Respectful Insolence

War on Christians?

The fundamentalist Christian right often laments that there is a “war on Christians” by secular society in the U.S. Indeed, as Easter approaches, such complaints inevitably increase. Consider, however, these clearly un-Constitutional clauses in various state constitutions that make atheists ineligible for public office (or at least not accorded the same rights to run for public office), including Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

It’s unbelievable today that such blatantly un-Constitutional clauses can remain, even today, in the constitutions of various states. You don’t have to be an atheist or agnostic to see such clauses as being profoundly offensive. Indeed, one of them, if enforced, would discriminate against Jews and Muslims, specifically the Massachusetts Constitution, which states:

Any every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.

True, this section was amended to read (something the source listing this prohibition fails to mention):

As the public worship of God and instructions in piety, religion and morality, promote the happiness and prosperity of a people and the security of a republican government; — therefore, the several religious societies of this commonwealth, whether corporate or unincorporate, at any meeting legally warned and holden for that purpose, shall ever have the right to elect their pastors or religious teachers, to contract with them for their support, to raise money for erecting and repairing houses for public worship, for the maintenance of religious instruction, and for the payment of necessary expenses: and all persons belonging to any religious society shall be taken and held to be members, until they shall file with the clerk of such society, a written notice, declaring the dissolution of their membership, and thenceforth shall not be liable for any grant or contract which may be thereafter made, or entered into by such society: — and all religious sects and denominations, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good citizens of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.

However, that still seems to expand the protections only to those who belong to a religion; so it’s only marginally less offensive.

The whole concept of a “war against Christians” is nothing more than the whining of fundamentalists who want to keep seeing their religious iconography and language incorporated in governement.

(Hat tip to The Antecubital Fossa.)

Comments

  1. #1 Thursday
    April 15, 2006

    Don’t forget the recent study showing that athiests are considered less trustworthy than any other groups.

    http://exchristian.net/2/2006/03/atheists-identified-as-americas-most.html

    We’re so repugnant that even folks who worship _other_ cloud beings are preferable to god-botherers than folks who don’t believe in cloud beings at all.

  2. #2 Roger Victoria
    April 15, 2006

    I’m a Christian. But I do have to say that msny of the people who call themselves martyrs for their faith have really been slapped down because of their own insensitivity and bigotry. They weren’t persecuted for their faith but because they were jerks.

    Roger
    Victoria

  3. #3 TheProbe
    April 15, 2006

    RWChristians, like any other power hungry group, need to portray themselves as victims, simply because they believe that victimhood is empowering.

  4. #4 Sergey Romanov
    April 15, 2006

    Thanks for this posting, Orac.

  5. #5 David Harmon
    April 15, 2006

    I think the point is that (1) any contradiction of their beliefs is considered a direct menace to their faith, and (2) there is only one kind of Christian — “Real ™ Christians”, as opposed to misguided heretics. Thus, anybody who insists on stating that some Christians, somewhere, might have false beliefs, is automatically making war on all “Real Christians”.

  6. #6 Socialist Swine
    April 15, 2006

    I think we should actually declare war on the Christians. That’ll show them.

  7. #7 Miguelito
    April 16, 2006

    “RWChristians, like any other power hungry group, need to portray themselves as victims, simply because they believe that victimhood is empowering.”

    True. Jesus and early Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire. Thus, to be persecuted is a state of bliss to hard-core Christians because it puts them closer to their “saviour”.

  8. #8 wolfwalker
    April 16, 2006

    “The whole concept of a “war against Christians” is nothing more than the whining of fundamentalists who want to keep seeing their religious iconography and language incorporated in governement.”

    Yeah, right. I’m sure that explains the way that modern media takes so much pleasure in denigrating Christians and Christian symbology that that they do it whenever they think they can get away with it. For example, during the recent controversy over the islamist-nutjobs’ reaction to the Mohammed cartoons, the New York Times wimped out of showing any of the cartoons in question. Instead they dug out an image of an anti-Christian piece of crap (literally!) from seven years ago, and re-ran that.

    For all their self-imputed intelligence and objectivity, the godmocker crowd are singularly stupid about understanding human nature. You never miss a chance to denigrate and mock Christian icons and beliefs. You pick fights over any trace of Christianity in public life, no matter how tiny, then you trumpet it when you win and ascribe it to religious bigotry when you lose. You show no respect to anyone on the other side.

