Atheist Discrimination & Persecution

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Atheists, people who don't believe in the existence of God, make up a sizable portion of the world's population. They face discrimination, persecution and even death in not only underdeveloped nations but also liberal democracies like the United States.

Atheism Around the World

Maryland constitution: Article 37, states:

That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God.

This means that you are allowed to hold any office in the state of Maryland regardless of your religion, as long as you believe in the existence of God. At an estimated 15% of over 7 billion people, atheists make up a large percentage of the of the world's population. Even with such large numbers, atheists sometimes face legalized discrimination, persecution, and even death in many countries around the world.

Atheist, agnostic or nonreligious population, 2006

Who Is An Atheist?

An atheist is someone who doesn't believe or have much belief in the concept of god or gods. Related to atheism, agnosticism is somewhere in the middle. Agnosticism is the belief that just because you cannot prove there is a God doesn't mean there isn't one, but it is still possible there is not a God. Either way, agnostics are usually non-religious and sometimes linked in the same category as atheists.

It's important to remember that atheism is a belief, not an ideology, and there are many degrees of atheism (someone who never goes to church to someone who strongly disbelieves in the concept of God). Lumping together all atheists under one religious or ideological banner, like Roman Catholicism, would be like lumping all English speakers around the world under the term 'American'.

Atheists or agnostic people, 2008

Discrimination and Persecution

The largest groups of atheists are in countries like Japan, Scandinavia, the United States, the Czech Republic and communist Vietnam and China. Communism, which says one of the scientific truths is there is no God, might be a good reason why there are many atheists. However, it had the opposite effect in post-communist Poland and Russia, where religion is still very important. Statistically, the countries with perhaps the fewest atheists are heavily Catholic countries, like Italy, or mainly Muslim countries, like Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

The United States

There are many layers of discrimination and persecution against atheists in many countries, including liberal democracies like the United States. This might be as subtle as personal prejudice, I can't believe you don't believe in God!, to much more formal methods. In the United States, atheists are not constitutionally allowed to hold public office in at least seven states, and politicians admitting to being an atheist in the others might be political suicide. Many Americans mistrust someone who doesn't believe in God, and perhaps in particular, the Christian one. Atheists are not allowed to be Boy Scouts. In some custody cases, someone's atheism or refusal to attend church has been enough reason to deny parental rights.

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