U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned ‘non-believers’ in his inauguration speech.
Many heartened by Obama’s support but stigma still strong in 'God We Trust' nation
Believe it: Lots of atheists in U.S. - Nova Scotia News - TheChronicleHerald.ca (external - login to view)
WASHINGTON — On a bustling day in a downtown D.C. neighbourhood, a street vendor named Samuel is doing a brisk business selling President Barack Obama T-shirts.
He’s talking incessantly about Jesus as he makes his sales, until one customer politely tells him she doesn’t believe in God.
Emblazoned with the smiling face of the first president to make mention of America’s "non-believers" in his inauguration address two weeks ago, the T-shirt is nonetheless snatched away. The money is shoved back into her hand.
"Get away from me, go away from here," Samuel hisses. "I will pray for your soul but you need to get away from me right now."
Three years after a high-profile University of Minnesota study found that atheists outranked Muslims and new immigrants as the most distrusted and despised minority in America, it seems little has changed in a country where 92 per cent say they believe in God.
Other U.S. studies suggest as many as 10 to 16 per cent of Americans are atheists — the numbers are hard to pin down, some say, because there is such a stigma attached to being a non-believer in the United States that respondents often don’t come clean to pollsters.
Those figures stand in contrast to the secular situation in Canada, where a survey conducted by The Canadian Press and Decima Research last spring found that 72 per cent of Canadians believed in God, while 23 per cent said precisely the opposite.
Some American atheists were delighted to hear Obama make reference to "non-believers" both in his inauguration address and during his first televised presidential interview to an Arab news network.
"We should be able to take for granted that we will be considered as full and honourable citizens of this nation, but we usually have not been so recognized," Dr. Ed Buckner, president of American Atheists, said in a statement hours after the unprecedented inaugural shout-out.
"Congratulations and best wishes on your presidency, Mr. Obama. And thanks for including us all, right from the start."
Other non-believers are skeptical that Obama’s remarks signal the beginning of a growing acceptance in the U.S. of those who don’t believe in God.
"Like a lot of atheists, I was very happy that Obama’s inaugural address acknowledged non-believers as part of the strong patchwork of our country," Greta Christina, a San Francisco author and atheist, said.
"But I don’t think atheists are currently becoming more accepted in the U.S. If anything, because atheists have become more visible and vocal, there’s been a backlash: people who didn’t have to think about atheists now have to, and many of them are very hostile."
A recent campaign by atheists in the U.K., Spain and Canada has targeted commuters, putting atheist messages on public transit buses. In Toronto, the ad reads: "There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
Religious groups have expressed outrage about the ads, with one group in Spain branding the campaign a hate crime.
The campaign has had no luck getting off the ground in any widespread fashion in the U.S., where a Pew Research Center study found last year that most Americans believe that angels and demons are active in the world, and nearly 80 per cent think miracles occur.
In Washington, the American Humanist Association introduced a US$40,000 ad campaign before Christmas. Ads featured on Metro buses proclaimed: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake."
There’s been no word of the campaign spreading elsewhere in the U.S., something that’s disappointing to people like Christina.
"Obama’s comments may help us some but having a popular president say one nice thing about us isn’t going to turn the tide," she said. "The main thing that’s going to help atheists gain more acceptance is for us to keep coming out, keep speaking out, and keep organizing. That’s what it takes. That’s what it always takes."
Nonetheless, beyond Obama’s comments, there are signs that Americans are becoming more open to the idea of atheism.
Bill Maher’s controversial documentary, Religulous, has grossed over US$13 million to date, and was the highest-grossing documentary of 2008. The film explores and satirizes organized religion and religious belief.
But back on the topic again, I remember seeing on CTV Newsnet a few days ago in regards to the bus ad "There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
A paticular christian group didn't take offense to it, as it stated "Probably" not flat out saying there isn't..... which they felt was an invitation to an open dialouge about the subject. They in turn started their own campaign with "There’s probably is a God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." claiming that those who do believe don't nessicarily worry all the time and do enjoy their lives.
They have a rep from both groups talking on CTV Newsnet and they were both on the same level of what their intentions were, which was a peaceful approach to opening up a debate between the two groups.
But for other groups to call it a "Hate Crime?"
Find a hobby, geez.
But what are your views on the US and their own perspective towards athiests?
How about here in Canada?
Oh and can a mod perhaps chuck this thread into the religion section? It seems to have swayed out from news already, lol.