George Hrab at the Reason Rally in Washington DC. (Wikimedia Commons)
 The old adage “there’s strength in numbers” might sound cliché, but this old saying proves its continued truth particularly in the face of adversity. We all feel the need to stand up for what we believe in, but the trick is to think of others as well as yourself. Our country is a melting pot for diversity, religions, cultures, races and ethnicities, yet recently our differences are seen less as attributes and more as barriers. This is particularly true with regards to the Republican party. The aptly named “Christian Right” seems in full authority mode asserting that their faith trumps others and that their beliefs alone should govern all. In a country that has no established religion, this is both questionable and disturbing. If minorities don’t stand together to face this adversity, they will continue to be poorly represented and largely ignored. Worse, Christian Republicans might pass laws that undermine our freedom of religion. This would impact everyone. Enter Muslims and Atheists.

At first, an alliance between Muslims and Atheists might sound a little strange, but the concept is real and one that should be encouraged and sought out. Both groups are misunderstood, perceived as enemies, and are often persecuted verbally or politically for their beliefs. Furthermore, they both have the common goal of living in society peacefully and happily. In a land based on religious freedom, we have seen an enormous amount of prejudice directed at those who don’t fall under the category of Judeo-Christian. This prejudice is commonly found in politics but also in general society. Just recently, DNAinfo Chicago released a story about a man in Chicago who asked a cabbie if he was Muslim before beating him. In an airport, the FBI questioned a student of Arab descent for 45 minutes on account of a complaint from another passenger that he was speaking words used by jihadists; he said  “inshallah,” or God willing, at the end of a phone call.  Atheists are also victims of religious discrimination. In a story published in the DailyKos, five examples of discrimination against Atheists were highlighted and further depict how if you aren’t in the Christian majority, your civil rights are at risk for being violated.

Atheism is the disbelief in the existence of a God or gods, and Islam is the belief in one God, Allah. While these look like an odd pairing, digging deeper, it’s easy to see why they need to stand with each other for the common good and benefit to all. Muslims are stereotyped and constantly victimized by prejudice. Atheists are seen as lawless beings that lack a moral compass and basic compassion. They are often stereotyped as willing to commit wrongs and atrocities because they don’t believe in God or God’s judgment. A 2014 Pew research survey found that favor-ability for Atheists clocked in at 41% and favor-ability for Muslims clocked around 40%. Both of the aforementioned stereotypes are ridiculous bastardizations and are baseless at best. Regardless of how you feel about religion and whether it plays a role in your life or not, it is impossible to deny the necessity of Atheists and Muslims forming an alliance for the better good of all. Two minority groups that are stereotyped and often vilified in the media and in conservative society need to stand up for one another.

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz publicly stated that he is a Christian first and an American second. When politicians introduce their faith into their job, it sets a frightening precedent. A person of faith should be able to govern without introducing that faith into politics. For Muslims, the Qur’an is very specific that “there is no compulsion in religion.” But it is interesting that many conservative Republicans feel the need to bring Christianity into their work and into laws they support or enact. A dramatic example includes both Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi and Governor Pat McCrory who signed anti-LGBT bills into law to protect the religious freedom of Christians in their states. Why do the religious beliefs of Christians come first? In a country with no official religion, why are we pandering to one faith  and allowing it (and the politicians who are cherry-picking it) to speak on behalf of the people?

In June, Atheists, Humanists, Secularists, and other Freethinkers will descend upon Washington, D.C. for three days of an aptly named Reason Rally that promotes secularism. The event is supported by major Atheist and secularist organizations such as American Atheists, The American Humanist Association, and the Secular Coalition of America. According to their website, the aim of the Reason Rally was to “unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society.” The rally has three listed goals: encourage attendees to come out as secular Americans or in support of Secular Americans, dispel stereotypes (there is no one “true Atheist” they come from all backgrounds, cultures and political parties, and calling for legislative equality. Some of the topics being discussed at this rally will include climate change, LGBTQ Equality, Women’s Reproductive rights, and sex education. Some of the speakers include Bill Nye, Carolyn Porco, Johnny Depp and his wife Amber Heard, Lawrence Krauss, National Center for Science Education chairwoman Eugenie Scott, Margaret Cho, Penn Jillette, among others.

