“Atheist? Really? Why?”
How many people get such reactions when they identify themselves as atheists? No one asks why if a person is a Methodist or a Catholic. But if he or she is an atheist, everyone wants to know why they don’t believe in God.
According to www.adherents.com, a religion research and statistics database, in 2000, more than 38 million Americans, which is about 14 percent of the total population,
did not believe in God. This was 10 times the amount of Jews (1.3 percent) and 25 times the amount of Muslims (0.5 percent). If so many Americans are non-religious, then why is atheism so shocking?
It seems that in today’s society, the word “atheist” is a curse. Because of the term’s negative stigma, many atheists avoid identifying themselves as such. Instead, they say they are “non-religious.” Thus comes the number – 14.1 percent non-believers in the statistic above – 13.2 percent of which identified themselves as non-religious, and only 0.9 percent as atheists and agnostic (in doubt of existence of a supreme being.)
I truly believed that in today’s America, where diversity seems to be welcomed more and more every day, religious differences would be respected. I was wrong.
“No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state,” according to Article 4, Section 2 of the South Carolina Constitution. Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Pennsylvania also have provisions in their constitutions that prevent non-believers from holding public offices. And as much as atheists would like to change these laws, they cannot because no atheist can hold a public office in any of these states.
On a higher political level, atheists are even judged by presidents. According to American Atheists, an educational
organization for atheists, former President George H.W. Bush said in an interview with a journalist, “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”
After hours of reading pages of articles, statistic reports and blog entries, I closed my Internet browser feeling overwhelmed, shocked and disgusted. I got my answer.
In the land of the free, we are the “nation under God.” No wonder I get a surprised face when I say I am an atheist – this statement questions the fundamentals of this country.
The First Amendment guarantees freedom
of religion, but those who are not part of a religion are left out. Our voices are not heard. Our rights are violated.
In the 1920s, people in America could buy a Ford in any color, as long as it was black. Today we can believe anything we want, as long as we believe in a Supreme Being.
Apparently, when it comes to religion, we are still stuck in the 1920s.
Natalya Bucuy can be reached at