All in the family? Not for atheists
Marrying an atheist can lead to family problems, a new survey says.
June 24th, 2014
08:03 AM ET

All in the family? Not for atheists

By Sara Grossman, CNN

(CNN) When Americans think of their future in-laws, they approve of nearly every type of person - except for atheists.

A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center aimed to examine political polarization. It asked Americans whether they would be disappointed if a close family member married someone of a different race, country, political party or someone who doesn't believe in God.

Less than 20% of Americans said they would be unhappy if a close family member married someone from the opposite political party and only 11% said they would be upset if that person was of a different race.

But 49% of Americans said they would be disappointed if their family member married an atheist, making nonbelievers by far the most stigmatized group in the survey.

Conservatives overwhelmingly held reservations about secular Americans, with 73% saying they would be less than thrilled if a family member tied the knot with a nonbeliever.

Somewhat surprisingly, liberals also said they were uncomfortable with such a union. Nearly a quarter of Americans who call themselves “consistently liberal” and 41% of “mostly liberal” respondents said they wouldn’t want an atheist to marry into their family.

The poll is the latest evidence of the hard road atheists travel in the United States.

According to separate studies, atheists are more likely to face job discrimination, political pushback and general distrust.

Atheists in the Bible Belt: A survival guide

Discrimination against atheists is “rampant,” said Dave Muscato, public relations director for American Atheists, an advocacy organization that fights for the separation of government and religion.

“There is a stigma against atheism because there is so much misinformation about atheists,” Muscato said in an e-mail. “Atheists don't hate your god, we aren't evil, and we're nor immoral; we are simply not convinced that your god exists.”

One of the most common stereotypes about atheists is they are angry white guys, said Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology at Pitzer College in California who has studied secularism.

The reasons for this animosity toward atheists are multifaceted, he said.

For one, religion has been a major part of American culture since the country was founded, and many Americans continue to associate nonreligiosity with immorality.

Further, thanks to practices such as the Pledge of Allegiance, many Americans associate God and religion with patriotic values and atheism with being un-American.

“There’s a stigma for being anti-black, there’s a stigma for being anti-Jewish, there’s a stigma for being anti-gay,” Zuckerman said. “There has never been a stigma for being anti-atheist.”

Behold, the six types of atheists

Zuckerman and Muscato said that atheists need to come out of the shadows to gain more mainstream acceptance.

“Pretty much everyone knows at least one person who's an atheist,” Muscato said. “They just may not know it, because the prejudice is so strong that atheists have reasons for not talking about their atheism.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Discrimination • Prejudice

soundoff (945 Responses)
  1. Dyslexic doG

    If my son or daughter brings home someone in a religious cult, I will not be pleased.

    If my son or daughter brings home someone who thinks that a Jewish zombie can make them live forever if they telepathically accept him as their master, all because a talking snake convinced a woman created by one rib to eat from a magical tree, I will not be pleased.

    If my son or daughter brings home someone who thinks for themselves and believes only what has been proven by extensive analysis of physical proof, I will be pleased.

    July 11, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
    • benhoody

      Boy, are you ever ignorant of the scriptures and what they actually do say if that's what you think, I feel sorry fo your son or daughter, but one thing for sure, if he or she does, good luck on trying to convince them of any thing other than what they believe, that will only put up a wall between you and them.

      July 11, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        doG is kind of the walking definition of narrow-mindedness.

        July 11, 2014 at 8:35 pm |
  2. aldewacs2014

    Atheists need some reverse propaganda.
    Like movies that point out the foolishness of believing all that nonsense.
    Like portraying atheists as moral beings, and portraying some religious people as the hypocrites.
    And pointing out the obvious: that we are all born without religious beliefs, and that childhood indoctrination is heaped upon innocent children. Child abuse, by any realistic standard.

    June 30, 2014 at 6:48 pm |
  3. 19covenant19

    Great MIRACLES have been discovered in the BIBLE!
    It will convince even the most zealous atheists that GOD absolutely exists.


