Austin Cline is one of the more incisive regular writers on atheism. This week he discusses a Paula Zahn show on CNN that begins with a brief vignette about couple in a small town in Mississippi who complained to their son's public elementary school principal about time spent in bible study and prayer. Yes, his public elementary school. For their trouble they became outcasts. No one would speak to them or let their children play with their children. When it was later revealed they were atheists, the father's boss got calls complaining he had brought an atheist to town. People drove parked in front of their house and stared at them as if they were animals in a zoo. They left town.
Interesting story, although, as Cline notes, superficially presented. But it was prelude to a more "in depth" discussion with a panel of three "experts," two Christians and a far right Jewish columnist. Bad enough there were no atheists on the panel, but what came next made my jaw drop. First Karen Hunter, allegedly a journalism professor at Hunter College in New York:
ZAHN: ... So do you think atheists should keep their religious beliefs secret? What's their beliefs period?
HUNTER: What does an atheist believe? Nothing. I think this is such a ridiculous story. Are we now going to take "In God We Trust" off of our dollars? Are we going to not say "one nation under God?" When does it end? We took prayer out of schools. What more do they want? ...
HUNTER: They don't have a good - marketing. If they had hallmark cards, maybe they wouldn't feel so left out. We have Christmas cards. We have Kwanza cards now. Maybe they need to get some atheist cards and get that whole ball rolling so more people can get involved with what they're doing. I think they need to shut up and let people do what they do. No, I think they need to shut up about it. ...
HUNTER: I think they need to shut up about crying wolf all the time and saying that they're being imposed upon. I personally think that they should never have taken prayer out of schools. I would rather there be some morality in schools. But they did that because an atheist went to court and said their child -- don't pray (INAUDIBLE). ...
HUNTER: Eight to 12 percent. (INAUDIBLE) They're not hurting anyone. I personally don't have a problem with an atheist. Believe or don't believe what you want. Don't impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools, to want to say the pledge of allegiance, to want to honor my God. Don't infringe upon that right. (Austin Cline)
Now Debbie Schlussel, far right hate monger:
ZAHN: Are any of you going to defend them here tonight?
SCHLUSSEL: No, I agree with her 100 percent. I think that the real discrimination is atheists against Americans who are religious. 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. And the problem is that, you have these atheists selectively I believe attacking Christianity. ...I really believe that they are the ones who are the intolerant ones against Christians. ...
SCHLUSSEL: And what about this obnoxious Michael Newdow, who went all the way to the Supreme Court for his child, the child doesn't know what's going on, to try and get under God taken out of the pledge of allegiance. They are on the attack. It's obnoxious and they do need to shut up. ...
SCHLUSSEL: This is a Christian country. ...
SCHLUSSEL: (INAUDIBLE) Look where there are more atheists and where they've lost God, where the church is not that strong. Europe is becoming Islamist. It's fast falling and intolerance is increasing. That's the one reason our country has not become like Europe because we have strong Christians and because atheists are not strong. And I think that's a good thing.
Of the three, the only sane one was Stephen Smith, a sports analyst at ESPN, who identified himself as a Christian (safe move on this panel). At least he demonstrated he gets it:
ZAHN: What happened to love thy neighbor, the idea that we should be able to practice free speech?
SMITH: That's nonexistent. We all know that. We talk about that in America, but that's pretty much nonexistent, especially in the red states, particularly in the south. That's where the atheists are having the most trouble. When they talk about violent acts that have been enacted them or (INAUDIBLE) exacted against them or what have you. That's the kind of area they're talking about. I think in New York City, I don't think people care too much about it. We're a Christian country. There's no question about that. I love the Lord. So does Karen, so does everybody that I know. But the reality is that you're entitled to believe what you want as long as you're not imposing your beliefs on other people. ...
SMITH: I don't think they need to shut up. The reason why I don't think they need to shut up is because there's a whole bunch of people in this world that we can look at and say they need to shut up and they certainly don't. You got everybody fighting for their own individual cause. This is their cause. We might not like it. I don't agree with it at all, but they do have a right. ...
