From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.
But I digress. I can't believe I've never repeated this story here on a slow news day. I found out the funny way about America's mystified reaction to atheists when I first arrived here, with several conversations that went like this ...
them: How you do pronounce your name?
me: Ee van. It's pronounced like in "evangelical"
them: So your name is Evangelical? What religion are you?
me: No, my name is Evan, and actually I'm an atheist.
them: An atheist??!! [WTF!!!???] How do you do that? What do you do on Sundays?
me: Well, it's quite easy really. You have more free time on Sundays for a start ...
... conversation rapidly degenerates as they realize I'm being flippant about the serious question of belief and non-belief
At this point I began searching for a new word that would cue people on the correct pronunciation of my name. I was not totally unaware that America was a little more religious than New Zealand; after all I had seen some statistics about the comparison. But I had no clue about how this all played out on an inter-personal level.
A friend of mine once said that many New Zealanders were not agnostics or atheists—they were apathists. They just didn't care about the question of whether there is a god or not, and what role god might play in the world. I think he's right. A lot of people (not all) in New Zealand are disinclined to think too hard and too long about that question. Atheism, like its counterpart, belief in God, is seen as thinking a little too hard about things. Like you were some kind of intellectual ... historically frowned upon in New Zealand.
These days I don't go round volunteering a belief in atheism, preferring to let my mind wander between atheism (yesterday), agnosticism (sometime last week), and apathism (most of the time, including today).Posted by robe0419 at March 23, 2006 09:08 PM | TrackBack