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Badge of Honor:
A new poll finds atheists the most hated group in America.

03.31.2006 | SOCIETY

I first learned about the University of Minnesota survey identifying atheists as the most distrusted, untrustworthy, if not outright hated (you wouldn't want your sister marrying one), group in America through a perky little AOL newsletter entitled "News That Doesn't Hurt."

It's a good thing my feelings aren't easily injured, not that they're telling me anything I didn't already know. I once heard Bush's grudging admission that there was a remote possibility that someone who didn't believe in God, let alone his personal strict interpretation thereof, could actually possess morality, but he didn't look sincere.

The title that initially caught my eye was, "Sucks to be Be Runner-Up: Atheists. It turns out that AOL, in response to the U of M poll and other important newsworthy events, had conducted their own poll to see who had the suckiest week in their "It sucks to be... " contest. Atheists came in second with 19% -- poor Paula Abdul led with 57% of the vote. Hopefully Paula Abdul's not an atheist; that would make her numbers worse than the presidents. And besides other's hopes and dreams, exactly what -- unless with her act -- has she bombed lately?

While AOL did point out that "religion is fine. Hating those without one is not," and asked readers to ask themselves if "just about every war over the last say, 5,000 years has been sparked by religion in some way shape or form?" that still didn't make me feel any better.

When I went to the U of M website to investigate further, I learned that the full results of the poll of 2000 phone calls will be published in April. The synopsis said that Atheists came in dead last in American values when compared to Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians. I rejoice on these group's behalf, even if, according to the poll, they don't trust or appreciate my fellow atheists and me for helping them out.

Accordingly, atheists are replacing Catholics, Jews and even Commies as the least American of citizens, if indeed we are considered citizens, our love of this nation's Constitution notwithstanding. But who cares about the Constitution? It's not like our pious President pays it any never mind. He's also been known to break a Commandment or two as well: lying and/or bearing false witness, coveting oil, killing, taking the name of God in vain, the attempted screwing of fathers and mothers in the name of Social Security, etc.

Coastal, Blue State, Better Educated, Multi-cultural loving, in other words, the stuck-up-intellectual snots among our nation were found to be slightly more tolerant than their "Midwestern counterparts."

My experience -- yes and no. Although since I'm also ethnically Jewish, I admit there's always the double whammy effect at play. When meeting those hailing from the Red States, I've often had to explain that my life in New York isn't a non-stop Eyes Wide Shut orgy, shocking them with my tales of cookie baking, quilting, PTA (20 years retired) participation, and raising three children, none of whom have been in jail or summoned Satan. They never quite believe me.

One man from a little town in West Virginia bragged that he taught about me and my family in Sunday school, as in "I know a New York Jew whose daddy was a fireman." He's damn proud of knowing someone descended from a Jew who didn't just grub money and had a manly, altruistic job.

But even in New York City, the alleged Atheist, Jew and Immigrant Capital, people have not taken kindly to an atheist in their midst.

They've been bugging me since Kindergarten, when I refused to say the "Under God" in the pledge recently added by Eisenhower. Or when I raised my hand and protested my third grade teacher reading the 23rd Psalm, freely admitting she was going against the Supreme Court ruling.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. When I protested my son's sixth-grade graduation being full of quasi-religious songs (from cartoons such as Prince of Egypt, we're not talking Bible here) despite back-up from a lawyer/PTA mother, I was banned from an elementary school (at the age of 48). Worse, my children and I were attacked and reviled throughout the neighborhood by Christians and Jews alike. (Hindis and others agreed with me, but were afraid to speak up.) So much for America, land of freedom, let's import it to the world.

Jews refuse to accept my turning my back on the faith of my forefathers, but I honor a long line of atheists, starting with my Great Grandpa Sam. His wife, my beloved Great Grandmother Julia, told us of how she came to America to flee rabbis stunting her education and telling her whom to marry, to wear a wig, and to have more children than she wanted. People forget how when religious people are in charge, they become a real pain in the ass.

Those who play by religion's rules don't like having us Atheists around to remind them that there's always the ability to opt out, which takes a lot of the wind out of their being holy, along with the moral authority that lets them tell everyone else how to live.

One woman, a Born-Again Christian, begged me to allow her to tell my children about Jesus before their lack of religion led them to a life of crime. (According to the poll, atheists are considered most prone to moral indiscretions and criminal behavior.) I countered by offering to tell her children that there was no God, along with a crash course in comparative mythology. She declined.

Christmas Eve, 2004, her two sons committed a very public stabbing, killing one man and severely wounding another, then viciously kicked them both. Apparently they didn't like the way the victims looked at them in a movie theatre.

Far be it from me to accuse all religious people of being criminals; I like to think of myself as tolerant. I hope next time they conduct this poll they call me so I can prove it. I'm just saying that since the majority of people in this country are believers, the majority of the people in jail are, too. Along with the majority of people who go to strip clubs, commit adultery, drink, take drugs, gamble, and watch the immoral entertainment product provided by the so-called Jewish controlled media.

They say there's no such thing as bad press, and I'm hoping that we atheists are no exception. Before we get around to hiring a press agent, I'm spending my time looking out the window for the guys with the torches coming to get the atheist, which I consider real progress. Back in the old days, it would have been because I was a Jew.

About the Author
Beth Birnbaum, who writes for Free Inquiry magazine, among others, has just finished a novel, SoundBite Religion.
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