Pharyngula

Godlessness bustin’ out all over

Scienceblogs are a hotbed of irreligiosity today. Besides my usual, expected, reflexive contumely (illegal in at least one state!), Aardvarchaeology is hosting the 59th Carnival of the Godless, and Revere rips into CNN’s anti-atheist bias. Sample stupid quote:

Listen, we are a Christian nation. I’m not a Christian. I’m Jewish, but I recognize we’re a Christian country and freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.

Got that? We are not free to be atheists if we choose, according to Constitutional scholar and moderate voice of reason Debbie Schlussel.

Comments

  1. #1 Sastra
    February 4, 2007

    I read the transcript from the program, and the basic stance from most of the panelists seems to have been that atheists who are being persecuted or insulted in their communities have asked for it. Atheists start all the bad stuff off by trying to “impose” their views onto people who believe in God by forcing neutrality into publically-funded areas such as government building and public schools.

    Of course, they don’t call it “neutrality,” and they don’t make the critical distinction between public areas and publically-funded areas. Saying that a public school teacher cannot lead the class in prayer is to them the same as saying that a teacher cannot pray silently at her desk between classes.

    How ironic that the original question — are atheists being unfairly stigmatized? — is answered so affirmatively by a panel which unfairly frames the issue in order to stigmatize atheists.

  2. #2 AL
    February 4, 2007

    They bring up Michael Newdow and never bother to discuss the relevant issue with him, which is constitutionality, not this “we’re a Christian nation so deal with it” nonsense.

    Reminds me of Sean Hannity trying to refute the establishment clause by diverting the issue of constitutionality toward the fact that “Creator” is mentioned in the declaration of independence.

  3. #3 poke
    February 4, 2007

    I love all the atheist testimonials in the comments, about how they get along perfectly well with their Christian neighbours because they’re quiet and meek and keep their business to themselves, followed by them wondering why the angry, outspoken, vocal religionists have such a grip on the government and media. People need to wake up: While you’re busy trying not to offend your Christian neighbours, your Christian neighbours are busy intimidating your school board into indoctrinating your kids.

  4. #4 Trinifar
    February 4, 2007

    SCHLUSSEL: And the problem is that, you have these atheists selectively I believe attacking Christianity.

    PZ, at least no one can accuse you of selectively attacking Christianity. 🙂

  5. #5 Millimeter Wave
    February 4, 2007

    What strikes me as completely bizarre is that they form a panel to discuss whether atheists are unfairly discriminated against consisting of… three theists.

    I look forward to future all-caucasian panels discussing whether racism is a problem or not.

  6. #6 Alon Levy
    February 4, 2007

    Freedom from religion is actually a consequence of things like freedom of religion and separation of church and state. It’s telling that every country that imposes a state religion on people also violates the freedom of worship of members of other religions.

  7. #7 Ira Fews
    February 4, 2007

    I’m at a loss to explain how Debbie Schlussel has managed to bludgeon her way into the public eye, however myopic its vision. She is not smart, she is not attractive, and she is not, as far as I know, the beneficiary of nepotism or connections. I would speculate that she has the goods on someone, but she’s too dumb and hysterical to keep a secret, so that’s out too.

    Naturally it has a site of its own, and here, where she links to her CNN clip, this turd with lips declares: “I HATE that side profile which always makes me look fat. Yuck.” More important, ma’am, it makes you look and sound like a heavy-metal-poisoning victim trying to imitate Kent Brockman.

    Boggling.

  8. #8 secularizer
    February 4, 2007

    Always refreshing to see a self proclaimed jew insisting that we all live in a christian nation.

    Some people are incapable of learning from history.

    These demented fuckwits are being dragged into a civilized society, where they aren’t tortured and murdered in the name of some sky fairy and all they manage to be able to do is squeak nasty things about the people who are trying to make all our lives better, free from this barbaric superstitious tripe.

    How about a thank you, dumbasses?

  9. #9 donna
    February 4, 2007

    “freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.”

    Um, actually, yes it DOES.

  10. #10 Robert P.
    February 4, 2007

    Doesn’t this quote:

    we’re a Christian country and freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion

    Usually mean that your freedom NOT to have religion doesn’t extend to taking away the religious freedom of others? Not, that you must observe a religion?

  11. #11 jb
    February 4, 2007

    Um… I think there’s a bit of misunderstanding about freedom OF religion versus freedom FROM religion. Freedom of belief and practice means you can believe as you choose (the state doesn’t choose for you) and practice as you wish (so long as it doesn’t violate civil and criminal laws). This of course includes the right not to believe.