SMITH: They are going on the attack, but the reality, again, is everybody has their own cause. The fact is there's a whole bunch of people in America who need to shut up and they don't. So why should these people be any less. We live in a nation. We're supposed to be tolerant. We're supposed to be accepting of other people's viewpoints, even when they are not our own and the fact is, if they're an atheist, that's their right. They're not going to change my belief in God (INAUDIBLE). ...
SMITH: When they want to take - when they want to take God out of the pledge of allegiance or whatever, this is what I'm saying. They're saying, OK, that's Christian. What if you're a Muslim? What if you're someone of a different belief? ...what they're saying is how can -- if we're inclusionary, why can't we include all that and we're not. That's my point.
Somewhat incoherent, but maybe his circuits were totally blown by the two clowns who preceded him. Schlussel is a well known nutcase. Karen Hunter, the alleged journalist, revealed herself to be a whackjob, too. Stephen Smith, the ESPN analyst, well, good for him. In order to get off the panel alive, he made sure to say he loved the Lord.
Thank you, CNN, for such an illuminating segment. And such fearless journalism. Just what we have come to expect.
All my neighbors are church goers of one sort or another. They all know we are atheist but they really don't care.
Our family is the one that picks up trash on the road, plows the driveways of our neighbors, and keeps to ourselves. We are also the only ones to get Christmas cookies from the mormons, wine from the christians, and waved to by the jews in our hood.
It pays to be nice first and ask questions later. If you show the religious people that atheism isn't some big, scary, god hating way of being, they shut up and leave you alone.
I loved the Fox smashjob against the founder of the Rational Response Squad. True to form, they had to trot out a Christian cleric, at least this time they used an Episcopalian minister.
But the whole staring thing - there are bars at a zoo to keep animals and people separated because either the people are dangerous for the animals, or the animals are dangerous for the people.
Lets put it this way, if I ever had people doing that to me there'd be a lot of cars with trunks full of buckshot.
Big media has a financial responsibility to whore for their masters. Why expect them to rebel? Rebellion would mean pinkslipping and blackballing.
I like Tony P's idea. What better way to show these nuts that atheists are good, patriotic citizens than by exercising your Second Amendment rights. Those folks in Mississippi should understand that.
When our children were in elementary school, our neighbors were Christian fundamentalist evangelicals. They asked, at various times, if our kids could come to the revival at their school and go with them to church. We would ask our kids if they would like to go and if they said yes, we agreed. It was a great experience for them. They came home once and told us about riding in the back seat to 'sunday school' and having the older son of our neighbors ask them if any of their friends were Jewish. To which our kids said yes. The son proceeded to warn them, darkly, that they'd better watch out because Jews were always trying to get Christians to become Jews. After a pause, our younger son said to him "You're the only person we know who tries to make us believe in a religion."
Both our kids are aetheists, a position they arrived at after exposure to an assortment of religious causes and fixations. And both are good people, like G in Indiana, engaged in working for a better community, whether or not that community is one of like-minded believers in some designated faith. But the side effect of seeing reactionary religionists expound on the unitary nature of state and church has made them wary about government's tolerance, I must admit.
18 municipalities in Ontario Canada (including mine) still begin Council meetings with the Lord's Prayer.
I find it incomprehensible that those local governments can be so rude to the non-Christian members of the community.
The face of our nation has changed, it is time for our government to slough-off the demeaning and non-inclusive vestiages of British class system/elitism.
Like my courts, I want all references to God left at the front doorstep. I would hate to think what would happen if the Puritans ever got control. This is an area where Revere and I agree. It does say"Liberty and justice for ALL" in the pledge. Schools are there to teach. I do recommend they teach religion as a HISTORY class rather than as a imposition of belief's and they can teach it as they say "both ways." No extra points for believing or not.
Lets face a little fact and that is that all of our laws are based upon Judeo-Christian values. Me, I would like to see a little Sharia implemented on our criminal legal system. Now theres the budget for UHC Revere. We spend more money incarcerating our prisoners over and over again than we do for the military every 5 years. Saturday morning executions in the town square would cull the problem down within a year or two to something that could fund UHC. Certainly works in Saudi Arabia. Very low crime rate.
