The Best Thing I’ve Heard This Week

“Feeling good and happy to be here.” -Irina Slutskaya (on how she felt before she won the bronze at the 2006 Olympics in figure skating)I’m an atheist American living in Europe. Not just any European country, but the Netherlands, the country with the highest percentage of atheists and agnostics in Europe. It’s a really weird social situation.

Tea Party signAs an American atheist, I am used to the hatred and bile spewed at atheists. I have a Pavlovian response to religious discussion. People bring up religion at a party and I get a knotty feeling in my stomach. I do not want to be a part of this discussion. Unless you’re in a room with all atheists, someone’s feelings are going to get hurt. Usually, it’s the person who discovers that *gasp* I am an atheist. How could someone who isn’t a serial killer or Hitler be an atheist? Slowly, I am learning to override that response. Here, nearly everyone I encounter is an atheist. Religion rarely comes up as a topic.

For a very long time, atheists were the most hated group in the US. No longer. Atheists are now the second most hated group in the US. Dead last? The Tea Party. Despite Americans recent shift to the right on economic issues, they have found the integration of religion into public life increasingly distasteful.

So suck on that, Tea Party. Your obnoxious rhetoric has had a very unintended consequence: improved perception of atheists.

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