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It's Marching Season!
August 14, 2002 7:04 PM   Subscribe

It's Marching Season! There's an godless american march comin' to DC this fall (November 2) "Our leaders, including the President, must stop calling the nation to prayer, or claim that we are a "Christian" country..."(Amen to that!!!) and "We must remember to not "feed the fundies" by engaging in arguments with religious protesters and hostile "prayer warriors" who want to "save" us."From what I understand, this will be the first big march on Washington since our new wartime laws have been implemented....will atheists become "unlawful combatants?" Anyone up for it?
posted by amberglow (52 comments total)

 
They all sure sound like terrorists to me.....
posted by sinical at 7:31 PM on August 14, 2002


well, please don't report them to Ashcroft--or America's Most Wanted...
posted by amberglow at 7:34 PM on August 14, 2002


I understand that Jesse Jackson, just back from ME, is also planning a march on DC...perhaps the Rev and the Godless group can unite for greater impact. I am not sure what the protest would be if group[s merged, but what the hell. Just beat a few on the head with police batons, get some pictures for the paper, and announce hoplessly misleading figures about attendance.
posted by Postroad at 7:35 PM on August 14, 2002


I so want to be there . . . but I don't think it’ll fit into my budget this year. And the thing that sucks about being an atheist is that there’s no church to sponsor trips like this.

Maybe I’ll have a bake sale—“Buy a Cookie and Send an Atheist to Washington!” Yeah, that might work.
posted by Acetylene at 7:40 PM on August 14, 2002


Damn . . . sorry about the boxes.
posted by Acetylene at 7:40 PM on August 14, 2002


i just this minute saw this after following a link from F*rk to morons.org, who linked to this. If I wa sin the US, i'd be there for sure. Can't see a million, or even 10% of that, but I just hope it goes off peacefully: some participants clearly feel that protest is a very risky business in modern America...
"...there are just too many zealots who are willing to kill and possibly die or be imprisoned for their 'god'...."


[nb: From the site linked above...If you can't make it to the march for whatever reason but would like to show support from a distance, you can go to www.godlessamericans.org and click the "Sign" link to add your name to a list of individual supporters]
posted by dash_slot- at 7:40 PM on August 14, 2002


More power to them.
Atheists are one of the last groups that one can discriminate against with impunity. In 1988 Bush Sr stated that Atheists ought not to be considered citizens. Can you imagine a President saying that about ANY other group of people, other than Child Molesters and such?
posted by EmoChild at 7:46 PM on August 14, 2002


Acetylene--I'll buy a box! Why don't you contact your state atheist org.? The site lists organizations from every state planning on attending....
posted by amberglow at 7:46 PM on August 14, 2002


I am soooo there. As long as I can be back by election day. I say we have a mefi atheists / agnostics / freethinkers meetup there. Email me, i'll get the gears in motion.
posted by condour75 at 7:47 PM on August 14, 2002


"In 1988 Bush Sr stated that Atheists ought not to be considered citizens."

Is that for real?
I'm not american, but that is utterly shocking.
posted by sinical at 7:59 PM on August 14, 2002


[My first mefi post -- woohoo!]

I guess politics really do make strange bedfellows, because I support the sentiments of the organizers, even though I'm a member of the Christian clergy. 'Course, I'm sure my motivation is different, but there are a lot more of "us" out here than are portrayed in the struggle between "godless heathens" and "thumpers."

BTW, given John Ashcroft's actions with regard to Minnie [the now-clothed statue that appears behind him in photos at the lecturn], I think the female protestors should all march topless. Do you think he'd implode, or just sputter to a halt? My money's on implosion.
posted by wdpeck at 8:08 PM on August 14, 2002


I'm really glad to hear that, wd, and welcome!
I'm going myself, even though I'm Jewish...why don't you come...and bring some congregants!

(Ashcroft would order the troops in, I'm sure, given the extreme danger any sort of freethinkers pose to their plans....)

If this is really a free country, atheists shouldn't be such a threat to religious types...
posted by amberglow at 8:19 PM on August 14, 2002


sinical--
It is indeed true: George Bush, Sr. said, in 1987, "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." And to be perfectly honest, I think the memory of that statement has a lot to do with many American atheists' opposition to the phrase "One nation, under God" appearing in our pledge at all. The full story behind Bush's statement, by the way, is available here.