I don't comment often, but I just wanted to let you know that I look forward to these "Freethinker Sermonettes" every Sunday.
It was the early 60's.
From the time we were born my father used to read to my brothers and I every evening at 5.pm. My father would take us all over the world with world fairy tales, The Canterbury Tales, Aesop's Fables, Gullivers Tales, Arabian Nights, The Great Green Greasy Limpopo River etc, - it was a very exciting and an enriching time in my life.
When I was about six years old, my father decided that it would be a good idea to expose us to Christianity for the first time. So, one Sunday, we got dressed up and headed for the local American Baptist Church. We arrived at the church, took our seats and then waited for the service to start. My brothers and I were all agog - we had never seen so many fellow white people in one room before (my Dad was with the UN and we were in the middle of the Congo), it was explained to us that there were separate services - one for whites and one for Africans. My Father being the egalitarian he was had taught us from a very early stage, that colour did not matter, as we were all the same under the skin. Even as 4 and 6 years this separation appeared to we children to be odd and inequitable. As we sat there we noticed an elderly African with a hunch back handing out song books to the congregation. I took this in - as did my brothers. A little while later we were asked to go off to Sunday school. My brothers and I caused an up roar in Sunday School when we loudly demanded to know why there were no pictures of Africans or Chinese looking people in the colouring books - our teacher did not know what to say, we were told not to ask questions and consequently could not wait to leave. Needless to say, my brothers and I refused to go to Church again. My father wisely relented.
I have followed my parents philosophies in life, and have taught my own children the same way. I don't dislike anyone because of the race, creed or religion - rather I tend to dislike people who openly display intolerance to wards those traits that make us all different, and ultimately facinating and interesting. I celebrate diversity.
Intolerance, in my book, should be dealt with figuratively, and in the nicest way possible, with a swift kick up the &#$%@^.
Law and community are independent but closely related. The reason I bring this up on this Sunday Sermonette is difference between prayer in school and community.
The Supreme Court through the 60s and 70s began the end of mob rule. Namely, that the majority could make decisions not just about the majority, but ones that make the minority comply as well. Those dastardly liberals (me!) suggested that the contract between the citizens and the government allows the majority to make decisions regarding the majority while respecting equal rights.
This move away from mob rule (a.k.a. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majoritarianism "Majoritarianism") toward equal rights (eek!) may have started within our lifetime in the courts, but the
Supreme Court is not the community enforcing standard. Rather, mob rule has and I'm guessing for the most part will be the 'governing' philosophy in a community. Whether this is a good thing or not is open for debate. Please think about it before jumping to a conclusion as I'm confident most readers have not considered acceptable community standards from this perspective.
Additionally, big media as Roy so perfectly put it "has a financial responsibility to whore for their masters." They are free to make a buck endorsing whatever they want. Big media will continue to produce this drivel as long as the idea of Christianity mob rule appeals to their consumers.
Seeing as how we still have "The South will rise again flags", I'm guessing we're in for a long haul of this crap.
I wonder if this kind of thing would have happened under the aegis of noted atheist Ted Turner.
There should be a law that if you repeat the lie that prayer has been banned in the schools, everyone who hears you say it gets to smack you upside the head with a leatherbound Bible. Now, if you say it on TV and millions of people are watching, well. . .that's just too darn bad!
Europe is becoming Islamist?
Well that's news.
I'm just amazed that Stephen A. Smith serves as the voice of reason in this episode.
SMITH: . . . The fact is there's a whole bunch of people in America who need to shut up and they don't.
Are these people living in his house? If not, is someone holding a gun to his head and forcing him to watch them on television?
What Smith et al don't get is that the increase in atheists and their acceptance has less to do with any activism (1) on the part of organized (2) atheism than with the very public corruption, bigotry and misbehavior of religionists. And it's not just the big things like molesting altar boys and cruising jets into buildings. It's also that spokespeople for religion (3) so commonly act like spoiled babies, as Mr. Smith demonstrates. (In contrast, most atheists tend to act like grown-ups).
* * *
(1) "Activism," in this case, consists of not acting like a total doormat when some Holy Joe tries to screw with your kid's head.
