February 4, 2012

Delegitimizing Atheists in the Media

Staks over at Dangerous Talk recently brought up a great point about how people - especially those in the media - delegitimize atheism in subtle ways. He notes that atheists who are interviewed on TV or for print media are often referred to as "a self-professed atheist" and that this sort of prefix is never affixed to religious people. I have certainly seen "self-professed" and many similar examples like the following:
…a self-described atheist...

...identifies himself as an atheist

…who says he's an atheist

…who claims to be an atheist
Can you imagine what would happen if some of these qualifiers were applied to Christians?
Ms. Roberts, who claims she's a Christian, said that the city needs to invest more money in repairing potholes near Main St.
There would considerable outrage, and for good reason. But that isn't going to happen because we do not see these qualifiers applied to Christians. We're generally content to take someone at their word that they are a Christian. We let them decide how to identify and label themselves.

Like most people, I've grown so accustomed to some of these qualifiers applied to atheists that I don't always notice them. But Staks is right. When we do notice them, we should point them out in order to expose the bigotry and Christian privilege they reflect.

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