    But it doesn’t include the personal desire not to encounter any one or spectrum of beliefs. In places like Britain (where there is state religion) you’ll get state-sponsored religious indoctrination in school and other government facilities. In places like the US (where there is no state religion) the state’s not allowed to promote religion in schools or government facilities.

    Government restriction of belief, expression and practice has been tried, and failed rather miserably. Which is why the UN Charter on Human Rights includes the freedom OF belief, but not the not well defined freedom FROM belief.

  12. #12 ConcernedJoe
    February 4, 2007

    “Nobody” likes to be challenged, uncovered, and exposed as idiotic. Especially people who consider themselves intelligent movers and shakers.

    People somewhere along the way make a public commitment to faith and thus they must defend their commitment regardless. The more silly the commitment the more they must protect themselves from exposure. Hey, again, nobody likes being exposed as silly and/or idiotic.

    People that have all kinds of reasons to protect their god belief. But under the covers there lurks the “hatred” of atheists…. why?… because accepting us is at the least a recognition that they (the believers) are intellectual frauds. We are “hated” because we expose.. simply by existing and speaking the truth.

  13. #13 Caledonian
    February 4, 2007

    That’s not what “freedom of belief” means, no more than “freedom of speech” prevents employers from firing people because of their expressed views or blog owners from banning people because of what they say.

  14. #14 George
    February 4, 2007

    Debbie Dumbshit.

  15. #15 Steve Watson
    February 4, 2007

    [quoting Schlussel]Listen, we are a Christian nation. I’m not a Christian. I’m Jewish, but I recognize we’re a Christian country and freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.

    Got that? We are not free to be atheists if we choose, according to Constitutional scholar and moderate voice of reason Debbie Schlussel.

    Bending way over backwards to be painfully fair, I don’t read her as saying quite that. I think she’s saying that, while you can believe whatever you want, you still have to put up with governmental institutions paying special respect to the Christian hegemony in the form of: prayer and Bible lessons (and Creationism, however disguised) in public school; the Lord’s Prayer at city council meetings; toss-off pieties in civic-duty formulae; etc.

    “Freedom from religion” doesn’t mean that I get to walk down the street and see no churches, no crosses, no billboards exhorting me to Turn To Jesus; that I will never run across TV preachers while channel surfing; nor even that none of my elected representatives will be personally religious. All that is just part of living in a free and pluralistic society. But it does mean (Schlussel to the contrary) that my government in its law and policy will be neutral among religions, and between religion and unbelief, and will be seen to be neutral.

    Apparently, Schlussel is one Jew who likes being a second-class citizen.

  16. #16 Carlie
    February 4, 2007

    Here’s some Christianity for you – Pam at Pandagon has posted on some Australian churches promoting the slogan “Jesus loves Osama”. I for one would love for Debbie Schlussel to explain why she might not like the idea that Jesus loves everybody.

  17. #17 John Marley
    February 4, 2007

    What’s all this ‘Christian nation’ blather?

    US Constitution, Article IV, Clause 3:

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

    Empahsis mine.

    US Constitution, Amendment I:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Empahsis mine.

    I couldn’t find any mention of Christianity, and the only two references to religion at all (that I found) were to say the government could not enforce it on anyone.

    Besides, if this is a Christian nation, what’s with all the whinging on about Christians being persecuted?

  18. #18 spud
    February 4, 2007

    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/treaty_tripoli.html

    Treaty of Tripoli

    (Authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, the following treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.)

    Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

  19. #19 Ichthyic
    February 4, 2007

    SCHLUSSEL: And the problem is that, you have these atheists selectively I believe attacking Christianity.

    I apologize ahead of time, but those who have lived long enough, or studied a bit of history surely have seen this kind of argument before, when applied to the issue of slavery, for example.

    hmm.

    90% of the country is supposedly xian (they use this to support their legislative efforts on a daily basis), and they have the gall to say atheists selectively attack xians???

  20. #20 Ric
    February 4, 2007

    I’ve noticed that CNN is getting worse every day. They have taken to trying to out-Fox News Fox News.

  21. #21 chris hart
    February 5, 2007

    You know, I’m getting really sick and tired of stuff like this. People like that just don’t respond to facts or reasoned arguments.

    So what do we do about it? We complain, and complain, and complain, but the people who really need to hear it never do.

    From now on, then, no more “Mr. Nice Atheist.” No more compromises. No more backing down.

