On air: Do religious people get preferential treatment?


Albert Einstein was one and some say Abraham Lincoln was too, but do Atheists have it tough?

Well according to the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, they do. The new organisation was launched yesterday in London with their president saying that “the secular traditions of this country are being openly challenged on all sides”.

This article feels that the organisation is the “best thing to happen all winter”. I had a chat with the author the article, A.C. Grayling today and he felt that in the UK and US, the rights of religious people take precedence over those who do not follow a faith; Bishops have a say in legislations, tax payers money is spent on faith schools and prayers are said before the opening of Parliament every morning. He felt that in the US, it would be impossible to hold a political post without having a faith.

But if Atheists are a minority at least in the UK, so are Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Sikhs. I am a Hindu and I’ve never felt that my rights are inferior because I am from a minority faith, nor do I feel that I have had special treatment because my beliefs. People have challenged and questioned by beliefs over the years, but I’ve always seen this as healthy. Should atheists really feel so threatened?

I read a letter sent to a local newspaper earlier this year by a school boy in Mississippi. He was upset by the fact that all his school assemblies ended in prayer and students had no choice but to attend. In another school in the US, a popular teacher has been suspended for being too “liberal”. We’re hoping to speak to him as well.

We’ll also speak to some of those students who have helped launched the student’s organisation and the founder of the atheist bus campaign that has been roaming the streets of London. The campaign has encouraged a series of similar bus adverts around the world, including Canada where it has been banned in some cities.

Sunny Hundal’s article in Saturday’s Guardian is worth reading. He talks about the connection between religion and violence. Also have a read of what Professor Blakemore has to say . He looks at the brain’s ability to “generate religious ideas” and we might be speaking to him later.

Do you feel that Atheists are treated differently from believers? Do religious people get preferential treatment in your society?

105 Responses to “On air: Do religious people get preferential treatment?”

  1. 1 Evan, Hillsboro, OR
    February 20, 2009 at 20:06

    I am an atheist. I do feel that people of faith get some special treatment, but I think it stems from an idea that morality is dependant on faith. We are not taken as seriously in society and politics. But those organizations who claim to represent me take things too far. If someone sits at my table and wants to say a prayer before a meal, it does me no harm. The publicly visible atheists seem to think that public displays of faith are some kind of threat and that is simply not true. Tolerance only works if it works both ways.

  2. 2 Maccus Germanis
    February 20, 2009 at 20:13

    “Some say,” doesn’t cover all evils. You still overstate anything that we know of Lincoln.

  3. 3 Ron S. from Ft Myers Florida
    February 20, 2009 at 23:59

    Hiya Krupa…good question! 🙂

    Hmm…well..I know not long ago here in the States, I heard on some NPR show about Atheists and they were talking about this very topic.

    I am not of the Christian faith, but not agnostic or athiest, either. I was raised in a household where my folks said they were Protestant, but we never once attended any sort of church, nor did we have bible studies or things like that. I was brought up to form my own opinions and follow my own path, which I have done for many years now.

    I can see an Atheist’s point of view in the sense that I could never see one become President of this country..at least, not until such prejudices are eradicated. Nor could I see someone who is,let’s say Pagan or Muslim or Hindu, for the same reasons. I feel, and HAVE felt for a long long time, that we should not judge based on each other’s religious beliefs…after all, there are like 6 BILLION of us on this tiny blue marble..not everyone will believe the same thing..even 2 people of the SAME faith.

    And I do feel that there tends to be preferential treatment in this country. Should a child born in a non-Christian household be suspended, expelled or put in detention because he or she refuses to say “One nation under GOD?!” During the pledge of Allegiance? That is pure nonsense, and ignorant, to boot. And if folks feel the child should be punished, then they are not showing acceptance or tolerance to those who may not share their views, ya know?

    Anyways..this is ONE hot topic and I hope it gets aired! 🙂

  4. 4 Ian, Las Vegas (via London)
    February 21, 2009 at 01:09

    It depends on the religion. If you are christian in the UK you may as well be a devil worshipper. The PC movement hates christians. However, any other religion then yes you will get preferential treatment. Take for example swimming days at the pool for muslims only, or special areas at the airport for muslims.
    Atheists no one really cares you will be treated as a normal person, but christianity that went out with the dark ages and is an evil repressive religion. I think in general athiests are accepted unless they try and force their opinion down your throat, even then no one really cares unless they are really religious

  5. 5 ARShams
    February 21, 2009 at 10:18

    Notwithstanding, whatever religious belief one belongs to is more dependable than the one who is an atheist because the former can swear upon his/her God/Allah/Ishwar/Bhagwan/Khuda or else.

    Whereas, the latter, because of having no belief in any of religious doctrine of thoughts, as has been noted, remains less trustworthy even if he/she is a decent personality (as per say of most people of the society).

    Hence, that may be the chief reason that religious people are believed to get preferential treatment in any society, community, nation or elsewhere.

  6. 6 Emile Barre
    February 21, 2009 at 12:14

    If people who count themselves as religious or atheist had any intellectual insight they would conclude that all religions have failed God and that is why that entity is amongst other things an atheist.

  7. February 22, 2009 at 01:20

    This is a topic dear to my own heart. I found myself in the position of being married to clergy when I found out the child molester Minister who got me had offended for 14 years. I had to choose between social acceptance and justice. Many people thought it was harmful to my husband’s career if I pursued the truth. I was shunned and bullied by other clergy.

    Forced to choose, I fought and won the battles to make the Church, the insurance companies and the psychiatrists that made serial offenders a household phrase were held accountable.

    Fortunately, solitude suits me on Sunday morning.

  8. 8 Mikhaa
    February 22, 2009 at 09:23

    I have to give it a thumbs up for atheist trying to lure people in to their religion. I say religion since belonging to a group (whether Hinduism, Buddhists, Christianity, Islam or atheism) makes one have some kind of faith in the group in its own way.
    Like all religions the are inviting people to their cause. (^_^)

  9. 9 Iain Fraser
    February 22, 2009 at 16:53

    What utter and total rubbish. Atheists do not suffer – in fact in the UK atheism is the new religion!! It is religious people over here who are marginalised, put down as weirdos, and basically patronised the whole time. The one ‘no no’ in public life is to admit to having a religious faith. Even Tony Blair had to wait until he’d left office before ‘coming out’!! To have admitted faith would have been professional suicide as well he knows. When was the last time you saw a British celebrity claiming to be a Christian? I don’t condemn the Humanists for their views – everyone has a right to a view. But please stop the martyrdom act – you are convincing nobody.

  10. 10 kimeey
    February 22, 2009 at 17:11

    yes, I think so;
    many public-opinion polls said this.
    They don’t want to have an Atheist as a president or so; rather an Muslim, gay, jew.

    Is this fair? Is say no.

  11. February 22, 2009 at 17:32

    When it comes to a tiny niche of fringe youth from a religious minority, they are accorded out of proportion spotlight by BBC. The way, BBC1’s Panorama documentary aired on 16 February was titled speaks volumes of an effort of branding and labelling Muslims with a one-size-fits-all approach. In the documentary, Richard Watson asks one of his informants if he is part of the problem. The line of action pursued in the programme wasn’t convincing enough if Watson really tried to find individuals and institutions who constructively contribute to solution.

    Rather than imposing burdens of our fears upon British Muslims we might do well focussing instead on the positive contribution their majority brings to UK’s economy and society.

  12. 12 Roy, Washington DC
    February 23, 2009 at 05:30

    I’m an atheist, and I would say it’s more a matter of society resisting belief systems which aren’t compatible with what the majority believes in. I’m well aware that my belief system is in the minority here, and that there are people who would look down on me for being atheist. I accept this as an unfortunate fact of life.

    Like Krupa said, debate is always healthy, but if someone is going to think less of me because my beliefs don’t match up with theirs, that’s their problem, not mine.

  13. 13 VictorK
    February 23, 2009 at 10:36

    As has been pointed out: it depends on which country and which faith.