    And then you wonder why they perceive it as a war against their entire way of life?

    Orac, most of the time I think you’re pretty levelheaded, but this time you really blew it.

  9. #9 Orac
    April 16, 2006

    For all their self-imputed intelligence and objectivity, the godmocker crowd are singularly stupid about understanding human nature. You never miss a chance to denigrate and mock Christian icons and beliefs. You pick fights over any trace of Christianity in public life, no matter how tiny, then you trumpet it when you win and ascribe it to religious bigotry when you lose. You show no respect to anyone on the other side.

    Sorry to disappoint, but one thing I’ve learned about blogging is that you can’t please all the people all the time–and you shouldn’t even try. In any case, I hope you aren’t referring to me when you say this, because if you are you’re quite incorrect. True, I do make fun of creationists and intelligent design advocates, but only in the context of their incessant efforts to insert a pseudoscience based on their specific literal reading of a specific religion’s holy book into the public school science classroom as science. That is something I find highly offensive, because it is a violation of First Amendment’s clause against the government’s establishing a religion. They are perfectly free to believe in a literal reading of the Bible if they wish and to teach their children whatever they wish regarding evolution; just don’t try to have that belief taught as science to children who may not share their religion. Ditto the historical revisionists who claim that the U.S. was founded specifically as a “Christian nation,” rather than a nation that, because the Founders had seen the toxic effects of combining Church and State, was designed from the ground up so that no one religion could be established as the state religion.

    Again, you don’t have to be an atheist or agnostic (or even hostile to religion in general) to see the problem here. Whenever religion combines with the power of the state, bad things happen to personal liberties.

  10. #10 Brian S
    April 16, 2006

    Our president has stated on record that he doesn’t believe atheists should be considered full citizens of the United States. How does the “denigration” and “mockery” you complain about compare with such a stance from the man whose job it is to uphold the Constitution?

    Most athiest can’t declare their disbelief in God without suffering some degree of social stigmatization, and you can forget about a political career.

    The “War on Christianity” is limited to specific cases that arise from time to time (school prayer, displays of the ten commandments, public Nativity scenes, etc.) The war on atheism is woven into our culture. You think you’re being picked on? Try not believing in God sometime.

  11. #11 Filifera
    April 16, 2006

    I suppose Christians would be offended these days if they were reminded of the Golden Rule. It’s simply astonishing how annoyed they get when they get the same kind of treatment they love to dish out. For a creed that emphasizes the glorious afterlife open to them (and only them), they sure are obsessed with what goes on in the temporal world, even though it really shouldn’t matter to the “saved”.

  12. #12 BronzeDog
    April 16, 2006

    I find the whole victim culture sickening.

    I’m suddenly reminded of one of the reasons I like Star Trek:TNG better than the original series, though it might be a case of confirmation bias: In TNG, the crew often finds themselves in a situation where they have to restrain their power for moral and ethical reasons.

    I think that’s one of the true measures of morality: How you work when you’re the one in power. The religious right are far from moral in that scenario.

  13. #13 Filifera
    April 16, 2006

    So why all the special attention by Christians to the “abomination” of homosexuality? Here are a few other biblical abominations, courtesy of Wikipedia, about which the “right to be intolerant” lobby among Christians apparently is not worth of comment. I ask you, where is the outrage about polygamy with sisters, or of entering the temple uncircumcised??? Bloody hypocrites.

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abomination_%28Bible%29)

    Elisabeth Anne Kellogg comments[1] on the Hebrew meaning of the term:

