Tag Archives: ignorance

Atheism: A Conscious Choice?

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.

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On


Troubled Thoughts Of A Godless American

I’m still very troubled over the Godless Americans ad put out by Elizabeth Dole. I’m experiencing a mixture of emotions that I’m having trouble explaining. If I don’t at least try, though, it will continue to eat at me.

I’ve always known that atheists aren’t exactly embraced in the United States. I’ve experienced the prejudice and felt the contempt before. But this time it wasn’t just some jerk down the street who won’t let her kid play at our house because my kid used the A word to describe himself. It wasn’t some stranger on the internet who thinks I don’t have the capacity to love, and doesn’t understand what stops me from stealing or killing. While all that can be very irritating, this felt much more personal, for some reason.

A politician running for elected office used an aspect of who I am as a smear against her opponent. Despite the fact that it’s been all over the news, and all sources have been very quick to point out that Kay Hagan is a good Christian, no one in the media has addressed the bigotry of the ad. This seems only to reinforce the notion that there’s something inherently wrong with being an atheist and that associating with atheists is an act of poor judgment, at best.

As if the ad and the media responses weren’t bad enough, Kay Hagan’s response was to file suit, calling the ad an “egregious and shameful mistake”. But why? What makes it worse than the onslaught of negative political ads we’ve been seeing throughout this campaign? The A word? That’s what tipped it? Palling around with atheists is somehow worse than palling around with terrorists?

That’s how this is all reads to me.

Dole’s ad has been described in the following ways: the nastiest, most egregious ad of he entire campaign, despicable, deplorable, utter filth, vile, slimy and shameful. And that’s just off the top of my head. The only challenges to this that I have seen have been on the personal blogs of atheists. This tells me that most of my fellow citizens believe that atheists really are all those things; that we are the scum of the earth, the worst of the worst.

I am finding this quite painful and difficult to take in. I am raising a child in a country full of people who will hate him because he doesn’t share their religious beliefs. It’s painful to consider the very real possibility that he might never be able to reach his full potential because of prejudice, ignorance and bigotry; because we live in a country where hating him is so commonplace that most people don’t even think to question it.

I have cried many tears over this, and I’m sure there are more to come. I’ve written to Kay Hagan and to Elizabeth Dole. I’ve written to several news networks and will continue doing so. Every time I hear this story retold with no mention of the bigotry toward atheists, I search for contact information to the show on which it was aired, and send an email. I comment on every blog I see discussing it and failing to acknowledge the bigotry. I don’t know what else to do except to keep writing about it and continue promoting others who write about it.

In Kay Hagan: The Slanderous Accusation of Atheism, Alonzo Fyfe explains why Hagan’s response to Dole’s ad is just as bigoted as the ad itself:

Hagan isn’t making the claim that atheists are Americans too and have a right to present their views to perspective political candidates. She is not saying that the fault of Dole’s advertisement is that Dole is lying and promoting bigotry and hatred. She, in effect, endorsed the hate and answered, “How dare you accuse me of not being just as bigoted against atheists as you are! You take that back!”

I encourage you to read the entire piece as well as Senator Dole’s New Anti-Atheist Advertisement in which Fyfe makes the following argument:

The fight against anti-atheist bigotry has to be our fight. The idea that we can hide behind politicians and judges forever while they do the dirty work (and pay the political price) for protecting us – while we do nothing in our own defense is as absurd as the belief that the Earth is only 6000 years old. It is a willful denial of political reality.

This doesn’t mean that we all need to march on Capitol Hill. We can all contribute in our own ways through blogging, sending emails, writing satire… Whatever it is you do, keep doing it because it really is our fight, and no one is going to fight it for us.

Edit to add: I’ve been rethinking the second post I’ve linked to here. Not that Fyfe doesn’t make some good points, but I don’t think I agree that it’s “hiding behind politicians” when we expect them to speak out against this kind of thing. I’ll post more on this later.

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On


National Day Of Silence: April 17, 2009

This past weekend, I wrote about a blogger who had misrepresented the purpose of the National Day of Silence.

Despite bogus claims and outright lies being promoted by various people, the Day of Silence is not about “promoting homosexuality”. It began 12 years ago when University of Virginia students wanted to find a way to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment on campus. This year, it was held in memory of Lawrence King, an 8th grade student who was murdered because of his sexual orientation.

Contrary to claims by groups like the American Family Association and the various individuals riding its coat-tails, this kind of bullying and harassment is a serious problem in schools. The purpose of the Day of Silence is to bring awareness of anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment, and to promote effective responses to it. It is not about allowing gay students to disrupt class for the day to promote a “homosexual agenda”, as the AFA would have people believe. Students of all beliefs, backgrounds and sexual orientations participate in the Day of Silence.

