So, there are surveys about how atheists are still one of the most hated/distrusted groups in the US.
You hear about people being kicked out of their family, being ostracized from their community, losing their jobs, even receiving death threats for not believing in god.
I could type all day as…
I think you’ll find that most people don’t know that they know any moral atheists.
It’s sort of a confirmation bias thing. Certainly there are people in their lives who don’t have a belief in God, but if they function like your average human being (pay their bills, care for their families, get their work done well), the onlooker has no reason to ever question whether that person believes in God. It’s assumed.
If they find out that the person with whom they work is an atheist, their entire perception of them will be colored. Depending on how strongly they believe that atheists cannot be good people, they may just stop associating with them altogether, eventually leading to memories that are filled in by the current beliefs you hold so that they never looked as good. Negative things will stand out.
More importantly, someone who holds that strong of a conviction about religion and atheism will probably believe that the very act of not going to church, not believing in God, etc. IS sinful and immoral. So the atheist cannot be moral, no matter how good of a life they claim to lead. This is the best case scenario, sadly. They may still “like” the atheist, but they will suddenly look down on him or her like they do any other “lost” person who thinks they live a good life. They will tolerate you, but they know you’re destined to hell because of your pride.
In Psychology, we find repeatedly that bigotry and prejudice can be erased pretty easily once someone actually associates with the people they were taught to hate, but it works best on people who are kind of on the fence. Once the beliefs are fuller formed, it’s hard. Homophobes and racists will not, on their own, forge relationships with people they know to be gay or a minority, and if they are forced into a relationship with someone they hate, their experience will be negative from the beginning. Breaking in to those hate-filled schemas is difficult.
Atheism is a sneaky minority, one you can never be forced to admit to or caught in a lie about, but when it comes out - someone on the fence may realize that atheists aren’t really all that bad, but a strict Evangelical will feel like hissing and forming a cross with two fingers at you. Your presence in their mind and their memory will be altered by that knowledge and what they suddenly “know” about you, instead of that knowledge being able to alter their beliefs about atheists.
It’s fucked up, but that’s how it normally works. It takes a lot of life experience, an overwhelming amount of disconfirmation of your beliefs before you begin to suspect that maybe you’re wrong. With religion, a system of thought where the thinking that you might be wrong is completely discouraged, that’s nigh fucking impossible.
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