(2) If you can call it that.
(3) Especially self-appointed ones.
They really needed an atheist there for representation. There were so many errors and misconceptions in that conversation that I had to stop reading it.
Lets face a little fact and that is that all of our laws are based upon Judeo-Christian values.
Let's face the fact that this isn't true. Law in the West is based upon the foundation of Greek and Roman ethics and law, which both predate Christianity and neither of whose civilizations paid much attention to a minor subject people of the Persians, even after they formed a small state of their own. Christianity had no influence on the laws of the West until after Constantine in the 4th century, and the influence was often negative, as can be seen in the severe punishments for non-believers and Christian heretics.
There's a wee bit of opportunity in the opening Hunter quote ... why don't the atheist and nontheist communities celebrate Feb 29th as "+1 Day" to remind folks that we only don't believe in one more deity than they don't. This would fill up the January to March festive hiatus. In addition, having an annual holiday that only comes around once every four years would give us an opportunity to organize the parade and parties.
RickD-Europe is like us under an invasion. We have Mexicans crossing the borders, there they come from all over but once in country it is an invasion by birth. The Israelis were allowing their "citizens" who were Muslims to live in Israel but maintain Palestinian roots and dual nationalities. One day they were taking the census and figured out that in very short order, by birth they would soon be able to run the country as "citizens" by birth and then later by vote. 1 million Palestinians in particular could swing any vote if concentrated into a district. They were clearly trying to do that so they sent them packing. What did they have ? A guest worker program. So they would get them pregnant, send them across the border then have a baby... Instant citizenship for mom and dad.
France especially just figured it out. A near civil war broke out and only with army back up where the Muslims suppressed in the riots of last summer. The percentages are not small, nor were they inconsequential in any elections. They are being subsidized by the government as many would have us do for the illegals here. So if you subsidize it they will come. Again, people dont think it thru too well.
CNN has done this more than once recently. Here is another case :
I Was Ambushed by Paula Zahn
How CNN Set Me Up in the Duke Rape Case
By GAIL DINES
I can't wait to read Cline's report.
That settles it. Humanity is too stupid to survive. Bring on the flu.
"Christian Nation", "right to have prayers in school", "In God We Trust" and "One nation Under God" all are fables or very recent (and actually unconstitutional) additions or ideas.
"Under God" was not added to the oath until 1954 in fact, and the currency had "In God We Trust" slipped in under the radar on pennies in 1861 and then slowly spread almost surreptitiously to the rest of the currency.
"Christian Nation": Deists are not Christians - so say Christian scholars, and the Founding Fathers may have been Deists but did not believe n Jesus as a divine being.
And it was expressly stated in the Treaty of Tropily that Americe is secular, most deinitely NOT Christian, in order to close the deal with the Islamic nations.
Prayers in School? Already the courts have declared government-fostered prayers unconstitutional.
As for requiring public figures to be Christian:
"U.S. Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 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."
But I am preaching to the choir here, I know. To use a phrase.
Funny how intolerant Europe is mentioned in relation to secular Europe... as a European citizen (living in the US) I can tell everyone that it is in fact over-tolerance (read: do not question religion at all) in combination with religious fundamentalism that is ruining Europe. This has got nothing to do with atheism.
I object mightily to tolerance. It implies judgement followed by a stay of punishment. I don't want people to 'tolerate' me, I want them to have the humility to not judge me.
A 1999 Gallup poll showed more people would not vote for a presidential candidate because s/he was an atheist than would not vote for someone because they were a woman, black, Jewish, Mormon, or gay.
Being an atheist, unlike most of these other characteristics, is still not widely acceptable to the American public. The latest poll shows only 49% of Americans would vote for an atheist for president, making this the most discriminated-against characteristic of the eight tested in the research.
(This conclusion is now hidden by a paywall, if it's still there at all, but I have an old reference saved.)
I'm sure both anti-Muslim and anti-gay sentiment have made great "strides" since 1999, but we atheists are still greatly slandered and misunderstood. It's ludicrous the way the Christo-fascists complain about how they're being descriminated against on the occasions when they're not allowed to enforce their religious beliefs on everyone else.
