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Author Topic: Persecution of Atheists
Carlotta
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KnightEnder made a comment a while back about how for an atheist, living in Texas is hell. Now, aside from the fact that anyone could call my state, home of tex-mex food, hell for any reason but the outside temperature from about May-September, I wonder how many of you atheists here feel that you are persecuted. I've never been an atheist, but would like to understand what aspects of either day to day life or society in general you feel don't accept you. So much of the religion-nonreligion battles I find kind of silly, like whether to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. (I say Merry Christmas because that's the holiday I celebrate, and have no problem with anyone wishing me a happy-whatever they celebrate.)
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TomDavidson
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Oh, absolutely. It's rarer than, say, racism, not least because you can't tell at a glance if someone's an atheist, but I know many people who consider loathing and distrust of atheists to be a logical reaction. In poll after poll, Americans say they'd be less likely to trust an atheist with anything of any importance than almost any other demographic.
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caladbolg1125
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As an out and proud atheist I have not really been persecuted, just prosyletized at. I'm from Houston, too and I've never seen anything of the sort in my modest twenty years.

My parents never took me to church or anything but Christianity (Quaker (well, Friends really) on my dad's side, Lutheran on my mom's) is in our background. I still say Merry Christmas, but if you were to ask me about it, I'd say that I celebrate the pagan version of it. [Razz]

BTW, the weather has been wonderful lately. We get about a month of "winter", two weeks of spring and then its back in the sauna.

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Omega M.
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The blog of the Christian magazine First Things recently had a column about this. I think I'll post it all here, as it's all pretty interesting. Perhaps the most important sentence is, "It would be odd for an atheist to claim that his understanding of all of reality should have no bearing on how other people treat him."
quote:
Are Atheists Victims of Discrimination?

“Are atheists discriminated against in America?” That’s the question a CNN journalist recently asked me during an interview for the Paula Zahn NOW show. I must confess that, at first, I wasn’t sure how to answer, never having considered the question.

In my twelve years at a Quaker school in Baltimore (staffed and attended by non-Quakers), my six years at an Ivy League university, and this year in Manhattan, all I have ever witnessed has been atheists’ discrimination against Christians. At Princeton, there’s certainly no anti-atheism going around. If anything, there’s a steady supply of anti-Christianity. My friends working on Wall Street and attending the best medical, business, and law schools all report the same phenomenon: Among the professional and intellectual elite, it’s assumed that educated people are nonreligious. Intelligent religion is considered oxymoronic.

The eminent English professor John Fleming, writing in the Daily Princetonian just two years ago, noted this same basic fact: “I cannot remember ever hearing an actual anti-Semitic comment uttered by a student or colleague on this campus. ... On the other hand I have heard hundreds of anti-Christian slurs.” Fleming went on to recount the reaction one year when Princeton’s top academic prize went to two active Christians: “‘How,’ asked one interlocutor with a knowing grin, ‘how can such smart people be so Christian?’ Now this person never would have dreamed of wondering aloud how smart people could be so black, so gay or even so Pink Floyd. ... Though rarely so explicit, ignorant and/or hostile remarks about historical or contemporary Christianity are common coin on this campus.”

While the question seemed backward to me at first, there is something to it. The interviewer told me about the experiences of the atheist families she had interviewed. They were evicted from apartments, rejected by friends and neighbors, forced to stand by as the football team prayed before games. She recounted the statistic that “atheists are the least trusted minority group in the United States and are less accepted than other marginalized groups, including Muslims and homosexuals,” and felt they could never be elected to a prominent public office. In sum, they seemed to face discrimination on a number of fronts.

Then again, it all depends on what one means by discrimination. If we mean unwarranted hostility, persecution, and prejudice, then, as far as I can tell, most Americans do not actively discriminate against atheists. Or at least they shouldn’t. Religious believers, especially Christian believers, should will atheists’ good in every way. If the evictions really occurred solely because of religious belief (or the lack thereof), then they are morally repulsive.

On the other hand, if by discrimination we mean drawing distinctions at all, then I think most Americans do “discriminate,” and rightly so. Religious belief and practice aren’t like being born black or white or brown or yellow, or male or female. They’re not biological realities beyond the reach of choice. How one views the nature of the universe, humanity, and man’s place in the cosmos–the biggest of life’s big questions–should, like any major choice, have enormous implications for all aspects of life.

None of this is to say that atheists can’t be morally upright, caring roommates, devoted teammates, or conscientious colleagues—I know firsthand that they can be, and often are, all of these things. Nor would I suggest that there isn’t the occasional loon (landlord or neighbor) who really does harbor prejudices against atheists. I mean simply that it would be odd for an atheist to claim that his understanding of all of reality should have no bearing on how other people treat him. Whether we believe man to be the judge of all things and answerable to truths and laws that transcend his own existence has significant impact on how we think about the world. And ideas have practical consequences. See, for instance, Richard John Neuhaus’ article “Can Atheists Be Good Citizens” (First Things, August/September 1991).

