Discrimination against atheists does happen.

I brought up the fact that atheists are the least popular minority in America to someone the other day and they replied with something along the lines of, “Perhaps, but it’s not like you guys are the victims of discrimination.”

I told him that it doesn’t happen as often as it does for other minorities mainly because unless someone tells you that they are an atheist then you’re unlikely to know about it in the first place, but that there are still examples of discrimination to be found:

The official reason for Cantwell’s firing in November 2006 was “poor job performance,” but the commission’s investigator, Barbara Lelli, said Cantwell received no written warnings about performance problems.

Cantwell, who was provided housing he shared with a non-married partner, two of his children and three of her children, said he was criticized by DeCoster, a devout Christian, who didn’t approve of the living arrangement.

On another occasion, DeCoster brought up God in a conversation, and Cantwell responded by saying he was an atheist and didn’t believe in God.

Cantwell told the investigator that DeCoster put his hand on his shoulder and told him: “I can’t have someone like you here. We might need to part ways.”

What’s he afraid of? That some freethinking cooties will rub off on him? Be a real shame if he suddenly developed an ability for reasoned thought.

30 thoughts on “Discrimination against atheists does happen.

  1. A colleagues son who worked for a major merchant bank in Chicago had it made clear to him that he would find advancement difficult due to his non-religeon (I don’t know if he would call himself an athiest- He’s just not religeous).

    Not sure if this was an official statement, or a ‘heads up’ from a co-worker.

  2. I think it boils down to “diversity is hard work” and most people are too lazy for that.  They want people around them who are pretty much like them.

  3. I think what you mean to say is that it may have happened.  There has been no finding that it actually did, at least from my review of the article.

  4. Tell me about it, because my academic background is in Asian studies (covering Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) the Christian Fascists in west Michigan always insist that I tell them what Church I attend as part of a job interview… They have to make sure I’m not a ‘terrorist’ or a ‘hippie’ as they put it, of course when I refuse to answer the question, the interview ends shortly there after.

  5. Atheism is also assumed sometimes – it gets associated with certain careers and mindsets, indeed you would be surprised how many people outside of SEB (at work for example) make the automatic assumption that I would dismiss any religous theory as impossible because I study chemistry, and I do get a little anti-atheist discrimination (in day to day dealings) despite not actually being one. Due to the subject I study people also assume that I’m egotistical and like to be complimented in a slightly patronising way because of their stereotypes, so I often withold information like that where I think that might happen, I feel free to say it here because it’s not the nature of SEB.

  6. I saw a guy at Wal-Mart last night wearing a t-shirt that said something like; “God hasn’t failed me yet”.  I wonder what would happen if you routinely wore a t-shirt that said; “God is fake”.  Probably not much, if you were a teenager but if you were an adult with kids in tow there might be a stronger reaction. 

    The behavior is a lot like the gay/straight divide; people say “as long as the gays don’t get all in my face” by living openly.  Yet we straights constantly display our wierd “lifestyle” in a thousand little ways, from a kiss dropping our mates off at work, to pictures on the desk, holding hands at the mall.

    Being open about yourself is considered rude and “in-your-face” if you are a minority.  If a member of the majority, it’s acceptable.  It’s like air – all around us but no one thinks much about it.

  7. The behavior is a lot like the gay/straight divide; people say “as long as the gays don’t get all in my face” by living openly.  Yet we straights constantly display our wierd “lifestyle” in a thousand little ways, from a kiss dropping our mates off at work, to pictures on the desk, holding hands at the mall.

    I made this very argument in a Catholic forum once. Hyperventilation and apoplexy ensued.

  8. Since there can be an infinite number of minorities it is in theory possible that anything you do might offend someone, so my answer is that people should try not to be offended, If someone said to me that they are offended by my actions, they need to ask themselves why it should be offending, maybe this can be prompted.

    I suppose it’s like any feeling – why have it associated with a particular event? Why like/dislike that feeling?