< frowning at Lisa the GP >
(( frowning at Lisa the GP ))
Give it a rest, Hippo. Grow a sense of humor.
Bravo Caia and Lisa the GP.
"Atheists need to keep quiet, and behave, and not make trouble...."
Just like the jews were supposed to do in central Europe, not so long ago?
Europe is becomeing islamist?
Not from where I'm sitting - the swell of public opinion here (london) is that some peole had better behave, or they'll get what the catholics got after 1583.
Er - what are the "second amendment" rights?
From Schlussel above: "freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion." Actually, that was what I thought the whole intention of "freedom of religion" and "separation of church and state" was about: no government ordained sanction on what we had to believe. For myself, I am a believer but not in organized religion, and I think there are too many organizations (read "churches") out there that will tell you what and how to believe, so, no thank you, I will decide for myself. So, for the life of me, I wouldn't dream of telling anyone else they have no right to believe or disbelieve what they choose. If we accept a premise of freedom of religion in this country, there should be no arguments between "Christians" and "Atheists" whatsoever; the problem lies in that humans usually have to prove they are right over the other's viewpoint. (And yes, I know I am naive.) But: Extremists are just plain deluded, not to mention psycho, whether they claim to be religious or not. And they are a danger to everyone, religious or not.
M. Randolph Kruger: I agree with you about the citizenship statements. I have only recently realized the problem as you stated it, only in America. We now have "citizens" that are not American, and have no desire to be so. They are only here to use this country for their own ends and to eventually defeat it from within. That is where my thinking has been leading me lately, I'm sure you will let me know if I am wrong.
M. Randolf Kruger: I don't want to get into polemics with you over this, but I did want to point out the facts about the riots in the suberbs of France last year. It started after a good deal of police harrassement of youth, FRENCH youth. There were no foreigners. They were born in France but there skin was often not white. You could have said the same things about American blacks in the riots in the 60's. They were not Africans, they were Americans.. The miilitary were not called in, rather it was the CRS, which, although officially under the Sec. of Defence, are police used only for civil peacekeeping within France, they are what you would call the riot police. (Sarkozy, the Minister of the Interiur, recently called in the CRS to control rioting firemen in Paris..) The riots started because of two young teenagers that had been chased by police into an electric power plant and were electrocuted. The investigation has shown that the police had no reason to chase the young people, who were innocently walking home from playing sports. Now those policie officers are themselves being charged. All of this was exaserbated by unemployment, prejudice and a lack of respect. The outcome has been that 300,000 young people have registered to vote in the upcoming elections and all of the young rap stars and performers have been urging these young people to get more involved in politics. There have not been any riots since.
G Tingey, that's the amendment to the US Constitution that (in part) spell's out the American's god-given right to own firearms. Especially the automatic ones that can mow down large swathes of...you know...like turkeys and stuff. Or the British. Whatever ;)
Brava, O'Leary. I was hoping someone would weigh in with what I knew to be the more nuanced (and correct) view from France.
"France especially just figured it out. A near civil war broke out and only with army back up where the Muslims suppressed in the riots of last summer. "
Mmm I thought that Americans of all people would know the difference between riots and civil war...
The violence was limited to a few impoverished suburbs that got extremely irate at the death of two youths who died accidently while pursued by the police. There was a lot of lies it was said that the boys were thieves, the boys were not chased at all, the police had no idea they were in danger... All of which was proven false by further inquiries.
The oether spark that ignited the population was the use of the word "scum" by the Ministry in charge of the Police, in a context where it wasn't clear who he was talking about. He also wanted to "pressure wash" (Karcher) the cities clean. Bad wording at the least.
It doesn't excuse any of it, it puts it in perspective : the religious factor was not a significant one in this sad story.
Tingey, as Leni says, the Second Amendment concerns the right to own and bear arms in this country. It reads:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
As you can imagine, it can be taken two ways: people's right to bear arms shall not be infringed, or arms are required for use by the militia. This ambiguity, like most others in the document, was deliberate on the part of the Founders--partly to allow more flexibility, and partly because it was a compromise the Convention could agree on.
