Pharyngula

Defending the rotting equine carcass

Let’s bring up that atheists and civil rights issue once again — it makes everyone so happy. The Science Ethicist is really peeved with DJ Grothe, who in a recent Point of Inquiry podcast repeated his assertion that a) atheism is not a civil rights issue, and b) lots of atheists are making their civil rights a major issue.

The curious twist here is that he’s interviewing Peter Irons, author of God on Trial, who at the very beginning makes the point strongly that religion is the most divisive issue in the country after race, and that there is a deep intolerance towards atheists. Then Grothe springs his traditional assertion that those other atheists are making too big a deal of civil rights. Irons comes back with the argument that the discrimination against atheists does make it an issue of civil rights. I don’t quite get the point of Grothe’s argument. I agree with Irons that it is a civil rights issue, but I also agree willingly that there is no comparison with the oppression faced by women and homosexuals and blacks; most of the atheists I know would probably agree, that it’s a real issue, but it’s probably not the most important struggle we face right now.

I’m not quite ready to give up on the podcast as Aerik is since they get such good guests (and the Irons interview is very good), but I do think Grothe is flogging a dead horse. Can we at least agree that it has been settled somewhere close to the position that it is a civil rights issue, but not one that imposes the kind of discrimination that we need to resolve by new legislation? And that Grothe can stop complaining about all those nonexistent atheist leaders who think they are the next Martin Luther King?

Comments

  1. #1 MAJeff
    July 28, 2007

    . I agree with Irons that it is a civil rights issue, but I also agree willingly that there is no comparison with the oppression faced by women and homosexuals and blacks; most of the atheists I know would probably agree, that it’s a real issue, but it’s probably not the most important struggle we face right now.

    As a gay atheist I both agree and disagree with this. When I was living in a place like Mankato, it was culturally more difficult to be an open atheist than an open gay man. In terms of public policy, however, life as a gay man was more inhibited.

    There were stores, one arts and crafts place in particular, people would tell me about employment there, where they would inquire about religious belief, and pretty much require fundamentalist christianity of their employees. Yeah, that’s a civil rights issue. (it’s also an issue of why on earth would you want to work in a place that’s so hostile to your existence, but there are few places that aren’t hostile to our existence–in either identity group under discussion)

  2. #2 Ktesibios
    July 28, 2007

    There were stores, one arts and crafts place in particular, people would tell me about employment there, where they would inquire about religious belief, and pretty much require fundamentalist christianity of their employees. Yeah, that’s a civil rights issue. (it’s also an issue of why on earth would you want to work in a place that’s so hostile to your existence, but there are few places that aren’t hostile to our existence–in either identity group under discussion)

    Posted by: MAJeff

    It’s also a clear-cut violation of Federal law. To discriminate against someone because they aren’t an adherent of the “correct” religion is a definite no-no.

    Perhaps someone should have explained that to them.

  3. #3 inkadu
    July 29, 2007

    Hi, Monkey.

    I didn’t say you should get friends who are atheists — a have several friends who are Christian. I’m just saying you should have friends who accept (and respect?) your beliefs. It’s like if you were gay and always got lectures from your friends about how you should always be dating someone of the opposite gender…

    My Christian friends now I’m an atheist, and it’s one of the many things we talk about; and if we need to duel, we duel. It’s part of the friendship.

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