    June 29, 2014 at 6:49 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      LOLOLOL Comedy Gold!!!!!

      July 11, 2014 at 5:16 pm |
  4. sf49er75

    Atheists may be looked down upon except in one category.... when your job is being a scientist or researcher.

    June 26, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
  5. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    Pleased to meet you
    Hope you guess my name
    But what's puzzling you
    Is the nature of my game

    June 26, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
  6. joeyy1


    June 26, 2014 at 9:48 am |
    • Keith

      This is a stupid song, please quit posting it.

      June 28, 2014 at 10:12 am |
  7. blessed137

    My reason for not marrying a person of a different faith is for the purpose of my spouse joining me in the worship of the same God and the be under the same body of Christ, walking in our faith together. If maturing in my faith, like worship, bible study, prayer was not important to me and all I did was just say okay I believe in God/Jesus and that was it, then I would not be opposed to marring someone of a different faith. Having a difference in faith may also bring conflict. Yes many intermarriages are successful. Also im more attracted to ethnic/ Hispanic/Arabic races than my own. So the racist christian ploy is ridiculous. All races and faiths have their fair share or racism.

    June 26, 2014 at 7:49 am |
    • blessed137

      This was not meant to be a new post. Was a reply to reality and seedenbetter.

      June 26, 2014 at 7:51 am |
  8. truthfollower01

    I found this quote I read today interesting.

    “Today we buy information, we sell it, we regard it as a commodity, we value it, we send it down wires and bounce it off satellites-and we know it invariably comes from intelligent agents. So what do we make of the fact that there’s information in life? What do we make of the fact that DNA stores far more information in a smaller space than the most advanced supercomputer on the planet?”

    – Stephen C. Meyer

    June 25, 2014 at 8:41 pm |
    • Athy

      DNA stores a lot more information than is needed. Much, if not most, is unneeded leftover information accumulated over billions of years of evolution. An intelligent designer would not have done this.

      June 25, 2014 at 10:04 pm |
      • truthfollower01

        Let’s go back to the beginning of life. If you believe in evolution, where do you believe the DNA information came from before the Darwinian mechanisms of natural selection working off random mutations could take effect?

        June 25, 2014 at 10:56 pm |
        • Athy

          It started with a few molecules that were able to duplicate themselves. Evolution then refined that ability over the next couple billion years to what it is today. Can you even conceive of a billion years? It's a bit longer than 6,000 years!

          June 25, 2014 at 11:06 pm |
        • truthfollower01

          You have to explain the DNA information BEFORE the mechanisms of Darwinian evolution could take effect. The DNA information is there BEFORE the replication can start so the mutations can happen and natural selection can work.

          Also, who said I was a young earth creationist?

          June 25, 2014 at 11:39 pm |
        • truthfollower01


          I believe the evidence indicates that Darwinian evolution should be rejected.

          June 26, 2014 at 12:02 am |
        • Athy

          Darwinian evolution started as soon as a clump of molecules was able to replicate itself using elements from its environment. It wasn't DNA, just a clump of replicating molecules, modern DNA evolved much, much later after millions of years of trial-and-error refinement. I know this hard for some to grasp, which explains why they regress to the "intelligent design" cop out.

          June 26, 2014 at 1:33 am |
        • truthfollower01

          You need to do some serious homework if you believe that and learn how biological systems work.

          June 26, 2014 at 9:15 pm |
        • truthfollower01

          So because you can't explain the DNA information, you deny it was ever there?!? Again, I urge you to do some research on biological systems.

          June 26, 2014 at 11:25 pm |
      • Keith

        I am intelligent and a well known designer, redundancy is one of my trademarks. The problem is that you are not a designer and you are arrogant enough to suppose you know how it is done. It really does not matter to me if there is a god or not, there is intelligence in our design and the laws of physics that keep everything spinning on our planet.

