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January 23, 2006

Where Are All the Atheists?

Declaring yourself a nonbeliever was impossible then. As late as 1811, in England, it was still quite dangerous.

Are there situations -- outside of Kandahar -- where it is difficult now?

And let me throw in two related questions borrowed from comments below:

George asks why some periods seem less tolerant of infidels than others. Are we (as liberal optimists like me want to believe) making gradual, though not so steady, progress toward increased freedom of irreligion? Or are some other factors making things better then worse again for nonbelievers?

And Boelf asks whether intolerance of atheism is just a subset of general ultra-orthodox, Taliban-like intolerance of those who don't share The One True Faith. Or is it something different?

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at January 23, 2006 5:40 AM


Things are again getting worse for non-believers - history seems to have shown that whenever one big "empire" is starting to gain extreme levels of control, monotheistic religions emerge stronger than before. Unfortunately, as the inequalities present in the world become more apparent through the possession and access to material goods, more people end up turning to the idea of a single power. One power and one book of rules are easy to follow and obey - you don't have to ask yourself moral questions on a case by case basis - when in doubt you can just quote an appropriate page from the book of rules(be it a Bible, Koran, etc) and put your guilt completely to sleep.

I strongly believe in one power only - that of the human mind, which is capable of making an argumented and well-thought out decision, of being tolerant and flexible, of being led by the passion of ideals and convictions, and at the same time of adjusting to circumstances.

Posted by: masha at January 23, 2006 7:55 PM

In reply to Boelf, it often seems to me that although religionists love to hate each other, they are sometimes willing to put their differencs aside and declare a temporary truce in order to gang up on atheists! I think the religious fanatics are scared by the idea of someone who not only doesn't share their belief but isn't in thrall to any dogma and makes up his/her own mind. They recognize some kinship with other flavors of religionists but atheists are alien and frightening to them.

Posted by: No More Mr. Nice Guy! at January 25, 2006 11:09 AM

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