (the Muslims, natch) overtakes the atheists.
The scale is 0 to 100, with 100 being the warmest, most positive feelings toward that group, 50 being no feelings one way or the other, and 0 being the coldest, most negative. Muslims ranked lowest.
By one point.
Sometimes. Depending on which demographic groupings you use.
How the following groups make you feel:
Jews 63 (the warmest/most positive “score”)
Evangelical Christians 61
The numbers shift by demographic. Evangelicals, of course, rate atheists at 25.
But if it’s wacky, atheist-loving, moonbat Democrats, it’s… 46. What a bunch of godless, liberal hippies, huh?
Oh, and if you take out the Evangelicals, and just use the numbers from mainstream Christians? Back to 41. There goes the No True Christian defense.
And now for the sweet, sweet cherry on top of all the hate.
2011, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:
Richard is 31 years old. On his way to work one day, he accidentally backed his car into a parked van. Because pedestrians were watching, he got out of his car. He pretended to write down his insurance information. He then tucked the blank note into the van’s window before getting back into his car and driving away.
Later the same day, Richard found a wallet on the sidewalk. Nobody was looking, so he took all of the money out of the wallet. He then threw the wallet in a trash can.
Participants in this study assigned traits to Richard, using something called “conjunction error”. By assigning Richard an innocuous trait (in this case, “Teacher”), scientists created an erroneous conjunction between “Teacher” and another, different trait. Distracted by the erroneous conjunction of “Teacher”, people’s minds then make associations with a second, different trait.
So, for instance, if an hypothetical Example Person thinks it’s more likely Richard is both a Teacher and, say, an African-American, this indicates the person’s prejudice toward African-Americans, because merely being a Teacher wouldn’t make one so immoral, in the mind of our Example Person. Richard had to be African-American for Example Person to believe he is so immoral.
When presented with multiple options for the second trait, this created a sort of index of trustworthiness, arranging disparate groups in the order they were trusted by participants. The answers were as follows:
Immoral Richard is most likely a…
Teacher and a Christian: 4%
Teacher and a Muslim: 15%
Teacher and a Rapist: 46%
Teacher and an Atheist: 48%
A rapist. Americans say they would rather trust a rapist than an atheist. This actually happened.
So, really, who is the persecuted minority, here, the Christians or the atheists?
The correct answer is neither, because being disagreed with or disliked is not persecution. Nor is being ridiculed, mocked, or restrained from oppressing others. For an actual example of persecution, try being imprisoned for simply being Christian or atheist. But here in the US of A, neither group meets that or any other such criterion.
On the other hand, if the question is who is the most despised, least trusted, and most unwelcome, poll after survey after study has shown the answer to be atheists. When you rank below rapists, you have more than an image problem. You have a Fear Of The Other problem. Rather, most Americans do.
Oh, and the “minority” thing: 78.4% of the US population are Christian. I said good day, sir.
For the record, 1.6% identify as atheist.
So. Is that everything? Did I miss a claim to persecution or minority status the bleating crybabies at FOX News, the snake-oil salesmen at the pulpits, or the spoiled hordes on on Facebook like to whine about? Separation of church and state, sure, but that’s been done to death – and is just as ridiculous as all the Christian wailing and gnashing of teeth over how unloved they are.
But it’s not all bad news for the Christian obsession with being disliked by everybody: a few more decades of this crap, and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.