Disliking Atheists – still happening

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Over the weekend I caught an article on the Washington Post website titled “Why do Americans still dislike atheists?” which made the case AGAIN that discrimination of atheists is wrong. What was more interesting was that some of the comments to the post proved the point.

The article by Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman included tid bits like this:

A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.

and this:

Nontheism isn’t all balloons and ice cream. Some studies suggest that suicide rates are higher among the non-religious. But surveys indicating that religious Americans are better off can be misleading because they include among the non-religious fence-sitters who are as likely to believe in God, whereas atheists who are more convinced are doing about as well as devout believers. On numerous respected measures of societal success — rates of poverty, teenage pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, drug use and crime, as well as economics — high levels of secularity are consistently correlated with positive outcomes in first-world nations. None of the secular advanced democracies suffers from the combined social ills seen here in Christian America.

Why do Americans still dislike atheists?

The story isn’t new but being on the Washington Post website gives it some status than if it appeared on an non-theist blog like this one. There is a question about the claim the authors make that 60 million people “are not believers”. Friends of mine in the secular movement would love to see that evidence. The number we agree on is closer to 12% of the population not the 1/5th cited by the article. Of that 12%, 2.3% were atheists, 4.3% are “Huxlian agnostics”, and 5.7% were wishy-washy agnostic.

What was more interesting for me were that some of the comments to the story seemed to prove the point – that atheists are still disliked.

Americans don’t, for the most part, generally dislike atheists. It is more that, much as many people dislike religious believers who are very pushy and proselytize them in an intrusive, in your face manner, they equally dislike atheists who are very pushy and who proselytize on behalf of atheism’s beliefs in an intrusive, in your face manner. Religious believers and atheists who quietly hold their beliefs and teach them to their children at home, and who respect others’ rights to believe and teach to their own children at home what they wish even when it is different from them as religious believers or as atheists, are not any more disliked by the American people than anyone else is. In short, the American people expect both religious believers of all stripes and atheists to be tolerant and respectful of others’ views and lives. And they dislike those from both groups who are not

This is common. As long as we shut up and don’t draw attention then people like us. I only wish Christians and other strident religious people would do that then I might like them.

The author seems to be making a common mistake: atheism and nontheism are not interchangeable. As a nontheist/agnostic, I see atheism as requiring as great a leap of faith as any belief in God. Perhaps it is the scientist in me that wants proof before I commit. In this case, I am comfortable with admitting I don’t know. I don’t understand, but can accept that others think they do. And if you want to proselytize, be advised it will be an exercise in frustration on your part and a source of amusement to me

Here the reader makes the common mistake that atheism is a religion requiring faith when it is in fact the believer who needs faith to believe since they have no rational evidence that a god exists. The atheist simply doesn’t believe in any god.

The United States has the largest prison population in the entire world. It has absolutely nothing to do with religion. It has much more to do with Obama’s WAR on drugs – not his war on religion.

Our nation was founded by people of faith and the freedom of religion. Maryland was founded by people of the Catholic faith and Pennsylvania by people of the Quaker faith. If you don’t like American religiosity – try living in Saudi Arabia.

This comment shows the reader has no sense of history. Quakers and Catholics came to this country due to persecution elsewhere and both supported separation of church and state. The Quakers did as a matter of conscious and Catholics did because protestants ran all the government agencies. Check out this article about the Philadelphia Bible Riots in 1844:

As my colleague Rob Boston noted in a Liberty magazine article, the city’s public schools were Protestant-dominated and featured recitation of (the Protestant version of) the Lord’s Prayer, readings from the (Protestant) King James Version of the Bible, and singing of (Protestant) hymns. When Catholic Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick objected, the school agreed to excuse Catholic students from the exercises.

Protestant extremists were outraged at this nod toward diversity, and full-scale Protestant-Catholic riots erupted. Many city residents were injured and killed, and houses and church buildings were burned. The militia had to be called in to restore order.

What Philadelphia Shouldn’t Forget: The City Of Brotherly Love Rioted Over Religion In Public Schools

Sounds like something that would happen on the streets of Saudi Arabia today.