    “Of the various activities labeled as to’ba in the Old Testament the most common is idolatry in Leviticus 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 13:14; 17:4; 27:15; 1 Kings 14:24; 21:26; Jeremiah 44:4 and numerous other verses. Among other cultic acts that are to’ba are sacrificing blemished animals (Deuteronomy 17:1), dedicating children to Molech, using mediums and magic (Deuteronomy 18:9-14), and using a prostitute’s wages to make an offering at the temple (Deuteronomy 23:18). Also to’ba are the sacrifices of the wicked (Proverbs 15:8; 21:27) and the prayers of the lawless (Proverbs 28:9) and allowing the uncircumcised to enter the sanctuary (Ezekiel 44:6-7; see also Acts 21:28). A broad range of sexual and non-sexual activities are labeled as to’ba, from incest, bestiality and adultery to practicing polygamy with sisters (but not polygamy in general), marrying a divorced woman (Deuteronomy 24:4) and having sex during a woman’s menstrual period (Leviticus 18:6-30; Leviticus 20:1-27). Other to’ba acts include cursing your father or mother (Leviticus 18:6-30; Leviticus 20:1-27) and using dishonest weights and measures (Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Proverbs 11:1; 20:10,23). The shedding of blood, lying and stealing are labeled to’ba (Proverbs 6:16-19; Jeremiah 7:9-10; Ezekiel 18:10-13; 22:6-12). Even King David’s census was ta’ab (1 Ch 21:6).

    While some will point out that homosexuality and cross-dressing are in the same category as incest and bestiality, it should be noted that so are divorced people who remarry, those who have sex during menstruation and children who fight with their parents. In fact it seems that any uncleanness, any violation of Jewish Law, can be considered to’ba…

  14. #14 Clark Bartram
    April 16, 2006

    As an atheist living in Tennessee I have experienced first hand the stigma attached to a lack of acceptance that a 2,000 year old zombie was the son of the creator of the universe. That’s why I’m so happy to be moving to Texas. Oh wait. Damn, I’m screwed.

  15. #15 TheProbe
    April 16, 2006

    Wolfwaler said: For all their self-imputed intelligence and objectivity, the godmocker crowd are singularly stupid about understanding human nature. You never miss a chance to denigrate and mock Christian icons and beliefs. You pick fights over any trace of Christianity in public life, no matter how tiny, then you trumpet it when you win and ascribe it to religious bigotry when you lose. You show no respect to anyone on the other side.

    Thanks for providing proof of exactly the points made. You mix up the issues, and get bile. As a religious person, but not of Christianity, I do not want anyone ofoisting their religion onto me, my family or my government. Furthermore, I do not want my government to favor one religion over another, or to favor religion ofer non-religion. I want my government to be as purely secular as possible. I see no need whatsoever for government and relgion to mix, except for the group controlling government to shove their religion into my life.

    I’ll practice my religion quite well with neither the government’s help or hindrance.

    I expect you to call me a secular humanist.

  16. #16 Orac
    April 16, 2006

    Thanks for providing proof of exactly the points made. You mix up the issues, and get bile. As a religious person, but not of Christianity, I do not want anyone ofoisting their religion onto me, my family or my government. Furthermore, I do not want my government to favor one religion over another, or to favor religion ofer non-religion. I want my government to be as purely secular as possible. I see no need whatsoever for government and relgion to mix, except for the group controlling government to shove their religion into my life.

    I’ll practice my religion quite well with neither the government’s help or hindrance.

    I expect you to call me a secular humanist.

    Dammin, Probe, you said it better than I could. These people seem to think I’m somehow hostile to religion just because I’m strongly pro-separation of church and state. Unlike PZ, I’m not. Separation of church and state is actually the foundation for the flourishing of religion in this nation.

  17. #17 TheProbe
    April 16, 2006

    Wolfwalker said: For all their self-imputed intelligence and objectivity, the godmocker crowd are singularly stupid about understanding human nature. You never miss a chance to denigrate and mock Christian icons and beliefs. You pick fights over any trace of Christianity in public life, no matter how tiny, then you trumpet it when you win and ascribe it to religious bigotry when you lose. You show no respect to anyone on the other side.

    Thanks for providing proof of exactly the points made. You mix up the issues, and get bile. As a religious person, but not of Christianity, I do not want anyone ofoisting their religion onto me, my family or my government. Furthermore, I do not want my government to favor one religion over another, or to favor religion ofer non-religion. I want my government to be as purely secular as possible. I see no need whatsoever for government and relgion to mix, except for the group controlling government to shove their religion into my life.

    I’ll practice my religion quite well with neither the government’s help or hindrance.

    I expect you to call me a secular humanist.

  18. #18 wolfwalker
    April 16, 2006

    Rather amusing, really — so many false assumptions, so quickly leaped-to, and all of them evidence of precisely the mind-set I was talking about.

