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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:

  • moral inferiority of atheists/atheism[1][2][3]
  • evilness of atheists[4]
  • atheists have rejected God[note 1] and embrace sin (or rejected God to embrace sin)[5][note 2]
  • atheists wish to destroy religion and abolish religious holidays[6][7][8][9]
  • atheists have meaningless or decadent lives[10]
  • atheists should not be allowed to express their lack of belief[11]
  • atheists are a corrupting influence[12]
  • atheists are unsuited to responsibility[13]
  • atheists lead lives that are empty and degenerate[4]
  • atheists are just college kids wishing to escape personal responsibility[14]
  • atheists are just going through a “teenage phase”[note 3]
  • atheists are men with 'defective' or deceased fathers[15]

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.[16]
  • 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."[17] 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 BormannWikipedia) could still get great careers under the Nazi regime. According to propaganda officer Goebbels, Hitler hated Christianity as well and sought to eradicate it. 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.[18]

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, 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 4] of all Presidents, much less the dead ones. Considering atheophobia, however, a President who is indeed atheist would do well[note 5] 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] 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]

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


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 6] 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.

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]


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.[33] Indonesia requires all citizens to identify as either Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu or Confucian — atheist is not an option. Similarly, Egypt requires them to identify as either Muslim, Christian or Jewish, 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.[34]

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 7][35]

In Bangladesh, several atheists have been murdered by Muslim fanatics,[36][37][38] and others forced into exile due to threats (sometimes of vigilante violence, but also prosecution over "insulting religion"), like Taslima Nasrin.[39] The Islamic militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujihadeen Bangladesh published a list of people they dislike, atheists included, with death threats.[40] Other atheists have survived murder attempts as well.[41][42]


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,[43] 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. [44] The proportion more than doubled in two decades, reaching 41.9% in the 2013 census.[45] 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.[46] 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.[47]

Some noted 'atheophobes'[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. There are atheists who were born that way.
  2. Okay, you got us.
  3. Because you know, atheism is one of those things that you can just phase in and out of.
  4. Or lack thereof.
  5. Politically, at least.
  6. They are still atheists, but not in their positions of power anymore; no religion or atheism was not a campaign issue.
  7. 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
  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" [1]
  11. Knowledge of atheism is alleged to be dangerous to children.[2]
  12. Ibid.
  13. Here is Newt Gingrich saying exactly that and receiving much applause
  14. Here is Dinesh D'Souza lecturing students at the University of Colorado at Boulder
  16. Racjonalista: Kazimierz Łyszczyński 1634-1689 (in Polish)
  17. Hitler on Secularism, Atheism,
  19. Rev. Billy Graham and Dwight Eisenhower team up to fight "godless communism", PBS Frontline: A Merging of Faith and Patriotism
  20. World Net Daily — If I am elected president
  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
  36. "Proper probe into death of Humayun Azad demanded". Daily Star. 12 August 2009. 
  37. "Knife attack kills Bangladesh blogger Washiqur Rahman". BBC News. 30 March 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  38. "Bangladesh blogger hacked to death by masked assailants". Irish Times. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  39. Margaret Bald (2006). Literature Suppressed on Religious Grounds. Infobase Publishing. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-8160-7148-7. 
  40. Burke, Jason (23 September 2015). "Militant group publishes global hitlist of bloggers, activists and writers". Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
  41. "Youth hacked injured at Mirpur". The Daily Star. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  42. "'Militant atheist' blogger stabbed in Bangladesh". Hindustan Times. Agence France-Presse. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  43. "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. 
  44. "Diverse Communities – Exploring the Migrant and Refugee Experience in New Zealand". Ministry of Social Development. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  46. 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)
  47. Will M. Gervais and Ara Norenzayan. Reminders of Secular Authority Reduce Believers' Distrust in Atheists. Psychological Science 23(5) 483–491