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Atheists feel alienated by calls for prayer
October 11, 2001 8:27 PM   Subscribe

Atheists feel alienated by calls for prayer and the media finally noticed. I've only been able to find this Associated Press lagniappe in one online newspaper. Has anyone seen it elsewhere? Perhaps the other media outlets just haven't picked it up yet. (We ARE the largest minority, you know.)
posted by UrbanFigaro (87 comments total)

 
I would too if I were an athiest. Who can you look to for answers when something that isn't under your control deeply affects you?

"What I object to is the feeling of exclusion for me, particularly when the president addresses the nation and doesn't leave any room for people who find their strength in other places..."

What other places? Giving blood? Donating help? This doesn't stop the fundamental cause of terrorism. I don't have anything against atheists, mind you; this is just more proof that this "war" is going to be the toughest thing America has ever had to face.
posted by bloggboy at 8:45 PM on October 11, 2001


Donating money, that is.. excuse me.
posted by bloggboy at 8:47 PM on October 11, 2001


This doesn't stop the fundamental cause of terrorism.

What does? And who said it did?
posted by rodii at 8:51 PM on October 11, 2001


"I kind of cringe every time Bush and everybody else is saying, 'God bless America,'" Pepin said. "They're saying it's not a holy war, but they're invoking God, their deity, all the time. I find that very confusing."

This sums it up perfectly for me.
posted by mapalm at 8:54 PM on October 11, 2001


Ditto.
posted by QrysDonnell at 8:59 PM on October 11, 2001


It doesn't need to be confusing. It's not that complicated. Christians who pray, generally pray that the work they are doing is according to God's plan. Since they can't know that for sure, prayer is a way of getting in touch with God. Checking in. Touching base. If you're an atheist, think of it as meditating before acting, getting in touch with your core values, attempting to evaluate your actions apart from your emotions. So far, Bush has only invoked religion, prayer, God and so forth in ways that invite others to share his faith. He's saying, "if you pray, pray about this." There's no threat there for atheists. Somehow this keeps getting blown up into the rights of the godless being trampled underfoot. Get over yourself.
posted by JParker at 9:03 PM on October 11, 2001


ditto (again)
posted by mabelcolby at 9:05 PM on October 11, 2001


Get over yourself.

Get over YOUR self. If you religious types would keep your damn prayers to yourselves and quit shoving them down our throats at every opportunity, you might not see so much backlash.
posted by rushmc at 9:09 PM on October 11, 2001


rodii: Assuming they want to be included in some other method than prayer, the only option left (that I see) is direct prevention against future attacks. Isn't this what we've been so furvently praying about? The issue for the past week has been on retaliation and putting bin Laden "on the run". To answer your question more directly: no one said anything about the "fundamental cause of terrorism", except me.
posted by bloggboy at 9:09 PM on October 11, 2001


Sorry, rushmc, freedom of religion means I don't have to hide my religion from you. Just as you don't have to hide your lack of it from me. Deal with it.
posted by JParker at 9:11 PM on October 11, 2001


Why doesn't democracy act as a check for this sort of thing? In other words, if we decide that we are a secular country, we just have to vote for secular leaders, right? Then the problem is solved.

I doubt that that you can reasonably argue that atheists have a fundamental and inalienable right to not hear about God from public officials. So the question is, basically, not one of rights but of values. Should we, as a society, be a secular society or a religious society? How much are our leaders expressing their personal opinion, and how much are they speaking for all of us?

Right now, our leaders are making public appeals to God because a substantial portion of our country believes in making appeals to God. Yet what separates our democracy from a theocracy is the belief that all beliefs are to be treated equally, regardless of the personal opinions of our legislators. Our country is reflecting our values and beliefs while still supporting the fundamental rights of freedom of religion. To me, that means that democracy is working.

I know I've expressed this opinion on Metafilter a couple of times before, but our leaders have a right to express their freedom of religion, even in their capacity as leaders. To require for anything less would be to inhibit the very religious freedom we are trying to preserve.
posted by gd779 at 9:13 PM on October 11, 2001


Rush: I'm not necessarily religious either, but I don't think that there really is much backslash. Given that MeFi probably isn't the best source of consensus, everyone I've talked to has no problem with it. It's not really being "shoved down our throats". Everyone is free to ignore what they don't believe in. Indeed, you often might learn more from listening.
posted by bloggboy at 9:14 PM on October 11, 2001


You know, the people who don't like discussing religion on the internet must be pretty pissed right about now. How many God threads is this now?

Personally, I'm glad. I enjoy the discussions, as long as they stay civil. But at some point this has got to stop...
posted by gd779 at 9:16 PM on October 11, 2001


ditto (with jparker)
posted by lotsofno at 9:21 PM on October 11, 2001


[5]And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.
[6] But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.
[7] And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard.
Matthew 6:5-7
Just a friendly reminder that your God can forbid what your Government allows.
posted by boaz at 9:23 PM on October 11, 2001


freedom of religion means I don't have to hide my religion from you.

True enough. Of course, you don't have to fart discreetly, either, but most would consider it common decency.
posted by rushmc at 9:24 PM on October 11, 2001


It's not really being "shoved down our throats".

That does not represent my experience. I accept that it may reflect yours.
posted by rushmc at 9:25 PM on October 11, 2001


Heh, happy 300th comment GD779. Maybe politics, religion, ethics, and TV should be banned on MeFi. That would leave us with sex, bin Laden urinals, and The Onion. Woot!

Oh, and art.. can't forget art. Honestly, that's what I'd like to see more of.