    Muslims get preferential treatment in most Islamic countries; non-Muslims are systematically discriminated against in accordance with Koranic principle and Sharia law (‘dhimmis’); and atheists are terrorised, silenced and forced to live in fear of their lives as apostatesfrom Islam. Christianity, as a pillar of Western civilisation, naturally permeates the cultures of Europe & the Americas, without Christians receiving special treatment (which is why non-Christians emigrate to the West and choose to stay there). Judaism receives special treatment in Israel. But I imagine the debate will critically focus on the West and Christianity.

    Islam receives special treatment in the UK – including indirect funding from the British government, under cover of anti-terror & integration-promoting subventions to Mosques & Muslim organisations; the established Anglican Church doesn’t receive a penny. Critics of Islam like Geert Wilders are denied freedom of speech; Judaism has a special status because of sensitivity over the Holocaust in some countries, leading to similar denials of free speech (though Jews may be as insulting about Christianity and Christians as they wish).

    Atheism is a religion. Atheists are exceptionally bigoted and intolerant of rival faiths. They have a particular hatred of Christ & His followers (when did you last hear an atheist ridiculing Muhammed or the Koran; cowards as well as bigots).

  14. 14 Mohammed Ali
    February 23, 2009 at 12:19

    I was on a piblic bus this morning and a christian preacher asked everyone to pray. This was to my displeasure and dislike as I don’t beleive in people iposing their religious belief on others.
    What was most interesting is that an 8 year old girl refused to repeat the prayers said by the preacher. Another man sitting by this little girl repeatedly asked her to pray which she did not do. This actually pleased me because this little girl was exercising her rights.
    Here in Liberia, religious people are given preferential treatment in almost everything. Infact running for public post and winning is a virtual impossibility if one is not a christian.

  15. 15 Roberto
    February 23, 2009 at 14:07

    RE “” Albert Einstein was one and some say Abraham Lincoln was too but do Atheists have it tough? “”

    ——————-Must be pretty tough on them if they claim Einstein and Lincoln in their ranks.

    Lincoln talked of God, referenced God in his speeches. One could cynically claim that he was just being a manipulative politician, but the bottomline is that only HE and/or God knew his true beliefs.

    Einstein was constantly pestered with questions of God and his views a bit all over the map as he geniunely reflected on matters of God and the universe in with a mind unlike any other in history.

    Any label is generally limited to the deep genetic psychological need to have a code label to identify the world as friend or foe as a matter of self preservation. Jerry Falwell the world’s most identified Christian citizen for example, the Pope being head of a state, yet he’s considerably more than a Christian. Husband, father, joker, philosopher, patriot, political organizer, capitalist, and so on. He moved through a world generally far removed from his Christian beliefs, but he also had a need for labels, sometimes outragous.

    Without God, why athiests would have to fold up shop and become as sheep munching their lives through a pasture, nary a sentient thought in the world save the odd wolf or tiger, in which case, a code ‘baaaaaaa” label would be sounded and the flight is on..

  16. 16 Steve
    February 23, 2009 at 14:24

    How to religious people explain where the elements come from given we KNOW they are fused inside of stars. Ask an athiest, where did matter come from that forms subatomic particles such as quarks, protons, electrons, neutrons, and they’ll say “I don’t know”.

  17. 17 Roy, Washington DC
    February 23, 2009 at 14:29

    @ VictorK

    Not all atheists are bigoted. Sure, some are, but the majority of us recognize and respect a person’s right to practice their own faith. Evan’s example was spot on — “If someone sits at my table and wants to say a prayer before a meal, it does me no harm.”

  18. February 23, 2009 at 14:31

    Religion still has great importance in almost every society as it is the means to bind them. There are zealous religious people who consider their religion as the right one while the other religions are pure heresy. The atheists caught in such a situation are the most to suffer discrimination as their beliefs is seen as a threat to established religions.

    This can be true just in societies where religion is of paramount importance. But in secular countries like France, religion isn’t mandatory. On the contrary, an atheist can have more chance to have a job than a Muslim. However atheists, now still a very small minority even in secular countries, shouldn’t be discriminated against or persecuted. At the same time, they shouldn’t mount a fight against the existing religions. Many people, especially the poor, have no solace but in religion. Atheists have no right to impose their views on them.

    What matters in any society is that people can live in peace and not use their beliefs as a justification to fight each other because of differences about why they are in this world and how they should live in it and leave it.

  19. 19 VictorK
    February 23, 2009 at 14:46

    @Roy; yes, you’re right. I should have qualified my claim by prefacing it with ‘some atheists.’

  20. 20 C Clarke-Williams
    February 23, 2009 at 14:47

    I do not think atheists should be discriminated against or silenced but they must accept that not everyone agrees with them. If atheists try to convince others they may meet opposition, get used to it. Followers of God have meet opposition since the beginning of the world and we fully expect this to continue.

    Being told that there is a God and one day they will have to give an account to Him as we all will is not discrimination it is fellow travellers in the search for truth trying to throw them a lifeline. Ultimately though no one can live by someone else’s faith God has no grandchildren, atheists need to find him for themselves just like I had to. Later of course I came to realise that it was God who found me…

  21. February 23, 2009 at 14:58

    Its seems like they do get preferential treatment but it seems like that because religion is hardwired to many people. As opposed to atheism doesnt have many loud mouths unitl the recent campaigns

  22. February 23, 2009 at 15:11

    Let’s be fair. Isn’t UK foreign secretary David Milliband an atheist? He holds one of the most important jobs in the government.

    Concerning whether science will obliterate religion, this remains debatable as there scientists who are devoutly religious and their scientific knowledge just enhances their belief in God.

    Concerning Muslim countries, the Islamists are still feared by the current regimes governing them. In Morocco, all the Moroccan citizens of Arab and Berber origins, who make 98% of its population, are considered as Muslims. And yet, the Islamists don’t get any preferential treatment. On the contrary, many of them are suspected of being just terrorists preparing to establish an Islamic state. In Morocco, the official argument is that religion should not be the monopoly of any political party.

    In general, religion should be a personal matter and not a vehicle to get favour or power. Favouring one category of people because of their religion is a call for the rest to join it, not out of conviction but for self-interest.

  23. 23 John D. Augustine - WI USA
    February 23, 2009 at 15:11

    Being from a place with religious freedom, (because in the days of the colonies, you could still be legally put to death for heresy against the regionally official branch of the Christian faith) I would not agree that religious people enjoy an advantage over atheists here. But it is a complicated question.

    I can think of one exception. Education. There is no telling how many students are being denied the basic tools of scientific inquiry, simply because others believe their way of life is threatened by anyone who might tell their children that the world is not like it is merely because God said “make it so.”

    This is not so much a problem of the church, though, as it is a problem of the publishing industry, which must appeal to the broadest market to stay in business. One solution might be to look only toward University Presses to publish scholastic material. But even Universities these days believe they need to compete to stay afloat in this economy.

    Competition. There’s your problem. [our problem?]

  24. 24 Russ
    February 23, 2009 at 15:13

    I live in Vancouver BC Canada and this is one of those places where the bus ads were “banned” as was stated in the article. Banned is a bit of a strong word to use in our case. The transit company has refused the ads because of an existing policy that would also include any religious ad that could be perceived as bashing any other faith or lack of faith for that matter. Personally I could care less one way or the other. I believe what I believe and no atheist, scientist or other faith is going to change my mind. Someone’s religion ha no bearing on how I treat anyone. Frankly, it is none of my business nor is my faith theirs. We all have to get past this thing where one’s religion makes them acceptable to us or not.

  25. 25 Pirabee
    February 23, 2009 at 15:18

    Richard Dawkins for instance, expends so much energy vilifying Christianity,not crack cocaine or such other-drug use,or gangster cults or the Mafia or soccer fanaticism or devil-worship where human sacrifices are frequently carried out, etcetera.He writes a best-selling tome and vomits venom against Christianity.But whatever Christianity was in times past,today it gathers men from every race and exhorts them on how to become more noble in nature and how to be useful members of society.And Dawkins rages against that.Note,that even in “Christian” Great Britain he doesn’t get stoned or his house set on fire or sent threatening mail from confessed Christians.Nay,guys.The chief proponent of the atheistic faith goes gaga against Christians and not an ahem.And now atheist have the shameless effrontery to contend they are discriminated against.