Yet all of this is fairly cerebral. Most Americans probably don’t articulate things along these lines, but judge atheism on its public expressions. If atheists feel discriminated against in America, it may be because the public image of atheism these days seems to be an outright attack on faith, particularly Christian faith. Just look at the recent slew of books attacking religious believers—there’s Sam Harris’ The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation; Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion; Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great; and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Dawkins, an Oxford professor, has even argued that raising children to believe in God is a form of “mental child abuse.” I don’t know of anyone of his stature who’s made a similar claim about raising children to be atheists.

So long as the unofficial spokespeople for atheism file lawsuits to remove God from the Pledge, advocate infanticide and bestiality, and write books arguing that religious believers are deluded, atheists are going to have a hard time fitting in. This is especially true in small-town America, in areas where your two options for worship are the First Baptist Church and the First Southern Baptist Church. If you’ve never known an atheist personally (and, lest we forget, the urban Northeast is not the norm, as only 1 to 3 percent of Americans are atheists), then when a new neighbor announces his atheism, your imagination naturally runs wild: Does he, too, want to remove God from the Pledge or kill “deficient” babies? A softer public image would go a long way.

The continued push for a naked public square is another contributing factor. That disagreement exists over many aspects of religious life is no reason to demand the God-free public society (or locker room) many atheists unfairly advocate. In this respect, atheists (and others) aren’t seeking a fair, neutral environment where all views can be expressed and all voices heard; they’re asking for an explicitly atheistic public square. But on many counts, there is broad agreement among citizens of diverse faith traditions about the central issues of civic life. There is no reason why this broad agreement should be trumped by a relatively small, if vocal and elite, minority. And so long as atheists and other secularists seek to impose a religion-free public square, most Americans will react negatively.

Still, all of this likely misses the main point. I have no doubt that many atheists feel discrimination. They’re excluded from some of our most cherished social practices, unable to fully share in many people’s deepest joys and sorrows. The reason is simple: Even today, more than 90 percent of Americans believe in God. Many of us shape our lives around a belief that atheists don’t share. And this has practical consequences—for how else is community forged except on common thought and experience?

If community life is centered on the Sunday worship service, the weeknight Bible study, the monthly church picnic, and the vacation Bible camp, then of course atheists will feel excluded. They can’t participate in many of the traditional and natural aspects of human life: communal prayer, worship and fellowship—and not because they’re discriminated against but because they choose not to. This isn’t the fault of religious believers (though we would do well to think of ways to welcome nonbelievers more fully into some aspects of our religious lives). It all depends on what forms the foundation of community life, and historically, it’s been religion. In many places in America today it still is. While it’s not particularly true of Princeton, New Jersey, or the Chelsea district of Manhattan, it still applies to most places throughout America.

Atheist discontent still bears a seed of redemption, though, as it points to the fundamental human longing for community, shared values, and shared lives. That they feel this need goes unfulfilled isn’t surprising, since it’s a large element of what religion is all about. Far from unjustly discriminating, then, believers ought to water that seed by charity and prayers so that its seedling might one day be grafted onto the one true Vine.

(The article itself contains some links to points mentioned.)
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The Drake
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Merry Christmas isn't a problem for me. I've been to a political meeting in California and calmly omitted the "under God" from the pledge (which doesn't belong there). Even in Utah, I haven't really had a problem with being an atheist.

The most awkward situation I had recently was in Arizona with family (mostly Catholic). Everyone was holding hands to say grace, and I broke the circle, as I felt that ritual crossed a line for me. The people nearest me looked confused, then I think they chalked it up to germ-aversion or something.

I could see where being around people who do that sort of thing all the time could be uncomfortable at best.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
If we mean unwarranted hostility, persecution, and prejudice, then, as far as I can tell, most Americans do not actively discriminate against atheists.
Note that he then immediately goes on to explain why he believes that atheists warrant hostility, persecution and prejudice, and only later insists that he doesn't think they encounter any of those things, either.

quote:
Atheist discontent still bears a seed of redemption, though, as it points to the fundamental human longing for community, shared values, and shared lives. That they feel this need goes unfulfilled isn’t surprising, since it’s a large element of what religion is all about.
This paragraph is absolutely infuriating in its smug self-satisfaction.
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Pete at Home
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I was crushingly dissapointed in Mitt Romney the other day.

A heckler burst out at a political rally and called him an impostor and fake Christian.... Romney handled the crowd very well and talked about the need for respecting different beliefs -- the crowd applauded. But then Romney said that "we need someone of faith" in the White House.

We do?

OK, faith has a secular meaning as well, there's faith in democracy, etc. I see nothing in scripture nor in the history of this country to indicate that we should exclude atheists from the highest office in the land, and it insults the constitution and to even suggest that there should be a religious test for office. And Mitt Romney of all people should know that! I'm tremendously dissapointed to hear a fellow mormon say such a thing.

