When people think of minority groups, atheists rarely come to mind. For most, belonging to a minority group isn’t a choice; whether that be race, sexual orientation, or gender identity, which is why atheism seems so unusual and mysterious. Although some might argue that having a predilection for reason and the truth is inherent in sensible people, atheism is largely a by-product of examining philosophies and weighing the evidence.
In a nation that purports to espouse “Christian values,” taking a dissenting ideological stance is seen as something subversive and vile. Numerous conducted polls show that atheists are more distrusted than Muslims and Mexicans, two of the most vilified and criticized minority groups in our country, presently.
Most issues arise from a lack of understanding; a fair amount of people are exceptionally critical of atheism because they simply know nothing about it. They have no personal connection(s). These people base their prejudices on atheist representation in the public and in the media.
Fortunately, we live in an era where differences are becoming more and more accepted, and even celebrated. Atheistic groups are sprouting like wildflowers (in schools, in communities, and online), there are even atheist churches, as weird as that sounds.
However, in a nation that glorifies pious athletes who pray on field and give thanks and credit to an omnipotent creator, the notion of having an atheist in office, let alone on a pitching mound, seems rather absurd. Republicans are viewed as less hospitable to atheists, but even the “progressive” democrats are hesitant to elect someone even suspected of being an atheist. Keep in mind, Bernie’s campaign was sabotaged by the DNC, because he might have been “dangerously unorthodox.”
This isn’t something new or radical; our founding fathers wouldn’t be described as “traditionally religious” (Paine was an atheist; Jefferson wrote his own, miracle-free New Testament; most of the others were deists), so having an atheist in office shouldn’t that be that unconventional or “absurd.”
Without an atheist in office, many young atheists are without atheist role-models. As stated earlier, most athletes have some sort of religious inclination, and a lot of celebrities maintain some faith, so the only “acceptable” positions for atheists to hold are in the sciences or academia.
Not to mention that the way atheists are portrayed in the media is hurtful to the cause as well. Filmmaker Kevin Sorbo, in his God’s Not Dead film series, shows the atheist professor to be arrogant and closed-minded, and even spiteful and angry. In the hit show House, the titular doctor is portrayed as overly-critical, pretentious, and generally negative. While this might be who he is as a person, he is not the only atheist portrayed this way. The anthropomorphic dog, Brian, in Family Guy is a faux-intellectual and substance-abuser, “perfectly in-line” with his “heathen lifestyle.”
It’s all just lazy writing that relies upon shoddy stereotypes. In fact, it’s a common trope used by screenwriters. Granted, there are negative and horrible atheists, but that’s true for any group. But, with the proper representation, maybe atheist can enact influence in long sought-after arenas, and, above all, not be misunderstood. We don’t all hate religion, and most importantly, we don’t hate people; atheists recognize we are all we have.