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Atheophobia is a term used to describe the fear, distrust, or hatred of atheists or atheism. Like homophobia and transphobia, it is largely driven by fear and anger at the loss of religious privilege, as well as dogma-based biases/prejudices.

Expressions of atheophobia[edit]

Atheophobia 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:

Historical examples[edit]

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, or it'd rival the Bible in length.
  • Poland, 1689 — Kazimierz ŁyszczyńskiWikipedia is tortured and beheaded for atheism. His corpse was burned and his ashes weren't buried. 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.[17]
  • England, 1880 — Charles BradlaughWikipedia 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.
  • Nazi GermanyAdolf Hitler banned left-wing atheist and freethought groups and regularly spoke against the "atheistic" or "godless movement."[18] Indeed, Nazi Germany is a depressingly common example, with Reductio ad Hitlerum (wrongly, and thus ironically) used against atheists to associate them with Nazism. That being said, it was more because Hitler hated communism rather than anything else. Atheists that were members of the Nazi party (such as Martin Bormann)Wikipedia could still get great careers under the Nazi regime. According to propaganda officer Goebbels, Hitler hated Christianity as well and sought to eradicate it, though what he intended to replace it with isn't entirely clear. So Hitler has no place on either side of the spectrum. The SS oath denounced atheism as well, and the organization forbade atheists from joining.[19]

Modern day[edit]

Atheists are oppressed in many parts of the world; this can range from losing work to, in seven countries, capital punishment (Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania,Wikipedia Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan).[21]

United States[edit]

Although atheists are banned from holding office in six US states, those provisions are not enforceable.[22] A Myspace atheist group with 35000 members was deleted for causing offense — just by existing.[23]

No admitted or confirmed atheist has ever been President of the United States, although some wingnut racists have claimed that Obama is an atheist.[24] 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 8] of all Presidents, much less the dead ones. Considering atheophobia, however, a President who is indeed atheist would do well[note 9] 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.[25][note 10] 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,[26] considering all their anti-atheist rhetoric.

According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, the public has about equivalent negative feelings towards atheists and Muslims.[27][note 11]


In 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[28]) and Leader of the Opposition (Ed Miliband[29]) were atheists,[note 12] 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 Czechia 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.[note 13]

Eastern Europe is much more religious, even in areas formerly part of the Soviet bloc. Atheism is high in some countries, including Estonia and Czechia, but low in others, such as Poland.

Middle East[edit]

Essentially everywhere. A recent example was that of Alber Saber, a 27-year old Egyptian atheist who ran the Egyptian Atheists Facebook page, with a link to the notorious film Innocence of Muslims. This was discovered by a Muslim friend, who then got in a physical and verbal confrontation with Saber that spilled outside. Upon learning what had occurred, a mob formed threatening his life. Saber's mother called police, who instead of protecting him, arrested Saber on the charge of "insulting religion". After learning why he was in jail, a fellow inmate attacked Saber with a knife, slashing his neck.[30] He was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison,[31] but fled Egypt after being freed on bail for an appeal.[32]

A far luckier case was that of Rahaf Mohammed,Wikipedia a Saudi atheist who managed to weasel herself away from her family's control at the age of eighteen, initially seeking asylum in Australia, but was later aided by Canadian authorities, who quickly took her in upon being referred to her case. As Saudi shariah law stipulates that women are legally considered minors for life in need of "protection",Wikipedia Rahaf must obtain permission from her legal guardians before travelling freely for even something as trivial as conducting official business, obtaining employment, concluding a marriage contract, or undergoing certain medical procedures. On top of that, she renounced Islam, which, if she were successfully deported back to her home country, would have landed her a death sentence, as apostasy is a capital offence in Saudi Arabia.[note 14] Following international pressure and a successful Twitter campaign, she was granted asylum in Canada, where she now resides.[33] Unsurprisingly, Mohammed received death threats from Muslims who did not take kindly to what they view as a treasonous act of blasphemy, and even a smear campaign in the good old KSA where she is portrayed as a degenerate drug addict through spurious conspiracy theories alleging a "Canadian attempt at stirring up civil strife".[34] Mohammed's family also disowned her as a "mentally unstable daughter who has displayed insulting and disgraceful behavior"; not that Rahaf would mind, though she did express concern for her sisters' welfare in an interview, fearing further reprisals from her parents towards the other siblings.[35] Her subsequent career as an adult model – boob jobWikipedia and all – and a link to her profile on the adult-oriented content subscription service OnlyFansWikipedia might give her critics even more of an incentive to bash and threaten her, however.[36]