Please Romney say you misspoke, that you meant to say or should have said that whats important is that our president has faith in the ideals that make our country great.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Just look at the recent slew of books attacking religious believers—there’s Sam Harris’ The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation; Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion; Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great; and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Dawkins, an Oxford professor, has even argued that raising children to believe in God is a form of “mental child abuse.” I don’t know of anyone of his stature who’s made a similar claim about raising children to be atheists.
Well, I'd expect any atheist running for office to dissassociate himself from Dawkins' hatemongering just as I'd expect a Muslim to dissassociate from radical Islam or a Christian to dissassociate from abortion clinic bombers, etc.
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TaoJeannes
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So many times I have seen an atheist smugly assert his atheism in the middle of a crowded room full of Christians, then when he is snubbed or treated with awkwardness he screams anti-atheist bigotry.

You know what? You're not discriminated against. You're just obnoxious.

I'm not talking about every atheist; I'm talking about the atheists who need to let you know they're atheists within five minutes of conversation.

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kenmeer livermaile
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"But then Romney said that "we need someone of faith" in the White House."

Well, he IS running for the Repub candidacy. He Has to say that. Besides, that was in South Carolina. Texas-on-the-Atlantic.

BUt his speech was boring and uninspiring anyway. Rah-rah America's same old platitudes.

"I see nothing in scripture nor in the history of this country to indicate that we should exclude atheists from the highest office in the land."

There'[s nothing in the Constitution that prevents a majority of persons from believing this and electing on that basis either.

Besides, how could Mitt Romney say anything else and remain credible? He's a man of faith, inspired by God, and believes that such men are the ones to follow.

POver in the Dem party, Obama is having to cnvince potential voters that his Xtian faith is *sincere*.

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simplybiological
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I do think that some atheists bring it on themselves by being confrontational about belief. BUT...

I don't categorize MYSELF as an atheist, but other people would (I don't believe in God, but it's complicated). I absolutely DO NOT feel free to express that in Texas, even though I live in Austin. Atheism carries with it a ridiculous stigma of low morality and almost untrustworthiness- as though you were cast out of Faith because you misbehaved, or without God as your compass you are completely incapable of making positive decisions.

I KNOW (not think, KNOW) that if parents of my students found out, they would try to have their schedules changed. I think our school system operates on a don't ask, don't tell system.

In short, I feel as though I can't freely express my religous beliefs (or lack thereof) without fear of reprisal.

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Carlotta
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I realize I have to correct myself on the Merry Christmas thing. I HATE being told Happy Holidays. Not because I have anything against atheists, but because it seems to me to be... (brace yourselves)... cultural nihilism. At least as I understand the term. Here you have a holiday. It originated in Europe back when Europe was mainly Christian. It has Christian roots and many Christians still celebrate it as a religious holiday. But there is so much more to the celebration than just that - the Yule Log, gathering friends and family, eggnog and cider, etc. Or if someone wants to celebrate something else, Diwali or Kwanzaa or Hannukah or the Winter Solstice, great! I love learning about other people's celebrations and what they value and would see a "Happy Hannukah" or something of that nature to be an invitation to share in the wisher's joy of the season. But Happy Holidays seems to me to be an antiseptic greeting designed not to offend anyone but with the unfortunate side effect of lumping all the unique winter holidays together and kind of cancelling them out. I would have no problem with an atheist who wished me Merry Christmas and only meant "the day where family gets together and celebrates the joy of togetherness and appreciating each other with gifts" or something. I don't have a "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" bumper sticker. But when people wish me happy holidays instead of whatever they celebrate, it seems like they don't care what I celebrate, they just don't like it, and don't even have something better to put in its place.
I've taken to asking, when wished "Happy Holidays", "which holiday do you celebrate?" and then I wish the person a happy one of those.

Omega, interesting article,thanks! I'll have to get to it later, it's kids' naptime.

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kenmeer livermaile
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Have a nice day. Oops. Enjoy Friday, February 23rd, 2007.
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0Megabyte
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TomDavidson, I actually saw the same thing in that guy's article as you did, and really, it pissed me off. I'm no atheist, but...

"Does he, too, want to remove God from the Pledge or kill “deficient” babies?"

Please. He shows his own prejudice there. Ugh.

"I mean simply that it would be odd for an atheist to claim that his understanding of all of reality should have no bearing on how other people treat him. "

Ugh! That's the same damn prejudice as is shown all over the world. He's no better than anyone else, regardless of his view that he doesn't have any prejudice towards atheists. He sure as hell does. To say that they deserve to be attacked because they believe differently? This is America. How dare he say such an anti-American thing? A thing so against the very principles our nation is founded on?