  26. February 23, 2009 at 15:19

    the atheist cult is given far greater preferential treatment than the CHRISTIAN doctrine. while atheists constitute a tiny minority, their control of the school system, courts and major media is leading our country into a moral and ehthical abyss. one does not need to be a rocket scientist to see the shape this country is in today as compared to how it was before prayer was disallowed in schools and the abortion and the homosexual agendas were mainstreamed. the enemy has been working mightily in this society and we are all suffering the consequences. only when all true CHRISTIANS are raptured will the world truly comprehend the totality of our steadying hand on civil society. of course the enemy’s use of the media completely distorts the GOSPEL message so as to blind the world to the way to salvation. i implore all who read this to learn the true GOSPEL of JESUS CHRIST and free yourselves from the bonds of self-centeredness and death that the atheists chain you to.

  27. 27 Bob in Queensland
    February 23, 2009 at 15:25

    As an atheist I have to say I think we’ll always be at a disadvantage. Religion is pure belief without any need for proof or even logic. Atheism is a lack of belief and relies solely on logic and what we can see and touch. It is impossible for me to understand why so many people feel the need to “believe in something” and, I can never win a debate with somebody who can fall back on “it just is”.

    The day an atheist can become President of the USA or even Prime Minister of England is the day we can say there is true equality.

  28. 28 Steve
    February 23, 2009 at 15:31

    @ Bob

    Lincoln was an athiest

  29. February 23, 2009 at 15:44

    An example of bias against Atheists in the US:

    The quality of the initial police investigation into the disappearance and murder of the most famous US Atheist, Madlyn Murry O’Hare. The victor in the landmark Supreme court case banning prayer in public schools disappeared in 1995 with her son and grand daughter

    Police simply assumed that the Godless Atheists took off with the money despite telltale signs of foul play.

    Suffice it to say, the bodies were unearthed in 2000 due to the confession of the killer.

  30. 30 Jennifer
    February 23, 2009 at 15:45

    Re: Do you feel that Atheists are treated differently from believers? Do religious people get preferential treatment in your society?

    Yes, religious people get preferential treatment in our society. They are prematurely labeled as overzealous idiots. In the name of civil rights people are trying to stifle differences of religion.

    Atheists are coddled because they are the ones that take issue with others having different beliefs. Atheists are supposed to believe in nothing. If that’s true they shouldn’t care about their family or any issues we face; because after all in the end, it wouldn’t matter would it? Therefore, they do believe in something-no-religion.

    If someone asked me to provide tangible proof of God’s existence, I could do that in relation to very personal experiences in my life.

  31. 31 VictorK
    February 23, 2009 at 15:50

    In pursuit of their faith Christian people founded societies like the United States and provided the moral direction that has made the countries of the Western world havens of civilised life; they built Universities like Oxford and the Sorbonne and Harvard; they established the first, and for a long time the only, hospitals; they endowed over the course of centuries numerous charitable establishments for the benefit of the poor; they were the first to set up common elementary and intermediate schools; they engaged in missionary work, at home and abroad, a large part of which was directed to securing material improvements for the people whose lives they were committed to bettering; they engaged in political activity to combat every conceivable social evil, from slavery to prostitution; & they have for centuries patronised learning and the arts.

    Where is the atheist equivalent to all of this? What have atheists contributed, as atheists, that stands comparison to the contribution of men and women of faith? All I usually see atheists doing is congratulating themselves on their superior rationality and looking for ways to provoke and insult believers. Atheism, even if it were true, is sterile; religion, even if false, is what has made the world (and not just Christianity – all faiths). Atheists are the odd ones out, not the faithful.

  32. 32 Rachel in California, USA
    February 23, 2009 at 15:55

    I live in a rather secular part of the USA, and have spent much of my life in the academic world. I feel a distinct suspicion directed toward religious people, especially Christians. I am not identified as Christian, but I hear comment behind people’s backs about whether their Christianity makes them worse scientists or teachers. Secular views are taken as the norm; religion is seen as deviant.

    I don’t doubt there are other parts of my country and society where the reverse is true, but I have not experienced them directly.

    (PS to the administrators at whys: the page https://worldhaveyoursay.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/do-religious-people-get-preferential-treatment/#more-4457 seems to have been removed from your site. I posted this comment from Google’s cached version of it. We’ll see if that works.)

  33. 33 Fwanshishak
    February 23, 2009 at 16:10

    I think it depends on the nature of the society you are dealing with. If for example in Nigeria now with all these religious “disturbances” a Christian religious person finds himself in a muslim environment, the only special treatment he will enjoy is disdain, hostility or even violence and vise versa. Yes religious people enjoy special treatment where their own brand of religion is popular and enjoys state sympathy.

  34. 34 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    February 23, 2009 at 16:15

    Of course religion gets special treatment, but that’s a rather simplistic way to phrase the issue.

    In my native USA, it was possible to elect a mixed-race man as President, but it would not be possible to elect a man who did not profess a religion.

    It isn’t the fact that religious people get special treatment that provokes me, however. It’s the fact of religious people enforcing their religions on those who do not believe in them. Look at the case of Terry Schiavo in the USA a few years ago, and the case of the Italian woman in a similar vegetative state who recently died in Italy. In both cases, secular courts had agreed that they should be allowed to die, but supposedly secular government bodies—the US Congress and the Italian Parliament—tried to pass laws, based on their religious beliefs, to override the courts’ decisions.

    Religion infects our human rights in the matter of when or if we reproduce, whom we may marry (in the case of gays, or in some religious where the choice of a non-co-religionist is restricted) and when and how we die.

    I am a non-theist and I resent the control believers have over my life and the lives of others who do not believe in a certain religion, or believe at all.

    February 23, 2009 at 16:27

    BBC .In our School(ADVANTISTS SCHOOL which is too religious) its a very big crime to be an atheist in its melieus as every students must go for prayers(Church,Mosque) before going for preps otherwise you face punishment.Therefore i`m saying Religious people get preferential treatment over the athiest.

  36. 36 Anthony
    February 23, 2009 at 17:04

    It goes both ways. Athiests treat believers like idiots, and Visa Versa. It’s like everything else, commies think capitalists are morons and visa versa, even USC fans think UCLA fans are a bunch of dummies and visa versa. If there was no religion, people would find something else to ralley around, and then discriminate against others about that instead.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  37. 37 Meg in Canada
    February 23, 2009 at 17:19

    At this point in my life, I must admit, I am still consolidating my own beliefs and cannot give them a definite name at the moment. I do know that I am not an atheist, although I have family that are, and find no issue with their beliefs. Here is a thought that I had while skimming through some of the posts.

    The question asks about “preferential treatment”. Could this preferential treatment be justified by the fact that religion was a much greater component of every day life only a few decades ago? Has this treatment come about because religion used to have more ‘power’ and that was simply ‘the way it was?’ Come to think of it, do we not give preferential treatment or expect certain things due to tradition too often?

    For example, Canada’s two official languages are English and French. But there are probably far more people in Canada that speak Cantonese than French. But the official languages of this country have not been altered simply because things are different now. Perhaps the reason why this preferential treatment exists is because it always has.

  38. 38 sowemimo lanre
    February 23, 2009 at 17:26

    hi pls
    The publicly visible atheists seem to think that public displays of faith are some kind of threat and that is simply not true. Tolerance only works if it works both ways.
    atheists should not be force to believe in religion for everybody has the right to which religion to belong to and which one not to………….
    I think it depends on the nature of the society you are dealing with.
    In nigeria where i am,atheists are believe to irresponsible and are always down graded in the society atheist have aright to freedom oof choice let stop religious this segregation……..