31-year-old Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan, in a case very similar to Saber's, was beaten by a mob after posting to his Facebook wall "God does not exist". Rather than protecting him, he was arrested by police for blasphemy and lying on a job application, where he claimed to be a Muslim.[37] Indonesia requires all citizens to identify as either Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, or Confucian — atheist is not an option.[note 15] Worse, they were victims of a Suhartist genocide in 1965 and 1966 — a genocide that, according to Geoffrey B. Robinson, "Western powers [...] facilitated widespread violence including mass killings, and helped to consolidate the political power of the army," satisfying the Chomsky rule. Similarly, Egypt requires citizens to identify as either Muslim, Christian, or Jewish,[note 16] and other Muslim countries also have such restrictions. Convicted of blasphemy, Aan served 18 months of a 2.5 year jail sentence before being released on "licence" on 27 January 2014.[38]

On August 2017, when several Malaysian government officials had discovered that there was a group of atheists in Kuala Lumpur, they had began calling for the execution of any of them who were former Muslims, and asserting that atheists are not (and don’t deserve to be) Malaysian citizens (sound familiar?)[note 17][39]

In Bangladesh, several atheists have been murdered by Muslim fanatics,[40][41][42] and others forced into exile due to threats (sometimes of vigilante violence, but also prosecution over "insulting religion"), like Taslima Nasrin.[43] The Islamic militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujihadeen Bangladesh published a list of people they dislike, atheists included, with death threats.[44] Other atheists have survived murder attempts as well.[45][46]


Atheism is considerably more accepted in Australia and New Zealand than in the United States, with the number of non-religious people in both countries increasing recently. The Australian Bureau of Statistics census from 2016 reported that 29.6% of Australians followed no religion, compared to 22.3% in 2011,[47] while the New Zealand 2013 census reported 41.9% of people being in this category, more than double the figure of 20.2% reported in the 1991 census. [48] The proportion more than doubled in two decades, reaching 41.9% in the 2013 census.[49] Julia Gillard, the first female Prime Minister of Australia, is (and was) a self-declared atheist.

In atheists we distrust[edit]

Some psychological research suggests that atheophobia tends to be driven by distrust more than other factors. Whereas discrimination against gays, for example, tends to arise from disgust, atheists are distrusted in a fashion similar to criminals such as rapists.[50] Further demonstrating this, people who are shown a stimulus involving secular authorities such as the police show reduced distrust in atheists when asked to make judgments about them.[51]

Some noted 'atheophobes'[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Yes, we know that "moral inferiority" and "evil" sound extremely similar, and they are, but the former doesn't necessarily imply the latter. The former can simply be describing amorality (i.e. not caring about good or evil).
  2. There are atheists who were born that way. In fact, technically, everyone is born as an atheist, as the mind is something of a blank slate at first and needs to be taught about religion in order to believe.
  3. Okay, you got us. (But to be fair, Christians really need to dramatically revamp their doctrine (i.e. establish a very clear dividing line (read: not based on ad hoc exclusion) between mainstream Christianity and raving lunacy) and start actually behaving according to proper moral standards (read: no bigotry allowed) in order to help their God live down his murderously hard-assed and xenophobic phase.)
  4. To be fair, there are atheists who think this way, but most atheists just don't believe in any god or religion and see no place for religion in their own lives, without having any desire to take religion away from anyone else.
  5. Again, some atheists are Satanists, as atheistic/non-theistic Satanism is a thing (in fact, theistic Satanism is somewhat less common than the non-theistic kind), but mainstream Satanism as an ideology is largely harmless to people who aren't trying to demolish separation of church and state, force religious nonsense into school curriculums, place religious icons in government buildings,[12] or otherwise behaving like assholes. Psychotic culty rape-your-wife, murder-your-dog, eat-your-kids'-hearts "Satanists" like you might see in a religious horror story, while not completely nonexistent (as anyone with an interest in researching serial killersWikipedia could tell you), are exceedingly uncommon (because stark raving antisocial lunatics tend to get locked up, run out of society, or outright lynched (especially when they don't form associations of like-minded lunatics — oh, wait, that's a perfect description of fundies) and generally aren't very successful at siring children), and actual Satanists would prefer not to associate with them.
  6. Because you know, atheism is one of those things that you can just phase in and out of.
  7. This may go a long way towards explaining the current batshit insanity afflicting the Republican Party and the southern United States. (The other half of the explanation is butthurt over not being allowed to literally own black people.)[citation needed]
  8. Or lack thereof.
  9. Politically, at least.
  10. We wish we could be surprised that neither of them are Republicans, but we can't.
  11. We're not sure whether or not we need to point out that this was 13 years after 9/11.
  12. They are still atheists, but not in their positions of power anymore; no, religion or atheism was not a campaign issue.
  13. And humanity still suffers for that.
  14. It should go without saying that what women actually need protection from is fundamentalist control freaks who have convinced themselves that treating women like actual human beings is haram. (…What, did you think we were going to say "Islam"? We're RationalWiki, not Reddit. We don't hate religion here; we just think it's a bit absurd. Indeed, religion would be harmless or even beneficial on its own; the trouble starts when it's granted greater importance than human rights, common sense, the scientific consensus, or actually going to the trouble of objectively evaluating reality.)
  15. Many, many other religions are also not on that list, such as Baha'i, Jew, Shinto, Mormon, Wiccan, Taoist, literally any pagan religion, and far too many others to list… In short, Indonesia fails pretty hard at providing freedom of religion.
  16. That's even less freedom of religion than Indonesia!
  17. In Islam, it is a capital offense to deconvert.