Of course, he thinks people shouldn't treat HIS beliefs badly, so perhaps its time to turn it around on him. IF people said THAT about Christians, I'd be very afraid, being one myself. To say it to another group...

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Pete at Home
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As a Christian, I'm far more upset to see my fellow Christians (particularly fellow mormons) saying things that shut atheists off from participation in their own government, than I am with the smug atheist losers that try to shut religious people out of any civic or academic discourse.

The discrimination runs both ways here, and to deny it, just bolsters the extremism on both side.

KE and I talked about forming an association against it, but we can't think of what the hell we'd call it. IIRC the name "Reason" has already been coopted by an atheist organization that wants to shut religious people out of the discussion. [Frown]

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by The Drake:
Merry Christmas isn't a problem for me. I've been to a political meeting in California and calmly omitted the "under God" from the pledge (which doesn't belong there). Even in Utah, I haven't really had a problem with being an atheist.

The most awkward situation I had recently was in Arizona with family (mostly Catholic). Everyone was holding hands to say grace, and I broke the circle, as I felt that ritual crossed a line for me. The people nearest me looked confused, then I think they chalked it up to germ-aversion or something.

I could see where being around people who do that sort of thing all the time could be uncomfortable at best.

This actually stresses me out more than it seems to bother you. [Big Grin] Do you have any idea how a sensitive group could handle a grace circle in a way that respects your separate convictions *and* doesn't shut you from the fellowship of the group?
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Gaoics79
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I'm an atheist, and for the record, I agree more or less with what the article said, (setting aside its patronizing self-satisfaction)

What he is saying is essentially correct: while most Americans may have a negative perception of atheism and atheists, the practical consequences of being an atheist in America (as far as being discriminated against) are essentially nil.

In the ways that atheists actually are treated differently (or have different experiences) these are largely connected with the choice of the individual atheist not to participate in many of the social and communal activities that have traditionally arisen in a religious context.

For example, why did The Drake choose not to participate in that grace ceremony? Why not simply fit in and go with the flow? It's not as if doing so is going to offend some God or religious custom, because you have none as an atheist. Joining hands for grace ought to be no different than putting on a kippah when you go into a synagogue out of respect for the people around you, or going through the motions in a tribal dance in an African village.

Why did you choose not to participate? Was it because you were afraid they'd think you were Christian? Or maybe you wanted them to know you were an atheist, wanted to separate yourself from them. Tao is correct in one thing: when people find out that you're an atheist, it's usually because you made a point of telling them.

It is true that religious people tend to have low opinions of atheists, but we are partly to blame for that. Atheists, in my experience, are often at least as arrogant and condescending towards religious people as the other way around. Many atheists actually do proselytize in a way that is at least as obnoxious as the evangelical Christians.

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Everard
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"The discrimination runs both ways here, and to deny it, just bolsters the extremism on both side."

Yeah, but one group IS shut out of public discourse, and the other group controls every significant public institution in the country, and to gain entrance to many of those institutions one is required to, at the very least, PRETEND that christianity is the only source of morality in the United States.

Thats discrimination.

Saying "I think your beliefs are hopelessly misguided, and the only avenue of belief for people with half a brain is avenue X," is something just about every group in the world does, and is not discrimination.

When someone loses an election because he's christian, THEN christians can complain about atheist discrimination. Until that time, it rings somewhat hollow.

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kelcimer
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What I find interesting is that I occasionally have reason to point out "I'm not Christian", and the traditional responce is "What, you don't belive in God?" My first responce is to say, "Well, not the Judeo-Christian God". There is this assumption of what I believe because I simply state that I'm not Christian. The default assumption is that I MUST be an athiest, since I didn't identify myself as being Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Buddist, etc. Along with assuming I'm an athiest there is an accompaning hostility, as if they say to themselves, "Oh! You're one of THOSE people." There's almost a disappointment and some confusion when I tell them I am not athiest, I don't self identify as agnostic, but I that I do self identify myself as a philosopher. There's always an unwillingness to actually find out what I believe and why before they attempt to persuade me to their religion. Though not an athiest I might as well be for how I am treated in various circumstances.

After a while this gets really very annoying.

I would not say that I am persecuted as such, but it does put me at a disadvantage in various situations.

On a related note, the manager of my work place is fresh up from Texas and is as hard core of a hypocritical-evangelical-christian as I have ever met. It's made keeping my job very interesting.

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Pete at Home
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As a religious person, I strongly respect Drake's personal decision to disinclude himself from the grace circle, but as a social person, I think that your choice is also perfectly respectable Jason.

I think that Everard's implicit denial that atheism exercises a chokehold over certain courts and academic environments illustrates part of the problem. It's also discrimination to screen people through a test that forces them to at least pretend that Christianity is not [b]A[/] valid source of public morality in the United States.

quote:
When someone loses an election because he's christian, THEN christians can complain about atheist discrimination. Until that time, it rings somewhat hollow.
Since some people lose appointments and opportunities because they are Christian, your argument rings somewhat SHALLOW. I have no respect for affirmative discrimination. The fact that atheists get discriminated against in the election process does not give anyone licence to ignore other types of discrimination when practiced against Christians.