There is nothing on the DoS website that says everyone, or indeed anyone, is required to participate. It’s not necessarily observed throughout the entire day, and some schools only participate during lunch to avoid “disrupting” class. There is no single way to participate and no one is ever forced into participation. And yet, many people, often in the name of a superior moral agency, promote lies and misinformation about the purpose of this event, claiming that it is some kind of conspiracy to promote a “homosexual lifestyle” in public schools.

Saying that it’s not OK to bully, harass or murder someone because of his or her sexual orientation is not the same thing as promoting or honoring that sexual orientation. There is no reason that I can see to oppose the Day of Silence, other than ignorance, bigotry, and the desire to cause harm to a vulnerable group. And yet, opponents of this non-violent demonstration deluge schools with floods of angry letters and phone calls, threatening to keep their children home from school if the Day of Silence goes ahead.

This is just another form of bullying, a disgusting attempt to silence those whose opinions they dislike.

Public schools lose funding for each child that doesn’t attend school on any given day. The more students who are absent, the more funding the schools lose. This strong-arm tactic serves one purpose: to bully schools into calling off the event by threatening their funding.

The author of Mom Loves Being At Home said this in comments at her blog:

I wouldn’t expect everyone in the public school system to have a day where they honored my God if that wasn’t what they believed.

First of all, atheist students across the United States are required to participate, every single day, in a school-sponsored moment of silence, which is nothing more than a substitute for prayer. Do you oppose this ritual as well, Mom?

Most importantly, though, if bullying and harassing students because of their religious beliefs, Christian or otherwise, were a problem in our public schools, I would certainly not oppose efforts to bring awareness to the issue. In fact, I would join the effort myself and encourage my son to participate as well.

I do not approve of the Christian lifestyle. 1 I believe that it largely promotes intolerance, ignorance and bigotry; it certainly violates many of my personally-held values and principles. But it is not OK to mistreat people whose lifestyles I disapprove of, and I would fight alongside them to put a stop to it.

If your school or your child’s school is organizing a Day of Silence on April 17, 2009, I urge you to participate. Call the school or send a letter thanking them and assuring them that your child(ren) will be in attendance that day. If there is no event scheduled at your school, please read the Day of Silence FAQ to find out how you can help.


1Although I believe that Christianity largely promotes intolerance, ignorance and bigotry, I realize that not all Christians are ignorant, intolerant bigots, and I appreciate those who are educated, caring and tolerant.


Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On


Powell: Obama Is Not Muslim

Accusations by McCain supporters that Obama is Muslim have always bothered me, not only because they’re blatantly false, but because of the implication that there is something wrong with being Muslim. Colin Powell’s response reflects my own thoughts on the subject:

“I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the [Republican] Party say… such things as ‘Well, you know that Mr Obama is a Muslim’.

“Well the correct answer is, ‘He’s not a Muslim, he’s a Christian, he’s always been a Christian’. But the really right answer is, “What if he is?’ Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is ‘No’, that’s not America.”

BBC News

Actually, I don’t think Obama was always a Christian. Obama is a Christian whose religious views have evolved in his adult life. In The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes that he “was not raised in a religious household.”

But that’s not the point, is it? The important point made by Colin Powell here is that it shouldn’t matter, and I agree. Those who think it does or should, and who use the term “Muslim” as a slur or insult, only reveal their own ignorance, prejudice and bigotry.

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On


Here We Go Again

Atheism: absence of (without) belief in the existence of god(s)

Atheist: one how does not believe in the existence of god(s).

Why is this so difficult for some people?

Perhaps it’s not really difficult, but the straw man definition, that there absolutely is no god, which has only ever been stated by a tiny handful of atheists, is easier to destroy, so theists who choose to debate the point also choose to ignore common usage and resort to their Websters.

Let’s go with that, shall we? All of the following references will tell you that the root word, theism, is a belief in the existence of gods. Therefore, a theist is one who believes in the existence of gods.

Theism
Theism
Theism
Theism
Lots and lots of theism

Next, we come to the prefix a which means lacking, not, absent, or without:

Learn English
English Club
Wikipedia
MyWord

So atheism means without belief in god(s) and atheist is a noun referring to someone without belief in god(s).

So why do so many theists and even lexicographers take such liberties with the word? If you look at any number of online dictionaries, you’ll see atheism defined in some rather creative ways. For example:

a·the·ism (th-zm)
n.
1.
a. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
b. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
2. Godlessness; immorality.

The Free Dictionary

Why? Did knowledge or morality factor into the definitions of theism? No, it did not. Only belief. Prefixes do not alter the definitions of root words. So why do people do it? Ignorance? Prejudice? Fear of the unknown? Intellectual dishonesty and laziness? A few loud and obnoxious atheists making the rest of us look bad? I wonder how Christians who take this approach would feel about being lumped in with Fred Phelps and his ilk?

I don’t know, but the leaps some people are willing to take to avoid thinking, deny reality and cling to their preconceived ideas is disturbing and mind-boggling.

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On