Atheist stereotypes: the one group it's still okay to discriminate against.

Somethings has been bothering me lately. How come it's considered okay to propagate the atheist stereotype in books, movies and tv shows? No one would ever dream of making a movie where the token black character is lazy, stupid and a criminal. Or a book where the lead female is dumb, helpless and pregnant in the kitchen. So why when there is an Atheist character, if there is one at all, it is an old, bitter, intolerant, immoral, self-serving, man? Who is usually a doctor or some well paying position of high status.

You can't tell it from where you are, but I'm none of those things. I actually think that my morals are better than some of my christian friends and I am way more tolerant than a few of them (baptists). I am young and very up beat and volunteer every week. I'm middle class and not a doctor (though if all goes well I soon will be). Oh, and I'm a woman. And I bet most of you reading this could say a lot of the same things.

Where have I seen this atheist stereotype? Well, the most well known example would be everyone favorite psychopathic, institutionalized, doctor and tv atheist House! I have nothing against the idea of having an Atheist be the star of a popular tv show but House fits the above Hollywood atheist stereotype like a glove.

Why are atheists never depicted as the bright, cultured, diverse and moral people most of us actually are? Not enough people are telling them to stop. I know we are a precious few but if you don't want people, when they hear the word atheist, to think old, self righteous, curmudgeon, then right to a movie producer or an author and tell them they offended you. It's no fun being discriminated against but you don't have to sit there and take it.

If you agree with what I'm saying, comment. If you don't agree, comment. If you don't really have an opinion, comment anyway.

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Where are atheist being depicted in a negative light? As mentioned in the article the popular tv show House, the title character is an atheist and an abrasive, self absorbed psychopath. That is the only example I can think of from the popular culture. And I can't say I've seen any movies with negative images of atheist but that is mostly due to my youth and the fact that I hardly ever go to movies or watch tv.
What really inspired me to write this discussion was a book I'm reading for book club called: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks. Near the beginning there was a brief description of her father who is a very minor in the story. He is depicted as self-serving, controlling, uncaring, intolerant and he's an atheist. His atheism was said to fuel his intolerance of Frankie's mother, who was Jewish, and eventually drove them apart. I got really upset when I read that and felt like atheists were being misrepresented.
I don't know how common it is but the casual throwing in of an offensive stereotype was really disappointing. Furthermore, I agree that we shouldn't try to invent persecution where there is none, but, as everyone will agree, atheist are a minority and minorities have a tendency, throughout history, to be prosecuted. And I personally have been told I'm going to hell dozens of times.
By the way, thanks for reading my article and responding. And I apologize for the lengthiness of my response.

I dislike House intensely as a personality,but like the show a lot. Last week the Aussie doctor (Chase the murderer) punched House right in the face. I clapped. In real life an arsehole as extreme as him,[who is not a surgeon] would last three minutes in a Hospital.

House is anything but psychotic. He is a narcissist and cynic who doesn't suffer fools, but completely in touch with reality. He has a conscience and is capable of empathy.Psychotics do not have those traits.
I think one feeling that atheists are bad comes from characters that are portrayed as superior because of their religiosity.  Also, situations such as the extensive criticism regarding Obama's religious beliefs leads folks to feel it is bad to not be affiliated with a religion or church.
AWAR is coming soon someday.
Atheist Women Adept in Rifles

serious! could be a trend. you'd see all kinds of heat from that! no pun.
In my own individual view of Aethiesm, I believe it is important to distinguish ethics from morals. What is the difference you might ask and how does it apply to the question at hand. Basically, aethiests are stereotyped as having no morality. No sense of right and wrong. Because ultimately how can one have a sense of morality if one does not believe in a god or take part in a religion which dictates to you what is moral? Therefore I came to the conclusion that Morality is a code of conduct imposed by an external source. Which for most people is imposed by a God or a belief structure that one is indoctrinated into.

