Category Archives: Atheism
In the last week or so, I’ve seen three posts on three different blogs, all asking the question, “Why pray?” As you can probably imagine, all of the authors addressed the question from different perspectives.
Despite their very different approaches, each one of them reminded me of a bit from the late George Carlin’s HBO special, You Are All Diseased, and I felt led by the spirit of George to share it with you here.
From the linked website:
[…] Pray for anything you want. Pray for anything, but what about the Divine Plan?
Remember that? The Divine Plan. Long time ago, God made a Divine Plan. Gave it a lot of thought, decided it was a good plan, put it into practice. And for billions and billions of years, the Divine Plan has been doing just fine. Now, you come along, and pray for something. Well suppose the thing you want isn’t in God’s Divine Plan? What do you want Him to do? Change His plan? Just for you? Doesn’t it seem a little arrogant? It’s a Divine Plan. What’s the use of being God if every run-down shmuck with a two-dollar prayerbook can come along and fuck up Your Plan?
And here’s something else, another problem you might have: Suppose your prayers aren’t answered. What do you say? “Well, it’s God’s will.” “Thy Will Be Done.” Fine, but if it’s God’s will, and He’s going to do what He wants to anyway, why the fuck bother praying in the first place? Seems like a big waste of time to me! Couldn’t you just skip the praying part and go right to His Will? It’s all very confusing.
George Carlin had a wonderful way of cutting right through the bullshit, didn’t he? And listening to him is so much better than just reading the text. So, shall we?
[WARNING: The following video contains strong language and content that some viewers may find offensive. It’s probably not work or kid friendly.]
It’s ironic, isn’t it? The Pledge of Allegiance, which describes the United States as “indivisible”, has become one of the most divisive issues among us.
I first read about this particular division at My Crazy Life. You’ll want to check out the video she has posted there. Mike Newdow is interviewed by a frothing-at-the-mouth Fox News reporter (as if that’s not a redundant turn of phrase!). It’s slightly amusing to watch as Mike maintains his composure, remaining completely rational, while she (I don’t know her name) can barely contain herself.
So what’s up in Vermont? CBS News reports:
(AP) No one is sure when daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance fell by the wayside at Woodbury Elementary School.
But efforts to restore them have erupted into a bitter dispute in this town of about 800 residents, with school officials blocking the exercise from classrooms over concerns that it holds children who don’t participate up to scorn.
See there? Small town folks can too be rational.
So what did this little school do? They arranged for students who want to participate in group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to gather in the gym and do it there. You might consider this a reasonable compromise that works for everyone. If only…
Tedesco, 55, a retired Marine Corps major, and others who signed his petitions didn’t like that solution, calling it disruptive and inappropriate because it put young children in the position of having to decide between pre-class play time and leaving the classroom to say the pledge.
So, let me see if I understand this correctly. Woodbury Elementary School is ticking along just fine, not having daily recitations of the Pledge. Things have been this way for so long that, according to the article, no one is even sure when the practice “fell by the wayside”.
Then along comes Mr. Tedesco with his petition and lobbying, which ultimately results in agreement by school officials to resume the daily exercise of reciting the Pledge, and special accommodations being made for students who wish to participate.
In other words: disrupting the routine of the entire school!
Then, when things don’t play out to his complete and ultimate satisfaction, he objects on the grounds that the compromises and accommodations are, what? Did he call it “disruptive”?!
Good Gawd! Irony just doesn’t get any jucier than that, does it?
Pst… Tedesco. You instigated the “disruption”. If you were truly interested in not disrupting things, you would have left things the way they were.
But, I suppose if Tedesco & Co. had been granted every one of their wishes, everything would be peachy keen. Never mind those parents and students who consider the Pledge itself to be an inappropriate disruption in the classroom. But who cares what they think, anyway? They’re probably not even real Americans. In fact, they can just take their sorry arses someplace like Iraq if they don’t want to hear the Pledge of Allegiance, God bless America!
I think it’s also worth highlighting that, while Tedesco considers this important enough to circulate a petition lobbying for classroom recitation of the Pledge and ultimately withdraw his children from the school (he says for academic reasons and not the Pledge issue, but the timing is rather suspicious) he doesn’t think it’s important enough to make kids give up a few minutes of playtime in the morning.
What about values? What about teaching children priorities? Sacrifice builds character, etc., etc.
But wait! What if Mr. Tedesco is really worried that, given the choice between playtime and gathering to recite the Pledge, the kids would choose playtime? Gawd knows we can’t start allowing children to make choices, especially when they’re likely to opt out of something so vitally important to the grown ups!
