However, when polled about their attitude to atheists, as much as 40% of the population believed that atheists should not be able to work as teachers while 41% of the population believe atheists should not be allowed to express their opinions through the media.
Bendaravičienė said that atheists tended support human rights more often and know more about religions than most believers do.
She said modern atheism was driven by critical thinking and promotes scientific ideas, urging its followers not to believe in prejudice and to be independent thinkers.
As part of her research, Bendaravičienė researched more than 400 articles from Lithuanian online publications. Half of the publications evaluated atheism neutrally but one-third of the publications were negative and critical, while the rest were positive towards atheism.
In polling, 51% of Lithuanians did not agree that atheists should be granted the right to hold public processions or share their literature in public places. Some of this may be down to an association of atheism with communism.
“Perhaps most interesting was the fact that every fifth publication mentions atheism near communism. This shows that atheism is still associated with communism, rather than a modern, new atheism which has new ideas. Officials, who do not justify Christians’ expectations may be called atheist-communists. This is further supported by the finding that the atheists in a public spaces can be represented as posing a threat to the integrity of our collective identity. Religion could be seen as a supporter of the ideology of the political elite,” said Bendaravičienė.
However, according to the research, atheists are quite active on social networks. They discuss mainly modern trends and developments in Lithuania, and the activities of the Catholic Church. There are also a range of websites that promote awareness and education on the subject.