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Atheists and the LGBTQ Community

Religion offers many community support and peace, the faith of believing that some greater entity has your back. But, as the LGBTQ community knows well, religion can have a dark side, too. Bigoted ideology pushes many people out of the religion they were raised in, and like the LGBTQ community, those who do not believe in God are sometimes labeled as degenerate and immoral by religious folks and treated as such.

While the struggles are not the same, queerness and atheism find coexistence in stigma, the fight against religious dogma intruding on politics, and the need for community.



LGBTQ people are more likely to be nonreligious than the general public: 48 percent reported having no religious affiliation in a survey done by the Pew Research Center, compared to 20 percent of the general public. On the flip side, atheists are overwhelmingly accepting of the LGBTQ community; 94 percent said “homosexuality should be accepted,” also according to Pew, compared to 62 percent of the general public.

According to PRRI research, 30 percent of people who left their previous religious affiliation did so because of “negative religious teachings about or treatment of LGBTQ people,” and as “religious freedom” continues to be used as an excuse for discrimination against the LGBTQ community, its opposition finds allies in the atheist community.

“[New Atheists] believe that society will be more just, more prosperous and more peaceful when elected officials can set policy based simply on a reasoned weighing of the evidence, and not appeals to scripture,” atheist Adam Lee wrote for Salon. “Thus, our claim is that by weakening the power of religion, both religious liberals and secular humanists stand to gain.”

The overlap between communities is unsurprising when you consider the historical religious attitudes toward both same-sex relationships and nonbelievers. Religious stigma unites the LGBTQ and atheist communities; while queer people often face the stigma and disgust of being labeled “sinner,” atheists are often similarly treated as immoral. In fact, 2016 research from the University of Minnesota found that 42 percent of people believed atheists “do not at all agree with my vision of American society” and 43.7 percent said they would “disapprove of an atheist marrying their child.” These stigmas may lead to mental health issues, as both groups are more likely to attempt suicide than their counterparts, according to studies published in the Journal of Homosexuality and American Journal of Psychiatry.



While the overlap between the LGBTQ and atheist communities is significant, there are still many religious queer people — for whom, as queer atheist Camille Beredjick argues in her book, “Queer Disbelief: Why LGBTQ Equality is an Atheist Issue,” atheists should still advocate.

“I do not need to be freed from the Catholic Church,” Bryan, a Catholic trans man, told Beredjick in an interview for the book. “I am a devout man who really can make a difference in my community. I would not feel freer without religion. I have tried it, and I felt lost and alone without it. Please do not pity me or look down on me. I know the Catholic Church is imperfect, but it is mine and I love it deeply.”

Furthermore, many atheists are clear that when it comes to stigma, anti-atheist sentiments rarely manifest in the same ways homophobic and xenophobic stigmas do and should not be equated.

“Personally speaking, I rarely fear for my safety as an atheist in the U.S., but I frequently do as a queer person,” gay atheist Chris Stedman told Religion News Service. “I have been physically assaulted for being queer, and many of my Muslim and Jewish friends have also been the victims of hate crimes. This is not to say that anti-atheist hate crimes do not happen, but statistically they are extremely less common.”


Finding Community

However, while anti-atheist stigma may not necessarily be life-threatening, it is still damaging, and since atheism is not often organized around, atheists may lack the community and support from other atheists that religion offers.

If you’re an atheist looking for community, resources you can turn to include Dare to Doubt, a hub for people detaching from harmful belief systems; American Atheists, the premier organization fighting for the civil liberties of atheists since 1963; and the American Humanist Association. The Atlanta Atheists meetup group also meets monthly around the metro area; the next meeting is on March 24 at Steinbeck’s in Decatur.