And amberglow, I'm amazed I hadn't thought of that. Sacramento, where I live, actually has a relatively strong atheist community, including a couple very active organizations. I've never made it to a meeting, because I don't own a car and transportation can be a problem. But maybe I'll have to find a way now. Thanks for the thought, and let me know where to send those cookies.
posted by Acetylene at 8:32 PM on August 14, 2002


I thought the terrorists did believe in God. Silly me.
posted by trondant at 8:38 PM on August 14, 2002


Bush's atheism remark was appalling. But it was no surprise in the context of the 1988 campaign - the most jingoistic, vicious, and cynical I have ever seen. He probably indulged himself in this little gem of demagoguery to pander to religous conservatives, who had wanted TV evangalist Pat Robertson to get the GOP nomination and were not enamored of Bush.
posted by crunchburger at 8:48 PM on August 14, 2002


The Bush Senior quote was in 1987 not 1988. My Bad.

==================
When George Bush was campaigning for the presidency, as incumbent vice president, one of his stops was in Chicago, Illinois, on August 27, 1987. At O'Hare Airport he held a formal outdoor news conference. There Robert I. Sherman, a reporter for the American Atheist news journal, fully accredited by the state of Illinois and by invitation a participating member of the press corps covering the national candidates had the following exchange with then Vice President Bush.

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are Atheists?

Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the Atheist community. Faith in god is important to me.

Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are Atheists?

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

Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on Atheists.
======================
posted by EmoChild at 8:54 PM on August 14, 2002


This thread reminds me of a very smart Martin Amis piece in the Guardian about the pathetic role that religion has played in our current state of world affairs. A highly recommended read:

" ... Religious belief is without reason and without dignity, and its record is near-universally dreadful. It is straightforward -- and never mind, for now, about plagues and famines: if God existed, and if He cared for humankind, He would never have given us religion. ..."
posted by TBoneMcCool at 9:15 PM on August 14, 2002


thanks TBone, that's a great essay...but god didn't give people religion (people did)....I'm surprised Amis didn't recognize that
posted by amberglow at 9:25 PM on August 14, 2002


Good point, amberglow. I guess we shouldn't blame God (real or not) for a flawed human creation like religion. We've only got ourselves to blame for that one.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 9:30 PM on August 14, 2002


thanks TBone

...and sometimes it's good (charity, etc.), and sometimes it's ....
posted by amberglow at 9:36 PM on August 14, 2002


[off-topic]:
It's funny how so many people write Bush, Americans, Vice President, Atheists, Carrot Top, Bart Simpson, Mac, John Doe and other proper nouns with a capital letter, whether or not they're liked or indeed exist, but make an exception for God, as if the capital letter committed them to anything except correct spelling and clarity. God is a god. When referring to the god of the Jews, Christians and Muslims, surely it's just childish not to spell it God?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:39 PM on August 14, 2002


"Our leaders, including the President, must stop calling the nation to prayer, or claim that we are a "Christian" country..."(Amen to that!!!)

I understand (and agree with) the need for separation of church and state.. and also freedom of speech and freedom of religion.. but where is it defined that we are not a 'Christian' country?

Maybe the founding principles of our country have now become unpopular and outmoded?

And why do people feel threatened when a nation is called to prayer? I can understand marching the capitol when a nation is called to war, but why prayer? Do not atheists not consider that to be a hollow exercise in the first place?
posted by jazzkat11 at 9:45 PM on August 14, 2002


Bush's comment was made at an airport. Its not exactly policy. Here's some truly discriminatory action:

Atheists are currently banned from holding office in seven states.
posted by skallas at 9:49 PM on August 14, 2002


Also many of those state laws discriminate against agnostics and non-monotheists.
posted by skallas at 9:50 PM on August 14, 2002


I'd join an agnostic march, but all we'd do is argue about whether or not to go anywhere.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:22 PM on August 14, 2002


This is great. I wish I could be there!

PS: jazzkat, it's a little thing called the bill of rights, which starts, "Congress shall make no law..."
posted by AlexSteffen at 10:57 PM on August 14, 2002


"......surely it's just childish not to spell it God?..."

Miguel. You, of all people....