Using discrimination cries in a strictly partisan basis is part of the problem. The extremists reinforce each other. The sort of things everard said helps reinforce the behavior of the people that Kelcimer was talking about.

[ February 23, 2007, 02:09 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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hobsen
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People offend one another for all sorts of reasons. Just a couple of days ago I got an email from a friend that she now has one less job. It seems she complained to her supervisor about a subordinate; and he told her she would just have to "bend over and take it in the ass." This is probably a poor metaphor to use to a nice Mormon girl who is the daughter of a well-respected college professor, and her husband had some pointed things to say about it to him also. So she does not work there anymore.

And some people offend everyone. W.E.B. Griffin - actually a chap called Butterworth - once had a character remark, "Trying to help General Pickering is right up there with trying to pet an alligator. A constipated alligator. He will take the proffered hand and bite it off at the wrist." We have all known people like that.

So there is discrimination against atheists, but it is probably by individuals. I have never heard of what seemed a concerted effort to drive atheists from a community, as with blacks or homosexuals or some of the early AIDS sufferers. For one thing church members know perfectly well that many in the church are actually atheists, only pretending to believe. And persecution would be unlikely in the big cities, or the more liberal parts of the country, because such views are common there.

About small towns I have no recent information. When most people still lived on farms, the "town atheist" was common enough to become proverbial; people desperate for entertainment liked someone who could stir up a good argument with the local preachers. And he usually championed evolution and a scholarly interpretation of the Bible against creationists and literalists; people wanted those views expressed, for themselves and for their children. They may not have agreed, but they wanted to keep current with the controversies dividing the rest of the country. The Scopes trial represented the acme of that: Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan facing off in a small town which would never know anything so exciting again. I do not know if that tradition continues today.

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TaoJeannes
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quote:
Originally posted by Everard:
When someone loses an election because he's christian, THEN christians can complain about atheist discrimination. Until that time, it rings somewhat hollow.

Two words: John Ashcroft
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KidB
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I'm 33, and have been an atheist since age 11. In that time, I can't say I've experienced much in the way of discrimination. I hasn't been an issue at all in my adult life, and before then it only became an issue when I chose to make an issue of it. Then again, I live in a more secular part of the country.

The anger that some atheists direct against beleivers makes sense to me only if I consider what it must be like to be an atheist in a very religious community, where one particular form of religion is dominant. I might find religion "oppressive" in a small town full of Bapstist, while I do not in a big city where dozens of faiths cross my path every day. I find comfort in multiplicity.

It occurs to me as I write this that the term "secular", when applied to big cities and city culture, may be a bit misleading. City culture is characterized by the multiplicity of faith, race, and ethnicity. Everyone is a minority, and that teaches a certain humility.

I think angry atheists would be better off discussing relgion, rather than fighting it outright - engage with some theology, ask Chirstians why they interpret the Bible in that particular way. Respectfully suggest alternate readings (though this of course means you need to do your homework - which many atheists seems to feel is beneath them). I've found I get much better results that way.

I don't usually object to participating in religious rituals for ideological reasons, though I must admit I find most church services rather boring (the exception being the Baptsist churches in Oakland, CA - they get the rockin' gospel music, which I love).

Whenever I visit my wife's family in Japan, I always join them in visiting the family gravesite. This means I have to bow and "pray", using Buddhist prayer beads. I've never found this unpleasant - rather comforting actually. I've also made offerings at shrines, and observed the rituals of hand-washing. I don't beleive that anything supernatural occurs when I observe these rituals - all the same, they often make me feel calm and peaceful. From what I understand, this is why people in Japan observe them as well. The difference of course is that the Shinto and Buddhist rituals are such a part of the cultural character, that by following them you are allowing yourself a real and immediate connection to those around you. I can deal with Christian rituals in the same way - it's all about how I relate to the living people around me and what they experience. So these things are never oppressive to me unless the people around me choose to oppress me (for their own reasons, having little to do, I think, with religion or spirituality).

[ February 23, 2007, 03:02 PM: Message edited by: KidB ]

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KnightEnder
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I was suprised to see Carlotta's name starting this thread. Thank you.

I've had "friends" threaten to beat Christianity into me. I've been asked on many occassions my religion in job interviews, and at the plants by customers. I never discuss my religious views with coworkers, although they often discuss theirs.

Saying you are atheist here is akin to saying you are a devil worshipper. I advise my boys not to talk about their views at school but being my boys they do and they have been chastised prosletyzed and threatened because of it.

However, through OA I've seen that not all religious people are like the ones I've encountered here in Texas. Than goodness.