  39. 39 archibald in oregon
    February 23, 2009 at 17:33

    I do not feel at a disadvantage, because I am an atheist. I believe in a force beyond our feeble terrestrial perceptions, but, that has nothing to do with “GOD”. Organized religion is the root of ALL of societies lacking in this dept., in my opinion, true faith in the unknown requires no tangible nor familiar construct to aid in its conception. The fact that people reflexively say “god bless you”, when you sneeze is indicative of the level of the dogmatic infection which so blinds our culture to one degree or another. The fact that some believe that they will go to a place called, hell, based on how they live or do not live, screams out, fear of the unknown.
    If we could only accept that there may be no reason for our existence on this planet other than a chance alignment of environmental circumstance, I believe we would finally be able to evolve beyond the “god” construct and move into a new age of enlightenment that would render all religious constructs obsolete, once and for all.
    Furthermore, it is outrageous that any group could ever claim to, “corner the market”, on the origins of said “god”, claiming that theirs is “the true way”. Prostrate-arrogance, now there’s a concept…………

  40. 40 Lei, in Cambridge
    February 23, 2009 at 17:55

    As a Christian, I don’t feel we get preferential treatment, and I don’t WANT preferential treatment. Christians are fully able to defend our beliefs in a head-to-head argument with athiests. We don’t need you to tiptoe round us as if you’re afraid of offending us. Challenge us like we challenge you!

  41. 41 Shaun in Halifax
    February 23, 2009 at 17:57

    @ Eric USA

    while atheists constitute a tiny minority, their control of the school system, courts and major media is leading our country into a moral and ehthical [sic] abyss. one does not need to be a rocket scientist to see the shape this country is in today as compared to how it was before prayer was disallowed in schools and the abortion and the homosexual agendas were mainstreamed. the enemy has been working mightily in this society and we are all suffering the consequences.

    Your white sheet is showing.

    But, blatant bigotry and intolerance aside, isn’t separation of church and state written into the US constitution? And weren’t most of the founding fathers anti-religion?

    So how can you believe that the core tenets your country was founded upon are in error?

  42. February 23, 2009 at 18:00

    Get special treatment? Depends on the circumstances, future consequences (in the Muslim case in the UK, too much criticism will lead to too much extremism), and the setting.

    In America religious pupils definitely get special treatment (unless you’re a sikh or a muslim). During the last campaign a few incumbents ran adverts accusing they’re opposition of being atheists, and the public bought it. It’s very much apparent and felt by the minority of atheists in the USA that they’re lack of belief is volatile and unaccepted, not tolerated, and is amiss.

    Lastly, there is no way in hell Muslims in America get any special treatment, Mormons and Atheists are more legitimate to Americans then Islam, despite the fact they’ve integrated ‘very well’.

  43. 43 Steve
    February 23, 2009 at 18:02

    Okay quick proof:

    Can god create a stone that he cannot lift?

    Now the theists will not be able to think for the rest of the show. I think perhaps in the US, christians might feel christmas is under attack, with all of the “happy holidays” stuff, but we’re grownups. I find it unlikely any president of the late 20th century onward, including Bush, actually believes in God. They just play the role that politicians play.

  44. 44 Tom D Ford
    February 23, 2009 at 18:11

    “Do religious people get preferential treatment in your society?”

    Religion has always been used by the wealthy and powerful to manipulate and oppress people, so the answer is obviously yes, religionists do get preferential treatment..

  45. 45 Daniel from the Netherlands
    February 23, 2009 at 18:13

    Yes i do believe religious people get a preferential treatment in my country. I myself do not believe in a god, or gods. However i do not feel that i get less chances in Dutch society than religious people. But the Dutch government still finances the construction of houses of prayer and religious schools. Ii think its absolutely preposterous that my tax money is used by my government to finance the indoctrination of children that will be the future of our country. I am not anti-religion. But i don’t think its supposed to have a place in government, and i also think that it should not be government funded. Its something for in the home and the private sphere, and has to stay there.

  46. 46 Rick
    February 23, 2009 at 18:14

    I agree with Steve’s comment above. Politicians who depend on the goodwill of the people in order to stay in power will of course pretend to be Christians or whatever the prevailing religion is. Non-Christians are generally broad minded and intelligent enough to not feel insulted or threatened by it.

  47. 47 Chidi (from Minneapolis)
    February 23, 2009 at 18:20

    I love you professor for making this point!! I was born in a very religious family like allot of people but as I read more books about history and philosophy I quickly realized that religion holds a much higher power in society than it really should! Allot of religion was philosophized by man. Monotheism was an idea and a concept that man actually thought of.

  48. 48 Daniel from the Netherlands
    February 23, 2009 at 18:22

    Come to think about it some more, some christian politicians among them our minister of Justice (Ernst Hirsch Ballin) are now trying to change the law in the Netherlands. This to make it possible to persecute people who insult religion. I’m really concerned about this, because i believe that this would come in conflict with freedom of speech and the possibilities of battling the influence of religion in society and even more important, government

  49. 49 Scott (M)
    February 23, 2009 at 18:23

    Most of what we call progress over the past centuries, was the undoing of the evils perpetuated by religion on our cultures. Most of the divisiveness in politics is not intellectual differences, but religious (conservative) faith versus modern thought. Gays are still widely discriminated against because of religion. Most of the ignorance in the world was created and perpetuated by religion. Religious faith is ignorance, and planet earth has a long while to go before the intellect triumphs over the hogwash of religion. There was a bible at Mr. Obama’s inauguration, there was also a preacher. Not long ago you asked if America was a Christian nation, if we have to ask these questions—we are all clearly still in the claws of it.

    No, the religious should not get preferential treatment… at least not on planet earth… why do they need it? They are allegedly going to heaven anyway. If god can’t provide for his flock on his own, what good is he?

  50. 50 Fred in Portland OR
    February 23, 2009 at 18:24

    Yes, I had a job this fall where the staff and management were fundementalist christians and were none too subtle about wanting to hire more fundementalst christians. I had to draw the line when I started to get asked about my religous beliefs. At that point I told them that I’d been baptized in the church of Saint Peter, and was really more of a Vatican I kind of beliver, and that while heritics could be nice people, I didn’t think they were going to heaven.

    They didn’t think it was all that funny, and we parted ways not long after.

  51. 51 oscar carballo
    February 23, 2009 at 18:24

    I don´t think atheists are in disadvantage, if we are talking about job opportunities. Multicultural societies, where there are many inmigrants or descendants, reduce the chances, supposedly, of any kind of discrimination.

  52. 52 Steve
    February 23, 2009 at 18:25

    Religion doesn’t have loudmouths? That’s a good joke, remmeber all of the protests about the mohammed cartoons? Or remember the crusades? Perhaps it’s better to kill thousands of people than to criticize? I thought you need religion to have good values, right? Then that’s a great point if you ignore all of the killing done in the name of religion in the past, and today. I’m an adult, i don’t need a fairy tale to help me deal with life. You should try it.

  53. 53 Jessica
    February 23, 2009 at 18:26

    One way in which religion and religious people are given preference is in courts of law. Countries such as Nigeria allow for Sharia (Islamic law) courts in certain parts of the country which means that people in certain locations only are subject to different laws and procedures than others. Often times these court proceedings are investigated as representing human rights abuses, particularly against women and homosexuals.

    Even in countries such as the UK Islamic and Jewish courts are allowed to use their own legal systems. In effect this means that certain parts of the population that are subjected to these courts–especially minors and women forced into them by their husbands or male relatives–are denied access to what the international community and national democratic communities in countries such as the UK would deem to be the minimum standards of fair and objective justice.

  54. 54 Tom D Ford
    February 23, 2009 at 18:26

    Cui Bono? Who benefits?

    Religion is the basic training to make people susceptible to political propaganda.

    If you can train a child to accept a statement from an authority figure, without any proof, that some “God” exists, then when that child grows up he will be equally willing to believe when some politician like Bush claims that there are WMDs in Iraq. Religion is just trained in ignorance.

    Religion benefits politicians and just hurts people.

  55. 55 Rick
    February 23, 2009 at 18:26

    Whatever way you describe yourself, why not pause and think for a moment? If there is a God, and he really does have a purpose for you, is not denying his very existence serious? Would it not be like living in a country and refusing to recognize the existence of the government of that country? Very soon you would be in trouble with the government. And you would not be able to take advantage of any services, protection or rewards that the government provided.

    How much faith does it take to believe that all of the order and beauty that exists around us came about completely by accident? How many mutations have you seen that are beneficial to the creature that is affected?

