An eye on disbelief

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God." - George W. Bush

A recent survey conducted by the University of Minnesota shows that atheists are the least trusted group in today's society. The survey was conducted by phone - which helps to eliminate the pressure for specific answers unlike face-to-face surveys - to 2,000 households. Atheists were rated below Muslims, homosexuals, recent immigrants and other groups as "sharing their vision of American society."

It seems that there is an understandable, although ignorant, fear of atheists that has caused a great prejudice to arise in American families. Could it be that we associate religion with being a good citizen? It's a well-known fact that we, as humans, fear the unknown, but to lower atheists below groups that we may have reasons to fear (not that any prejudices are justified) is a disgusting reality.

With only 3 percent of the United States being openly atheists, it's hard to understand why they are feared more than others. Perhaps the most surprising aspect is that Muslims still managed to be more accepted than atheists.

What is the difference between believing in a God that Christians do not and not believing in one at all? Is it that atheists don't have morals because of their lack of religion? It seems that a religion that is often misconstrued by some of its followers, leading them to believe killing or committing suicide in the name of their deity, is a bit more threatening than no religion at all. Still, we fear what we do not understand and it seems that the only way we could free ourselves from this fear is to familiarize ourselves with what we do not understand.

Atheism does not support worship of Satan, which seems to be a common misconception. Atheists do not believe in Satan just as they do not believe in God, angels, demons, heaven or hell.

They are a minority of people who are willing to admit that fictional tales crammed full of morals and life lessons are only that; fictional tales. They acknowledge the fact that many religions have preceded Christianity such as Judaism (2086 B.C.), Hinduism (1500 B.C.), Buddhism (560 B.C.), Taoism (550 B.C.), and Jainism (599 B.C.). Atheists believe that Christianity is but an extension in beliefs already established. They have morals, standards and follow laws like everyone else. They only lack the security blanket with which so many believers tuck themselves in at night.

Still, what does fail to make sense when addressing the United States' stand on religion are the results to surveys which not only ask of belief in God but in other things as well. One survey asked Americans if they believed in life after death and nearly 80 percent said yes. Yet, 86 percent believe in a heaven but only 76 percent believe in a place similar to hell. Out of these people, 60 percent attend church once a month or more and around 75 percent believe in miracles. It's odd how these statistics don't exactly add up.

Shouldn't the statistical numbers for a belief in life after death, a belief in God, a belief in heaven and a belief in hell all be equal for those who categorize themselves as Christians? Or are we choosing to believe in what makes us feel better, such as a belief in heaven receiving 86 percent support while hell only receives 75 percent, and denying those things that make us uneasy?

I am not targeting Christians, but instead Americans with minds far too closed for the current year in which we live. We are the country of contradictions, materialism and the prime manifestation of seeing what we wish and shielding our eyes to what we fear. Someone recently told me that the only thing we could all agree on was materialism in the sense of what we can touch and see. We must be able to relate directly or we refuse to comprehend.

For instance, our society has inaccurately construed an idea of what Jesus', believed to be the son of God, physical appearance may have been. He is the epitome of beauty, the perfect male, long flowing hair and the ideal build. He is not the short, possibly heavier, dark-skinned man with a shaven head that he really would have been.

Perhaps things like these are meaningless but they still give people the opportunity to feel comfortable in faulty beliefs, so comfortable and secure that they create fear of those who don't share their ideas. No one should live their lives feeling constant hate and distrust, not even atheists.

The statistics show that this is more prominent in the United States since anywhere from 9 percent to 20 percent of countries such as France or Canada (full of atheists but still lacking the violence that America demonstrates yearly; with an average of 600 murders this past year compared to anywhere from 300 to 500 murders in Tennessee annually) admits to not believing in God.

No matter your religion, or lack thereof, it is apparent that America is a country in which being a Christian can guarantee more friendship and warm welcome. It is obvious that atheists are no more a threat than any Christian you may encounter on the street and are no more inclined to threaten rape or commit murder.

With statistics as inconsistent as they seem to be in America, it's hard to believe that there aren't more atheists; ones too afraid to confess.

Faith is important, whether in a God or in ourselves. What is not important, or acceptable, is demonstrating prejudice and unjustified fear against a person, or persons, with whom you fail to agree.

No one, not even the president, who makes his beliefs so clear, no matter how idiotic, has the right to discriminate. So, by standing strong, being true to our beliefs to the fullest degree, no matter what they may be, and opening ourselves up we can make changes that have been due for a very long time, begin to understand one another and eliminate one of the greatest fears of all: a fear of the unknown.


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