        June 27, 2014 at 11:57 pm |
        • delevin

          Are you sufficiently intelligent to understand that you have made a completely unsupported assertion?

          June 28, 2014 at 8:04 am |
        • Keith

          As have you

          June 28, 2014 at 9:33 am |
        • delevin

          That would be incorrect. There is no evidential support for your claim that "there is intelligence in our design and the laws of physics...". Professional biologists and physicists understand this. Perhaps your training as a designer, rather than as a scientist, explains your failure to grasp the concept of scientific evidence.

          June 28, 2014 at 9:40 am |
        • Keith

          It seems your religion doesn't allow you any room for imagination, much like the Fundamentalist Christians.

          There are constants that all our theories are based on. Evolution and Physics created those facts weather biological or physical.

          June 28, 2014 at 9:45 am |
        • delevin


          I have no religion. What would you like to say about the "constants"? Are you asserting that there is intelligence in the universal constants? If so, on what basis? Again, physicists disagree with your belief.

          June 28, 2014 at 9:53 am |
        • Keith

          I never said anything about intelligence, your fundamentalism added that word. I said that there was design.

          June 28, 2014 at 9:56 am |
        • delevin

          Umm....this is what you wrote: "there is intelligence in our design and the laws of physics that keep everything spinning on our planet."

          I added nothing, dude.

          June 28, 2014 at 10:01 am |
        • Keith

          I was not inferring a creator, you did that

          June 28, 2014 at 10:07 am |
        • delevin

          Ah...okay, so what did you mean by intelligence? What was your point in mentioning intelligence on the heals of a comment about God?

          June 28, 2014 at 10:12 am |
        • delevin

          To assert that there is intelligence in our design is to suggest a lack of knowledge of biological design and the evolutionary relationships among living forms.

          June 28, 2014 at 9:44 am |
        • Keith

          For you to make that assertion is evidence of your inability to understand simple concepts.

          June 28, 2014 at 9:49 am |
        • delevin

          Really, like what simple concepts?

          June 28, 2014 at 9:51 am |
        • Keith

          One concept I believe in is not to continue conversations with folks that are not interested in understanding me.

          June 28, 2014 at 9:52 am |
        • delevin

          Nice cop out. It seems that you are not prepared to talk science. That's fine, but don't pretend to know something about it. You will get called out by those who do.

          June 28, 2014 at 9:55 am |
        • Keith

          I am prepared to talk about philosophy, I never pretended to be a scientist like you are today

          June 28, 2014 at 9:58 am |
        • delevin


          I am not interested in discussing philosophy. I am a scientist, which makes evidential support for any claim my meat and potatoes. You made a claim that is utterly devoid of evidential support. I called you out on it. Now, if want to retreat into philosophical musings, that's fine. But at the end of the day, the validity of any claim on any subject can only be judged on the evidence that supports it. You have none.

          June 28, 2014 at 10:05 am |
        • Keith

          You are a idiot, or a savant. It doesn't matter to me which one. I am sorry you can't have a conversation about what I had to say. I am not interested in arguing about this because I accept science as valid, although I do not accept it as infallible,.

          June 28, 2014 at 10:10 am |
        • delevin

          It's good to hear that you accept science as valid, but fallible. I understood your initial post to be a denial of the science of evolution...a positive claim for intelligent design creationism. If that was not your intent, then I apologize.

          June 28, 2014 at 10:14 am |
        • Keith

          Okay, I come on here to argue with the Christians, I can't remember a time when I was challenged by someone with the same beliefs I have. Thanks for hanging in there with me until you understood what I had to say.

          June 28, 2014 at 10:26 am |
        • delevin

          I see. I have no problem with Christians or others of any religion unless they put their beliefs before actual knowledge. It's science denial that I abhor.

          June 28, 2014 at 10:31 am |
        • Keith

          I have a problem with all organized religion and their holy books. I am an engineer and the truth in the physical world is all that will work for me.

