Are self-declared atheists still treated as (social) pariahs?

Here in Australia we are well known for our religious indifference, much to the chagrin of the faithful. However even in this environment many will openly profess disbelief in God, typically Christian, though still reluctant to embrace the term 'atheist'. I'm willing to use the term and, to be honest, have not felt any particular antagonism from others including family members. Admittedly, most of them are atheist or atheist-friendly any way.

From postings at Atheist Nexus, though, many members feel threatened by the public knowledge of their atheism. It appears that, in many communities, atheists are still treated more contemptuously than other traditional social outcasts. Is this particularly true in parts of the US?

Alex's Heresies - Embracing a Physical Reality

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Yes, being atheist in most of the United States is kept quiet by most individuals. It is an incredibly religious country and the Christian fundamentalists have a great deal of money and political power. Especially in the southern states conservative religion controls politics and education. Our constitution has made it clear that we have a separation of church and state but religious groups are fighting that with every penny they have. As an example, the state of Texas just changed their high school history curriculum to show that America was founded as a christian nation. They took out the effect of the enlightenment ideas on our founding fathers and now emphasize the religious ideas that influenced our constitution.
I was a teacher for 31 years but left this year due to harassment from my principal. One of his reasons for wanting me out was our disagreement on religion. He would bring in religious groups to speak to our public school students which is not allowed.
Your experience matches the worst fears for people who want a secular society with religion a private affair but fear the continued (and growing?) strength of evangelical Christians to influence public life. Evangelicals here in Australia get upset with society's rather indifferent attitude. There is a background sense of respecting individual beliefs without endorsing influencing public policy. Most Christians here are cultural with more social engagements with church activities rather than any devotional commitment. Of the 65% who declare themselves as Christian less than 8% regularly attend church. Thanks for your insights and wish you the best standing up for a secular society. Alex
I live in Florida. I am very open about my atheism, and I have never had a problem. The biggest question I ever get asked is "Atheist or agnostic." I answer, "Atheist." They say, "Oh." Most people really don't care. No one has ever said anything negative to me about it, and like I said, I am very open about it. I've had more problems saying I voted Democrat.
The agnostic response is common here too for people who are really atheists. Ironically, Bertrand Russell used to say the opposite about himself - 'atheist' to the person in the street and 'agnostic' to fellow philosophers (to reflect the impossibility of certain knowledge). Alex




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