Respecting Nonreligious People


Essential Questions: 

  • What is atheism?
  • What kinds of discrimination have atheists experienced?
  • How can students promote respect for diverse religious believers and non- believers?

Materials Needed: 

  • Fact Sheet
  • Groups Who Are Sometimes Treated Unfairly
  • Beliefs Under Attack, a CNN news story
  • The Right of Unbelief
  • The Rights of Atheists

Yet atheists and others who do not believe in God experience discrimination because of their nonbelief. In this lesson, students learn about episodes of anti-atheist discrimination; and they develop ways to educate others about respecting nonreligious, as well as religious, diversity.

Professional Development

You can read more about discrimination against atheists:


atheist |āthē ist|
(noun) someone who does not believe in God or a universal spirit

agnostic |agˈnästik|
(noun) someone who says that knowledge of God’s existence is unknown or unknowable

secular humanist |sekyələrˌ(h)yoōməˈnist|
(noun) someone who does not believe in God, but who has a belief system characterized by reason, ethics, and justice

deist |dēˈist|
(noun) someone who believes that the world was created and set in motion by a supernatural agent which then does not take an active role or moral interest in humanity

free thinker |frē ˈthing kər|
(noun) someone who believes in the right to freedom of thought, and strives to build opinions on the basis of facts and logical principles, while rejecting dogma, religion, scripture, tradition, or experience





Political cartoons present an opinion about a topic or a person in the news. To help you think about this cartoon, start by listening to the song “Imagine.” Then look at the images in this cartoon and read the words. How does the woman in the cartoon feel when she hears “Imagine” on the radio? How does she respond to the first three lines of the song? Then how does her response change when the subject is religion? Given what you’ve learned in this lesson, why do you think she responds differently? What comment is the cartoonist making?

Reprinted with permission. Teachers may purchase individual cartoons for other lesson plans at