Thursday, September 20, 2007

Atheists are the most reviled people in American society

Atheism: teaching a taboo
Professor says people who do not believe in a God are shunned, but that the class topic is a vital, societal issue. Kate Jones The State Hornet Issue date: 9/19/07 Home > Features
He's a father, a husband and a writer. But he's also tackling a taboo subject at a university: atheism. "If a philosophy class isn't making you uncomfortable, it's not doing its job." said Matthew McCormick, an associate professor of philosophy. McCormick is teaching the first atheism class ever offered at Sacramento State. And the topic, he said, makes some uncomfortable, even hateful.
"Some recent polls show that atheists are the most reviled people in American society, even more than homosexuals and minority groups…That all suggests that we've got some irrational and dangerous commitments surrounding the topic of God," McCormick said.
The word atheist is defined as "someone who asserts that there is no such being as God" according to The Presumption of Atheism by Anthony Flew, an article from The Association of Religion Data Archives at states that nonreligious people make up for 9.26 percent of the U.S. population. McCormick takes on this controversial topic with his own no-nonsense style, high energy and motivation, in hopes that students will understand the importance of studying atheism today.
McCormick said that one of his students taking the atheism class told his friend he was in the class, and his friend just took a big step back. McCormick is not a radical preacher of atheism who goes around screaming "There is no God" trying to scare his students and convert them to atheism. McCormick proclaimed himself an atheist at age 16, but he said he's not going to try to convert students to the belief. "Conversion is not the goal," he said.
He took the initiative to write the proposal for his new atheism class, even though he says he did get "a few raised eyebrows" along the way. Philosophy Chair Thomas Pyne, a colleague and a church-goer, said "I was for it (the class)'s certainly a live issue right now." Although McCormick is teaching a controversial subject, he still describes his department and students as being very supportive.

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