    Also, think about this for a moment:
    Jewish opponents of Christianity never challenged the powerful works described in the Gospels. They questioned only the power by which these were performed. (Mark 3:22-26) Neither could later detractors successfully deny Jesus’ miracles. There were thousands that had witnessed what he had done. On the contrary, during the first and second centuries C.E., there were references to miraculous works performed by Jesus.

    I learned these things from Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  56. 56 Nikki Chambers
    February 23, 2009 at 18:27

    as a non-christian in a staunchly christian country, I find that the more ardently religious the country is, the more infringements on human rights take place in that country

  57. 57 Steve
    February 23, 2009 at 18:28

    5-10 minute breaks to pray sounds like cigarette breaks, and studies have shown that nonsmokers are more efficient workers because they aren’t taking smoke breaks.

  58. 58 Bill
    February 23, 2009 at 18:28

    I don’t know but has a ANY athiest ever killed anyone, let alone children, in the name of athiest’s

  59. 59 Ogola Benard
    February 23, 2009 at 18:29

    Historic sequence is some what essential no matter whether one is a priest, pastor clergy, minister,preacher or elder. although there is a broad divergence in the concept of Gog, Christianity involves social work, better health, education and material benefit among others!
    Nevertheless, Christianity is the absolute religion,the highest form of religion developed in history and the convergence point of all development tendencies!
    Religious pluralism becomes a problem for a society as soon as different groups tend to take different directions. They have different opinions on how best to help the poor,the employment, treatment of animals, global distribution of wealth and resources and the way women are nourished and their children raised!

  60. 60 John in Scotland
    February 23, 2009 at 18:30

    Religion offers a sense of identity and comfort , and I defend it has historically a human need . However science offers us the ability to understand the ‘objective reality’ in which we live .

    It offers the potential for the forces or mechanisms that ‘control’ us to be manipulated in ‘our’ interest . We can in effect design our social and economic world to produce harmony and stability.

    The economic crisis and social conflict that is intensifying across the world is understood by science , however we are dominated by age old allegiances around religion and race .

    In themselves they offer no solution , as we can see in the middle east Islam and judaism are banners around which conflict is intensifying .

    ..”.the point is to end suffering”

  61. 61 Su
    February 23, 2009 at 18:31

    Are atheists discriminated against in my country? Not to my knowledge, at least not in any substantive way.

    Atheists are pitied by persons with faith for not having faith, but their atheist faith does not rob them of any privileges…they’re not given a holiday like other faiths, but they have no communal holiday, nor do they form a sizeable minority

    The country in which I currently reside (Trinidad) and the country from which I come (Barbados) as nations emerging from slavery and colonialism value deeply the freedom to choose a faith and to practice and the freedom too to not practice it, although most people find it difficult to comprehend the latter.

  62. 62 Melissa
    February 23, 2009 at 18:32

    I am not a religious person, but I respect those who are religious. If my co-worker needed 5 min. several times a day to pray I believe they should be able to. If I was religious I would hope my employer would respect me and my religious choice and grant me the ability to pray when needed.

    In the end I believe it is a question of respect, giving and receiving.

  63. 63 Irv
    February 23, 2009 at 18:33

    Hi Ross,

    I believe the time has come in the USA for our government to tax all religions which will go a long way towards reducing our debt.


  64. 64 John in Scotland
    February 23, 2009 at 18:36

    @ tom D

    absolutely Tom . Nothing better for the ‘powers that be’ for us to fight amongst ourselves ,on an agenda that will take us nowhere .

  65. 65 SonnyLee
    February 23, 2009 at 18:36

    Even though human hasn’t come very far relative to age of the earth, we made great strides to better ourselves. It is time to let go of the fairly tale and embrace discoveries and science. People will have to stop using religion as a tool to control people. Yes, there is no doubt religion gets preferential treatment. Why not give tax breaks to pharmaceutical companies too since churches get tax break?

  66. 66 FBA
    February 23, 2009 at 18:37

    Religious people (as we normally understand the term) in the USA do not get preferential treatment. To the contrary they receive denigration, hatred and contempt when they even mention the topic. It is not considered polite, especially in educated circles and in the media, to articulate a religious position or belief – MOST ESPECIALLY if it is Christian. (Interestingly enough, Muslims are kowtowed to at every turn and especially liberal Christian groups go out of their way to get on the multicultural bandwagon to impose their style of Christianity upon the rest of us.) The United States is not a Christian nation. It was indeed founded upon “Christian” principles, but a nation cannot be or not be “Christian”, thus this conversation is founded upon false premises. But then why should any be surprised since it is a peculiar fact that the non-mainstream proponents lack the ethics and morals conducive to structuring workable human societies. This is self-evident from the fact that in all of history not one society has ever existed absent some kind of religious belief system. The one example that came close, the anti-Christian, non-religious Nazi regime of recent memory, was stunningly defeated because people of faith, especially Christians of the Western world would not tolerate the athiestic minded ideas espoused by a madman bent on destruction of humanity that did not meet his definition of a pure, teutonic race.

    Anti-religious people are particularly intolerant of belief. Furthermore, they will inevitable insist that Christians cannot believe in scientific law and religious belief simultaneously. This is particulalrly offensive most especially coming from the athiest side of the belief spectrum. After all athiesm in itself is a type of religion since it demands from its adherants as a tenet of faith its non-belief.

    I see this discussion as merely further opportunity for one religious system – i.e. the non-religious, the athiests – to demand preference for their faith system over the prevalent system. They should just shut up and get on with living like the rest of us who are believers do.

  67. 67 Shaun in Halifax
    February 23, 2009 at 18:40

    In response to Roz’s re-stating of the issue at the bottom of the hour.

    I hope science is overtaking religion.

    Science certainly does not have all the answers, but at least it admits to not having them. And when one theory or idea is proven false, scientists will admit their error and move on.

    Religion, on the other hand, claims to know the answer to the big questions: what happens when you die, where do we come from, etc. And can you remember the last time the people in charge have admitted to their mistakes? I certainly cannot.

    The truth is, nobody knows the answers to the big questions. And I know this because I am a mortal human just like everybody else. I do not possess any special powers that you do not, and vice versa. As far as I can tell, the only viewpoint one can have is “I don’t know.” Because nobody does. It is a much more humble statement than “I know. And if you follow me, I’ll show you.”

    I will more readily follow somebody who admits that they don’t know, than somebody who pretends that they do.

  68. 68 Eden
    February 23, 2009 at 18:41

    Unfortunately, in society today it would seem that people with faith do get preferential treatment. I can only comment on my experience in the UK.

    I take the issue of primary schools as something that polarises peoples of faith and those who have none. I know of many middle class, white, atheists of 25-40 who have claimed to have converted to Christianity and even attended church regularly in order to get their children into a C. of E. primary school. I know of nobody of any faith who would carry out such a masquerade and it begs the question why?

    The faithless argue that their child should not have to lose out and to do so would not be fair and therefore, such deception within the community is justifiable. Deception is a fault and whilst people of faith have just as many faults as those without, their tendency is not to deceive for their own ends. And this is just one small example of why people of faith tend to get an unfair advantage.

    This is not to say that all people without faith have a moral compass that doesn’t point true, that would be sickeningly arrogant, more that in the general population the perception is that faith assists a truer direction. Whether right or wrong this seems to be the case to me.

  69. 69 Evan
    February 23, 2009 at 18:43

    One more thought. My ex-wife used to work in Human Resources for a large hi-tech firm. She noticed that departments run by Mormon managers very quickly started to hire more Mormons. A lot more Mormons. My mother, who lives in Boise, has noticed a similar trend.

  70. 70 Keith Cantrell
    February 23, 2009 at 18:44

    Religion is no longer relevant.

    I was a born-again evangelical, fundamentalist Christian for 35 years and I am now an atheist.

    In the USA we’ve had to endure right-wing fundamentalists trying to get creationism taught as science in our classrooms, anti-abortionists blowing up abortion clinics in the name of God and extreme radicals attacking the world trade center in the name of their religion. We also print our money with the saying “In God We Trust” on it. This is the epitome of hypocrisy since many of us do not believe in God. It’s no different then printing “In Santa Claus We Trust.” Most politicians still end their speeches with “…God bless you and God bless the United States of America!” Come on!!! It’s time to get real!

