First things first; I am a Catholic. I retain that belief regardless, and I love that the constitution has protected the ability to practice my religion. However, I am an ardent secularist as well; the freedom to practice and adhere to (or not adhere to) a religion or religious ideology extends to everyone, and this is without exception. This, obviously, must extend to atheists or other irreligious and non-believing individuals. However, in this country, we have not afforded them the same protection that we afford to other religious groups. What gives? Why exactly is this the case?
Let's discuss one way that atheists have been discriminated against; politically. SEVEN (as in, not the zero we should expect) states have laws that stipulate that one must profess belief in God in order to hold office. Even if this is unenforceable (thanks Supreme Court), the fact these are still on the books despite this is... horrifying. Why must an individual profess belief in God, especially in a country that has founding figures that rejected established dogmas? Furthermore, running as an atheist is nearly taboo; there have been so many political adverts that emphasize a person's religion and the ideology, as well as demeaning people who are considered as having beliefs in "atheistic ideals" like, GASP, belief in evolution. Or the Big Bang Theory (, many southern candidates where religiosity is just that important). It is a pathetic tale where atheists are unable to represent people as a result of their atheism, which many people say is DISQUALIFYING for a candidate. We have had ONE atheist in the United States Congress ever. Shocking.
Let's talk U.S. culture and society, as well. Atheism has not been accepted well across the board in this country. Atheists have been seen as behind various atrocities in this country, and have had certain events attributed to their lack of belief (aka, school shootings, 9/11, and just about any other major terrorist attack/shooting). Atheists have varying degrees of acceptance from religious groups, with only 29% of evangelical Christians having a favorable view of atheists (and 45% for Catholics as well). There's also the Boy Scouts of America, which asserted that belief in God was necessary to be a member, as well as to be a good citizen.
Fox News even ran an abhorrent opinion piece which decried atheism as responsible for ALL deaths under communist regimes, as well as promoting an inane ideology where belief in the theory of evolution makes someone a more evil person. Preachers, like John Hagee, believe atheists should leave the country. People on the AFA Radio station, like Bryan Fischer, believe atheists to be incapable of serving the country faithfully. Plus, atheists are seen as inherently immoral by just about every major religious group.
Look, here's my thing. I am Catholic. I practice my faith. I can reiterate that as I please. However, as I said, I believe in freedom of religion. People should be free to believe as they believe. We may disagree with people, but referring to them as EVIL? People like Isaac Asimov were evil? People like Tesla? Some of the greatest scientists of our time and beyond were atheists (Hello, Stephen Hawking). Some of the world's greatest contributors to the arts, philosophy, and literature, such as Picasso, Kurt Vonnegut, and so on. All of these people.. are evil? What about George Orwell? Are they worthy of discrimination? Persecution? To be called evil? No. They are not evil just because of this, and their lack of belief in a deity should not be grounds for discrimination.
In short, atheists have been screwed time and time again in this country. Politically and culturally, atheism is seen as a belief (or ideology, almost) filled with rot, not worthy of trust. When just 57% of Democrats and 43% of Republicans have favorable views of atheists, and about less than half of Americans are willing to vote for an atheist candidate, that is a problem. Hell, we still have issues with families allowing one to DATE or be FRIENDS an atheist. It is reprehensible. We MUST do better as a society. If we are to disagree, we can at least be tolerant.