(",)
posted by dash_slot- at 11:00 PM on August 14, 2002


When referring to the god of the Jews, Christians and Muslims, surely it's just childish not to spell it God?

The name of the god of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims is not actually "God" -- the Jews (and Christians) hold it to be YHWH (the vowels are left out because of a stricture against actually writing the name), which is usually transliterated "Jehovah" by Christians. The Muslims call Him Allah, of course.

I mean, if you're going to get picky, why not go all the way?
posted by kindall at 11:30 PM on August 14, 2002


jazzkat11:
I understand (and agree with) the need for separation of church and state.. and also freedom of speech and freedom of religion.. but where is it defined that we are not a 'Christian' country?

The Treaty of Tripoli.

Well, you did ask.
posted by Acetylene at 11:32 PM on August 14, 2002


Not to out-pick you, kindall, but wasn't it that the Hebrews had no vowel letters? The Christian translators of the old testament 'filled in the blanks' and actually got it wrong - the name was'nt j-E-h-O-v-A-h in the original, but y-A-h-E-w-E-h (approximately).

Now, I'm no Red Sea pedestrian, so - any hebrew/scholars wanna chip in? Miggy?
posted by dash_slot- at 11:42 PM on August 14, 2002


[Excuse more off-topicality]:
My point was that it may seem brave and outrageous to write the word God without a capital letter but it's just silly. It's specially silly when the absence of the capital G is thought to convey the extra information that the writer doesn't believe in God. Kinda like Ezra Pound and many others nowadays saying how much they hate "Amerika", but less witty. But, hey, at least they still capitalize the word and America/america , unlike God/god is unambiguous.

Capital letters aren't an honour (God dammit!); they're a spelling convention designed to make reading clearer.

You can - and should - write "God doesn't exist" or "God can't exist" without contradiction. In fact, to deny that God exists, it helps if you're referring to the same God others believe exists.

God implies monotheism and so is convenient for referring to the deity of the three main monotheistic religions. You should be able to write, for instance "For Muslims, there is no god but God", where the capital letter works for its little extra supper.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:57 AM on August 15, 2002


I like the idea of a march on washington to respond to the bushites, but really i'd prefer to see something more open to everyone. The idea being that this nation is not only not christian, but not any specific religion, so why limit the marchers to those who lack religion. Why not just say the "pro separation of church and state march" and leave it at that.
posted by NGnerd at 4:39 AM on August 15, 2002


"pro separation of church and state march"

My thought exactly. I may go anyway, but I feel a little oogie about the intolerance of some atheists.
posted by JoanArkham at 4:48 AM on August 15, 2002


"Separation of church and state".... another popular myth about the Founder's intent. I'm for theocracy....bring on the Auto da Fe. Would you prefer stappado or squasation?
posted by Pressed Rat at 5:00 AM on August 15, 2002


(it's what you oughtn't to do but you do anyway!)
posted by dorian at 5:43 AM on August 15, 2002


Miguel, If it's meant as a political statement, lowercasing the "G" works for me...(for example, my god is just one of a million in the world)...and on a sidenote, religious jews I know aren't allowed to type the entire word and use "g-d" and usually don't cap it...

also, the name "godless american march" is odd, but effectively makes the point that we're all different here in the U.S. and still americans (which is the point!)--and that you can be a godfearing american or a godloving american or a godless american, etc...(people are jewish american, italian american, african american, gay american, liberal american, etc-take your pick)
posted by amberglow at 6:03 AM on August 15, 2002


Atheists are one of the last groups that one can discriminate against with impunity.

EmoChild - I agree completely. I have been saying that for years and I usually just get blank stares. It isn't PC to talk badly about any minority except atheists and agnostics where hate talk is generally accepted.
posted by quirked at 6:21 AM on August 15, 2002


It's specially silly when the absence of the capital G is thought to convey the extra information that the writer doesn't believe in God.

I agree with your point grammatically (though I didn't always), but what is wrong with conveying extra information through manipulation of language? I thought that's what it was all about. You don't think that by capitalizing "God" Christians (and others) are trying to convey the extra information that their god is the only true god?
posted by rushmc at 7:26 AM on August 15, 2002


Atheist here.

