January 8, 2009

When You Are a Victim of Discrimination

Image via WikipediaIf you are an atheist living in the United States, you have the unfortunate distinction of belonging to the most hated group in our country. Discrimination and bigotry at the hands of Christians are something you may well experience. You see, the same people who end up trying to convince the world that their religion is about love can also be terribly cruel when they think that their elevated status in society is being threatened. In this post, I have compiled some resources that may be of assistance, depending on the nature of what you have experienced.

Is the Battle Worth It?

Only you can answer this question, but you should ask it. Do not let yourself get swept away in anger and decide to do anything on impulse. With attitudes toward atheists being what they are, anything you do other than just smiling and taking the discrimination and bigotry may have consequences.

Among the consequences you should consider are:
  • Threats to your property, personal safety, and the safety of your family. Sadly, Christians have a proven track record of resorting to violence when they think that their delusion is being attacked. Once you read their "holy" book, you'll see why.
  • You identity will almost certainly be revealed. If everyone already knows you are an atheist, this is not a big deal. However, you will not be able to do much to fight back without "coming out" completely. This may affect your reputation because an atheist objecting to discrimination (or even asking others to obey the law) is nearly always perceived as the aggressor rather than the victim.
Again, this must be your decision. If you decide you'd rather go along to get along, I will not fault you for it. Assuming that you decide to stand up for your rights and fight back against the bigotry and/or discrimination, what can you do?

Use the Atheist Blogs

Getting your story to a couple of atheist blogs can help build awareness quickly and stimulate bloggers and their readers to start brainstorming solutions. Some of the larger blogs have contacts in traditional media, and the sort of buzz that can be generated in our corner of the blogosphere may get the attention of other traditional media.

Contact National Advocacy Organizations

There are a number of national organizations committed to protecting the rights of American atheists, and some may even have chapters in your state. When you have been the victim of discrimination because of your attitudes toward religion, making a report to one or more of the following organizations can be tremendously helpful.
Talk to an Attorney

Yes, good legal assistance can be expensive. However, many attorneys offer a free initial consultation and may be willing to draft a letter on your behalf for a surprisingly affordable amount. In this day and age, most people are interested in avoiding lawsuits, and simply knowing that you have an attorney lined up who would be willing to file a complaint might be all that is necessary.

Meet with a couple of attorneys before deciding. You want someone you feel comfortable with in the event that you do pursue legal action.

Be Cautious of Local Media

If your identity has already been revealed, you might be able to use local media effectively to pressure the bigot(s). But because individual circumstances will vary so much, I really can't recommend this route unless you have first lined up an attorney. The potential for it to backfire is too great.

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