It would be beneficial if religious liberals from all backgrounds joined on the secularism bandwagon. The Huffington Post reported a story about an Atheist and a Muslim who joined together to raise their voices in support of freedom of conscience, and opposition to blasphemy laws, theocratic rule, and persecution of religious minorities and the belittlement of outsiders. Together, they created a group called Ahmadis and Atheists for Freedom of Conscience. They said, “despite our common cause, we remain proud of our respective beliefs. In light of our various divergent beliefs, we are looking for ways to better the world around us. This connection is important not only to educate atheists and Muslims about each other, but to educate everyone else about us.”

Fighting anti-Muslim bigotry is everyone’s responsibility. There is no room in America for bigotry of any kind. I ran across an article accidentally on a website called, bigthink.com. It discussed a television show that was airing on the TLC channel, “All-American Muslim”. The Florida Family Association, a Christian-right hate group began urging sponsors to pull out citing the show was “propaganda” and trying to advance Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia Law. The Christian-right often complains that their religious liberties are being persecuted and trampled when legislation benefits or defends a group of people they do not agree with (i.e. religious minorities, LGBTQ community). The article argues a point I’ve been thinking about for a long time now, Atheists should stand up against this anti-Muslim prejudice. Adam Lee said it perfectly when he wrote, “We should support Muslims’ right to be part of public life for the same reason we should support gay and lesbian couples’ right to get married, and for the same reason we should support women’s rights to buy contraception or have an abortion: because we understand what it’s like to be the target of theocratic assaults on liberty from the Christian right, and because by defeating them on one front, we weaken them on all fronts.”

Standing together shows solidarity. When you are oppressed, your oppressor does not want you to find a united ground. If Muslims and Atheists help each other and defend one another and their civil rights, together we can all weaken religious oppression. Civil rights belong to all of us regardless of faith or lack thereof. We shouldn’t have to practice faith or the majority faith in order to be considered citizens with equal rights. When one group is attacked, we are all attacked. Being in the religious minority myself, I feel there is an immense need for secularism and for our government and politics to operate without any type of religion influencing lawmakers. I find it appalling that a lawmaker can create a bill that is openly discriminatory, but veil it with the cloak of religion and somehow make it okay. That is not the mark of religion that is the mark of hatred and bigotry. If one uses their religion to openly discriminate, one should closely examine if the person in question is truly religious or trying to further an agenda. Religion should not be used to propagate hate and exclusion. What doesn’t work for you might work for my co-worker or me. If a politician doesn’t agree with the LGBTQ lifestyle, that’s okay. They don’t have to. However, they have no business enacting laws that deny LGBTQ people basic civil rights and liberties. We are governed by the Constitution, not the Bible or any other scripture, and nowhere in that document does it say same-sex marriage is wrong or that Christianity is our religion.

Negativity about Muslims and Atheists comes from not knowing any personally and negative media portrayals. Most people who have reported negative feelings also reported not knowing anyone from either background.

Whether you are Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, Christian, or Jewish, you should stand in solidarity for secularism in government, as it will guarantee us all the civil rights we deserve and are afforded. If we allow bigotry and hate to prevail and allow the religious majority to push their faith on us, our 21st century American society will be no better than our recent past when African-Americans had to sit at the back of the bus and drink from “colored-only” water fountains. If Muslims and Atheists stand together, the chances of political change increase and this benefits everyone. There is no reason why they cannot work together. From my standpoint, the sooner they do, the faster we can forget about people like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Chicago Monitor’s editorial policy.


15 COMMENTS

  1. As an atheist, I can’t help but make the joke that the author is trying to push an “unholy alliance.” From a representation point of view, atheists and agnostics now make up about 7% of the population, and people with no affiliation with any religion around 16%. Muslims make up less than 1% of the US population. From an impact perspective, there is really is no benefit to aligning with Muslims. I have no animosity toward Muslims, but I don’t see their interests aligning well with non-believers.

    The impact of Christianity in the US is fading on its own. Church attendance is falling every year, and churches are now closing faster than they are opening. With the rise of the nones, it is only a matter of one or at most two generations before the label Christian applies to less than half the US population with right wing evangelicals falling even further behind in influence.