    Science continuously provides evidence that nothing supernatural exists and this life is all we have. So, why not just make the best of it, love everybody and try to make it a better world for our children.

    Faith and fact are not the same thing and God has absolutely nothing to do with it.


  71. 71 Jonathan (drizzling San Francisco)
    February 23, 2009 at 18:44

    Out of 535 U.S. members of Congress, exactly ONE is an admitted atheist. That’s fewer than admitted homosexuals. Atheism in America is the last taboo.

    San Francisco

  72. 72 Luci Smith
    February 23, 2009 at 18:45

    Having had many different beliefs and mis- and disbeliefs in my own life, I can only say that it is an individual matter, as far as I am concerned.
    To me, God is a black woman with a big cat on her shoulder, but I am not trying to win any converts. And anyway, I may change my mind next week.
    I guess that if people spend that much time and money on their religion, then they feel like it ought to give dividends. In this world.
    In Denmark, the Queen goes to the State Church and the people who are members pay tax to it. In Sweden, they have already done away with that system.
    Some studeis have shown that religious people heal faster…. Now that is to get excited about!

  73. 73 Susan
    February 23, 2009 at 18:45

    Yes, I definitely believe that people use their religious beliefs to get preferential treatment. Here in California, religious organizations used their power to influence people to vote against gay marriage with Proposition 8, which would restrict marriage to between a man and a woman.

    I wonder why a church, temple or mosque is allowed to enter the political world in order to legalize a marriage. Why can people get married in those institutions and have it be considered legal, but an indigenous polygamist or other-oriented culture cannot have their unions considered “legal” in western countries? In some African countries those unions do have legal status, and we would do well to learn from those countries that do accept a variety of perspectives.

    But here in the US I do feel discriminated against, whether it be in society in general, politics or the school where I teach, where the Pledge of Allegiance (itself a dubious practice…not a requirement, but if you don’t say it you get looks and other reactions) has the words “one nation under god” and where teachers commonly complain about not being allowed to discuss religion in school. Many fellow teachers discuss religion, which may be a reflection of western education being founded on religious education.

    I think there are two key points that cause this to be an issue:
    Religion is seen by some as being moral guidance, and some indeed get moral guidance and personal assistance from religions.
    Additionally, many of our “modern” literate instutitions are founded upon religious practices in history (early literate education was done in the church as a study of the bible, which was often the only written material in the community).
    So, divesting those aspects from the history in order to move forward in an ethical, educated way without being bogged down my the politics of religion is the issue at the heart of this discussion.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  74. February 23, 2009 at 18:45

    As someone who grew up in the US and watches the various polls, YES, children in [many parts of] the US are taught that religion trumps book-larnin’. There are a lot of reasons for this, but it’s absolutely the case. Something like 44% of the country believes in creationism, and about the same percentage thinks that the world is going to end in their lifetimes and the Rapture will occur.

  75. 75 Tom D Ford
    February 23, 2009 at 18:47

    If we strip away everything that is common to all of humanity that Religionists wrap their religion with, all that is left that is different, is their belief, completely without any proof, in a supernatural being.

    Everything else is common to mankind, the songs, the rituals, the beautiful buildings, the morals, the ideas of justice, the “golden rule, the gathering in meeting places, making up and telling stories, oppressing people, helping people, everything else came out of mankind.

    So who benefits by telling people The First Great Lie told to children, that some God exists and only “priests” can tell you what their “God’ says?

    People who want power over other people benefit by telling that First Great Lie.

  76. 76 Ron S. from Ft Myers Florida
    February 23, 2009 at 18:48

    re: religion over classroom teachings:

    I was never raised to put my faith or beliefs above what was taught in school. I can’t speak for everyone in the US, but by allowing myself to learn as much as I could growing up, I was able to formulate my OWN views as I got older. I am a deeply spiritual individual, but also enjoy how much I have learned from school, and life in general. Only seeing from 1 side of the fence, so to speak, would prohibit anyone from having a fair and balanced view, no matter WHICH side of the fence they see.

  77. 77 Julie
    February 23, 2009 at 18:48

    I absolutely believe that children in the US feel that their religious beliefs are considered paramount to what they learn in school. I always felt that my community placed any religious beliefs as more important and correct than what was taught in school.

  78. 78 CJ McAuley
    February 23, 2009 at 18:49

    I do not believe that Karl Marx got many things right, but he certainly got this one spot on “Religion is the opiate of the masses”.

  79. 79 Jodi Smith
    February 23, 2009 at 18:50

    In regards to the gentleman who said that religion was bringing down the number of people studying science in the U.S. I disagree. It is the poor job that schools are doing in our country. In the high schools the curriculum seems designed to kill any interest or curiosity in science. Maybe this would be a subject for another show, but don’t blame religion. Students are directed away from sciene and toward careers that ‘make money’. Most teenagers I know think that science is boring and hard. None of them have used religion as a reason for not pursuing a science career. As a matter of fact, my son, who is a Christian, is pursuing a career in the sciences. His faith is not a discouragement to this pursuit.

  80. 80 Geoffrey Wathen
    February 23, 2009 at 18:55

    I find it hard to swallow when I hear atheists talk about all the friction that comes about because of religion. I would really love to see a proper study that looks at the tendencies toward friction that simply come from being human. In many ways, this attitude from atheists seem to me to be the height of hypocrisy. After all, is this not creating friction by a non-religious position?

    I have nothing against atheists, so long as they don’t try to convince me to be one or talk down to me as if I’m a fool for believing in God. Unfortunately, the atheists who fall into this category are far more rare, in my experience, than the religious people who are tolerant.

    P.S. As a physicist, I don’t believe that science will ever be able to “disprove” God. Science and Faith work in different realms.

  81. 81 Keelin
    February 23, 2009 at 18:56

    The professor’s comment that religious people think you have to be religioius to be good, is absurd stereotype. Such a prejudiced attitude shows that he has the same mindset as the ‘religious people’ he is criticizing !! – Far short of being liberal minded as he’d like to think.

    On the main issue, world religions do in many cases exert inappropriate secular power, but that can never be a valid reason to conclude that there is no devine creator. Likewise the professor’s reasoning that ther may be alternative explanations for people’s experiences is merely speculation. Not scientifically conclusive at all !


  82. 82 Kyle Taljan
    February 23, 2009 at 18:57

    There was a comment that the coming of Christianity brought good things to a country (Zambia I think?). This was countered by the guest from Oxford that hopefully those same good things would have been brought by any decent civil society. The point being that any person has the ability to do good with religion or not. I wholeheartedly agree, but pose the opposite point too. Religion is greatly decried, but often it is because the people who are practicing are at fault, not the religion. Being a Catholic one of the great parable of the faith is of the Good Samaritan where the person not accepted in the society of the day acts as a good person should, but those of the proper faith do not. Being a good person is not dependent on your faith or lack there of. I think instead religion can offer guidance and a clearer way of seeing what how exactly one can live better. I helps one not be on their own in deciding what is good.
    Also in response to the teacher from Ohio, I am also from Ohio and am currently studying physics. I see no conflict between my Catholic tradition and science. Those faiths where the methodologies of science and religion cannot mix I tend to find somewhat questionable myself. I don’t see religion being replaced by science, because I think when done properly science will never answer some big questions such as why existence and life. Maybe science discovers how life actually started from floating proteins in the ocean billions of years ago, but does it ever discover why 13 billion years ago there should be a Big Bang in the first place? Religion will always tend to these borderline philosophical questions that science cannot.

  83. 83 Bogdan M. Negru
    February 23, 2009 at 18:57

    Romania. I believe that privileges for one person with a certain religion should not be the case in any organization/company/society. Our belief (I’m Christian) or anybody else’s is not something imposed! After all what matters in a society is a set o rules (laws) that people follow.

    If time is needed for prayer (which I see like something personal and necessary), can be done anytime during the brakes. It should not be a hindrance to anyone in a relationship, may it be professional or any other.

    And not least, performance in work is what makes the difference between people. I do not agree in any way to special privileges.