  22. #22 Ichthyic
    February 5, 2007

    From now on, then, no more “Mr. Nice Atheist.” No more compromises. No more backing down.

    er, exactly what did you have in mind?

    *pulls up a chair to watch chris mudwrestle creationists*

    go man, go!

    seriously, though, I recall an effort a friend of mine and I made some years back where we wore black suits and knocked on Jehova’s witness’ doors and handed out literature on evolutionary theory to them.

    *sigh*, little more than a prank, but at least it was fun for a while.

    there’s only one thing you can do, well two, actually:

    make sure you don’t vote for a creationist, and that you point out to everybody you know when you find one running for office.

    and attend your local schoolboard meetings once in a while to make sure they aren’t trying to pull a fast one and shortshrift teaching science in your local schools.

    past that, what ya gonna do? get all medieval on their asses?

    meh, then they just can just claim real victimhood, rather than the false victimhood they do now.

  23. #23 Jud
    February 5, 2007

    Treaty of Tripoli: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen….”

    …thus the law allows Schwarzenegger to be a Governor.

  24. #24 Steven
    February 5, 2007

    Saying something like “we are a christian nation” totally makes me cringe. I live in the UK and even I know that America wasn’t founded as a christian nation. Didn’t the founding fathers want to escape a religious monarch. Even if christianity is the majority does that mean the whole nation is a christian one? No. Debbie Schlussels comment doesn’t sit well with me and I’m not even a US citizen.

  25. #25 G. Tingey
    February 5, 2007

    I couldn’t find the references in post#18 from the US constitution/amendments in Wikipedia – are the section-numbers and/or quotes correct?

  26. #26 Paul
    February 5, 2007

    @G. Thingy

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_tripoli

    It’s not part of the US Constitution. It’s from a treaty between the US and the then state of Tripoli.

  27. #27 David Livesay
    February 5, 2007

    If “freedom of religion” doesn’t mean “freedom from religion” then it really doesn’t mean anything at all. People in this country generally end up being whatever religion their parents were, so if there is freedom to choose, hardly anyone is exercising it.

    The biggest exception to people practicing the religion of their parents is people who abandon their parents’ faith and become atheists, so if that’s not allowed, then there really is no freedom. You are free to swap your Catholicism for Methodism, I suppose. You could even give up your Amish ways and convert to Judaism, but in reality, that sort of thing rarely happens.

    I think the “freedom” most religionists want to protect consists of the freedom to indoctrinate your children in your own irrational beliefs and freedom from having those beliefs questioned, even when they impact other people’s lives.

  28. #28 David Livesay
    February 5, 2007

    seriously, though, I recall an effort a friend of mine and I made some years back where we wore black suits and knocked on Jehova’s witness’ doors and handed out literature on evolutionary theory to them.

    Hmmm. Now there’s a thought. Personally I’ve never taken it that far, but when ever JWs have come to my door, I’ve invited them in and treated them to a nice, respectful lecture on evolution. When they protested, I reminded them whose house they were in and that they were welcome to leave if they weren’t interested in what I had to say.

    Maybe when The God Delusion comes out in paperback…

  29. #29 Phoenix Woman
    February 5, 2007

    I’m at a loss to explain how Debbie Schlussel has managed to bludgeon her way into the public eye, however myopic its vision. She is not smart, she is not attractive, and she is not, as far as I know, the beneficiary of nepotism or connections. I would speculate that she has the goods on someone, but she’s too dumb and hysterical to keep a secret, so that’s out too.

    It’s simple: You can get as much airtime as you want if you’re a right-wing blowhard. That’s been the rule ever since the Fairness Doctrine was dismantled by Reagan in 1987, which opened the way for Rush Limbaugh and eventually FOX News. Meanwhile, somebody who is learned and articulate and clever — like the late Molly Ivins — is lucky to be on TV once every five years, if that.

    A related rule is that there is nothing, NOTHING, that a right-winger can do that will exile him or her permanently from the public discourse. (Especially if that right-winger attacks Democrats or lefties.) Look at Toesucker Dick Morris, or Pat Buchanan, or George Will, or Rudy Giuliani, or Newt Gingrich. (Not to mention Ann “Women shouldn’t vote” Coulter or Michelle “Internment is Peachy!” Malkin.)

  30. #30 David Livesay
    February 5, 2007

    Um… I think there’s a bit of misunderstanding about freedom OF religion versus freedom FROM religion. Freedom of belief and practice means you can believe as you choose (the state doesn’t choose for you) and practice as you wish (so long as it doesn’t violate civil and criminal laws).