*moving my butt over to MetaTalk*
posted by bloggboy at 9:26 PM on October 11, 2001


Rushmc: You're obviously in such a minority that society can't possibly condescend to your extremity. My advice: take jparker's word and "deal with it".
posted by bloggboy at 9:29 PM on October 11, 2001


I promise that I don't mean this as a troll--

Does anyone else find it a bit ironic that people would be looking to religion to find comfort in the face of a terrorist act spurred on by religion?

It doesn't make a damn bit of sense to me.
posted by ttrendel at 9:32 PM on October 11, 2001


boaz,
When they start mandating school prayer and Bush, instead of asking us to pray (privately), starts trying to lead us in a national prayer, I'll be right there arm-in-arm with the atheists and agnostics protesting it. My relationship with God is my business, nobody else's. I would hope most Christians would join me in opposing it.

"It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics."
--Robert A. Heinlein in Postscript to Revolt in 2100

Maybe a trifle overblown... but maybe not. But, hopefully, we're not there yet. Doesn't seem to me like that's even a credible threat. As far as Bush revealing his own religious leanings even though he holds a political office, that's fine. I'm glad he has the courage of his convictions.
posted by JParker at 9:35 PM on October 11, 2001


Ignoring all subjectivity in connection with morality:

An orderly life so far as others are able to observe us is now and then produced by prudential motives or by dint of habit; but without seriousness there can be no religious principle at the bottom, no course of conduct from religious motives; in a word, there can be no religion. --Paley.

Thus, bin Laden's acts weren't spurred by religion but from something completely different. I know I'm going out on a limb with that quote, but if you accept it for a minute then it makes a lot of damn sense.
posted by bloggboy at 9:37 PM on October 11, 2001


Is your alienation (as an atheist) different from my alienation as a non-Christian theist(?) in a predominantly Christian nation? How can you be alienated by something which, according to you, doesn't exist? It's not like people are solely praying, or even acting according to religious dogma (in this country).
posted by ParisParamus at 9:49 PM on October 11, 2001


When they start mandating school prayer and Bush, instead of asking us to pray (privately), starts trying to lead us in a national prayer, I'll be right there arm-in-arm with the atheists and agnostics protesting it.

I was talking theology, not politics.

My relationship with God is my business, nobody else's.

Then how did I find out about it? You are the one who has to decide if it's going to be only your business or other people's as well.

As for the rest, I do find it a trifle overblown; the general trend of religious power is waning, not waxing.
posted by boaz at 9:50 PM on October 11, 2001


I get uniquely worried when it's GWB doing the pro-God cheerleading. After all, his dad was hardly silent on the subject:

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is
one nation under God."
posted by norm at 9:53 PM on October 11, 2001


Thus, bin Laden's acts weren't spurred by religion but from something completely different. I know I'm going out on a limb with that quote, but if you accept it for a minute then it makes a lot of damn sense.

No, it doesn't. Are you saying that bin Laden isn't serious? Of all the accusations leveled against him, that is undoubtedly the most absurd I've heard to date.
posted by boaz at 9:56 PM on October 11, 2001


rushmc, taking your caustic comment seriously for a moment, farting is generally acknowledged to be offensive, if not rude, by almost everyone (to those who find it attractive, may I suggest Yahoo chat rooms?). Religion, on the other hand, is generally acknowledged to be a good thing (not by you, I understand). In order to remove all visible vestiges of religion from our society, you would have to initiate a purge of some kind. Sorry, Jews, no more funny little hats! Our Arab-American brothers find them offensive. Quakers, get those horses off the road! And so on...

That is exactly contrary to the ideal of religious freedom that was central to the founding of this country. Here, government protects the rights of individuals to practice their religion, even in public (although that's hardly what Bush was doing). Hence my own comment about dealing with it. The point is that unless you can explain to me how your personal rights were infringed by Bush encouraging Americans to pray, so egregiously that it is worth sacrificing our freedom of religion, you got no case.

Trying to be constructive, I see one of the central problems faced by atheists and agnostics as lack of organization. Church membership gives people a rallying point, and coordinated group effort is much more effective than individual effort. Like-minded people gather together to learn and share and hold each other accountable to shared ideals. Atheists and agnostics have to find their voice. Given that it (probably) can't be a shared belief system, it (probably) should be a cause. Why don't these Secular Humanist and Free Inquiry groups adopt a specific cause -- a big one, such as hunger in Afghanistan -- and rally the troops around it? If, as the article points out, there is a problem with atheists and agnostics feeling left out in the prayer vigils, would this not be a reasonable and productive substitute?
posted by JParker at 9:56 PM on October 11, 2001


Unless you are not Christian, it's hard to understand how oppressive the recent climate has been. My apologies for the untestability fallacy, but it's a difficult situation to appreciate when in the majority, similar to trying to understand racial profiling as a white man in America. The closest I've come to understanding these situations is by travelling to "exotic" places, usually understood to mean places where the population isn't white and/or Christian.

Not being Christian myself, I've been in VERY uncomfortable situations regarding religion several times in my life. Invoking the Christian God is a very different thing than invoking the Jewish or Muslim God, different still from Buddhist or Atheist beliefs (Atheist meaning some semblance of order including disorder or mathematics).

A week or so after the World Trade Center attacks, I had dinner with a friend who could best be described as a militant Atheist. He raised a fascinating idea:

Without the belief in Heaven, none of this would have happened.

He presented a sound argument which defined the closing motivation for a suicide bombers actions was the belief in a positive afterlife. He continued to say that without a belief in Heaven, people would be much more selfish with their own lives, but that selfishness was not removed from compassion.