No! This ritual must be performed in the classroom where they can’t get away, where those who don’t wish to participate or might object to it for some reason are forced to hear it.
In other words, it’s not enough to simply accommodate students who wish to participate, we must force all students to participate in some way or another. The fact that this doesn’t surprise me is a bit unsettling.
But, hey! I could be completely wrong. Maybe Tedesco and those who share his views really do think that the arrangement is disruptive and imposes undue hardship on students. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’ve come up with a solution that should satisfy everyone! I’m all about compromise, after all.
I would be perfectly happy for my son’s school to have two morning bells. The first bell calls for all students who wish to participate in group recitation of the Pledge to report to their classrooms for said ritual. The second bell calls all remaining students to class after the ceremony. Everyone gets the same tardy bell. I’m willing to allow the first bell to ring at the usual time to avoid cutting into anyone’s morning playtime or other recreational activities.
Tedesco & Co. get their playtime and their classroom recitation; those who do not wish to participate are not forced to.
This has the added benefit of staggering hall traffic at larger schools, making the hallways less crowded and thereby safer for all students. Students continue reporting to their regular classrooms, roll call is taken as usual, and class instruction begins immediately afterward.
Of course, this is still in its rough phase, but it seems reasonable to me. Any objections?
According to the Peninsula Clarion, hating on atheists might not be so bad. At least, not as bad as hating on Blacks or Jews because, according to the author of this piece, to be an atheist, you make a conscious choice.
Before I refute this frail little argument, I believe some history and a few acknowledgments are in order:
It came to me while reading Gawd’s Word, as I routinely do. Gawd said that some grrl had been talking smak about Him so, naturally, I had to see what that was all about. Well, GrrlScientist had posted to her blog about a letter sent to the editor of the Augusta Chronicle. The letter, sent by one Alice Shannon, called for atheists to leave the United States!
Needless to say, GrrlScientist was not at all pleased, and her response is an absolute must-read.
Apparently, there is a fair bit of controversy over the origin of the letter, but that’s not relevant to the point of this post. Somewhere along the way, the letter in question was sent to the aforementioned Peninsula Clarion.
As Snopes acknowledges, attempting to assign any kind of “true” or “false” status to letters to the editor is often tricky, because such letters are generally expressions of opinion rather than fact, and the senders of such letters are not even necessarily the original authors. Sadly, Snopes also had this to say:
Given the plenitude of e-mails we’ve received over the years expressing the very same sentiments as this letter, it (regardless of the intentions of its creator and/or sender) apparently does reflect the genuine opinions of a not insubstantial readership base.
But regardless of the letter’s origin or the intention of its author/sender(s), the following response by the Peninsula Clarion jumped out at me (emphasis mine):
In two days, we receive more than 30 letters. Some were angry with her. Some were angry with us. They said we should be ashamed of ourselves for printing it, and that we would never have done that if it were about blacks or Jews. They’re right, we wouldn’t have. However, to be an atheist, you make a conscious choice.
Oh, where to begin? I can’t possibly address all the holes in this argument but, as always, I welcome comments and look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
Assuming, to begin with, that atheism really is a conscious choice, which I am not prepared to concede, the author of this statement is basically saying that bigotry toward a group of people who choose their minority status is not as bad as bigotry toward people who don’t. Let’s examine this, shall we?
If atheism is a conscious choice, then theism must be as well. If people can choose their way out of theism, then by definition they can choose their way in.
So why is one kind of religious bigotry unacceptable in America while another is just fine and dandy?
Furthermore, Christianity is a conscious choice to deny all other gods and faiths. Would the Peninsula Clarion have published this letter if it had been directed at Christians, demanding that they leave the country? Not likely.
Protestants consciously choose to reject Catholicism. Catholics consciously choose to reject Mormonism. Mormons consciously choose to reject Hinduism. And so it goes.
There are many choices that people make which, if it were demanded that they leave the U.S. because of it, would no doubt be considered bigotry by mainstream society. What about interracial relationships and marriages, for example? People consciously choose to enter into those relationships. Oh sure, you can’t help who you’re attracted to, but you can certainly choose who to date and marry.
We’ve also made a lot of progress where gay couples are concerned. I’m not saying that homosexuality is a choice (although it doesn’t need that disclaimer as validation) but engaging in a same-sex relationship definitely is. And yet, it seems most people think it’s not OK to hate on gays.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.
