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Historical examplesThis list is not meant to be comprehensive, or it'd rival the Bible in length. Poland, 1689 — Kazimierz Łyszczyński is tortured and then burned at the stake for atheism. A man who owed him money brought him before court for writing "and therefore, there is no God" in the margin of a book. Prosecutors later discovered that he wrote a 265-page treatise called De non existentia Dei, where he argued that God is a construct of the human mind, and it was the primary cause of sentencing him to death. He tried to claim this had only been first presenting atheist arguments to refute them later, but this wasn't believed. The manuscript was destroyed; only five quotations from the work survived in court documents. Scotland, 1698 — Thomas Aikenhead is executed for reading a book about atheism at Edinburgh University.England, 1880 — Charles Bradlaugh is elected to Parliament, but as an atheist is barred from taking his seat as he wishes to affirm rather than swear to God, as is required. Eventually he wins the argument, getting a law passed that allows MPs to affirm.
United StatesAlthough atheists are banned from holding office in six US states, those provisions are not enforceable. A Myspace atheist group with 35000 members was deleted for causing offense — just by existing. No admitted or confirmed atheist has ever been President of the United States, although some right-wing skeptics have claimed that Obama is an atheist. Some other presidents have been rather secular throughout their lives or seem to have "lost their faith" at some point and a handful even omitted the (optional) phrase "so help me God" from the oath of office. While all this is fine basis for speculation, it is virtually impossible to ever conclusively prove anything about the privately held religious beliefs[note 3] of all Presidents, much less the dead ones. Considering atheophobia, however, a President who is indeed atheist would do well[note 4] to "stay in the closet" about it. In Congress, there have only been two Representatives who have proclaimed themselves as atheists, Democrat Pete Stark and Democrat Barney Frank. Stark kept his seat for 40 consecutive years. However, a 2011 op-ed in The New York Times claimed that atheists had been overtaken in unpopularity by the Tea Party, oddly enough. According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, the public has about equivalent negative feelings towards atheists and Muslims. EuropeIn the United Kingdom, religion isn't as much of an issue. The Prime Minister immediately after World War Two, Clement Attlee, was an agnostic. Jim Callaghan, Prime Minister before Thatcher, was an atheist. Until they lost their jobs in the 2015 election the current Deputy Prime Minister (Nick Clegg) and Leader of the Opposition (Ed Miliband) were atheists,[note 5] leaving two of the three main political parties led by atheists. In the rest of Western and Central Europe atheism is also far more acceptable. An outright majority of people living in the Czech Republic are believed to be atheists based on a Eurobarometer poll. The same poll puts figures in the 20s-40s in other countries such as France, Netherlands, and Germany. There are vocal religious groups however; although many stereotype France as almost militantly secular, recent protests against the passage of a gay marriage law demonstrate that Catholicism and other conservative brands of Christianity still hold sway with many people. Eastern Europe is much more religious, even in areas formerly part of the Soviet bloc. Atheism is high in some countries, including Estonia and the Czech Republic, but low in others, such as Poland.
Expressions of atheophobiaAtheophobia expresses itself in the form of generalised attacks on all atheists, as if they were of one mind and one will (in fact, some conservative atheophobes will often refer to atheists as “the atheist”, as if to punctuate the point). Claims about atheists made by atheophobes include such diverse elements as: moral inferiority of atheists/atheism evilness of atheists atheists have rejected God and embrace sin (or rejected God to embrace sin)[note 1] atheists wish to destroy religion and abolish religious holidays atheists have meaningless or decadent lives atheists should not be allowed to express their lack of belief atheists are a corrupting influence atheists are unsuited to responsibility
While freedom of religion and speech is protected in the United States, the report said, a social and political climate prevails “in which atheists and the non-religious are made to feel like lesser Americans, or non-Americans.”In at least seven U.S. states, constitutional provisions are in place that bar atheists from public office and one state, Arkansas, has a law that bars an atheist from testifying as a witness at a trial, the report said. Atheists around world suffer persecution, discrimination: reportRobert Evans
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama recently raised eyebrows during his confirmation hearing for attorney general when he expressed doubts that secular people respected the truth as much as did those with religious convictions. Even as he insisted that there should be no religious tests for holding public office, Sessions was queasy about the potential dangers of the secular worldview.This was hardly uncharted territory for Sessions. During a speech in 2015, for example, he had singled out the “relativistic, secular mindset” of Justice Sonia Sotomayor as “directly contrary to the founding of our republic.” The misgivings that Sessions harbors about secularists and nonbelievers – those who “don’t believe in a higher being” – is no mere eccentricity of a senator from the Bible Belt. As a scholar who has worked for some years now on the history of atheism and secularism in the United States, I find his suspicions deeply familiar. In my book, “Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation,” I have examined attitudes toward atheists. Distrust of the irreligious runs deep in American history.
Americans feel less warmly toward atheists than they do toward members of most major religious groups. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey asked Americans to rate groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 (as cold and negative as possible) to 100 (the warmest, most positive possible rating). U.S. adults gave atheists an average rating of 49, identical to the rating they gave Muslims (49) and colder than the average given to Jews (63), Catholics (60) and evangelical Christians (56). Note: This is an update of a post originally published on Nov. 5, 2015.https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/12/06/10-facts-about-atheists/
The Founding Fathers Were Not Christians by Steven Morris (March 1996)The Christian Right is trying to rewrite the history of the United States, as part of their campaign to force their religion on others who ask merely to be left alone. According to this Orwellian revision, the Founding Fathers of this country were pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity. Not true! The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians, believing in some form of impersonal Providence but rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the absurdities of the Old and New Testaments.https://ffrf.org/outreach/item/16866-the-founding-fathers-were-not-christians