Despite all the recent talk and lipservice about "noble religions" (understood to be non-christian, and therefore in need of clarification?) I fear there will never be peace in the world so long as there are diverse spiritual beliefs. All religions are built on a structure of righteousness. So far as I've read, no Judeo-Christian belief (another exclusionary term) mentions non-believers as worthy of compassion, God sure never treats them too well (death by fire, death by plagues, death by starvation, death by insane crazy stuff, etc). From a faithless here-and-now perspective, religion has caused far more pain and suffering than any other human invention.
posted by joemaller at 9:59 PM on October 11, 2001


I am an atheist, and frankly I don't feel alienated at all. God, Allah, whoever.. pray away to him or her if it makes you feel better or it means something to you. I haven't heard anyone try to imply that atheists don't feel just as sad about the events as believers do.
posted by xyzzy at 10:04 PM on October 11, 2001


Frankly, I can't be bothered to care. Of course, if the right-leaning wingnuts start blathering about how atheists are unamerican, then I'm gonna get mighty upset (again).

JParker: think of the "atheist alienation" this way -- how would you feel if major US politicians felt free to express the opinion that, because you're religious, you shouldn't be allowed to be a citizen? (the elder Bush, August 27 1987) Welcome to life as a nonbeliever.
posted by aramaic at 10:15 PM on October 11, 2001


Sorry, Joemaller, I'm not Christian and I haven't found it at all oppressive. When people start talking about God I take it for what it is, them turning to their beliefs in a time of crisis, which is arguably the whole point of having the beliefs in the first place. It doesn't bother me one bit that they're invoking deities I don't believe in, why should it?

I've noticed a lot of very sensitive atheists around here, and I just don’t get it. I don't mean this as an attack, I'm perfectly willing to accept that I'm misunderstanding things, but can someone explain what the big deal is?
posted by Nothing at 10:21 PM on October 11, 2001


I can see where religious people are coming from in turning to religion in a time like this--like the rest of us, they're doing the best they can to cope, and I can't blame them for it. At the same time, though, it does mean that there's a lot more talk of God than usual in the air, which makes those of us who aren't religious that much more aware of our separation from everyone else. It's not a nice feeling, and I wish there was something that could be done about it. I guess what I personally would like from theists, in thinking about this, is just an understanding that this is an awkward situation.
posted by moss at 10:21 PM on October 11, 2001


I fear there will never be peace in the world so long as there are diverse spiritual beliefs.

I think you're probably right. But it's more complicated than that, not a causal relationship. All religions are not the same. Some teach that infidels should be killed. Others teach that every believer should love his fellow man. Obviously, the former are more problematic for world peace than the latter.

What do you mean when you say, "All religions are built on a structure of righteousness"? My religion assumes that we human beings are naturally sinful and selfish, i.e. that we need help. Many atheists, particularly "radical atheists" as you describe them, see all religious people as thinking they are always right, thinking they have all the answers, and are bent on converting all those around them. That is simply incorrect.

aramaic, you're correct. If I were precluded from citizenship by virtue of my religion, that would be a sad day indeed. I would simply have to leave. The elder Bush was wrong to say that, IMHO. Fortunately, he couldn't do anything concrete to back it up because of our laws. Still, I had never seen that quote before, and I find it reprehensible.
posted by JParker at 10:26 PM on October 11, 2001


i can relate to the article for sure, its nothing overly serious at all, and its nothing even to really argue about imo. i mean its always been there, that alienation - just moreso now because you hear/see all the prayer/god bless etc. but i think the same could be said about patriotism... i mean i havent really "witnessed" patriotism in my lifetime that i can honestly recall - not like this at least (i am 28). and in a way thats kind of alienating too - like suddenly we are all united and everyone has a flag etc.. just seems odd to me. but its all so minor, because it makes sense after what happened.
posted by skinjob at 10:28 PM on October 11, 2001


I'd just like to apologize for the tone of my last post. I didn't stop to think about it and I do understand that feeling of alienation, though it's not spurred in my by hearing other people talk about god.
posted by Nothing at 11:00 PM on October 11, 2001


Here's the Freedom from Religion Foundation statement regarding the 9.11 attack and the 9.14 day of prayer.
posted by gluechunk at 11:21 PM on October 11, 2001


I am an atheist, and frankly I don't feel alienated at all. God, Allah, whoever..

I really don't want to part of either group [agnostic here]. If so-and-so is feeling left out, well them's the breaks. You happen to live in a very Christian society which is constantly trying to slide into a teeny tiny theocracy. I think the non-theist community has just been burned too many times by their government. Things like the ten commandments up in schools, Christian monuments paid for by tax dollars, and the like can and do happen with little protest. I can't blame the atheist for taking the aggressive stance, simply because she's outnumbered.

On the other hand god/religion has permeated this culture to the point where if his name wasn't invoked after some tragedy a great deal of people will feel something is off and in politics pissing off the herd certainly isn't a smart strategy. I think a lot would be solved if the religious realized that they are an exclusionary group with the potential for great social harm and the irreligious need to realize that in America the religious freedom fight will at best be a stalemate.
posted by skallas at 11:50 PM on October 11, 2001


jparker, the teaching that humans are naturally sinful and in need of help is coupled with a proscribed method of trying to achieve a better state of being. Those methods likely do not include meditating on the Buddah or a trip to Mecca.

One last point about Atheism, it's generally something that isn't discussed, because most theists see Atheism as a judgement on their lifestyle. Doubtless some Atheists are full of judgement, but your reaction seems exactly parallel to the feelings I was describing. As stated in the initial post, Atheism may be the largest majority, but it may also be among the most silent.

Except online, of course...

I don't really want to talk about this anymore
posted by joemaller at 11:59 PM on October 11, 2001


people are such sheep
posted by signal at 12:11 AM on October 12, 2001


Why is it that the atheists/agnostics/"no-religion"-ers always love to portray themselves as underrepresented, repressed, alienated . . . dare I say, martyred?