All that said, however, I’m not convinced that atheism necessarily is a conscious choice. While I made the conscious choice to begin examining my Christian faith and follow the evidence to where it lead, I don’t believe that atheism was a conscious choice for me so much as a logical conclusion. I know some would argue that I could have chosen to ignored the evidence, deny the facts and remain faithful. Of course, that only brings us right back to Christianity being a choice and the question of why it’s not OK to bash Christians, while bigotry toward atheists is alive and well in the United States.
We must also consider those atheists who never believed in any god(s). Theism is learned — we do not emerge from the womb believing in one deity or another. People are taught their religious beliefs. This is evidenced by the fact that religious practices vary greatly according to geographical locations. Many American Christians would, in fact, be Hindu had they been born in India to Indian parents, for example. Also, how many people born to Catholic parents end up Baptist, or vice versa? People generally adhere to the religion they are born into and raised to practice.
But what about those who were never taught any religion? Did they choose atheism? I submit that atheism is no more a choice to many of them than Hinduism was to me, being raised by staunch Baptists in the United States. Have they heard of Christianity or other religions? Probably. Could they choose to pursue a religious lifestyle as adults? Certainly. But, again, that brings us right back to religion being a choice and the question of why bashing religion is called bigotry while bashing atheists is not.
The argument that atheists choose their minority status and, therefore, discrimination and bigotry against them isn’t quite as bad as hatred toward other groups is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to legitimize said bigotry. It begins with a false premise, is logically inconsistent, reinforces misconceptions about atheism and attempts to excuse prejudice and hatred.
It’s ignorant, it’s shameful, and yet Americans continually and enthusiastically accept it and make excuses for it, and I am on a mission to bring awareness to this ongoing issue. I realize the article is old but the problem is definitely ongoing. I am sending a link to this post to Peninsula Clarion. You can voice your opinion here, if you’d like.
When I saw this, I thought it was simultaneously sad and funny. It would be great if I could live to see the day that people didn’t “get” it.
In response to Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan’s bigotry toward atheists which went largely unnoticed, B.T. Murtagh of QuarkScrew wrote a very encouraging piece entitled Dole, Hagan And Hating On Atheists. The following excerpt is the part that I found particularly inspiring:
Remember, though, we’re only the last in the line; at one time it would have been just as easy to hate on the Jew, the Muslim, or even the Catholic here in America. In some few places that’s still somewhat the case (Muslims in particular are tempting targets today, in certain venues) but it’s become unacceptable in American society at large.
Keep your eyes on the prize. We’ll get there, if we simply keep insisting on our equality and humanity, as forcefully and insistently as did the other minorities. Given the groundwork already laid, it should be doable in decades rather than centuries.
It wasn’t so long ago that the President George H. W. Bush refused to acknowledge the equal citizenship and patriotism of American atheists, stating:
No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
In Barack Obama’s 2006 Call To Renewal address, Obama affirms his own Christianity as well his belief in separation of church and state:
[B]ecause I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality , I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they’re some one they’re not . . . Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”
I share B.T. Murtagh’s hope and finally believe that hope to be well founded.
Mike is here. He arrived safely and without incident. We’re having coffee now and will head out shortly for a Mexican breakfast. Mike has been jonesing for barbacoa; I haven’t decided yet what I’ll have but I’m leaning toward chorizo and eggs.
After breakfast we’ll go and do some shopping with champagne at the top of the list. We’re planning a celebration after the votes are counted tonight. I think we’re going to make history!
I want to thank all of you for your support these past few days. I’ve had a lot on my mind and it’s comforting to know that others relate and care. Even those who are reading along but not commenting provide encouragement; my numbers are increasing daily and it’s uplifting to know that people are interested enough to keep checking in.
I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the posts I linked to here. It’s the second link, entitled Senator Dole’s New Anti-Atheist Advertisement. While I understand the point Alonzo is trying to make, I do not agree with the notion that expecting people in positions of authority to speak out against bigotry toward any group is “hiding behind” them. I understand the dilemma; I know that being viewed as an ‘atheist sympathizer’ could be political suicide, but we’re talking about elected officials whose responsibility is to all their constituents, not just those who share their personal views and prejudices.
I would like to elaborate on this and a few other thoughts on this article, but my time with Mike is very limited and precious, so it will have to wait for now. More on that later.
In closing I want to encourage everyone to go and vote today. I’m sure we all know which candidate has my support and, of course, I would like everyone to vote for Barack Obama. Most important, though, is that you exercise your right to vote at all; it’s one of the only opportunities most of us will ever have to make our voices heard on the national stage.
And, again, my thoughts and condolences to Barack Obama and his family during their time of grief; let’s hope we can give them something to celebrate at the end of the day.