Do you trust an atheist? Would you vote for one if he or she was running for office? What if their competition were an openly gay individual or a Muslim? Could you vote for an atheist then? What if your child wanted to marry an atheist? Would that concern you?
Fifty years ago, these questions were not at the forefront of American culture because the American population was largely “Christianized.” But by the dawn of the new millennium, the culture had radically changed as globalization brought about an increased sensitivity to living in a pluralistic world.
In 2004, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) conducted a survey looking into the religious beliefs of the United States population. According to their findings, 9% of Americans did not believe in either a god or a universal spirit. But even more surprising than these figures are the figures released by the 2008 ARIS study. According to those results, released in March of 2009, 15% of Americans now claim to possess no religious beliefs of any kind. If that is true, than it may be time for the Church to begin to consider how it intends to corporately interact with the more than 34 million Americans who possess a radically different worldview than that which is articulated by Christian scriptures.
So just how do Americans view atheists? Sam Harris, one of the “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheists puts it this way: “[Being an atheist is] basically the worst thing you can be in terms of having a political life.” Why? Because Americans do not trust atheists. In fact, a recent report from the Pew Research Center suggests that 53% of all Americans believe that it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral. Perhaps this is why a separate Gallup poll reveals the following:
- 9% of Americans would not vote for a Jewish presidential candidate.
- 22% of Americans would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate.
- 32% of Americans would not vote for a gay or lesbian presidential candidate.
- 49% of Americans would not vote for an atheist presidential candidate.
So what do you make of this? Do you agree with the 53% of Americans who believe that atheists cannot be moral? And if so, what is it about an atheist that seems less moral or trustworthy than a homosexual, a Mormon or a Jewish individual?
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For further reading, please see: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/d2239780-4d4e-11e1-8741-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1lcQdyKUf
 The term “Christianized” does not seek to imply that the vast majority of American citizens were, in fact, Christian. Rather, the term “Christianized” suggests that the population was heavily influenced by Christian ethics, practices and even beliefs.