    Orac, you said: “True, I do make fun of creationists and intelligent design advocates, but only in the context of their incessant efforts to insert a pseudoscience based on their specific literal reading of a specific religion’s holy book into the public school science classroom as science. That is something I find highly offensive, because it is a violation of First Amendment’s clause against the government’s establishing a religion.”

    I agree with this 100%. I’m merciless against the creationists for the same reasons. But you made the mistake of overgeneralizing in this post, by assuming that all Christians’ complaints about modern-day culture are as ill-founded as creationism is. They aren’t. When you assume they are, you lay the groundwork for further conflict. Nothing angers the average human faster than being told that his opinion is irrelevant when he knows otherwise. Note that I didn’t say “when he believes otherwise,” as with creationism. Objective facts don’t change simply because people believe something else. But when it comes to a subjective matter like what a sincere, believing Christian sees and feels about modern-day culture, then he knows his opinion is relevant. You can say the “war against Christianity” is exaggerated, and be right in both your eyes and his. But if you say it doesn’t exist, then you can only be wrong in his eyes.

    Brian S, Filifera: I am not a Christian, never have been, never will be. But I am someone who has been a minority of one for his entire life, and expects to be so for whatever remains of it. I find it amusing that you assume that someone criticizing Orac’s position must be a Christian. Sloppy thinking, chaps. Scientists should know better. In fact, I defend Christianity — to a very limited extent, and never its darker aspects — primarily because I have spent too much time on the receiving end of such prejudice, and don’t like seeing anyone subjected to it unless and until they show they deserve it. I know a lot of Christians who don’t deserve it.

    BronzeDog wrote: “I think that’s one of the true measures of morality: How you work when you’re the one in power. The religious right are far from moral in that scenario.”

    True. However, on this blog, and on any similar blog, the atheists are the ones in charge. I suggest you look at this thread, or any similar thread from here, or Pharyngula, or any other similar blog, with a sober eye and consider how you look to a Christian visitor. I think you’ll find you sound uncannily similar to many of the people whose attitudes you so strongly, and correctly, dislike. Not a very pleasant thought, is it?

    One last thought: how many of you are even aware that none of the state-constitutional provisions in the list that Orac linked to are operational anymore? They don’t need to be repealed by the states because they’ve already been repealed by decision of the US Supreme Court.

  19. #19 Kristjan Wager
    April 17, 2006

    wolfwalker, repealing them would have a signal value

  20. #20 BronzeDog
    April 17, 2006

    However, on this blog, and on any similar blog, the atheists are the ones in charge. I suggest you look at this thread, or any similar thread from here, or Pharyngula, or any other similar blog, with a sober eye and consider how you look to a Christian visitor. I think you’ll find you sound uncannily similar to many of the people whose attitudes you so strongly, and correctly, dislike. Not a very pleasant thought, is it?

    Depends on how you’re defining “Christian”. Plenty of Creationist nutbars who are shot down with both logic and ridicule, usually simultaneously. The civilized Christians tend to be treated fairly well in my experience.

  21. #21 Orac
    April 17, 2006

    However, on this blog, and on any similar blog, the atheists are the ones in charge. I suggest you look at this thread, or any similar thread from here, or Pharyngula, or any other similar blog, with a sober eye and consider how you look to a Christian visitor. I think you’ll find you sound uncannily similar to many of the people whose attitudes you so strongly, and correctly, dislike. Not a very pleasant thought, is it?

    I find it interesting (and telling) that you so quickly jump to the conclusion that I am an atheist.

  22. #22 wolfwalker
    April 17, 2006

    Orac:

    Touche. I’ll keep that in mind, and try not to repeat the mistake.

    I think the underlying point holds, though. I’ve looked at anti-fundamentalist blogs and websites, and I’ve looked (occasionally) at fundamentalist websites. There’s an unsettling similarity in the language they use, to such an extent that there are times I wonder whether I want to associate any further with the anti-fundamentalist side. This blog is largely an exception, because you do a good job of maintaing a tone of respectful insolence. But there are times that the respect is conspicuously absent, and that annoys me more here than on, say, Pharyngula, because past experience shows that you’re a better person than Myers is. This particular post irritated me enough that I decided to say something about it.