By the way Carlotta, I admire Jesus Christ and think he was a great man and philosopher and one can't go wrong by following his words. However, "organized religion" IMO perverts the message for many reason that I won't get into here. But that always happens with humans. It's like a game of madlibs or telephone.

KE

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by kenmeer livermaile:
"But then Romney said that "we need someone of faith" in the White House."

Well, he IS running for the Repub candidacy. He Has to say that. Besides, that was in South Carolina. Texas-on-the-Atlantic.

BUt his speech was boring and uninspiring anyway. Rah-rah America's same old platitudes.

"I see nothing in scripture nor in the history of this country to indicate that we should exclude atheists from the highest office in the land."

There'[s nothing in the Constitution that prevents a majority of persons from believing this and electing on that basis either.

I didn't accuse him of a crime. I'm just dissapointed. I don't know him, really, but I knew his family, and I don't think George Romney would have said that.

quote:
Besides, how could Mitt Romney say anything else and remain credible? He's a man of faith, inspired by God, and believes that such men are the ones to follow.
I don't think that we elect a president to be our spiritual leader, or even so that we might "follow" the president in any other sense of the word. POTUS represents us to the world, leads the military, and otherwise serves us through the office.
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KnightEnder
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I assume you are referring to Malcom Pickering the father? Not "Pick". God I love those books.

KE

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KnightEnder
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Just last night we were talking about my son's ambition to become a lawyer and a politician so he could make the world a better place. He said: But I'd have to become a Christian. My influence, maybe. But I think that is selling my son and his experiences especially in school short.

Oh yeah, I can't be a Mason and we all know they rule the world behind the scenes. [Wink]

KE

[ February 23, 2007, 03:12 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
For example, why did The Drake choose not to participate in that grace ceremony? Why not simply fit in and go with the flow? It's not as if doing so is going to offend some God or religious custom, because you have none as an atheist. Joining hands for grace ought to be no different than putting on a kippah when you go into a synagogue out of respect for the people around you, or going through the motions in a tribal dance in an African village.

Why did you choose not to participate?


I found it unethical. I don't believe in a God, so offering up my thanks to Him for the meal is offensive to me. I silently thanked my family for providing a home and preparing the food, and I thanked the people who were involved in the production and transport of that food.

The family members that were close to me know about my being an atheist, and we've discussed it. I would never demand or request that they not hold grace, or disparage them for it.

If my company had a Christmas party, and grace was performed, or if my school asked us to say the Pledge of Allegience (new version), I'd simply choose not to participate. If there are repercussions because of that, I would consider it discrimination.

How far should we take it to fit in, jason? Attend church services? Take communion? At some point, don't you start to disrespect someones beliefs by aping their rituals without faith behind it?

I do see that line, where I draw it is my personal choice based on what has value for me. I didn't leave the room when grace was said. When I go to the weddings of friends held in a church, I stand respectfully during the appropriate moments. I greet other people during the Rite of Peace - always "Peace be with you" and not "Peace of the Lord". I do not, however, kneel, because that is symbolic of an obeisance that I reject.

It is the meaning behind the ritual that I pay close attention to, not simply the fact that there is a ritual.

Hope that helps clarify. I'm sure other atheists draw other lines. Which is all good, in my opinion, until you cross that other line where you move from rejecting participation, to trying to prevent the event from happening at all.

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KnightEnder
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How about "The Atheist Religious Coalition for Morality"? "ARCM" Problem is you can't find a 'group' of atheist that doesn't identify themselves by hatred of religion. (All the rest of us atheists that think hate is a bad thing to form an organization around are left out in the cold.)

KE

[ February 23, 2007, 03:17 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Pete at Home
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That's admirable, Drake. You should publish it. I think that Jason's position is perfectly ethically consistent as well. You have different values and philosophies and you each seem to be true to your own. It fascinates me how your complete opposite courses of action both honor your personal beliefs while respecting others.
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Pete at Home
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The trouble is that the word atheist seems to modify religious, and if you put it the other way, religious would modify atheist.

HAHAHA! OK, something not to call it: "The Moral Hegemony" [Big Grin]

"Mutual Respect"?

This is one tough idea to coin. Atheism and religion seem semantically predestined to collide.

Ah -- how about: "COMMON GROUND"

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caladbolg1125
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I, and I think, many of the other atheists that post here do have a respect for the philisophical tenets of many religions. In my religious encounters (I went to Church camp for five years thanks to my grandmother) I always got the feeling of the blind leading the blind. Or rather the blind leading no mind. I didn't like the feeling of being a sheep that needed shepherding. Despite that fact that I think the existance of god is improbable at best. (Those that do believe, you can choose to ignore that.) I have always resisted large groups because I refuse to succumb to groupthink. That's not to say everyone who follows organized religion suffers from groupthink. Pete, to give an example, is very intelligent and still religious and what's even more admirable, respectful to boot (so long as you can cite your arguments and stay clear you can probably avoid his mighty intellectual wrath [Big Grin] ).