Not in the sense of dying for one's beliefs; simply as a "look at me, and all that I suffer for my (lack of) beliefs."

Is anyone else getting this vibe? Especially from those who deliberately make inflammatory anti-God comments (Doug's dick, etc... hehe, i like how that sounded..). It just seems to me that atheism (and its associates) is trying to make itself a wronged hero or something, championing the cause of something they refer to only as "Reason."

(Because I'm Christian, I don't have the capability to reason?)

Anyway.
posted by po at 12:23 AM on October 12, 2001


True, but what's wrong with sheep? Welcome to the flock!

Atheists exist to prevent us religious types from tearing at each other's throats. God bless 'em. Their courage is sacred, as Camus should have said but didn't.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:27 AM on October 12, 2001


My personal take on this is that, well, you chose to go that way. Deal with it. I chose to become Mormon, which, if you hadn't noticed, isn't exactly the most-loved church around. I chose it, and I chose to deal with the consequences associated with it - like being asked quite frequently, "How many wives did your dad have?" Or being passed over for jobs. Or having friends disassociate themselves from me and spread rumors and lies about me.

I could rant and rave about how much injustice I receive for it. But I realize it was my choice, and that every choice has consequences, for better or for worse. That's just the way things are.
posted by po at 12:27 AM on October 12, 2001


Because I'm Christian, I don't have the capability to reason?

actually, being christian means you surrender at least part of your critical facilities in favor of "faith", accepting some things as facts in absence of evidence or even logic.
posted by signal at 12:32 AM on October 12, 2001


No. Faith does not preclude reason, or vice-versa. Faith is in addition to reason, for those things which reason (for whatever reason....) has not yet figured out how to explain.

I've been asked how I can know that God exists, when I cannot explain it... I ask, what does salt taste like?

You can't really answer that, can you?
posted by po at 12:38 AM on October 12, 2001


It just seems to me that atheism (and its associates) is trying to make itself a wronged hero or something, championing the cause of something they refer to only as "Reason."

I don't like the simple-minded I'm-more-reasonable-than-thou view nor the 'religious people have a psychological need us uber-types don't' argument, but politically speaking this country has grown more towards fundamentalism than the non-theocracy model [democracy, oligarchy, monarchy] it is was built on by skeptics and Deists.

Socially, the non-theist makes her own bed, but poltically there's a trend towards taking the seperation of church and state very lightly and seeing those who take issue with this as extremists.
posted by skallas at 12:43 AM on October 12, 2001


po: Both questions are irrelevant.
posted by signal at 12:44 AM on October 12, 2001


You can't really answer that, can you?

Non-sequiter alert!

Faith is in addition to reason, for those things which reason (for whatever reason....) has not yet figured out how to explain.

God of the gaps argument alert! [as religious explanations are replaced with scientific ones god get pushed into the corner of the unknown while the theist keeps claiming that the part of the unknown is truly god's domain, until a new explanation comes out and god moves towards an ever smaller corner. Over and over.]
posted by skallas at 12:51 AM on October 12, 2001


po: or was that a koan? silly me.
posted by signal at 12:57 AM on October 12, 2001


I find it absolutely incredible that in a supposedly advanced society this woman sometimes finds that she has to keep quiet about her views. I just cannot imagine that such a story would be possible in Britain.
posted by salmacis at 1:17 AM on October 12, 2001


"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is
one nation under God."

It is almost certain that Bush the elder never said this. The alleged quote appears to have come from a man named Robert Sherman, who was probably a writer for something called the "American Atheist Journal." (Even this is hard to pin down; see below.) He claims Bush said it when Sherman accosted him somehow at O'Hare Airport in 1987. (Exactly under what circumstances is also up for debate.)

The alleged quote suffers from one of the biggest hallmarks of an urban legend: Many of the places that have published the remark claim it happened in a number of different settings at a number of different times. Just while searching now for the name of the guy that really started the rumor, the few sites I waded through respectively claimed he said it in 1992, or 1988; that it happened during a big news conference, or that Sherman accosted him one-on-one (rather hard to believe, for a sitting VP); that Sherman owned the American Atheist News instead of merely writing for it, or it was the "American Atheist Journal" instead; that Bush was in Chicago to announce some sort of disaster relief funding, or that it was merely a campaign stop; and on and on.

Simply put, it's the word of one guy, an activist with a major grudge: He was also suing in federal court over some alleged Christianity his public school had forced upon his son, and spent much of the next several years continually baiting various members of the Bush Administration and Congress over all sorts of supposed government affronts to atheism. It also begs the question: Since a vague majority of the sites seem to agree this happened during an actual press conference, why did no other member of the news media hear Bush say anything of the sort? This story would absolutely have garnered massive major national media attention if the sitting Vice President of the United States had ever said anything in public along the lines of "I don't think THOSE PEOPLE are citizens." No such coverage ever occurred. There are no audio or video tapes of Bush saying it, despite the fact that every public utterance made by the president and vice-president is always taped by the media.

In other words, it's bullshit.

Not that this has anything to do with Dubya anyway. Holding a son responsible for the statements and actions of his father is something that generally only occurs in - dare I say it - repressive ultrareligious societies. Atheists are the last ones that ought to be trodding this path.
posted by aaron at 2:14 AM on October 12, 2001



Read this and weep American atheists.
posted by Summer at 4:58 AM on October 12, 2001


Just wanted to add my $.02. Religion is pervasive in the US, and inspires a lot more fervor than atheism. Therefore, it gets a lot more attention.

