Pharyngula

Look to the skies, America!

American Atheists is sponsoring banners to fly over select areas in 26 states to celebrate the Fourth of July. The banners read:

God-LESS America — Atheists.org

and

Atheism is Patriotic – Atheists.org

These are perfectly pleasant, inoffensive messages — that Silverman guy is such a timid, inoffensive fellow, I’m going to have to school him next time I see him — and simply affirm that the unbelievers are also part of this country, a good thing to remind people of as they listen to “God Bless America” before setting off small explosive devices.

But of course, panties are being wadded, pearls are being clutched, and fainting couches are fully occupied as the word gets out that atheists have seized control of the air. It’s going to get even uglier as the day progresses and good Christians look up and see godlessness cruising through their picnicking airspace, and there will probably be fists shaken heavenward and arcs of potato salad vomited forth.

Leading the way is the ever-insipid Mitch Albom, the guy who made a fortune selling treacle and vague apologetics, who asks If God Made The Sky, Can Atheists Fly It? , a questions so stupid and so pointless that I spent ten minutes trying to puzzle it out. I think the answer is no, which means that the fact that atheists are flying it tells us that god didn’t make the sky, which we could have told him long ago. Mitch doesn’t like it.

This is a classic example of an OK concept meeting a terrible idea. The group insists, on its Web site, that this “is not about … shoving our views down people’s throats.”

Really? Then why rent airplanes?

Because, obviously, airplanes are exactly the best tool for shoving things down people’s throats. Or maybe it’s just that a banner flying by briefly is a prominent but fairly inoffensive counter to the state-sponsored religiosity we usually get on this day. So what’s bugging you, Mitch? Will you feel compelled to abandon that drivel you call faith if you see a message from atheists.org? A one-day ad isn’t exactly intensively coercive, you know.

Poor Mitch tries to be fair and whine that atheists are being just as offensive as the religious.

By the way, this is just as true for displays of religious fervor. It is why some people cringe at billboards celebrating Jesus, or when Ten Commandments monuments are placed outside of public buildings.

Those are the very things to raise the ire of atheists everywhere.

Except…while I roll my eyes at the Jebusite billboards, I do not argue that they should be taken down, and I understand that private displays of belief are legitimate examples of free speech. Also, atheists do not get irate if a citizen puts up a ten commandments display on his or her property — the thing that raises our ire is when our supposedly representative government favors a specific religious tradition, and people try to argue that the sectarian nonsense that constitutes the bulk of those ten commandments actually has something to do with the law in our country.

Also, we are not fooled, Mitch Albom. You aren’t really against public displays of religious fervor — you aren’t railing against the Soledad cross, or that children are expected to say “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, or the fact that every coin that crosses your palm has a religious injunction on it. No, what got your cranky butt to the word processor is that now some atheists have dared to openly express their views. Your protestations would have a little more credibility if you had a history of campaigning for secularism and the separation of church and state and had mentioned a few times before that public displays of belief were unseemly…but a guy who makes a living selling New Age spiritual pablum can’t quite get away with that.