    The problem is that civil and criminal laws still permit discrimination while having no apparent basis in anything other than religion. For example, it is still legal in most jurisdictions to deny spouses in gay relationships all of the rights that heterosexual spouses enjoy, and this has severe economic, to say nothing of emotional, repercussions for them.

    If Catholics were in the majority, I suppose my current marriage would be illegal, because I have been previously married and divorced, and Catholics don’t believe in divorce. Lucky for me that’s not the case, but gay people aren’t so lucky, because, while no one religion has a majority, there is a consensus among many minority religions that homosexuality is icky. If they all happened to agree with the Catholics on divorce, I’d be just as screwed.

    So when religion has such a profound and malignant impact on people’s lives, I think we have a right to demand to be free of it.

  31. #31 mfaerber
    February 5, 2007

    “illegal in at least one state” should be the new subtitle for Pharyngula.

  32. #32 GH
    February 5, 2007

    suppose my current marriage would be illegal, because I have been previously married and divorced, and Catholics don’t believe in divorce.

    Thats not entirely the case. You of course could get an annullment, granted in 85+% of all cases so it’s almost a formality.

    Also the current Catholic position is under siege as it is clearly a missreading of the passage and this has been well illustrated by language scholars. The RCC had allowed for divorce until the council of Trent in the 1500’s when they changed the policy. Some say to add value to marriage, others to charge additional fees.

    In any event I think the Catholic stance on this issue is perhaps one of the most harmful to a society. It actually makes a mockery of marriage.

  33. #33 David Livesay
    February 5, 2007

    Thats not entirely the case. You of course could get an annullment, granted in 85+% of all cases so it’s almost a formality.

    But that’s not relevant anyway, because, as I said, they don’t get to define what civil marriage is, so I really don’t care what they think about my marriage. The problems arise when a majority religious position, such as intolerance of homosexuality, deprives citizens of their civil rights. If the only justification of persecution is “belief” then we have a right to question and even attack those beliefs that oppress our friends and neighbors.

  34. #34 GH
    February 5, 2007

    Oh I agree with you entirely David. I was just adding some information.

  35. #35 gateman's nametag
    February 5, 2007

    Debbie Schlussel is known locally (in Detroit) as the “Jewish Ann Coulter”. Most of her hate is directed at Muslims directly, and if you guys saw a sample of her rhetoric towards Islam, you’d think that she took it pretty easy on the atheists.

    She’s just a very bitter, disgruntled lady, who has a lot of bones to pick. On her site, she once posted her outrage that wealthy Americans would take their dogs and cats to day spas and feed them gourmet meals. I responded –
    “Why do puppies hate America??”

  36. #36 Leon
    February 5, 2007

    “freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.”

    Really! Funny she should say that, ’cause Jefferson specifically stated that it does. But then, why should we stoop to listening to the Founding Fathers when we have our own ideas about what they thought?

  37. #37 salomedesade
    February 5, 2007

    So we don’t have freedom from religion. Why the hell not? But if atheism is “just another religion” as some of the religious wags have whined, don’t we have the freedom to practice this “religion” according to them? Of course, I’m talking about the religious, so I guess I shouldn’t expect too much logic.
    Love your blog, and I sort of stole the title of my blog from your subhead “…from a godless liberal.” Hope that’s okay.

  38. #38 bernarda
    February 6, 2007

    Wingnut Schussel has apparently never read Robert Ingersoll, a 19th century American.

    “Give the church a place in the Constitution, let her touch once more the sword of power, and the priceless fruit of all ages will turn to ashes on the lips of men.”

    ……….”Individuality”, 1873, in Ingersoll’s Works, Vol. 1, p. 203

    More Ingersoll quotes here,

    http://thewaronfaith.com/aq_ingersol.htm

    Tocqueville had this to say–among much else.

    “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.”

    Alexis de Tocqueville

    More Tocqueville quotes here,

    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/alexis_de_tocqueville.html

    Well, another one from him,

    “In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.”

  39. #39 Mena
    February 6, 2007

    From the link in Ira Fews’ post:
    GEEZ, I OPENED A CAN OF WORMS. FYI, I’M NOT “ZAFTIG.” I SAID I *LOOKED* FAT, NOT THAT I AM. I WEIGH 109 AND AM 5’2″. MONICA LEWINSKY IS ZAFTIG. I AM THIN.
    DEBBIE SCHLUSSEL
    Monica Lewinsky? What decade is this? Apparently it’s better to have people think of you as being thin than as being smart. There are other comments of hers there and apparently the cap lock is too hard to figure out too.