  84. 84 Redham
    February 23, 2009 at 19:01

    The age of religion as an influence in the world is over.

  85. 85 archibald in oregon
    February 23, 2009 at 19:23

    “I see this discussion as merely further opportunity for one religious system – i.e. the non-religious, the athiests – to demand preference for their faith system over the prevalent system. They should just shut up and get on with living like the rest of us who are believers do.”

    Take your own advice FBA, substituting in “religious zealot”, and “non- believer”, where applicable. The only reason that religion has lasted so long is that the populace at large has lacked the understanding to believe otherwise, which was a deliberate construct by those who thought everyone needed god. There are so many examples, throughout history, of those who dissented from the religious doctrines of their time and most of them were killed, mutilated and/ or destoyed, all because they chose to think outside of the constrictions they had been fraught with.

  86. 86 Noha
    February 23, 2009 at 20:29

    I think that religion should be used for discipline purposes, not for humiliating others. It should be optional though.
    Maybe because it’s hard to avoid coercive approaches toward religions of minorities or atheists, it should be an organization such as the UN whose aim is to work toward the civilians right of having their own beliefs regarding to religion and preventing the country’s interfere!

  87. February 23, 2009 at 21:04

    In the blog it seems simpler to say I am on this side or that, but within each society there are microcosms that collide and overlap. Within each is a structure of who counts and who doesn’t.

    If we all count in our land of free speech, the disappearance of the loudest Atheist of the 20th Century should have mandated a serious inquest. Instead, official indifference to the disappearance of Atheist Madlyn Murray O’Hare provoked her estranged born-again Christian son and a curious female reporter to investigate.

    Filial love and journalistic curiosity trumped dogma and pecking order.

  88. 88 Shelley
    February 23, 2009 at 21:37

    I definitely think religious people are given preferential treatment. They certainly were when I was a child in the states. So much so that instinctively I am timid about putting my name on this. I always feel like I have a slightly different perspective on it all with having been brought up a non-believer. In Orange County, CA everyone in our neighborhood went to Sunday school. When I felt left out, having nobody to play with on Sunday morning, my parents discovered the Unitarian Universalist church. There is a cynical joke that a Unitarian is an Atheist with kids, and in this case it was very much true. Unitarian churches, though historically grounded in very liberal Christianity have evolved, particularly after with merger with the Universalists and a other nonconforming religions, to be pretty much free religious exploration societies. Because of having no required creed, they can often function as a safe haven for Atheists without actually being Atheists organizations. Personally I don’t know how I would have survived without it. It was where I could speak freely.

    We’re seemingly more advanced now. Atheist can come out now, and don’t need to go to a Unitarian church in order to pretend. But you know, funnily enough, I still prefer the Unitarian church to these extremist Atheists groups. Another accusation given to the Unitarian church is that it is a featherbed for fallen Christians. But then again, featherbeds are nice even if you aren’t a fallen Christian. Having not been brought up with religion in the traditional sense of the word, God is a concept I have never been angry with, just had any reason to believe in. But I do believe in good, and shall we say, not just staying on the “right” side of the law, but properly dedicating yourself to serving your highest ideals, and church serves as a good place to remind me of this in not such a rigidly rational way that the approach of these organization that want to purify themselves of all nonscientific belief. I also find this general crusade against all irrational belief rather too totalitarian for my free thinking background. If I want to believe in fairies on one particular day, I won’t get chucked out of the Unitarian church. One Unitarian minister I knew said he believed in God the same way he believed in Santa Claus, and he believed in both of them. My Catholic friend who strictly believed that children shouldn’t be told about Santa Claus, because he is a perversion of St. Nicholas was horrified.

    This fanatical nature to the Atheists organizations that is also having a polarizing effect. They claim Einstein, by saying that deists are just polite Atheists, but I’m not so sure Einstein would be comfortable with them. If nothing else, he was a strong advocate of the imagination, and some of these Atheists are edging on wanting to ban fantasy just like my catholic friend. I am not at all sure they aren’t hurting their cause more than helping it, driving people to religion as a rebellion.

    At the same time, I totally agree with them on this issue, and in some ways it is worse in the UK where I live now than in the US. It’s downright discrimination, the amount of funding that is given to religious organizations here, particularly when both Christianity and Islam have hate elements written right into them. Churches are depended upon to provide all kinds of services that out to be supplied by civil society. I asked one time here about having some kind of drop in youth problem centre like our city had when I was a teenager, and there was seen as no need, because the churches were already providing it. Faith schools are multiplying all over the place and giving preference for members of the faith both in student and teacher places. Even in the dark times that I grew up in, at least theoretically religion had no place in any federally funded schools, because that was a violation of separation of church and state. Here things that only the right wing religious loonies are demanding are standard fare that only the Atheists (and sometimes Unitarians) dare to question. The Lib Dems are questioning them, but I doubt if that will have any influence.

  89. 89 Matthew Houston
    February 23, 2009 at 22:54

    Religion and atheism aren’t comparable any more than if I said my favorite food was anti-matter. Even Einstein believed in the Golden Rule. I think it’s reasonable to question the motives an antisocial social movement.

  90. 90 Peter
    February 24, 2009 at 03:14

    God’s wants us to know him . That is what thinkers and scientist is trying to do. To love him , i e why people form religion. To love thy neighbour i e why we have charities. An atheist has no obligation to serve others i e why religious people are treated different

  91. February 24, 2009 at 03:42

    I personaly hold to the belief that everyone, be they Fundamentalist or Athiest, should follow the commandment issued by the late comedian George Carlin:

    “Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself.”

  92. 92 Peter
    February 24, 2009 at 03:56

    Atheist are deluding themselves in denying the existence of God so that they need not conform to the natural order.> They fact that they are not conforming is because they have spirituality.>By the need to conform to a higher order of things is [seeking the truth] spirituality. Except that they cannot conform to the prescribed order of religions.>Due to our weakness and the urge gets too strong to conform we not only reject the religion but God himself.

  93. 93 Give God a go
    February 24, 2009 at 04:47

    The superiority of men shows that we are special to God himself . Our desire to change things shows that God nature is in us. Our ability to resist the order of things shows we have the capacity to be in one with God. Whatever we do we must cultivate our compassion through forgiveness ,love and charity selflessl
    The atheist moderator should give God a say . pro-God posting seems to be kick out of this blog.

  94. 94 Don Lax Detroit, MI
    February 24, 2009 at 07:49

    Did atheists evew kill anyone in the name of atheism? I submit that Josef Stalin certainly did, and the French Revolution embraced a so-called “humanist” philosophy (supposedly not “religious”) of “Liberte, Egalitie, and Fraternitie” – (meaning the guillotine for anyone who disagreed with them)

    For every complex problem there is a simplistic solution which is as politically seductive as it is invariably socially dysfunctional. If social problems result from wholesale rejection of absolute moral values (which never mind sectarian “religions” only Christianity effectively teaches) then simply encourage a perceptional shift toward belief that there are no real “problems” at all – just the unreasonable expectations of “superstitious” people.

    I observe that Darwin was recently praised but yet a political cartoon which is quite in keeping with the social expression of his philosophy that some sub-groups within any species will take an evolutionary route less amenable to the development of socialized behaviors than others. Perhaps if equal time was given to the teaching of Louis Pasteur (who conclusively proved that whatever else in science might possibly be true abiogenesis – the “random, accidental generation of living from non-living matter” certainly wasn’t) the Christians would have their main salient point being made for them in school classrooms where such socially beneficial teaching of salubrious beliefs and values belongs.

  95. February 24, 2009 at 08:23

    our faith’s leader was and is still the one who continues giving preferential treatment even to those people we think are worthless and nobodies,JESUS.and talking about scientists and faith like Christianity,Christianity will never cause global warming or polution,bad science will.
    you see now,science is meant to help man maximise all the powers and blessings of our God given nature.


  96. 96 Gr Green
    February 24, 2009 at 09:43

    VictorK, atheism may or may not be a religion. Strong atheists can religiously believe that no god exist. Weak atheists couldn’t care less if god exist or not. They just don’t believe in god/gods. That you met some strong atheists who enjoy dissing Christians does not mean they are in the majority. In fact, most atheists could be weak atheists.