    Evangelicals are fading in their ability to influence the republican party. Cruz is despised by his own party, and the only reason he is popular now is as the lesser of two evils when looking at Trump.

    If you look at the social trends in the US, we now have marriage equality with the majority of the US population supporting civil rights for everyone. This was a cornerstone issue for the right, and in 2000 support for marriage equality was well below the majority. In 15 years, the country has flip flopped. It is very unlikely evangelicals could reverse this trend for many issues evangelicals think are important.

    I think the author has not made a strong case for this minority alliance. It is focusing on a problem that is fading on its own.

  2. What do you know of Islam? Have you lived in a Muslim-majority country at all?

    If the positions were reversed, and America a Muslim-majority nation with the Christians in the minority, Islam’s “there is no compulsion in religion” would quickly fall by the wayside.

    Take a look at Saudi Arabia or Pakistan as examples of Muslim-majority societies that are behaving at least as badly.

  3. In the mid-90s, I made multiple attempts to reach out to the Muslim community in the Buffalo, New York, area and got nowhere. Leaders in the Muslim community put up two principle obstacles: First, the more prominent community members (mostly professionals and academics) were fairly socially conservative. They were leery of secularism’s historic connections with the sexual revolution, and felt closer to the Christian Right on sexual morality and similar matters. Second, the idea of a public realm from which religion was excluded did not get traction among them. Some explicitly expressed acceptance of a Christian-dominated public domain in which Muslims like them would be second-class citizens — why not, when Christians are in the majority and when Christians would be similarly burdened in many Muslim countries? The idea of atheists or humanists banding with Muslims to repel Christianity from the public square did not appear to them as a live option. If anyone has had better success with a similar initiative elsewhere, I’m unaware of it. So I suspect the sort of alliance you propose will be more elusive than you expect.
    Tom Flynn, editor, FREE INQUIRY Magazine

  4. Sorry, I would not ally with the Muslims against the Christians any more than vice versa. In fact, given that Muslim societies produce the most anti-secular, anti-liberty laws and vigilantism at this point in time around the world, there is even less cause to ally with them. I’d support individuals of any religion or ethnicity against bigotry, but there will be no “alliance” between me and bullshit-mongers of any kind. And if you think Islam promulgates secularism as a general principle, gosh, you have a lot to learn.

  5. Pure gibberish.
    Islam is Islam is Islam and if you cupcakes think that an “alliance” between Muslims and ATHEISTS is viable, let alone desirable, I truly believe you have taken leave of your senses.
    Not a single OIC member country is even vaguely a liberal democracy such as has been constructed by WHITE CHRISTIANS.
    If Muslims really have suffered discrimination and bigotry here in the West5 , esp after 9/11 , I truly dgaf. They do not belong here at all. They have made their long term goals abundantly clear and people who think they can be serviceable “allies” in some unicorns and rainbows project to “Increase the Peace and Liberty” are really deluded.

  6. Hold on, guys. The author only proposes that American Muslims & atheists band together for the purpose of securing their mutual civil rights. The piece says nothing about joining together worldwide, which would involve the Muslim countries you disparage. It talks about how to increase our chances of being treated with respect now, in this country. As a Humanist, I think of this as a moral choice as well as a practical one. It doesn’t matter how small a minority Muslims are. Joining them for this issue can only help.

  7. When it comes to alliances, atheist groups should consider teaming up with organizations such as the Society For Humanistic and Universal Unitarianism to fight back against the Christian right. Here’s why. In a recent issue of “The Humanist.com”, there’s an essay “Center for Humanism opens in Farmington Hills”. As the article mentions, this center is located on the premises of the Birmingham Congregation of the SHJ.

    Now just imagine the Center for Humanism trying to affiliate with a mosque!

  8. There s no alliance between atheists and Muslims . Islam is theocratic and atheism wants a non-religious secular state, not the religious “ummah” of the Muslims. As for taking one quote from the Quran, you have avoided all the hate quotes. Also you have never lived in a Muslim country. I have, in several. You should research before you write, but that is too little to ask American journalists to do. Perhaps you would learn more about the reality of Islam if you wrote your articles in Saudia, Iran or Pakstan. Shame on you for lying to the public!

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