One of Christianity's core tenets is the mandate to convert, via government, missionaries, or what have you. Just because the Christian members of MeFi don't believe that there is anything wrong with atheism doesn't mean that the vast majority of Christian denominations don't overtly and covertly try to convince people that Christianity is the way of the right (no pun intended).

As an atheist Jew (culturally jewish), I respect individual's needs to be comforted by a belief in a higher being, however, I don't like feeling that by not accepting Jesus as savior, I am not an American. This is not to exagerate the plight of the atheist in this country, but the United States is the capitol of Protestantism, always has been and always will. It is important that a coalition of monotheistic leaders don't neglect those whose beliefs fall outside thier purvey.
posted by wsfinkel at 5:52 AM on October 12, 2001


? How can you be alienated by something which, according to you, doesn't exist?

Human behavior most certainly DOES exist.
posted by rushmc at 5:52 AM on October 12, 2001


If you religious types would keep your damn prayers to yourselves and quit shoving them down our throats at every opportunity, you might not see so much backlash.

Um, well gee rushmc - welcome to a free society.
posted by glenwood at 5:53 AM on October 12, 2001


Atheists and agnostics have to find their voice. Given that it (probably) can't be a shared belief system, it (probably) should be a cause.

This is the mistake that you (and so many others) so often make. Lack of belief in God or organized religion is NOT a cause, a club, or an activist organization. It is simply the base state of humanity. BELIEF in God is an addition to this base state. Trying to redefine a lack of belief in something as a positive act or state is simply absurd--and defensive to the extreme. If you have an additive belief, then embrace it; don't feel the need to characterize everyone else's state of mind as similarly tweaked, cuz it simply isn't so.

Therefore, "athiests" and the like are NOT an identifiable group like "Christians" or "Muslims." They are simply individuals who have not assumed certain beliefs in their worldview. Therefore it is unlikely that they will ever band together for any cause or purpose beyond a very specific, short-term one, and that's just fine with me. I don't feel the need to join a club called "People who don't believe in flying monkeys," either.
posted by rushmc at 5:58 AM on October 12, 2001


In order to remove all visible vestiges of religion from our society, you would have to initiate a purge of some kind. Sorry, Jews, no more funny little hats! Our Arab-American brothers find them offensive. Quakers, get those horses off the road! And so on...

That is exactly contrary to the ideal of religious freedom that was central to the founding of this country. Here, government protects the rights of individuals to practice their religion, even in public


And your point is? I am not advocating religious purges. But that same right that lets you pray at someone, pound on their door and proselytize at them, and "God bless" them non-stop also empowers me to express my opposition to these forms of public behavior and to seek more empathy and less obtrusive behavior from such persons.

Um, well gee rushmc - welcome to a free society.

See above.
posted by rushmc at 6:02 AM on October 12, 2001


On a slightly different tack, I find it funny that nearly any article that mentions agnosticism feels the need to define it. Isn't it a fairly basic concept? Has it really never occurred to most people to not be entirely sure about the nature of God?

Oh well, I guess being irrelevant is better than being persecuted...
posted by speicus at 6:09 AM on October 12, 2001


"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."

Whether the elder Bush said this or not, Dubya constantly shows his feelings by never even acknowledging those without faith. In practically every speech, he mentions people of all faiths who where killed in the attack and people of all faiths who have come together to condemn the attacks. So, no atheists were killed? Pisses me off!
posted by quirked at 6:28 AM on October 12, 2001


boaz -

I really appreciate your earlier post, with the quotation from Matthew.

Yes, all of the Christians who proclaim "I am a Christian" loudly to the world, and who perform their religious rites in public places, ARE IN DIRECT VIOLATION OF THEIR OWN SACRED TEXT.

Religion is a private affair - your christian god has commanded it so.

Thank you.
posted by yesster at 6:46 AM on October 12, 2001 [1 favorite]


Good catch, aaron. Here's a better example:
Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience...without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure...If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under. -Ronald Reagan, 1984
posted by boaz at 7:19 AM on October 12, 2001


Dubya constantly shows his feelings by never even acknowledging those without faith.

And neither did Bill Clinton, or Al Gore (and I still voted for both of them). Why? Because the vast, overwhelming majority of Americans are religious. Whether I like it or not - that's how it is.
posted by owillis at 7:41 AM on October 12, 2001


rushmc: "It is simply the base state of humanity. BELIEF in God is an addition to this base state."

Pardon? How, exactly, can you remove yourself from reality in order to observe it? Athiesm is not the base state of humanity, it is a base state of humanity. Theism is another base state of humanity. In choosing to be an athiest, you have simply chosen to assume that God doesn't exist and you have faith in your beliefs. Which is why quirked shouldn't be so upset. Athiesm is a faith, and Bush is not excluding you.
posted by tallman at 8:21 AM on October 12, 2001


Oliver - Except for the fact that in our PC age, every minority group gets mentioned and included except atheists. In this case, he is including Scientologists & Satanists, but excluding Secular Humanists. Ouch!
posted by quirked at 8:22 AM on October 12, 2001


Athiesm is a faith, and Bush is not excluding you.

Most people do not think of atheism as a faith and don't go by your interpretation. Dubya is excluding me and so do many others. Not believing in God is probably the last "large" minority that hasn't gained general acceptance by most people.

My problem is that many people equate belief in God with ethics and morality. Most of these type of discussions on MeFi are basically debating this point over and over again. Religion is good. Religion is bad. Well it's both. As I mentioned in the other thread, I have no problem with anyone believing in God. I get concerned when people make decisions based on interpretations of "God words" in old books.
posted by quirked at 8:43 AM on October 12, 2001


Trying to redefine a lack of belief in something as a positive act or state is simply absurd--and defensive to the extreme.