Anyway, back to my first point. I, like KE, have great respect for the courageous philosophers who have had organized religions spring up around them.

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Pete at Home
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For true faith to thrive, I think that people should be able to disbelieve without having their moral integrity challenged. And I think people need to realize that this new brand of fundamentalist atheism that Dawkins is touting is intellectual poison.

I'm not saying that Dawkins is creating a religion. I'm starting to think that fundamentalism isn't religion at all. We're talking about a mythically re-imagined past, and a messianic future that requires your followers to overcome others.

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Carlotta
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Drake, you are absolutely right that there comes a point where participating in a religious ritual that you don't believe in can be offensive to religious people. I appreciate your explanation of why you draw the lines you do.

Regarding the article writer, leaving aside his tone, there is a distinction that I don't see Ornery people making. The writer flat out says that treating someone badly because they are an atheist is wrong.
quote:
If we mean unwarranted hostility, persecution, and prejudice, then, as far as I can tell, most Americans do not actively discriminate against atheists. Or at least they shouldn’t. Religious believers, especially Christian believers, should will atheists’ good in every way. If the evictions really occurred solely because of religious belief (or the lack thereof), then they are morally repulsive.

Then he goes onto say that
quote:
"I mean simply that it would be odd for an atheist to claim that his understanding of all of reality should have no bearing on how other people treat him. "
He's not saying treated badly, just differently. There is a distinction between treating someone in a way that violates their dignity as a human being and the consideration, goodwill, and respect they ought to be shown, and simply not showing the same preferential treatment that one shows to others. I'm not talking about legally, but in the personal sphere. Like how you treat family members differently than aquaintances or strangers, but without being hostile to the latter.

Here are some examples of what I think he is talking about:

1. The practice of my religion is very important to me and I wanted to marry someone who shared my faith. Therefore I decided, once I was ready to date seriously, that I would not date someone who didn't share my faith. I had good friend that everyone was sure I would date, but we stayed friends, partly because we didn't share religious beliefs. I wouldn't say this is discrimination, though, would you?

2. I wouldn't ask an atheist to be godparents to my children. Nothing personal, but they don't fit the job description of helping me raise my kids Catholic. The people we have picked to raise our kids if we both die share our beliefs, because we beleive those beliefs to be important to pass on to our kids. I'm sure you atheists out there would likewise have qualms about devout Catholics raising your kids if you died. This is not prejudice.

3. I generally prefer to pick my friends and companions based on similar interests. Religion is an interest of mine. I do have several non-Catholic, non-Christian, and non-religious friends (unfortunately I cannot say I have any atheist real life friends as the one I had converted).

If you think I'm wrong on this, tell me! (nicely) [Smile]

I've missed posting but my husband has given up posting on Ornery for Lent so I get more computer time now.

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The Pixiest
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I lost my faith in my early 20s. I never felt persecuted and had no problems coming out to my parents as an atheist.

Most of my adult life has been in california where it's a complete non issue.

When asked to pray by christians, usually over a meal, I'll do it. I don't think anyone is listening but I'll do it. It's not like I didn't do it all my life before I lost my faith.

I think faith does more good than harm. I think it gives people hope, comfort and strength. Yes, some people use it to hurt other people and that's a shame (and completely contrary to "love thy neighbor") but I think faith is a net positive.

I wish the atheists who are busy trying to remove the "under god" from the pledge and other such nonsense would get a life and stop making us look like jerks.

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Jesse
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Carlotta,

Not to pick on you...

quote:
It originated in Europe back when Europe was mainly Christian. It has Christian roots and many Christians still celebrate it as a religious holiday.
This is completely false. "Christmas" as we celebrate it in the US is a continuation of Pagan customs that long predate Christianity.

-------------------------------------------------

General

Now, what I find interesting about this article is that it conflates Religion and Faith, and conflates the rejection of Religion with Atheism.

Many Religious people are, at their core, atheists or agnostics who believe that whether or not there is a God, their lives are made better by submitting to Religion. It gives them a framework on which to base their lives, a sense of community, and goals.

Many who reject Religion (as I do) have a deep and abiding faith in the beneficence of their Creator, and in Divine Providence (as I do).

The truth is, the vast majority of Americans believe in a Higher Power. A strong majority are not, in any meaningful sense, Religious.

The sort of false dichotomies promoted by this article are not conducive to meaningful discourse. Instead, it merely repeats the tired and patently false assumption made by so many religious people, that those of us who do not see value in ritual or accept any text as the "word of god" are without faith.

Pixiest

If we're gonna go for wishing...why not wish a few Christian jerks hadn't thrown "Under God" into the pledge in the first place?