  9. apoplexy ensued.

        My favorite, actually.  The colors may be unnatural, but they’re so vivid and purty!

  10. I also discriminate, If a person comes off as a big ” Born Again ” Christian, I often take guard that they are quite possibly suspect for being over-sexed as well, up to an including having a deviate nature. Which means I would not be comfortable leaving children in their care. Along with a lot of other precautions, Business relationships for instance. They could get you sued if you owned a business. Because they are more likely to be involved in sexually harassing other employees. 

    As for the person that lost employment over the issue of Atheism, I would find an Attorney.

    And finally in actual response to Les’s post.
    “WWJD”

  11. Someone once said to me, upon my stating my atheism, that he was offended by atheists. I think my response was something along the lines of, “Sucks to be you.”

  12. Offended by atheists?  Not by atheism?  Did it not occur to him to substitute the name of some other minority and see how that sounds?

  13. a t-shirt that said; “God is fake”. 

    On the radio coupla days ago, someone somewhere had written in a public place: God hates Homos.
    Underneath someone else had added: But he rather likes Tabouli.

    Did it not occur to him to substitute the name of some other minority and see how that sounds?

    They wouldn’t get it.
    The easily offended don’t think; non-thinking breeds within their easily offended nature.

  14. I can say for a fact it does go on. My parents haven’t talked to me in over three years, because I told my nice there is no god.

  15. What’s he afraid of? That some freethinking cooties will rub off on him?

    Actually, he’s probably afraid of immorality.  Many religious folk believe that the only morality comes from God, and that atheists have no morality.

    No morality, no ethics.  I can see why someone who derives his moral and ethical basis that way would be afraid of working with someone who he thinks might cheat or steal or worse, with no compunction and with nothing guiding his behaviour.

    It’s cow chunks, of course — we atheists have ethics and morals, just like everyone else.  It’s just that instead of not stealing because I fear eternal pain doled out by that God who allegedly loves me, I don’t steal because I believe it’s wrong.  Myself.  Without divine help.

    But the immoral atheist, well, it’s a common idea.

  16. we atheists have ethics and morals, just like everyone else.

    You have it backwards: Religious believers have ethics and morals, just like everybody else. They’re just deluded about the origin of their morals.

    Next time I’m nuts enough to debate this in a religious forum, I’ll have to try this line and see who chokes.

  17. LH: surely 6 and a bit billion at the most.

    At this point in time correct, providing no more than 1 per person. Infinite was the wrong word because there will be a finite number of people that will ever live on this planet with a finite number of points of view but you get the point I was trying to make – for these intents and purposes treat 6 billion as infinity because it doesn’t make too much difference so long as it’s overwhelming. Bear in mind though that if there were an infinite number of universes then there could be an infinite number of points of view, the idea doesn’t have to be restricted to this planet.

  18. Everyone is overlooking the combinatoric possibilities!  I am a member of several minorities, being white, fairly rich by world standards, American, dyslexic, atheist, the list goes on and on.  Each individual may be another kind of minority in the sense that only they have the precise matrix of minority status that describes them.  Then they are members of the set of all people who make up each minority that describes them.

    for these intents and purposes treat 6 billion as infinity because it doesn’t make too much difference so long as it’s overwhelming.

    I think I see what you’re getting at, DC – There are “seventy times seven” minorities.  Or to put in more modern terms, a buttload.

  19. I think this becomes a categorisation issue, looking at what DoF said – and to say that any one category (an individual) should have less say than a much larger minority group would be discriminating by size, which would automatically be treating some minorities differently than the mainstream – to restrict even a [pop=1] minority would be, say, joebloggsism.

  20. “God hasn’t failed me yet”. 

    He doesnt sound over confident- sounds like he is expecting God to fail him one day.  Surely the slogan should say “God hasn’t failed me” or “won’t fail me”- yet is just accepting the inevitable!

