The first amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state. The fact that this is made so explicit, is probably the reason for the rare instances of widespread federal government discrimination against Atheists, though on an individual and local government basis, the experience is quite different.
I am an Atheist. I have experienced discrimination. I have combatted that discrimination.
So, if the federal government isn't discriminating against me on a large scale, who is? All Atheists, at one time or another, have experienced the social discrimination. Someone discovers that you are an Atheist, and gives you the disgusted stare, or confused look. They don't seem to understand how we can hold such a rational view of the world. Oh, the irony. Though awkward at times, these are usually relatively benign interactions. Someone may disapprove of my view, they may not like me because of it, but none of that really harms me.
So what else is there?
Well, there is the nativity scenes that adorn the lawns of local government buildings. My feelings are that since the U.S. prides itself on being a diverse country, our local governments ought to either decorate for and celebrate every religious holiday from all countries around the world, or none at all. This, by itself, is a form of discrimination, but also relatively benign. However, these are now individuals that have power over you, decision making power about you, your life, and your experience within a community, which makes ups the stakes a little in terms of how dangerous it can be.
So what else?
Would you believe me if I told you that there were 6 states that have laws preventing an Atheist from holding public office? What happened to separation of church and state? Just take a moment to ponder this before you continue reading.
This is dangerous.
I would imagine this stems from the misconception that Atheist have no morals. Based upon the behaviors of religious persons that see around me, I am absolutely certain that I have better morals than most of them. I don't need a God to tell me right from wrong. I'm pretty capable of doing that all on my own, and I've been doing since about the age of 5.
How does this happen? How is a state allowed to prevent me from running for public office due to my lack of religion? I wish I had an answer, and I wish people didn't act on their fear. I'm an open Atheist because I hope that when people meet me, and realize that I am Atheist, it may change their perception on Atheists. Maybe they will see that we aren't a scary, underground society, looking to corrupt their sanctimonious lifestyles.
I hope that someday, this discrimination will end. Until then, I will continue to try to change people's ill-informed opinions about Atheism, one person at a time. We will get there, it will just take time.
Have a great weekend,
-The Atheist Physician