More exactly, some do and some don’t. Just like some Christians discriminate and some don’t. (I chronicle both types of discrimination in You’re not as Crazy as I Think.)
The real question for the present moment is this: how do atheists commonly discriminate?
In the last couple weeks I’ve been focusing on some key examples of discrimination. For example, there is the drawing of sharp contrasts between “religious” and “non-religious”. As I pointed out, those who use such distinctions have no clear, coherent and plausible definition of religion, and so this binary opposition is merely a way to marginalize a segment of the population that the individual has declared is “religious”. Thus statements like “Religion is dangerous” are empty, serving only as a means to place a negative pall on the beliefs and practices of the groups the speaker identifies as “religious”.
The same goes with other indefensible binary oppositions like “faith” vs. “reason” where it is said “Religious people have ‘faith’ but we use ‘reason’.” This kind of language also only functions as a cheap rhetorical move to marginalize a segment of the population, i.e. those that you’ve declared have “faith”.
And so it goes.
This is a real problem for the atheist community because this kind of prejudicial, discriminatory language and these indoctrinational binary oppositions are rife within their ranks.
We really need to get a sense of just how offensive and intolerable this situation is. Perhaps once that becomes clearer atheists will be a little bit more motivated to stop using such vacuous, emotive, indoctrinational language.
With that in mind, consider a parallel. Imagine that you keep hearing fearful language about the “immigrants” from your caucasian, English speaking neighbors and coworkers. They worry that the “immigrants” bring “disease” and will “raise the crime rate”. And they also complain that those immgrants are “stealing our jobs”.
Would you find that language inflammatory and destructive? I hope you would. So how would you counteract it?
Well for starters, you could point out that it is vacuous. What, after all, is an “immigrant”? Aren’t we all immigrants? (The First Nations people have the best claim to the land, but of course go back far enough in history and even they were immigrants.) So what is really packed into the language of “immigrant”? Non-English speaker? Visible minority? Different religion, food or culture?
And where is the evidence that “immigrants” (whatever that is) “raise the crime rate”, “bring disease” and “steal our jobs”?
Such language is reprehensible and is a stain on the communities that tolerate — let alone propagate — it.
The exact same stain is on communities of self-described “atheists”, “agnostics”, “humanists”, and “free thinkers” who raise equally offensive prejudicial language against those they’ve labelled “religious”, “faithheads” and the like. Consequently it is, to say the least, a bit ironic when individuals who regularly caricature and marginalize entire segments of the population have the gall to whine about facing discrimination.