Consciously dropping the capital G for me is kind of like "Asscroft", "Mickey$loth", "Klinton", "Al Snore", etc. It's slightly more refined than those examples maybe, but it still belongs to the Mad Magazine Stylebook.

However referring to God as "your god" is just fine in my book.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:36 AM on August 15, 2002


I understand (and agree with) the need for separation of church and state.. and also freedom of speech and freedom of religion.. but where is it defined that we are not a 'Christian' country?

The Treaty of Tripoli.


Acetylene: I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The Treaty of Tripoli does NOT refute the Christianity of early America.
posted by gd779 at 8:04 AM on August 15, 2002


Atheists are one of the last groups that one can discriminate against with impunity.

Apparently, some of the other groups are fat people and men. It really sucks to be a fat male atheist. Well, no, actually, it doesn't, it's only mildly annoying sometimes, like when my knees creak and I can't pray for God to heal them, but that doesn't make the case for discrimination very well.

(Actually, the knees don't creak so much anymore the last few weeks, I'm taking off about 10 pounds a month.)
posted by kindall at 8:19 AM on August 15, 2002


I'm so excited! My first March on Washington, and it's against Miguel's goD!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:53 AM on August 15, 2002


will atheists become "unlawful combatants?"

A hilarious question. I don't think we should; being civilized and non-violent is one of the things that separates atheists from the mentally ill. Leave violence based on ideology to the religious, where it belongs.

This reminds me of an editorial cartoon that was in "Freethought Today". It was titled: "Headlines we'll never see", and showed a newspaper with the headline:

Atheists Slaughter Agnostics!
posted by interrobang at 8:58 AM on August 15, 2002


gd779
I must disagree with your previous post about the Treaty of Tripoli. The main problem I have with it is that the Treaty was read aloud on the floor of the Senate, distributed to every member of Senate, approved by President Adams and Secretary of State Pickering, and printed on the front page of all the major newspapers of the day--all in English, not Arabic. Whether or not the Arabic text actually has that phrase, those who voted for the Treaty thought it did, and apparently that didn't bother them. Furthermore, the Arabic version of Article 11 that we have today--the gibberish version--wasn't discovered until 1930, and no one knows for sure what was there previously.

More information here.

That said, you'll find the link I originally provided includes some more persuasive arguments in your favor. I'm all about balance, you know.
posted by Acetylene at 9:38 AM on August 15, 2002


Or to turn the question arround, does it necessarily follow that because a majority of the founding fathers were christian that it means we are a christian country?

One of the things that gets lost is that the colonies were divided into multiple sects that did not consider each other to be true christians. A "christian coalition" was unthinkable in an era where different cristian cults regarded each other with suspition. This is one of the reasons why religous freedom is enshrined in two places in the constitution. In 18th century English "establishment" meant not only a state church but govertment endorsement of bibles and liturgies. While perhaps not a full wall the intent of both of these constitutional passages is to enable anyone of any faith to participate, and to pevent government inteferance with faith.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:27 AM on August 15, 2002


Atheist here. And kind of wigged out by the thought of 'organized atheism'. Brrrrr. I'd much prefer a march based on a certain shared belief, like "Bush, please stop being so Christian-centric in your representation of the country", rather than what may be more of a belief system. System. Brrrrr.
posted by annekef at 10:39 AM on August 15, 2002


Whether or not the Arabic text actually has that phrase, those who voted for the Treaty thought it did

A good point. Though I still maintain that citing the Treaty of Tripoli for the proposition that America was not founded on Christianity is both problematic (the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783, after all, begins with the phrase "In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity") and against the clear weight of the evidence.

That said, since you perhaps know this issue better than I do, I'd be interested in your perspective. To what extent was America founded as a Christian nation? You can email me, if you prefer.
posted by gd779 at 10:43 AM on August 15, 2002


There's no doubt that a majority of the Founders believed (or at least expressed belief) in God. Some of them were even quite religious.

But it's also quite clear that they understood the dangers of religious interference in politics, and sought - quite clearly and explicitly - to build a wall between matters of faith and matters of policy.

Oh, yeah, and a whole bunch of them, even back then, were atheists, deists, agnostics, rationalists, freethinkers and so on.