  1. The Failure of Atheism to Account for Morality
  2. Conservapedia — Atheism and Morality
  3. University of Cambridge, Investigating Atheism - Atheism and Morality
  4. 4.0 4.1 Psalm 14:1-3, KJV — "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
  5. "Ultimately, the reason why a person fails to become a Christian is because he loves darkness rather than light and he wants nothing to do with God." (William Lane Craig)
  6. Religion Must Be Destroyed, Atheist Alliance Declares[dead link]
  7. New militant atheists want to 'destroy religious faith'
  8. Staten Island pol decries 'war on Christmas,'
  9. The War on Christmas is real, and the atheist barbarians are winning it
  10. "Atheism and Death" — Matt Perman, oocities
  11. French, Michael. "The New Atheists of the Philippines".
  12. There have been high-profile cases of the Satanic Temple and Church of Satan countering the erection of Christian icons with icons of demons such as Baphomet; one such instance occurred at the Iowa state capital in late 2023.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Knowledge of atheism is alleged to be dangerous to children.
  14. Here is Newt Gingrich saying exactly that and receiving much applause.
  15. Here is Dinesh D'Souza lecturing students at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
  17. Racjonalista: Kazimierz Łyszczyński 1634-1689 (in Polish)
  18. Hitler on Secularism, Atheism,
  20. Rev. Billy Graham and Dwight Eisenhower team up to fight "godless communism", PBS Frontline: A Merging of Faith and Patriotism
  21. Atheists around world suffer persecution, discrimination: report
  23. MySpace deletes atheist group, Ed Brayton
  26. "Crashing the Tea Party", David Cambell and Robert Putnam
  33. "Rahaf al-Qunun: Saudi teen granted asylum in Canada". BBC News. 11 January 2019.
  34. "Here's how the Saudi press has been smearing the teen who fled her family". ThinkProgress. 3 February 2019.
  35. Rahaf Mohammed's New Life After Fleeing Abusive Family In Saudi Arabia
  36. Rahaf Mohammed on Instagram
  40. "Proper probe into death of Humayun Azad demanded". Daily Star. 12 August 2009. 
  41. "Knife attack kills Bangladesh blogger Washiqur Rahman". BBC News. 30 March 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  42. "Bangladesh blogger hacked to death by masked assailants". Irish Times. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  43. Margaret Bald (2006). Literature Suppressed on Religious Grounds. Infobase Publishing. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-8160-7148-7. 
  44. Burke, Jason (23 September 2015). "Militant group publishes global hitlist of bloggers, activists and writers". Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
  45. "Youth hacked injured at Mirpur". The Daily Star. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  46. "'Militant atheist' blogger stabbed in Bangladesh". Hindustan Times. Agence France-Presse. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  47. "Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016 : Religion in Australia". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Archived from the original on 10 July 2017. Retrieved 20 July 2019. 
  48. "Diverse Communities – Exploring the Migrant and Refugee Experience in New Zealand". Ministry of Social Development. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  50. Gervais, W. M., Shariff, A. F., & Norenzayan, A. (2011, November 7). Do You Believe in Atheists? Distrust Is Central to Anti-Atheist Prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. (Press release)
  51. Will M. Gervais and Ara Norenzayan. Reminders of Secular Authority Reduce Believers' Distrust in Atheists. Psychological Science 23(5) 483–491