***clap clap clap***

Atheism is not a faith, it's a lack of faith. This is an important point to make. I lack belief in a lot of things (super flying monkeys that travel through space, for example). All because I do so doesn't mean I subscribe to some kind of belief system with specific tenents.
posted by mrbula at 8:49 AM on October 12, 2001


as an atheist--my sincere apologies to the people i baptized a decade ago as a missionary-- i accept the possibility that i may be wrong--i have no absolute proof--and while some may view that as a weakness, i view it as an advantage. I view every religion based on words of a prophet to be fraud truthfully, because they were either Exactly what they said they were, or they were lunatics, or they were Liars. Why should i feel differently towards Jesus or Mohammed or Joseph Smith--than i feel towards a sci-fi writer turned prophet of scientology? I'm sorry if that is harsh...i just don't know how to say it otherwise. Can i sue my former church to get all my tithing back?

i cringe a bit at all the god-bless stuff...because it doesn't do anything. We need thought and action seperated from religiously motivated morals. What is wrong with adopting a public system of secular humanism to ensure everyone is treated fairly? Leave religion at home, build society's morals based on other precepts...ideas that won't crumble with a loss of faith. Instead of God Bless us All, how about May We All work Together in this difficult Time, and embrace each other in a spirit of love and understanding so that we might live in peace. No mention of god...yet that works for me.
posted by th3ph17 at 8:58 AM on October 12, 2001


So on the one hand, there are atheists -- uncomfortable with politicians who keep invoking God and urging everyone else to. Not being properly represented by their government.

On the other hand, there are theists -- being told repeatedly since 9/11 that their very way of life is a threat to peaceful coexistence and human progress, and should be abolished.

Looks like life sucks for everyone, neh?
posted by Foosnark at 10:20 AM on October 12, 2001


Chris Floyd's column Global Eye, Mind Games today links GWB and OBL:

Both Bush and bin Laden spent sybarite youths, indulging idly and amply in the pleasures of the flesh -- on someone else's dime -- before embracing a fundamentalist religious faith that provides divine sanction for a narrow set of self-selected cultural norms while consigning all unbelievers to eternal damnation.

A luscious read!
posted by Carol Anne at 11:18 AM on October 12, 2001


Religion, on the other hand, is generally acknowledged to be a good thing.

Yep. Every Crusade, Jihad etc was based on the love these people had for their... nah. It's all about hate and my-god-is-better-than-your-god.

Religion is probably the single most popular reason for war. So don't lay that crap down blogboy.

Don't even get me started on the hypocrisy of a nation that has "In God We Trust" on every piece of money (and irony in itself considering scripture shows money in such bad light), and makes the new head of homeland security swear on a bible in god's name in order to hold office. In the courts too.

And all these rich elected officials going around with god's name on their lips. Where Christ said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Religion. The opiate of the masses.
posted by terrapin at 11:56 AM on October 12, 2001


I believe that the "under God" part of the Pledge of Allegiance was actually added in the 1950's. I think that it should be removed, out of respect for our founding fathers' intentions that State and Religion remain separate.

How intelligent is it to cast this war as a "crusade" that pits Christian beliefs against Muslim ones? If I were Muslim, that might be the message that I would be receiving from Bush's constant invoking of the Bible and prayer. This makes it more difficult to build Arab alliances, and gives some credence to the "us versus them" argument that Bin Laden is trying to promote.

This is not a religious war. This is an American war, concerned with very concrete issues that are critical to establishing world security. It is dangerous to constantly refer to the Bible. It sends a mixed message that some are bound to interpret incorrectly - either here in the states or abroad.

Religion is a sticky issue. Just look at this thread! Calls for prayer in a generic, inclusional sense are fine, but I am really worried that this war is being cast in a Christian light that I, for one, am not comfortable with. I think its very important to state again and again that this is not a religious war on our part.

I am very happy that some of you take solace in Bush invoking the Bible, but its angering some people, strengthening Bin Laden's position, and obscuring real objectives.

Is there anything wrong with a moment of silence or prayer to whatever God you worship? Bush seems to be going out of his way to avoid saying something that is more inclusive of America as a whole, despite the fact that its an obviously bad move that will make this war harder to win. And that I have a problem with.
posted by xammerboy at 12:14 PM on October 12, 2001


But that same right that lets you pray at someone, pound on their door and proselytize at them, and "God bless" them non-stop also empowers me to express my opposition to these forms of public behavior and to seek more empathy and less obtrusive behavior from such persons.

rushmc, you're reaching. Bush hasn't prayed at you, and I seriously doubt he's pounding on your door. All he's done is say "God Bless America" and ask those of us who pray to pray for the victims and for our country. And that's a protected right in this country. The only point I wanted to make was that the original link and a lot of the follow-on commentary sounds likes whining to me. Your rights aren't being violated; you want to curtail everyone else's rights because what they're saying makes you uncomfortable. But you're allowed to lobby for that if you want to, and I certainly have no objection to your espousing your opinion about how that makes you feel. Go ahead, get it out of your system. Peace.

Carol Anne - nice post! How did you stumble across an article in The Moscow Times?

xammerboy - you make a good point. I'm not even sure how I feel about it. On the positive side, invoking God is reassuring to the majority of Americans, and I would venture to guess that even a significant percentage of non-religious Americans recognize what he is doing as affirming core values. And... if that's what Bush would do in peace-time, how much should we be willing to allow terrorism to change our behavior? I can see valid arguments on both sides.
posted by JParker at 12:21 PM on October 12, 2001


But that same right that lets you pray at someone, pound on their door and proselytize at them, and "God bless" them non-stop also empowers me to express my opposition to these forms of public behavior and to seek more empathy and less obtrusive behavior from such persons.

rushmc, you're reaching. Bush hasn't prayed at you, and I seriously doubt he's pounding on your door. All he's done is say "God Bless America" and ask those of us who pray to pray for the victims and for our country. And that's a protected right in this country. The only point I wanted to make was that the original link and a lot of the follow-on commentary sounds likes whining to me. Your rights aren't being violated; you want to curtail everyone else's rights because what they're saying makes you uncomfortable. But you're allowed to lobby for that if you want to, and I certainly have no objection to your espousing your opinion about how that makes you feel. Go ahead, get it out of your system. Peace.