    I’m a white, hetrosexual, English speaking, male in employment living in England.  On UK census stats- and for the left, that makes me a majority on each of those. Actually if you work it out only a 1/5 of the population of the UK fits that description. If I mention this to a radical at my Union Conference in a couple of weeks do you think that I will get any sympathy from the 80% majority?

    Also since when has 51% been a oppressed MINORITY (women)?

  21. DoF: God hasn’t failed me yet

    According to Floyd Mayweather’s ‘Thank god’ he sure as hell deserted Oscar de la Hoya.
    But I doubt home-schooled fundies, not being quite au fait with the nuances of the English language, realise the inevitability inferred by the ‘yet’ word.
    Poor fuckers. It’s like shooting dairy cows with a high-powered rifle with scope.

    LH: Also since when has 51% been an oppressed MINORITY (women)?

    There was an interesting programme on the tube last night about (the lack of) women leaders in politics and business.
    It wasn’t mentioned but it would’ve been apt: if a woman wants to be as good as a man she lacks ambition.
    Seriously, it seems a woman has to be twice as good as a man to be noticed.

    Elwed: Religious believers have ethics and morals, just like everybody else. They’re just deluded about the origin of their [ethics and] morals.

    The chances of my remembering this when it will be beneficial to my ego to do so are slim but I put it in my book anyway.  smile

  22. It wasn’t mentioned but it would’ve been apt: if a woman wants to be as good as a man she lacks ambition.

    Maybe one reason women aren’t as ‘successful’ as men in the corporate setting is they’re not usually as bad as a man.  Not as agressive and conniving, competitive and nasty.  But only a century ago it was unthinkable for a woman to be in corporate life at all.  It isn’t part of how women are socialized.  Give them time; they’ll learn.  Then everyone will be dirty, rotten, and nasty, and we can all go down fighting.  Seems like a “be careful what you wish for” thing.  hmmm

  23. It also just takes time for someone to work their way up the corporate ladder.  I remember a decade or two ago the complaining of how after all the advancements in equality women have made by that time, there were not “enough” women in high powered positions.  All I could think of was: what do you expect, that they should just promote a woman to the top without the requisite experience? 

    dof: Maybe one reason women aren’t as ‘successful’ as men in the corporate setting is they’re not usually as bad as a man.

    Yeah, I agree with you on that.  Of course, there still is sexism in business, not blatant for the most part, but still there.  Like racism, which still lingers, but is kept very low key. 

    I think it’ll take kids that grow up where race and sex aren’t considered things that make you “less” of a person to move into upper level positions as a majority before things will truly even out.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s happening, but it does take time for the remnants of the “old guard” influence to go away.

  24. All I could think of was: what do you expect, that they should just promote a woman to the top without the requisite experience?

    Similar happened in South Africa with top jobs for Africans. Just because racism has been abolished doesn’t give the blacks all the knowledge they need to take top jobs (in any field)- they have been denied the education. You end up with positive discrimination and people who get jobs because of DNA not skill. Giving averybody equality of education has to be first priority. Job Equality follows- it just may have to wait a generation.

  25. Quotas can also cause an interesting effect, or at least a perception of effect.  If it’s easier to qualify for a position in a quota, then the quality of the people in the group is lower.  For example, if there is a _insert minority here_ quota in medical school, then _insert minority here_ doctors are, or at least seem to be, below average.

  26. Quotas in and of themselves ARE racist. All it does is say yes we know X group is lesser so we have to make sure you hire X amount of them.

  27. Reserved seats for BME (which is the ‘acceptable’ term now in the UK Left- I think it is Black and Minority Ethnic) was about the only contentious issue at my Union Conference. I have no problem with there being a Black Advisory Committee for the Union- BME do suffer racism and awareness of this needs to be handled someway.  A ruling council of any organisation, including governments, are likely to over-represent the majority, and so need advice from representives from minorities.  The argument is, is inherent racism/sexism/etc in the electorate so ingrained that it would be impossible for anyone who identifies as BME to get a seat on merit.

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