Anti-atheist bigotry appears in many contexts and occurs in many formats. Its widespread prevalence, often as an unspoken assumption that's simply taken for granted, seems almost impossible to deny. Some do try to deny it, however, and insist that despite all the evidence to the contrary, atheists aren't even very generally despised, much less are the most despised and distrusted group in America. Arguments against the existence of anti-Atheist bigotry range from the merely ignorant to the outlandishly hostile.
People who deny that atheists are victims of bigotry and prejudice frequently insist that atheists are just "crying wolf" and suffering from a victim complex. This accusation is often directed at people objecting to discrimination and bigotry, and sometimes it may even be true. The mere fact that some people may seek the status of victimhood in order to feel special or be treated better does not, however, justify asserting that this is true in any particular case. As an accusation, this is worthless without an ability to demonstrate that atheists' specific complaints are false. Are Atheists Developing a Victim Complex and Crying Wolf?
This common claim is false because neither believing nor disbelieving something is an act of will. That this is false is less relevant than its purpose: to imply that something which is chosen can be more justifiably discriminated against than something which is not. This purpose is more evident in another common context: that homosexuality is "chosen," is a "lifestyle," and is thus not worthy of civil rights protections. The goal in both cases is to say that discrimination and bigotry against gays or atheists is not as immoral as discrimination or bigotry against race, gender, ethnicity, etc. Is Atheism is a Choice?
In America, bigotry against minorities has frequently been accompanied by violence: lynchings, murders, etc. Few atheists are murdered for their atheism, so it's true that atheists today don't have it as bad as other groups have had it in the past. This cannot, however, justify the conclusion that atheists aren't really the targets of bigotry and prejudice. To suggest that only after a minority is being murdered should one recognizes the bigotry against them is to set the bar impossibly high - and to recommend waiting far too long before deigning to muster any moral outrage. Atheists Don't Have it as Bad as Others?
Many traditional bigotries have been centered around obvious physical characteristics: race, ethnicity, gender, etc. This has not, however, stopped people from being bigoted on the basis of characteristics that don't allow for people to be readily singled out in a crowd: religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs, etc. You don't need to be singled out in a crowd for bigots to hate you, and it's unreasonable to set this up as a standard for who is and is not subjected to bigotry, prejudice, or discrimination in society. Atheists Can't Be Singled Out in a Crowd?
It is true that higher education levels correspond with both better income and less religion or theism. This would mean that in America, atheists tend to be a bit better educated and tend to make more money that the average. This isn't a sign that there isn't any bigotry against atheists. Jews tend to do better than average in terms of education and finances, but not only is this not
a sign that there is no bigotry against them, but in fact these very qualities have been used as excuses for bigots to spread their hatred. The same is true of atheists who are accused of being elitists. Are Atheists Privileged, Better Educated, Better Off Financially?
Rather than deny the existence of anti-atheist bigotry, some Christians argue that it's perfectly justified: Christians are merely responding to their own persecution at the hands of atheists. According to these Christians, atheists are trying to suppress Christians by not allowing Christians to privilege their own religion by having the government promote, encourage, or endorse Christian beliefs. Apparently, Christian religious liberty depends on Christians being able to dominate politics and government. Do Atheists Persecute Christians and Religious Believers?
Another tactic to justifying anti-atheist bigotry is to claim that militant atheists
are just bringing it all on themselves. If militant, fundamentalist atheists
weren't so uncivil, intolerant, and generally impolite, people wouldn't despise and distrust them. Since anti-atheist bigotry was worse before this so-called "new" atheism developed, this excuse is actually offensive in how stupid it assumes the audience must be in order to buy it. This excuse also assumes that being impolite actually justifies bigotry and discrimination, which is hardly a reasonable position. Do Militant, Fundamentalist Atheists Create Hard Feelings, Anger?
Atheists are not just closely associated with church/state cases generally, but specifically those which deny the government authority in religious matters. Because government efforts to assume such authority are frequently driven by popular demand, especially in local matters, atheists are thus also associated with opposing democratically expressed wishes of the voters. This does not make atheists totalitarian, however, because it's not totalitarian to restrict the scope of government power. Are Atheists a Threat to Democracy, Liberty, Western Civilization?
One means for justifying anti-atheist bigotry is to argue, even if implicitly, that because America is a "Christian Nation," atheists should simply expect to be treated as second-class citizens. The basic assumption being used here is the idea that as a Christian Nation, America should naturally have a government, politics, and culture which explicitly reflect Christian values, principles, and beliefs. This means that America should openly promote the truth of theism, which at least implicitly means denying any validity or reasonableness to atheism. If atheists don't like this, they should leave. Is America a Christian Nation, Not an Atheist Nation?
Perhaps the most hypocritical response to atheists' denunciations of anti-atheist bigotry is the excuse that "I don't really hate atheists." Typically heard from a person who just finished complaining that atheists have no reason to be moral, that atheists are responsible for prayer being taken out of school, and that atheists are responsible for persecuting Christians, this statement appears intended to convince people that all of these scurrilous attacks were made in the name of love. No one should buy it - when a person attacks atheists in such a manner, they can't claim not
to be motivated by hate and fear. I Don't Really Hate Atheists, Honest!