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Oppressed Atheists? Hardly.

December 18, 2008

This is old news, but the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota did a study in 2006 showing that atheists are one of the most distrusted groups in America. Since I’ll speak from an atheist perspective in this blog, I want briefly to consider this issue. As an atheist, I might be dismayed and disheartened by this report (as were the American Atheists), but I am not; here’s why.

According to the report on the study by the American Atheists, “Researchers concluded: ‘Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.'” Reading this, one would get the impression that atheists are below the bottom in American society. We all know how bad Muslims, immigrants, and gays are treated in America, and atheists are respected even less than them! Atheists must have it terribly bad, right?

Maybe not. The American Atheist report goes on to say the following:

  • White Americans, males, and those with a college degree are somewhat more accepting of atheists.”
  • Others saw atheists as rampant materialists and cultural elitists that threaten common values from above–the ostentatiously wealthy who make a lifestyle out of consumption or the cultural elites who think they know better than everyone else.”
  • “Charlotte Allen, author of the 2004 book The Twilight of Atheism, expressed fears that Atheism ‘may yet be experiencing a new dawn: a terrifying new alliance of money and power.'”

With this we get the impression that atheists are buddies with wealthy white males with college degrees–the group least discriminated against in America. And atheists are distrusted in part because they are seen as wealthy elites with money and power. Wow, what I wouldn’t give to be an oppressed elite with money and power!

So, in sum, where’s the oppression? What does it matter if the public doesn’t like them and doesn’t trust them? Apparently there are no material consequences. As far as social privilege goes, I’d prefer being a wealthy white atheist over being a Muslim any day of the week.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2008 6:58 pm

    This post offends me greatly. Excuse me while I run off to my powerful, elitist and wealthy white benefactors so that the shadowy powers of the secular government can make you disappear.

    Oh, wait, I’m a dirt-poor college student with an overdrawn bank account and all of my atheist friends are only marginally better off than me. Damn. For a minute there I bought into your paranoid fantasy :(

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    December 18, 2008 10:51 pm

    Augustine, could you rephrase your objection slightly? It is unclear to me where you’re being sarcastic and where you’re not. Thanks.

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