  40. #40 cooper
    February 6, 2007

    Listen, we are a Christian nation. I’m not a Christian. I’m Jewish, but I recognize we’re a Christian country and freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.

    I am just curious, what if the pledge went “One nation, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ” if she would feel the same way.

  41. #41 Amy Alkon
    February 7, 2007

    Monica Lewinsky just graduated from the London School of Economics.

    On my site, I criticize anybody — Muslim, Christian, or Jew — who believes, without evidence, in god.

    Here’s the difference: The Christians say I’m rude and come up with pages of straw men in their defence, but never any evidence for god. The Jews don’t say much. (For the record, I’m post-Jewish, and I recently criticized the Orthodox Jews for building an “eruv” at the beach, which can kill birds: You can’t practice your primitive religious beliefs at the beach without endangering birds, and putting up an ugly wire with rags tied on it? Live somewhere else!)

    And then, there are the Muslims. When you criticize them, they imply you’ll be blown up for it. Nice.

    If the human race blows itself off the planet, I’m predicting it happens not via global warming, but through the irrational belief in god.

    On another note, I’ve found the cruelest people I’ve known personally are Christians. As a child in suburban Detroit (and Schlussel does have a point in her remarks about “Dearbornistan,” where she went undercover to Muslim hate events), Christian children chased me around and called me dirty Jew from the early grades through junior high, when my dad had to go to the principal to get a gang of Jew-hating girls to stop throwing chairs at me. Just today, I got the ugliest series of e-mails I’ve ever received from a pastor in Yorba Linda who reads my column in the OC Register.

    Now, I’m a writer, and I certainly have the ability to hack other people to bits with words. I just don’t, because I want to be better than that. The guy was just low. Then again, he did give me a little gift: The notion that my relationship is just “fornicating for the weekend.” There is a bit more to it than that, but “fornicatin’ for the weekend” sounds pretty good to me!

  42. #42 Amy Alkon
    February 7, 2007

    Sorry, I left out politically based nuclear war as a way we all off each other.

  43. #43 Matt Kraatz
    February 8, 2007

    At a local School Board meeting here in Mason, OH, a “Christian Conservative” on the board said exactly this: “We are a Christian Nation, not a Muslim Nation”. So I cracked up to hear the same verbage used again, but this time on national television. And it deeply concerns me that there are more than a few million people who feel the same way.

    Here is a link to the incident, if you can handle any more bigotry this hour:
    http://www.jewsonfirst.org/06c/public118.html

  44. #44 Vincent
    February 10, 2007

    I first heard Elizabeth Dole say it at the Republican national convention and now Debbie Schlussel is repeating it as are many others and it just drives me bonkers.
    “Freedom of religion is not freedom from religion.”
    Well, that’s absolutely true. “of” is not “from”.
    Luckily, our nations founders realized this so they protected against both.
    Freedom of religion: “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]”

    Freedom from religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

    So, Debbie, you are right. But you only tell half of the story.

  45. #45 XaurreauX
    February 13, 2007

    Debbie is such a good doggie! Roll over for the nice Dominionists!

  46. #46 Dave
    January 22, 2009

    US Constitution, Amendment I:

    CONGRESS shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    This is the key point that many here seem to miss. Like it or not you are swimming in a sea of Christians. These horrible people are largely responsible for the existence of this country and everything in it (for good or naught). The second amendment clearly, in unmistakeable language, says that CONGRESS cannot establish a religion – by which, according to all known correspondence of the time – meant denomination. During that time period every state in the union had its own state religion. This was perfectly acceptable to most of the Founding Fathers. Thomas Paine would probably be the most notable exception. As long as the Federal Government didn’t get involved it was considered to be legitimate for states to do whatever they wanted in terms of esablishing churches or religions or whatever. This was clearly the intent of the Founders.

    To my knowledge there is no document claiming that this is a Christian nation. That being said, it clearly is a country founded by Christians and on largely Christian principles that were obviously “progressive” for the time.

    No, this is not officially a Christian nation. Yes, this was and still is a nation composed largely of Christians all of whom possess the constitutionally protected right to freedom of religious expression (as do all others). Noone has a constitutional right to not be offended by others religious expression. You do have the right to refute it, ignore it, but not to limit it.

  47. #47 Nerd of Redhead
    January 22, 2009

    Dave, keep your religious expressions inside your home and church. Nobody will bother you. Just keep them out of the public sphere. I have freedom from your religion.

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