    With wild accusations swinging at atheists from all over, one would wonder why is a debate even necessary. Some are ludicrous, like Jennifer, who said atheists don’t care about their family. That atheist don’t believe in god does not mean they don’t care about anything. And surely do not mean they do no contribution to the society.

    A reminder, atheism is a very general term, and atheists can include a large group of ppl with very different views and positions. that atheists don’t believe in a god does not mean they must belong to some evil Atheism cult that actively seek to disband all religions. Its silly to call a weak atheism a religion. When have you even seen an atheist, even a very strong atheist go on a mission to seed their ‘religion’. And most weak atheist simply don’t care enough about this subject to voice their opinion on religious matters. Thats why in contrast you mostly hear pro atheism talk from strong atheist. which is still a general set of ppl. which may or may not belong to a cult.

    All that said, my position is atheist DO NOT get some really unfair treatment. So what if they can’t be the president in USA? in many countries, women, gay, Muslims, Christians, Jews and many subset of people cannot be a leader. Atheists are among the least attacked group of ppl. Only once in a blue moon, during a rare debate like this, will atheists get stereotype into some evil bigot cultist. Mostly Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus get far more abuse and attacks, either in the cyberspace or in real lives physical attacks. So stop whining, you atheists.

  97. February 24, 2009 at 11:20

    yeah they do..with a capital Yes! i mean i am an atheist living in nigeria, i don’t go to church on sundays, and obviously don’t pray. in this ultra – religious country, i am totally and constantly under pressure to always explain why i don’t want to pray or won’t pray at work. when filling a form i am forced to put in a religion, if i don’t..well i haven’t it properly. at the bust-stops and in buses fanatics share leaflets and tracts – if i refuse, i get a look as though i were infected with some communicable disease. over here in ultra-religious nigeria, religion and belief in a God matters.

  98. 98 Shelley
    February 24, 2009 at 15:56

    Gr Green, when I was young, they had this program in the schools called religious release. Something like once a week, kids could get out of school for a couple of hours to attend religious classes. The choice was Catholic or Protestant. It was optional, but everyone, including some fanatical religious teachers, knew who went and who didn’t. One kid I knew complained that her teacher made all the people who didn’t go put their heads down for the whole time. The excuse was that the teacher didn’t think it was fair for the religious release students to miss anything. I had a teacher who at Easter time told us the Christian story and then made us write a short essay on what Easter meant to us and said it shouldn’t just be about the commercial side of Easter eggs and bunnies. I wrote that it was about Spring, and yes I did mention something about eggs and bunnies in this, because they have obvious relevance. We had to pass it to the front and the kid at the front told everyone that I had written about just what the teacher had told us not to write about. In high school we had a choir director who I believe discriminated against me because I complained about the amount of religious word in the music we sang. I know of at least one occasion when I didn’t get invited to a party because the mother didn’t approve of me because of my lack of religion.

    You might say things have changed, but they haven’t really changed that much.

    And by the way, I am a weak Atheist. I have never tried to take anybody’s God away. I have no particular objection to some kind of notion of higher power. But I do have a lot of trouble swallow the idea of that higher power being so vain as to mete out eternal punishment to anyone who doesn’t believe in it.

  99. 99 John (New York City)
    February 24, 2009 at 17:30

    I podcast the show, and this show represents the first time I regret doing so, because I would have loved to get into this debate. (Moral of the story: follow the blog and subscribe to the e-mail!) 😉

    I think the discussion really needs to be turned on its head. The real problem is that people of faith are now being put on the hot seat and made to feel that they are somehow (a) wrong, (b) not very bright and (c) bad for allowing their beliefs to influence their actions. I was surprised that there was no conversation about the payback happening in California, where the passage of Proposition 8 in the November elections (the ballot proposition that blocked same-sex marriage) has turned into a war against religion, with advocates of the proposition being targeted as hatemongers. The LDS church (a/k/a Mormons) are very much on the receiving end of this, as they apparently put lots of money into the campaign, but it also embraces Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, and Orthodox Christians. Most recently, individual donors to the Support Prop 8 campaign are having their names and personal data posted, as a result of which they are getting phone threats.

    In the past week, this received renewed attention with a story that is rapidly circulating in the USA. The full details are on the GetReligion blog (http://www.getreligion.org/?p=7942), but in short: a student in a public speaking class at Los Angeles City College was assigned to give a persuasive presentation to his class. He chose to speak about his opposition to same-sex marriage, as informed by his Christian beliefs. The professor called him a “fascist bastard” and invited students to leave if they were offended by the remarks. When no one left, the professor terminated the class midway through the speech and refused to give it a grade, writing on the student’s evaluation “ask God what your grade is.” The college refuses to disassociate itself from the professor’s actions. (I think this is deserving of a WHYS show in its own right.)

    So, it’s hard for me to get overly worked about about the feeling of nonbelievers that they are suffering. Freedom of belief is a fundamental component of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it’s troubling that people who don’t like that are gaining the upper hand in the discussion.

  100. 100 Vernon
    February 24, 2009 at 17:40

    People should stop complaining and join the group they are complaining about. After all, belief in God is more rational if you look into the full picture. I think it takes more faith to not believe than believe. Furthermore, would you rather wake up on the other side one day, not believing and get a shock that there is a God after all, than wake up as a believer and get a surprise that there isn’t one?

  101. February 24, 2009 at 19:28

    I doubt if there are any true atheists or theists. Every Jack/Jane one of us only wants his/her cake and eat it too.

    The only difference between Atheists and theists is the extent to which one or the other believes in keeping his/her powder dry while believing in god.

    We are all agnostics to one degree or another. The feeling of being discriminated against or that members of one religion or another being fayoured on the basis of faith lies most ly in the eye of the beholder.

  102. February 25, 2009 at 09:31

    As a person living living in a closed and incredibly conservative society,I can say with absolute certitude that in my homeland,Iran,devout Muslims are treated well,Wheras atheists,Bahais and unbelievers are constantly and routinely villified as infidels who will go to hell.This hostile and antagonistic attitude towards unbelievers has driven millions of atheists from Iran.It is totally unacceptable to treat people differently on the basis of their religious beliefs.In the eyes of the Allmghty,all humanbeing are equal and all humans deserve to be treated with due respect and dignity.

  103. 103 Euphorbia
    February 26, 2009 at 04:19

    Always late as I live as in NZ in the summer World Have Your Say disappears and I can only listen to the podcast!

    Yes of course religions get preferential treatment. Only have to look at The House of Lords.

    To celebrate Darwin’s Birthday I made this short YouTube which explains all the fuss which I think your listeners might enjoy!

    Darwin v Adam & Eve

    When you think about it it is really game set and match to the Modern Scientific Theory of Evolution.

    Best to give all religion up and go out and smell the roses. Life is too wonderful and too short!


  104. 104 Give God a go
    February 26, 2009 at 17:40

    Science discovers what is already there. God create it there for you to discover. You need to be spiritally ready to know it is there. Science hijack what we already know only we don’t explain it so. Most of the time scientist get it wrong.

  105. 105 Gr Green
    March 2, 2009 at 04:52

    “Most of the time scientist get it wrong.” Thats the point. If a theist or atheist proves that a scientific theory is wrong, a lot of us atheist would only be too happy. Thats what science is all about, in search of the truth, we don’t mind being proved wrong. We are happy to be proved wrong to advance science. Which is funny when some religious ppl smugly ‘proved’ that a scientific theory is wrong, they think they have won some sort victory. They don’t seem to understand, that if their ‘prove’ is correct, we are only happy for them and happy for science. OTOH, while some religions change their interpretation of their books (time and time again) to adapt to the culture and moral view of the current society, they pretend nothing is changed. Their ‘truth’ is still rock solid as in day one.

    Also, some theists seem to make another wrong assumption. They seem to think that if they can prove certain scientific theory wrong, atheism would cease to exist. Atheism is not all about science, a lot of us might even think that god/s exist. However, we just don’t ‘believe’ in them, as in we don’t worship Her whether She exist or not. Is that so hard to get?

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