If by "Christian nation" you mean a nation where Christian churches as institutions are supposed to have special influence (which is what most fundies seem to mean by the phrase), well, that's not true and never has been. You don't need to go reading Arabic texts of the Treaty of Tripoli to prove this. You can find this sentiment quite baldly stated in many of the most influential men of the day: Jefferson, Tom Paine, Ben Franklin, Washington, Sam Adams, etc.
posted by AlexSteffen at 11:46 AM on August 15, 2002


dash_slot-: Not to out-pick you, kindall, but wasn't it that the Hebrews had no vowel letters? The Christian translators of the old testament 'filled in the blanks' and actually got it wrong - the name was'nt j-E-h-O-v-A-h in the original, but y-A-h-E-w-E-h (approximately).

It's not that Hebrew had no vowels, but that ink and paper was expensive... Many languages of the time used a form of shorthand in order to reduce costs. Greek just left out spaces between words. Hebrew went them one better and left out markings for the vowels, with the understanding that the reader is smart enough to figure out the word from context (bet-bet = Abba (father), in the right place). t's nt tht hrd, rlly.

But, to get back to the tetragrammaton. The name of God is recorded based on the meaning, and the sound. It is not pronouced except by the High Priest of Israel, at the Temple, during a specific service. As you might guess, being that we have no High Priest, and the Temple is not quite up for worship these days, the exact vowel sounds are subject to debate, but not discussion, so that we don't run afoul of the Commandment.

The meaning of The Name is recorded rather clearly, and potentially without all the nuances it needs. It means "I am that I am" (alas, no spinach), or with absolutely no change in characters, "I will be whatever I become." I like the second, because it implies a power to God that is missing in the previous, more static, version. The unchanging God idea is just not for me, I suppose.

Jehovah, and Yahweh, are connected by the problem of the J/Y sound. It wasn't confusing to those for which J and I were the same letter, you see. So, saying it with the English J/G sound is just wrong. So much for _The Life of Brian_. Once that is done, we get to the V/W issue, and as Wagner will tell you, it's the same gig. Some people never see them as different. When done, you end up with something in the middle, which makes sense. Yud Hay Vav Hey are the letters, so the best sound would be YHVH, and you guess the right vowels (the Hay is just aspiration, and is a semi-vowel in this position). Just be prepared for the lightning.

By the way -- during worship, this word is said as "Adonai" (Lord), and outside of that as "Ha Shem" (The Name). There is argument that "Yahoo" comes from YHVH, but I just don't want to follow that line. Yehoshua, or Jesus, also comes from YHVH, but that is to be expected, considering his status in the Christian faith.

What's all this have to do with a march? Well, nothing, really, but I will say this -- My faith is not one that requires me to have a bumper sticker that says "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." Nor, would I belong to it if such a requirement existed. God never asked me to turn off my mind, and if the atheists are one of the last places where I can find people like what God wanted us to be, then I'll give them a little support. Just so long as they don't try to convert me. *grin*
posted by dwivian at 12:28 PM on August 15, 2002


I read the Tripoli link. The muddled point of it is that while America is a Christian nation, it does not have a Christian federal government.

Yes, you can have the first without the second.
posted by NortonDC at 1:06 PM on August 15, 2002


I read the Tripoli link. The muddled point of it is that while America is a Christian nation, it does not have a Christian federal government.

This statement is so vague as to be practically pointless. Granted, I don't think anyone would care to dispute the fact that a super majority of United States citizens are Christian. Although if you break that down, you find that the super majority consists of minorities that only seem to get along when there is separation of church and state. The fact that Protestants and Catholics had spent a good portion of the previous 300 years trying to commit religious genocide across Europe was certainly a factor for writing religious freedom into the Constitution in the strongest terms possible.

But simply going by a super majority or even majority is deceiving. One could also argue that the United States is an English-speaking nation, or that the United States is a white nation (but not for very much longer). The former claim is historically problematic because the predominance of English in the United States is an accident of history. The latter claim is certain to raise some hackles.

What is centrally important is what sort of public policy best favors religious life. I think the founding fathers had a very good idea when they profoundly rejected accommodationist government.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:59 PM on August 15, 2002


As long as I can be back by election day. I say we have a mefi atheists / agnostics / freethinkers meetup there.

And that would be different from a regular meetup how?
posted by insomnyuk at 9:44 PM on August 15, 2002


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