          I am amazed how much our world has changed since my childhood until now and how much old science we have had to leave behind and embrace new truths. We could not have found them without the old science to lead us there. I am in my mid sixties and about done with my work life so I am very thankful for the information age we now live in because learning has been a lifelong process for me and I think I will enjoy my retirement. Maybe I will become a research scientist in my old age.

          June 28, 2014 at 10:38 am |
        • nojinx

          Because intelligent design is the realm of designers who are intelligent? Call Project Runway!


          June 28, 2014 at 11:00 am |
        • Keith

          I am not inferring a creator I believe that evolution is intelligent.

          June 28, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
        • truthfollower01

          "For fifty years, scientists have been trying to come up with an explanation for the origin of the information, the digital code in the DNA molecule that is necessary to get life going in the first place." – Stephen Meyer ("Signature in the Cell" – Stephen Meyer vs. Chris Mooney)

          What do you all propose as the origin?

          June 28, 2014 at 11:43 pm |
        • Keith

          I have no idea, I am just certain that it is not the Christian God because he was invented much later than "in the beginning"

          June 29, 2014 at 9:41 am |
        • delevin


          This is what we call an unanswered question. History tells us that it is always a bad idea to insert God as an "explanation" for Inge not yet understood. This is called a god-of-the-gaps argument. Science of the last 400 years has an exceptionally good track record of filling those gaps in knowledge with genuine understanding. If one invokes supernatural causation to explain events not yet understood, this gives your god one less thing to have done when science finds the answer.

          June 29, 2014 at 9:55 am |
        • jbhollen

          deleven – Your post is dead-on. The idea that just because we don't understand something yet, it must be magic has always stuck me as the height of religious arrogance.

          June 29, 2014 at 10:00 am |
        • delevin

          The god-of-the-gaps argument is the last refuge for creationists (now intelligent design creationists) who have watched all of their biblically-derived claims go up in smoke at the hands of science. At this juncture, they are reduced to pointing at complex biological/biochemical structures (the significance of which, by the way, have been established through the hard work of scientists) and saying "Gee whiz, isn't that complex. I can't imagine how that mig have arisen through natural processes. Therefore, God must have done it". It's an extremely unpersuasive argument, but it's all they've got left.

          June 29, 2014 at 10:19 am |
        • delevin


          Stephen Meyer is a dishonest shill of the DiscoTute. The problem with this claim is that it ignores all of the origin of life science of the past 30 years, which has nothing to do with DNA. No scientist imagines that the earliest life emerged with a DNA genome. That must have come much later. Instead, origin of life studies address the emergence of simple self-replicating molecules and their enclosure from the surrounding medium by simple membranes. Such early life would not have resembled even the simplest of modern microorganisms. You might look up the work of Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak if you want to know how scientists are addressing the question of origin of life. But I suspect you have no interest in anything that would challenge your religious beliefs.

          June 29, 2014 at 10:08 am |
  9. Emily

    As one of the other comments said, I think that theists are concerned with people belittling their beliefs. I've gone to school and worked with many theists and while once in a while you get the radical converter who just won't leave you alone, most people just don't want to be made to feel like a fool.

    People on both sides of this issue are condescending and that condescension prevents an open dialogue. As an atheist – theists approach us as if we are deluded or blind and say things that feel like riddles. As I imagine a theist – atheists approach them as if they are all morons and refuse to acknowledge physical truths of our universe.

    I would call myself an atheist but I am the not-caring atheist. After being raised in an evangelical Christian household, when I walked away from the faith at age 18, I realized that my belief in God or no God had no bearing on the actual living of my life. That irrelevance was how I came to not believe.

    June 25, 2014 at 11:20 am |
    • Athy

      Exactly! If it makes no difference to you, why believe? That's why I don't believe, it just doesn't matter. I'm perfectly happy without it.

      June 25, 2014 at 11:45 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.