this description — of an individual who commits insurance fraud and steals money when the chances of detection are minimal — was only seen as representative of atheists and rapists, and people did not significantly differentiate atheists from rapists.Read the link presented by the Friendly Atheist to see the whole scenario, but I promise you it doesn't paint a good picture. It doesn't say "oh, all people think atheists are awful," but it does say when people make logical fallacies of inference, they view us as just as awful, immoral, and corrupt as a rapist.
This is unacceptable.
Why is it that we live in a world where belief in an unproven and to some degree unprovable phenomenon is the mark of good morality? Why are we constantly viewed as cesspools of greed and villainy, time and time again? I've been spared the bulk of this treatment on most cases. I'm fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends and people who either are also atheists or, at the very least, are areligious. Yet even still it happens. I've been told before that my atheism is just a phase, and I made my own mother ask her friends if she was a failure when I "came out of the atheist closet." She came to respect my decision over time, and I respect her for that, but then there are other, more recent examples.
When my girlfriend and I "went public" with our relationship, linking our profiles on facebook, one of her coworkers came to her and said, "Oh my god, Erin, did you know that your boyfriend is an atheist?" It's funny, but also more than a little sad.
Ok, I'll admit, this is probably coming across as a little more angry than it ought, but I hate this. Still, The Friendly Atheist offers good advice, advice to enact change.
So yes. Friends, I am an atheist. And yes, we do good deeds not because people are watching, but because it is fundamentally the right thing to do. The reward is in the success and goodwill of our entire species, because I do have faith. I have faith in the heart of humanity, in our dedication to others, and I have faith that most people do good deeds not because they are afraid of eternal punishment or hope that they'll "get their reward in heaven," but because it's the right way to act.
And if you think that fear of hell will persuade anyone any more than fear of prison will, I've got a plot of land on the moon I'd like to sell you.