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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
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
- evilness of atheists
- atheists have rejected God and embrace sin (or rejected God to embrace sin)[note 1]
- atheists wish to destroy religion and abolish religious holidays
- atheists have meaningless or decadent lives
- atheists should not be allowed to express their lack of belief
- atheists are a corrupting influence
- atheists are unsuited to responsibility
atheists get to stay up late and take drugs and it's just not fair
atheists can have guilt-free sex and it's just not fair
atheists get to have Saturday and Sunday mornings off and it's just not fair
atheists get to do more fun things in their lives and it’s just not fair
atheists don’t have to ask for anything and it’s just not fair
- atheists lead lives that are empty and degenerate
- atheists are just college kids wishing to escape personal responsibility
- atheists are just going through a “teenage phase”[note 2]
- atheists are men with 'defective' or deceased fathers
- Poland, 1689 — Kazimierz Łyszczyński is tortured and then burned at the stake for atheism. A man who owed him money brought him before court for writing "and therefore, there is no God" in the margin of a book. Prosecutors later discovered that he wrote a 265-page treatise called De non existentia Dei, where he argued that God is a construct of the human mind, and it was the primary cause of sentencing him to death. He tried to claim this had only been first presenting atheist arguments to refute them later, but this wasn't believed. The manuscript was destroyed; only five quotations from the work survived in court documents.
- Scotland, 1698 — Thomas Aikenhead is executed for reading a book about atheism at Edinburgh University.
- England, 1880 — Charles Bradlaugh is elected to Parliament, but as an atheist is barred from taking his seat as he wishes to affirm rather than swear to God, as is required. Eventually he wins the argument, getting a law passed that allows MPs to affirm.
- Nazi Germany — Adolf Hitler banned left-wing atheist and freethought groups and regularly spoke against the "atheistic" or "godless movement." 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) 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.
- Cold War era USA — The association of atheism with "godless communism" became popular during the Red Scare.
- Chuck Norris wanting to "Tattoo an American flag with the words, 'In God We Trust,' on the forehead of every atheist" when he is elected President, though this appears in a humorous self-deprecating article and may have been a joke.
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).
Although atheists are banned from holding office in six US states, those provisions are not enforceable. A Myspace atheist group with 35000 members was deleted for causing offense — just by existing.
No admitted or confirmed atheist has ever been President of the United States, although some right-wing skeptics have claimed that Obama is an atheist. Some other presidents have been rather secular throughout their lives or seem to have "lost their faith" at some point and a handful even omitted the (optional) phrase "so help me God" from the oath of office. While all this is fine basis for speculation, it is virtually impossible to ever conclusively prove anything about the privately held religious beliefs[note 3] of all Presidents, much less the dead ones. Considering atheophobia, however, a President who is indeed atheist would do well[note 4] to "stay in the closet" about it. In Congress, there have only been two Representatives who have proclaimed themselves as atheists, Democrat Pete Stark and Democrat Barney Frank. Stark kept his seat for 40 consecutive years.
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) and Leader of the Opposition (Ed Miliband) were atheists,[note 5] leaving two of the three main political parties led by atheists.
In the rest of Western and Central Europe atheism is also far more acceptable. An outright majority of people living in the Czech Republic are believed to be atheists based on a Eurobarometer poll. The same poll puts figures in the 20s-40s in other countries such as France, Netherlands, and Germany. There are vocal religious groups however; although many stereotype France as almost militantly secular, recent protests against the passage of a gay marriage law demonstrate that Catholicism and other conservative brands of Christianity still hold sway with many people.
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. He was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, but fled Egypt after being freed on bail for an appeal.
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. 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.
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 6]
In atheists we distrust
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. 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.
Some noted 'atheophobes'
- Alex Jones, Christian conspiracy loon, claims that atheists are behind the New World Order and are working with Satanic forces to destroy traditional American family values and Christianity.
- Mark Dice: As above.
- Pat Robertson
- Steve Harvey
- John Kasich
- Sheik Feiz Muhammad, Arabic-Australian Muslim preacher, regularly describes atheists as 'dirt' during sermons and advocates the death penalty for non-believers.
- David J. Stewart of the Jesus Is Savior ministry.
- Datuk Dr. Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs, who went after an atheist group in Malaysia in early August of 2017.
- Atheophobia at H2G2
- Steve Harvey disparages atheists.
- Atheophobia video at YouTube
- Hollywood Atheist, TV Tropes
- Penny Edgell, Joseph Gerteis, Douglas Hartmann. Atheists As “Other”: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society. American Sociological Review, 2006, vol. 771 (April:211–234).
- An Alien in a Christian World: Intolerance, Coping, and Negotiating Identity Among Atheists in the United States, Christine H. Foust, Wake Forest University
- Okay, you got us.
- Because you know, atheism is one of those things that you can just phase in and out of.
- Or lack thereof.
- Politically, at least.
- They are still atheists, but not in their positions of power anymore; no religion or atheism was not a campaign issue.
- In Islam, it is a capital offense to deconvert
- The Failure of Atheism to Account for Morality
- Conservapedia — Atheism and Morality
- University of Cambridge, Investigating Atheism - Atheism and Morality
- 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."
- http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s4-28#ixzz3IeiO46ER: "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)
- Religion Must Be Destroyed, Atheist Alliance Declares
- New militant atheists want to 'destroy religious faith'
- Staten Island pol decries 'war on Christmas,'
- The War on Christmas is real, and the atheist barbarians are winning it
- "Atheism and Death" 
- Knowledge of atheism is alleged to be dangerous to children. 
- Here is Newt Gingrich saying exactly that and receiving much applause
- Here is Dinesh D'Souza lecturing students at the University of Colorado at Boulder
- Racjonalista: Kazimierz Łyszczyński 1634-1689 (in Polish)
- Hitler on Secularism, Atheism, about.com
- Rev. Billy Graham and Dwight Eisenhower team up to fight "godless communism", PBS Frontline: A Merging of Faith and Patriotism
- World Net Daily — If I am elected president
- Atheists around world suffer persecution, discrimination: report
- MySpace deletes atheist group, Ed Brayton
- "Crashing the Tea Party", David Cambell and Robert Putnam
- 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)
- Will M. Gervais and Ara Norenzayan. Reminders of Secular Authority Reduce Believers' Distrust in Atheists. Psychological Science 23(5) 483–491