I'm with Lisa the GP on this. And those who don't believe in science will be disproportionately represented in the mass graves.
Adie, interesting reference to "Karcher." Did the Minister actually use the word "Karcher" as a verb?
For those here who don't know, Karcher is a major European manufacturer of street cleaning equipment, primarily road sweepers and "pressure washers." The latter are the equivalent of what we used to have in the US called "street flushers," consisting of a truck with a large water tank and a pump connected to high-pressure nozzles that spray a jet of water across the street surface to wash away whatever crud hasn't already been picked up by the sweeper.
The relevance of this has to do with the phrase "ethnic cleansing." In European practice, the term "public cleansing" is used for what we in the US call "solid waste management." (Look at the side of any refuse lorry in England: the insignia on the vehicle will usually contain the words "Cleansing Department" or something similar.) In other words, refuse collection & disposal, and street cleaning. Thus the term "ethnic cleansing" should be read as "racial refuse disposal," where members of "other races" are the "refuse" that is to be "disposed of."
So now we have moved from using the terminology of waste management, to the suggestion of using the very tools of the trade! I suppose the next thing will be for some idiot to suggest that this or that group of people should be "landfilled."
As for atheists and the Second Amendment; I'm with Ericnh73 on that one, concealed carry permits included. Someone threatens your life, you have the right to defend yourself. Consult with a sympathetic lawyer first and get a lawyer letter in writing, spelling out the statutory limits in your state.
As for religious nutters on the teevee talking about atheists without an actual atheist present: This is why we need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. If that was in place, broadcast networks (sadly not including major cable-only networks) would not be able to get away with that kind of crap.
However we do need some level-headed spokespeople for atheism, not the arrogant types or the ones who get into arguing theology. What we need is someone who can say, "I don't believe in God, but I have a strong ethical system. My ethical system says (whatever) and it comes from (whatever/whoever philosophical or other source). I adhere to it as strongly as anyone who believes in God adheres to theirs, and ultimately they are all compatible in a pluralistic society. Anyone who tries to force their beliefs on another person via the use of government power is fundamentally un-American."
We also need to challenge this crap about the persecution of Christians. When that crap gets trotted out, ask the crap-spouter to specify one case where Christians were run out of town or subjected to physical intimidation or harassment for their beliefs or anything similar. They won't be able to do it. But in the event they come up with one such case, ask them how many cases like that have occurred in the past ten years. And be prepared to cite the number of cases where atheists were subjected to that behavior, and rattle off as many examples as you have time for.
I say the above from the perspective of someone who is unconventionally religious and who ferociously supports freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state.
And for anyone who doesn't think the religious extremists here are as bad as the Taliban "over there," do a web search for "Christian Reconstructionism" or the name "Rushdoony" (sometimes spelled "Rushdooney" with an "e" in it), and read and keep reading. Good luck getting to sleep that night.
This article, From the council of Secular Humanism, purports to show a correlation between religiosity (measured in 'prayer per day') and economic inequality (GINI) in the 'West'.
I don't doubt the relationship as based on those measurements. But is there anything in it really? If so, what?
Besides that; Religious belonging in the US (Christian) has become a badge of patriotism, its main point is supporting Israel and wars on Muslims/Ayrabs. Those who don't belong, won't join the common zeitgeist, dressed up as 'religious' and therefore not belligerent or political, just 'our beliefs' care of K. Rove and others, become dissidents or pariahs.
(Some believing that Muslims were rioting in France is a clear indication - baddies are Islamists and filthy Ayrabs!)
Atheists are the first target, as they refuse the basic categorization itself. They have lost already, unless they find themselves a new religion fast. Secular humanism doesn't cut it.
Dropped a couple emails. One negative for Paula Zahn, and while I was praising Anderson Cooper for his coverage of Sylvia Browne, I requested he slap Paula Zahn. Used the phrase "moral relativism/epistemological nihilism" in describing why I'd like him to do that.
Cline comments several times :
Latecomers will need to check his archives.
Atheists ought to study the history and theory of anti-Jewish pogroms, remembering that it can too happen here. Christians and non-Christians might want to study how those directing the pogroms were able to nominate honourary Jews.