Carol Anne - nice post! How did you stumble across an article in The Moscow Times?

xammerboy - you make a good point. I'm not even sure how I feel about it. On the positive side, invoking God is reassuring to the majority of Americans, and I would venture to guess that even a significant percentage of non-religious Americans recognize what he is doing as affirming core values. And... if that's what Bush would do in peace-time, how much should we be willing to allow terrorism to change our behavior? I can see valid arguments on both sides.
posted by JParker at 12:22 PM on October 12, 2001


From yesster: Yes, all of the Christians who proclaim "I am a Christian" loudly to the world, and who perform their religious rites in public places, ARE IN DIRECT VIOLATION OF THEIR OWN SACRED TEXT.
Religion is a private affair - your christian god has commanded it so.

Um...close, but no cigar. Matthew 28:18-20 says Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Pretty much an admonishment to go out and make tje religion public. Just be sure that you're not doing it to be seen, but because of your internal concerns and issues. That's the lesson you latched onto -- not that being in public is bad, but that being in public to be SEEN being in public, is a waste. As the story continues, those that do so "have already received their reward."

From mrbula: Atheism is not a faith, it's a lack of faith. This is an important point to make. I lack belief in a lot of things (super flying monkeys that travel through space, for example). All because I do so doesn't mean I subscribe to some kind of belief system with specific tenents.

Not true. Atheism is the intentional mental rejection of the existance of a deity. Do not confuse this with disbelief or lack of faith. Atheism requires an active mental response to withhold confidence or trust in the existance of something they cannot sense. It requires faith, or a trust that their rejection is valid, to exist. An atheist has faith, or trust, in their own faculties to discern all the reality they encounter.

What you describe is an Agnostic. If you lack belief, you cannot trust a true god or false god argument. Therefore, you have rendered yourself outside the ability to reason the answer, and believe that the answer to the God question is unknowable. This is central to the definition of agnostic.

The simple lack of belief, as in the super flying monkeys, is not that they don't exist, but that a belief in their existance without credible-to-you evidence, is a waste of time. Agnostics are opposed to wasting time, so the argument is immaterial.
posted by dwivian at 12:28 PM on October 12, 2001


I can relate because this mass Pledge of Allegiance reciting is kinda spooking me out-but I am curious-
Exactly what moral structure are atheists citing in saying it's "wrong" to pray in public.
Just look at daily life at the height of the Aztec or Roman Empires. Those societies ran on something other than Judeo-Christian morality...slaves, human sacrifice etc.
This whole concern for your neighbor's well-being meme originated (in the West) from Judeo-Christian morality.
Thus, atheists would seem to be invoking the very thing they are condemning.
But I could be wrong...
posted by quercus at 12:35 PM on October 12, 2001


JParker: Carol Anne - nice post! How did you stumble across an article in The Moscow Times?

Yahoo News Most-Viewed External News Stories: a great source.
posted by Carol Anne at 12:50 PM on October 12, 2001


I believe that the "under God" part of the Pledge of Allegiance was actually added in the 1950's. I think that it should be removed, out of respect for our founding fathers' intentions that State and Religion remain separate.

xammerboy:

< begin can>

Apologies to those who have heard this from me before.

Regarding the separation of church and state, John Quincy Adams once said that "the highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity."

Suppose we took that statement and compared it with a statement of the opposite sentiment: "The highest glory of the American Revolution was that it forever separated the principles of civil government from the principles of Christianity." You could ask a thousand Americans today which of these two statements is closer to the beliefs of our Founding Fathers. Unfortunately, most people would get it wrong.

James Madison, author of the establishment clause, served on the committee that recommended the establishment of Congressional chaplains. In fact, the very first Congress established not only congressional chaplains, but also chaplains for each branch of the military. If the founding fathers had intended a "wall of separation" between church and state, wouldn't state chaplains be unconstitutional?

The historical problem with the recent "wall" rhetoric is that a wall is a two-way barrier. When James Madison and the other founding fathers spoke of the "separation of church and state" and of religious freedom, their intent was to keep the government out of religion, not vice-versa.

I'll leave the policy arguments out of this for now, and just close with some thoughts written by Justice Rehnquist in his dissent in Wallace v. Jaffre:

The true meaning of the Establishment Clause can only be seen in its history... The Framers intended the Establishment Clause to prohibit the designation of any church as a "national" one. The clause was also designed to stop the Federal Government from asserting a preference for one religious denomination or sect over others... George Washington himself, at the request of the very Congress which passed the Bill of Rights, proclaimed a day of 'public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.' History must judge whether is was the Father of his Country in 1789, or a majority of the Court today, which has strayed from the meaning of the Establishment Clause.

< /end can>
posted by gd779 at 1:24 PM on October 12, 2001


Both Bush and bin Laden spent sybarite youths, indulging idly and amply in the pleasures of the flesh -- on someone else's dime -- before embracing a fundamentalist religious faith...