[ February 23, 2007, 07:05 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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MattP
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quote:
1. The practice of my religion is very important to me and I wanted to marry someone who shared my faith. Therefore I decided, once I was ready to date seriously, that I would not date someone who didn't share my faith. I had good friend that everyone was sure I would date, but we stayed friends, partly because we didn't share religious beliefs. I wouldn't say this is discrimination, though, would you?
What about when the discrimination is enforced by the parents? When I lived in San Diego I dated a Mormon girl in high school. We loved each other dearly though we hardly understood what that even meant at the time. Her parents recognized that we were closer than they wished for her to be with a non-Member. They eventually sent her away to Alabama for several months to separate us. This time was volatile enough for us with everything else that is going on at that age that the separation succeeded in ending the relationship.

The irony here is that I later ended up with another Mormon girl (go figure) and we've been married for 13 years. I go to church with her every week and have allowed her to raise our six kids in her church. My ex-girlfriend became very sexually active and stopped going to church because of the guilt. She did pot at college and has taken up smoking and drinking and has not produced any grandkids. She's been married to another non-Mormon guy for several years now.

Everything has worked out fine for me in the end, but this particular act of discrimination was very painful to all involved.

At that time I didn't consider myself an atheist. I honestly didn't think of myself as any kind of "ist." As far as my life now, I wouldn't dare to announce to anyone aside from my wife and one or two close friends that I'm an atheist. That term has connotations to it that go well beyond the rather limited dictionary definition.

There's a an atheist comedian named Julia Sweeney ('Pat' from SNL) that converted from Catholicism. She's created a humorous show about this transition and it includes her mother's reaction to her conversion. Her mother exclaims (paraphrased) "Not believing in God, that's one thing. But an atheist!?"

I had a particularly uncomfortable moment at a recent Testimony Meeting. Testimony Meetings are held at the first Sunday of every month in LDS Chapels. Every other week a handful of speakers give topic-oriented talks from the pulpit, but during Testimony Meeting individual members of the congregation are invited to voluntary come to the podium to share their personal testimony of the truth of their church. These individual testimonies almost always includes the phrases "I know this church is true" and "I know Joseph Smith was a prophet" or something very similar to these phrases.

A common phenomenon at Testimony Meetings is for the person who has come up to bear their testimony will end up telling a story about their recent summer vacation or how thankful they are for their family and they don't ever actually ended up testifying of anything about the church, itself. During one of these non-testimony testimonies a woman started going on about how great this country was and that atheists represented a greater threat to this nation from within than any terrorists could from without.

I know if she had said "jews" or "blacks" instead of "atheists" that she would have quickly been asked to sit down or a member of the bishopric (presiding priesthood) would have spoken after her to indicate that her ideas were not consistent with the position of the Church. Atheists, however, are fair game. It's OK to complain out loud about them.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Jesse:
Carlotta,

Not to pick on you...

quote:
It originated in Europe back when Europe was mainly Christian. It has Christian roots and many Christians still celebrate it as a religious holiday.
This is completely false. "Christmas" as we celebrate it in the US is a continuation of Pagan customs that long predate Christianity.
Jesse, the word "mass" is quite Catholic. The word Christ itself has arguably pagan roots. And obviously some traditions of Christmas such as the birth of Jesus, the visits of the kings, are Christian ideas. Carlotta did not say that Christmas has exclusively Christian roots. She simplys said that it has Christian roots, Therefore what she said is not "completely" false. We all need to give credit where credit is due. Fact is that religious traditions and cultures have interfertilized for generations, and it's time we recognized the richness of our heritage.

Monogamy, for example, is an excellent idea that we got from the Pagans.

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MattP
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quote:
I wish the atheists who are busy trying to remove the "under god" from the pledge and other such nonsense would get a life and stop making us look like jerks.
My impression that discussions about "under god" in the pledge are rarely started by atheists trying to get it out. It always seems to be the Christians trying to prove that we have always been a "Christian nation", whatever that means, that bring up the pledge or "in god we trust" on currency. The atheists (as well as many informed theists) just point out how and why these people are wrong.

The "under god" court cases that I'm familiar with are a result of Christians compelling non-Christians to recite the pledge. Compulsion of sectarian religious activity should never be allowed.

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Carlotta
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Jesse, no offense taken. What I meant was that the celebration of Christmas on December 25 originated in Christian Europe. As opposed to the pagan celebration of Solstice on that date. Christmas comes from the words "Christ Mass", meaning, the Mass that is said on this day commemorating the birth of Christ. I guess either way it doesn't matter to me - I have friends who celebrate Solstice and I think there are some neat traditions there. Traditional celebrations on December 25 generally include aspects from both pagan and Christian roots. Which in my opinion proves my point that you don't have to be religious to celebrate Christmas and I don't think people ought to be offended by wishing or being wished Merry Christmas.

I didn't mean to conflate atheism with a rejection of religion, but just wanted to explore the ramifications of what KnightEnder said about feeling persecuted as an atheist. Do you as a person of faith though without religion feel persecuted?

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