This is the exact opposite of Ethics, ethics are a code of conduct that one imposes upon oneself. So I react to the stereotype by declaring that morality is a flawed thing, that not even the most devout follower can not conform to, while I a highly ethical person have little trouble conforming to a set of principles that I have undertaken to uphold.
I have never heard that distinction being made between ethics and morals. I have heard people use the phrase "your moral values." It seems to me, just based on how people use the words, that just the opposite is true. Morals seem like something more personal, something a family has. Where as ethics seem to be held by one's society even the whole human race. As in the phrase, "What you're doing isn't ethical." It implies a universal standard for "ethical." If one were talking about something that is more of an opinion one would say, "That conflicts with my morals."

From this I would conclude that when people say atheist are "amoral" they are not saying we don't confirm to societies morals (it's wrong to kill, it's wrong to steal, it's wrong to cheat). They're saying we lack a personal value system that allows us to sleep at night while committing minor amoral acts (being mean, being cheap, kicking puppies).

Differences between ethics and morals aside I absolutely agree with what you are saying. I think a truly moral person doesn't need the ever present threat of hell to make him/her threat their fellow humans well. Morals are a lot easier to justify and follow when you've come up with a reason yourself that doesn't hinge on a god. If a god does help someone be good more power to them but they should know a god isn't necessary to be a good person.
After looking closely at the definition of morality and Ethics


1. descriptively to refer to a code of conduct put forward by a society or,
1. some other group, such as a religion, or
2. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.


a. A set of principles of right conduct.
b. A theory or a system of moral values
2. ethics (used with a sing. verb) The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy.
3. ethics (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession:

So while Ethics and Morals can be said to be the same thing, as I said I choose to distinguish the difference between ethics and morals. I choose to take the view that morality is imposed by an outside source whereas ethics is a code developed internally. This distinction is purely one of semantics as both words imply both internal and external sources for the system, with morality implying more. Ethics is best used for illustration of the difference between an athiest and a theist. Especially when you're discussing such things with a rational thiest.
What always has bothered me was when they show atheist as anarchist or without morals or manners of any type.Take a look at this video.I have never acted this way.

How To Introduce Your Atheist Partner To Evangelical Parents | MySpace Video
This video is stereotyping Christians too.
Wow, that was so full of stereo types I don't know where to begin. Why did the "atheist" keep playing with fire? He even stole food while they were saying grace. He was slouching the entire time, apparently a belief in god is key to good posture? And who cares if it says "In God we trust," on the money? They think the simplest things will set us off.

Thanks for the reply and the video.
For some reason, I always thought the main character in the original CSI was atheist, but I could be mistaken. He's a cool character. The spin-offs seem to have a predominance of catholicism, so I am turned off by that.

I do take issue with atheists complaining that they are the "last group" or "only group" that it's OK to discriminate against. That's not true. There is no evidence that there is as much violence against atheists per se, the way there is against women, people in minority groups, and gays. I'm not aware that there is employment discrimination, and it's even possible that atheists are a higher paid group due to prevalence of atheism in some professions. I don't have proof of that, it's speculation. Compare to Black men, who have more than double the unemployment rate compared to the nation as a whole. An accent or name that identifies an applicant as Black or "ethnic" has been shown to result in significantly fewer responses to job applications, even compared to a white man with a prison history. You don't have to identify as Atheist on a job application. Atheists can marry! Even though it's more fun to live in sin, many atheists marry because they can, and want to, and thereby get the thousand or so benefits that are denied to gay people.

I've seen this come up a number of times, how atheists are discriminated against. I'm sure you can find lots of examples. But I don't think that atheist is unique or "the most discriminated against" group, even if most Americans wouldn't vote for one.
A lot of groups complain that they are "the only group it's OK to discriminate against". Gays have said this. Women have said this. Blacks have said this and so have minorities that were viewed as "unprotected". Even Catholic spokespeople have said this.

I do think that there is a harsh perception of atheists, as intolerant, humorless, or the non-religious equivalent of religious extremists (really? we fly planes into buildings in the name of atheism?!). When someone doesn't do or participate in something that others like doing or value, it is viewed as an attack on the people that do it--much like vegetarianism, in a way.

Things like saying "under God" in the pledge to the flag, or "in god we trust" on money, these do exclude atheists so they are discrimination in a way, but getting riled up about trivial things like this is what perpetuates the stereotype--I just don't think they're important, esp compared to other issues.

I really don't feel that I have been discriminated against, or had my life made difficult, for being an atheist. I'm sure it's different for people in less diverse regions.




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