Since Romney withdrew, I've probably heard about a dozen pundits and read at least that many columnists who have said that religious bigotry is the last remaining predjudice. Americans are willing to vote for a black man or a woman, the pundits say, but they won't vote for a Mormon. I made the same point myself a few articles back. Having grown up in a Pentacostal church, I can assure you that members of that faith wouldn't vote for a Mormon--nor, I should note, would they vote for an atheist or a Catholic, a Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. Possibly they'd vote for a Jew and most protestant denominations. Definitely not a scientologist.
However, polls show that vast majorities of American's won't vote for atheists. As an atheist, I'm more or less resigned to the notion that I have to vote for people who profess a faith. Still, I doubt I'd vote for a scientologist. Nor would I vote for a president who professed a disbelief in evolution, as Mike Huckabee has. Is this bigotry? Sure, as defined by the dictionary. It states that bigotry is the "stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own." But, of course, under that definition, everyone is a bigot--liberals are stubbornly in opposition to conservatism, conservatives are completely opposed to liberalism. I suppose there are a few mushy people in the middle who are so devoid of opinion that they regard all opinions as equal. I HATE those people!
But does religious bigotry equal racism? It seems to me to be a very dumb parallel. You are born into your race. You have no choice but to live your life black, white, or some shade in between. (I will avoid a Micheal Jackson joke here.) Hating people based on their physical attributes is fundamentally unfair because they didn't choose these physical attributes. (I suppose there are some physical attributes you control--an intense dislike of all people who tattoo "White Power" on their forehead could be justified.) But, religion isn't like the color of your skin. As an adult, you have the power to choose your creed, beliefs, and opinions--and other people, I would argue, should be free to scorn you for these.
Please note, I'm not advocating or justifying violence between people of different faiths. If you're a Muslim and I'm an atheist, I still feel we can chat politely at parties, work side by side at most jobs, and educate our children in schools that stay neutral on the matter. I also agree that there should be no legal religious test for holding an office in America. If you want to take your oath of office on a copy of Dianetics, well, the law shouldn't prevent that. But the choices of voters are a different matter than a legal test. I see nothing wrong with deciding that someone who thinks there were dinosaurs on the ark, or that L. Ron Hubbard was tapped into a higher truth, shouldn't be president. Nor do I feel victimized that the majority of people think it's written into the constitution somewhere that this is a Christian nation and think that all atheists are tools of Satan. You're entitled to your opinion. Which is, of course, the ultimate beauty of America--we're all entitled to our own goofy beliefs, and free to regard those who've drawn different conclusions as idiots. And thus the great wheel of America turns....