• Allison Guy

Nonreligious Americans Face Discrimination

The United States may be a country in which people are granted the freedom to practice whichever religion they choose. However, America's culture is still deeply rooted in the so-called Judeo-Christian tradition, and this poses the issue of discrimination against Americans who are nonreligious.

A recently published study found that "nonreligious people routinely face discrimination and stigma because of their nonreligious identity."

The cover page of the survey's website.

The study, entitled "Reality Check: Being Nonreligious in America," was released to the public on May 5.

According to the study's executive summary, "Despite the fact that they make up a significant and growing percentage of the population, we know remarkably little about nonreligious people and communities. The 2019 Secular Survey was an effort to address that gap - a groundbreaking survey of nearly 34,000 nonreligious people living in the United States."

The report was produced by the nonprofit organization American Atheists, which, according to Religion News Service, is "a national civil rights organization that seeks to achieve religious equality for all Americans."

Alison Gill, one of the study's authors.

Alison Gill, vice president of American Atheists for legal and policy and one of the study's authors, told Religion News Service of nonreligious people, "This is a community that is often invisible. People don't often talk about their beliefs even in nonreligious communities."

The survey's participants aligned themselves with multiple identities, although the two most common identities were "atheist" and "humanist." The study found that 57.1 percent of respondents identified strongly as atheists while the second-most popular identity was humanist, which 14.2 percent of respondents chose.

Primary nonreligious identities of survey participants.

Additionally, those who took the survey had diverse religious backgrounds. The same percentage (14.3 percent) of participants reported being raised in nonreligious households as those who were raised in very strict religious households.

Almost a third of respondents (29.4 percent) reported facing negative experiences in education because of their nonreligious identity, while 21.7 percent reported facing negative experiences at work. Other occasions where nonreligious people reported facing discrimination are in private businesses and when carrying out volunteer work.

Negative experiences and discrimination faced by survey participants.

Survey respondents from very religious communities were more likely to face discrimination than those living in nonreligious communities. For instance, those living in very religious communities were more than three times more likely to face negative events in employment than their counterparts living in nonreligious communities.

Additionally, nonreligious people living in religious communities experienced almost forty percent more stigma than those living in nonreligious communities.

Percentage of very religious communities in each U.S. state.

Whether nonreligious people's families accept them also has a significant impact on their wellbeing. The study found that participants whose parents were very unsupportive of them had a 71.2 percent higher rate of "likely depression" than participants whose parents very much supported them.

Studies like "Reality Check: Being Nonreligious in America" illuminate the discrimination and stigma that certain populations in the United States face. With continued research, we can work toward a society that is inclusive of all.

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