Why atheism scares them
“This is nothing, cried she; I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home.”
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, 1847
The desperate cries of Catherine Earnshaw still haunt the ears of any seasoned reader. They are the words of a proper stranger: stranger to her kin, whom she won’t listen to; stranger to God, rejected with heaven; even stranger to herself, by claiming that she is Heathcliff. If it wasn’t for its passionate intensity for the future tenant of Wuthering Heights, Catherine’s wailing could convincingly epitomize the confession of an atheist.
Atheists are strangers themselves. Or at least, that is what many political regimes, many ideologies and sundry peoples would want us to believe. In 2019, 69 countries still outlawed “blasphemy”, and 13 countries presented legal systems in which atheism is punishable by death. Among these, Saudi Arabia proves to be a serious competitor, since atheists are branded as terrorists and subject to the death penalty. Yet the most frequent form of discrimination against atheists lies in the promotion of a particular religion by official authorities. The United States complies with this standard: let us never forget that its official motto reads “In God We Trust”; and that some local states, like Texas, enshrine such offensive principles in their constitution as: “Nor shall anyone be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.”