Many people don't want to think about anti-atheist bigotry or what it can do to a family. In this article, I'm going to present to you (the reader) a few stories about anti-atheist bigotry and how it impacts society and families.
Our first stop is Ireland. This is taken from a BBC article:
Humanists believe that believers and non-believers should both have the freedom to choose on this matter. We seek to promote freedom of thought and action and do not wish to impose behaviour on others or prevent people from doing things, but believers do not want to allow non-believers this freedom.
This exclusivist Christian ideology reflects the narrow authoritarian religious and political culture in which we live. While the majority of people, including Christians, are generally tolerant and open-minded, the public discourse is still dominated by an outmoded religious hegemony. This means that Northern Ireland can be a cold house for atheists, sceptics and humanists. The old attitude that an atheist is either a fool or a knave ("The fool hath said in his heart there is no good... they have committed abominable acts" - Psalm 14) still prevails.
Many of us non-believers keep our heads below the parapet for the sake of a 'quiet life'. There is fear of hostility and ridicule, fear of appearing intolerant and aggressive, fear of discrimination in our professional life, and so on. There is no doubt that the principal of a school or a controller of the local media is unlikely openly to declare themselves an atheist. The Humanist Association of Northern Ireland has had members whose families have disowned them for being atheists. Other single members have been pressurised by their spouses into keeping a low profile. "Whatever you say, say nothing" remains the usual advice when the topic of religion surfaces.
It's too bad that some atheists feel they have to keep their mouths shut in order to live out their lives in peace. It's even sadder that families are torn apart by such bigotry. This sort of hostility to anyone who doesn't believe in God has to end if we're going to have an honest discourse about religion and public policy.
In Indonesia, a man faces five years in prison for writing "God does not exist" on his Facebook page. He was beaten by a mob and when he went to the police for help, he was arrested for blasphemy.
According to Jakarta Globe:
Dharmasraya Police Chief Sr. Comr. Chairul Aziz told the Jakarta Globe on Friday that the district branch of the council, known as MUI, and other Islamic organizations believed Alexander, 31, had defiled Islam by using passages from the Koran to denounce the existence of God.
Alexander, a civil servant, is facing five years in jail for writing “God does not exist” on a Facebook page he moderated called “Ateis Minang” (“Minang Atheists”).
Chairul said the issue was that Alexander had used the Koran to highlight his atheist views.
“So it meets the criteria of tainting religion, in this case Islam.”
This is the kind of world we live in - one in which saying something as innoffensive as 'God doesn't exist' can land you in jail for five years. A world where mobs feel it's okay to beat a man for speaking his mind about the existence of God and a police force that arrests the man who was assaulted instead of the ones doing the assaulting. We live in a world where clerics can simultaneously say they represent a 'religion of peace' while calling for the death penalty.
A young Saudi journalist was recently deported to face blasphemy crimes over a few tweets. The tweets caused a firestorm of return tweets and clerics came out weeping to call for the man's death. He fled to Malaysia but that wasn't far enough:
Kashgari fled Saudi Arabia, on February 6, to Malaysia, following popular outrage and calls for his punishment after he published a number of tweets expressing his religious views, which he has since deleted. Human Rights Watch has reviewed the alleged tweets and not found any language that could incite violence. The 23-year-old journalist, who wrote for Al-Bilad daily newspaper, has expressed regret for the tweets, saying he had no idea they would elicit such a strong negative reaction.
Kashgari was preparing to seek political asylum in New Zealand in light of the likely death sentence he faces in Saudi Arabia for expressing his religious views. Saudi Arabia immediately sought his extradition from Malaysia, though the countries do not have a bilateral extradition treaty.
Malaysian authorities denied Kashgari’s lawyers access to him throughout his detention, and refused repeated requests by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, for access to assess whether Kashgari wished to make a claim for political asylum. On February 12, Malaysian lawyers for Hamza Kashgari obtained an injunction against his deportation from a Malaysian High Court judge. When lawyers went to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to serve the injunction on the authorities there, Malaysian authorities informed them that they had sent Kashgari on a private plane to Saudi Arabia earlier in the day.
Saudi Arabia is a country that doesn't seem to have a problem putting people to death for apostasy. They will often torture people to get a confession.
Finally, here's one from Yahoo answers:
Okay, for starters it has never really been a secret that I am an Atheist it says so on my facebook info page. But tonight Myself, my Aunt, my dad, and their friends were having a conversation about how some hackers had gotten into the Shasta county mug shot thingy and posted a fake inmate name "God," now, they were all outraged and for good reason I would guess. I said "I'm Atheist and that still pisses me off. It's not okay to make fun of anyone's beliefs." My Aunt freaked out got into her car and drove off to her house down the road. I was supposed to stay the night at her house to do laundry so all of my clothes and things I would need were over there. My dad left acting like he had failed me or something. SO there I was all alone with their two friends. i walked over to my aunts house to get my clothes and other items figuring that i would walk home with my things. She wouldn't open the door. :( I sat outside for about 2 and half hours until it started to rain, then I got mad pounding on the doors demanding my things. By then I was fed up. So eventually she gave me my things. Currently I am at my friends house utterly confused, cold, wet, lonely and tired. Why would they do that? Please answer.
These types of stories can be found everywhere on the web. Recently, atheist support groups have begun to pop up to help people find like-minded individuals to support them when times get tough.
In my opinion, the only way we're going to break the stereotype that atheists are bad people and have no grounds for morality (among other things) is for atheists (the ones willing anyways) to begin talking about their views on religion - openly, honestly and politely where possible. Being quiet hasn't seemed to work. A public dialogue is needed and the only way we're going to have one is if we stop genuflecting to beliefs about God.
I think it's also important to talk to our Christian/Muslim/Hindu etc. neighbors and make common cause with the ones who find anti-atheist bigotry as reprehensible as we do. Questioning their belief system does not equal militant behavior and there are good religious people who understand that and are willing to listen to criticism and respond with maturity. I think atheists have to help that sentiment grow and carry on that dialogue with religious people who are willing to talk about their faith.
Last but not least, below you'll find an excellent (and short) video that I hope you'll watch. It highlights from a personal perspective some of the challenges faced by atheists. I hope it raises awareness in some way.