George W. Bush is a Methodist. They are hardly fundamentalists. I'm also not sure exactly how Bush or OBL were living "on someone else's dime." It's their money.
posted by aaron at 1:58 PM on October 12, 2001



Not true. Atheism is the intentional mental rejection of the existance of a deity. Do not confuse this with disbelief or lack of faith. Atheism requires an active mental response to withhold confidence or trust in the existance of something they cannot sense. It requires faith, or a trust that their rejection is valid, to exist. An atheist has faith, or trust, in their own faculties to discern all the reality they encounter.

I wonder, how much energy do you spend witholding confidence or trust in the existence of Santa Claus, the tooth faery, Krishna, Thor, or invisible pink unicorns. I think somone needs to consult a dictionary regarding what atheism is. But a lot of this comes down to what is "faith." If by faith you mean a conclusion that is supported by 30 years of experience living in this universe, every minute of every day, a conclusion that is supported by a complete failure of theists to provide a reason why I should believe in a god, then by all means I will agree with it. However that also means that I'm exercising a lot of faith that water is wet, that I breathe air, and that objects tend to fall to the floor when I drop them.

The historical problem with the recent "wall" rhetoric is that a wall is a two-way barrier. When James Madison and the other founding fathers spoke of the "separation of church and state" and of religious freedom, their intent was to keep the government out of religion, not vice-versa.

All well and good, as long as "keeping government out of religion" includes keeping manditory prayer out of shools along with the pledge. This is also ignoring the fact the bulk of the SCAS lobbying comes not from atheists, but from minority religious groups who recognize that the attempts to bring religion into government have primarily consisted of proposals that push a specific version of Christianity.

But I think that a lot of people are rather missing the point of why non-theists feel a bit left out when Bush talks "unity" out of one face and "God" out the other face. (This is combined with the old cannard that there are no atheists in foxholes, the WTC, or in the relief effort.) There is a particular bit of cognitive dissonance in hearing Bush say "unity, unity, unity" and then define unity as "god, god, god." Actually listening to Bush makes it clear that non-theists are distinctly unwelcome in this new "unity." Of course, non-theists are not the only ones dropped out, Bush previously made his position on neo-pagans quite clear.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:45 PM on October 12, 2001


aaron: George W. Bush is a Methodist. They are hardly fundamentalists.

United Methodist News Service: "Bush, 54, is a member of Highland Park United Methodist Church in the Dallas area and regularly attends Tarrytown United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, when he is at the governor’s mansion there....During the [2000] campaign, several news reports noted that Bush's opinions more closely match those of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination in which Al Gore holds membership, and Gore’s views are more like those of the United Methodist Church, traditionally regarded as 'more liberal' than the Southern Baptists."
posted by Carol Anne at 3:19 PM on October 12, 2001


Po: "I've been asked how I can know that God exists, when I cannot explain it... I ask, what does salt taste like? You can't really answer that, can you?"

Sure I can. It tastes salty. And that answer is no less valid than, when asked what color an orange is, saying "orange."

What does this have to do with believing in something that cannot be tasted, seen, felt, heard, or smelled?
posted by CrayDrygu at 3:23 PM on October 12, 2001


All well and good, as long as "keeping government out of religion" includes keeping manditory prayer out of shools along with the pledge.

Agreed. I hope that I didn't imply otherwise.
posted by gd779 at 3:43 PM on October 12, 2001


bloggboy: Awww. How sweet of you to notice. No need to buy me a present... cash is fine.

Heh. Thanks.
posted by gd779 at 4:16 PM on October 12, 2001


From the dictionary.com link provided by rushmc (and assuming that we're leaving out for purposes of this discussion the "immorality" definition) atheism means either:
1a. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods, or
1b. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.

So... you're both right. The difference is that KirkJobSluder was talking about fundamentalist atheists and rushmc was talking about reformed atheists.
posted by JParker at 5:29 PM on October 12, 2001


CrayDrygu - what does "salty" mean?

You're going on the assumption that I, too, know what salt tastes like. Or what the color orange is. Pretend I have no taste buds. Or that I'm blind. What does salt taste like?

It's no more explainable than how I know God exists. I just do.
posted by po at 1:39 PM on October 13, 2001


Po:

you have no taste buds and you're blind, and yet you stil have faith in god?

I'd be pissed.
posted by signal at 1:59 AM on October 14, 2001


And that's the difference between you and me, signal.
posted by po at 5:16 PM on October 14, 2001


I think somone needs to consult a dictionary regarding what atheism is.

I did. Disbelief in the existance of a deity, as cited in your example, is exactly what I quoted. While you're checking your dictionary, check out "disbelief - intentional mental rejection of a concept or idea, rejection of something as untrue; the act of disbelieving." Combining the two is a valid extension of a definition.

And, I did have to intentionally disbelieve in the imaginary characters of my youth to reject them from my belief, as I was taught they existed. So.... I fail to see your point. I've never disbelieved in invisible pink unicorns. I just don't consider it worth consideration. With a straight face I can easily say "they might exist. I don't know."

That's really the point, then. You can't disbelieve something that isn't believed somewhere, it would seem. Why reject something, unless there is a modicum of belivability hidden within?

An "a-invisible-pink-unicorn-ist" would say that invisible pink unicorns don't exist. This statement requires faith that there cannot be a condition in which they do exist (let us not debate the nature of pink and invisible coexistant in a single entity at this time). Most atheists aren't aware that they are acting on faith; one or two I've talked with had to grudingly admit they were really agnostics. Militant agnostics ("I don't know, and you don't either"), but agnostics nonetheless.

And, yes you are acting on faith that water is wet -- go to a good philosopher and try to prove the emperical existance of water, and the nature of wetness. And, take some naprocin with you -- you'll need it.
posted by dwivian at 1:37 PM on October 16, 2001


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