So, you don’t see atheist discrimination? June 1, 2012Posted by Shaun McGonigal in Culture and Society.
Tags: activism, atheism, discrimination, privilege
Now, I have been wearing shirts that advertise my atheism for many years. I have some acquaintances who question why I wear them as well as why it matters. They are atheists too, in most cases, and nobody seems to care about it around them.
Well, a few things:
1) Most of my acquaintances who make such comments, especially people I’ve known from from high school, are very privileged private school educated, upper middle class, white men.
2) They rarely or never talk about their atheism, especially to non-atheists. How would they know if discrimination existed? It’s easy not to be discriminated against if you are so deep in the closet nobody can see you there.
3) I’m not sure if most of these people would know what discrimination looks like, from the receiving end, if they did experience it.
My own admitted privileged status in our culture means that I don’t fully comprehend the repercussions of discrimination myself, and this is magnified for those who don’t expose themselves to being out atheists. I am well aware of my ignorance about the experience of serious discrimination. But what small amount of lack of privilege that being an atheist entails in our society (especially when compared to what women, non-white, trans, etc (not to mention the various intersectionality that people experience), I can assure you it does exist.
It’s nothing immediately dangerous (in the vast majority of cases, but I also live in a liberal metropolis), and in most cases it amounts to awkward conversations with clueless people. It certainly can make job-hunting problematic, as advertising atheist activism on a resume may not be wise. Although I once did get hired for a job (years ago) while wearing a “Hi, I’m your friendly neighborhood atheist” shirt.
So, atheist discrimination, in comparison with discrimination received by other groups of people is comparatively tame. But it exists. The more people that come out of the closet as atheists, the better it will eventually get.
So, whether you wear a shirt like the one pictured above or not, keep in mind that there are significant religious privileges in our society, and that we need more people standing up, speaking, and acting in the name of social justice of all kinds.
All social justice activists are working to make their activism irrelevant. Let’s make atheist activism irrelevant.