Hatred is born from ignorance. We need more education to show that atheists are people too and maybe soon, we will be less disliked.

Supreme Court dismisses Arizona school tax credit case for the wrong reason

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The Supreme Court ruled Monday in the case of Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn Et al. that tax payers couldn’t sue Arizona for allowing a tax credit used to fund private sectarian schools in the state. While I disagree with the ruling since tax payers should have standing to sue – it is their money – I don’t think supporters of separation of church and state would win the case anyway.
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GOP wants to stamp your uterus with “In God in We Trust”

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Of course we all knew the Republicans who stormed to office this past November would continue their effort to cram their religious views down our throats. With close to 10% unemployment and the public demanding attention to creating jobs, Congressional Republicans instead want to stamp your uterus with the motto “In God We Trust”.

From the American Humanist Association:

Tell Your Representative To Vote “No” on H. Con. Res. 13

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, H. Con. Res 13, a resolution which reaffirms the official motto of the United States as “In God We Trust,” was passed in the House Judiciary Committee, and now faces general debate in the House. If passed on the House floor, the resolution would encourage the display of “In God We Trust” on public buildings, including government institutions and public schools.

Tell Your Representative To Vote “No” on H. Con. Res. 13

And of course the right wing nut jobs want to end abortion and here is one way of trying to do that.

GOP’s H.R. 3 abortion bill would require IRS to do “abortion audits”

Remember one of many big lies Republicans came up with to scare Americans about the Affordable Care Act, the one where the IRS would need 16,000 new agents to enforce health reform? Newt Gingrich pushed it, and Rep. Paul Ryan jumped on board saying that the IRS would get “16,000 agents to police this new mandate.”

It was, of course, patently untrue. But apparently the GOP liked the idea of IRS agents policing Americans’ healthcare decision so much they decided to adopt it as their own, but of course just apply it to women, and to abortion. Among the horrors of H.R. 3, the bill that redefined rape to only count if it was “forcible” (until enough people raised enough hell, they decided to drop it), is the degree to which abortion restrictions extend to private—not public—spending.

In H.R. 3, Republicans revive the mid-90s “Istook amendment” theory of the fungibility of money to include under their definition of “taxpayer funding for abortion” all tax deductions, credits or other benefits for the cost of health insurance, when that insurance includes under its plan coverage for abortion.

GOP’s H.R. 3 abortion bill would require IRS to do “abortion audits”

You know the drill. Call your Congress critter and let them know how you feel about these two bad bills. Unless you want the motto tattooed on your uterus?

Creationist teacher Freshwater’s appeal moves to Federal Court

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John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon Ohio teacher who was fired for proselytizing in his 8th grade science class has appealed his termination and it was announced today his appeal will be moving to Federal Court.

The board filed notice with U.S. District Court in Columbus on Tuesday to move the case to the federal court system because Freshwater’s appeal involves an allegation that his constitutional right to express a religious opinion was violated.

Freshwater was accused of preaching Christian beliefs in class and of using a scientific device to mark students’ arms with a cross. The hearing officer said there was a plausible explanation for that but didn’t explain further.

Fired Mount Vernon teacher’s appeal moved to federal court

Of course he should have been fired for burning things in a student’s arm. Now he can cry to a federal judge that his rights were violated because he was proselytizing in his public school class room.

This saga just doesn’t seem like it will end.

Fred Phelps can be a douche at funerals

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This week the US Supreme Court ruled that the Westboro Baptist Church can picket military funerals. Fred Phelps, leader of the church, and his merry band picket funerals in order to advance their sick anti-gay religious agenda. Even though their brand of picketing is tasteless and offensive, the Supreme Court was right to rule in their favor.

For the past 20 years, the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church has picketed military funerals to communicate its belief that Godhates the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality, particu-larly in America’s military. The church’s picketing has also con-demned the Catholic Church for scandals involving its clergy. Fred Phelps, who founded the church, and six Westboro Baptist parishion-ers (all relatives of Phelps) traveled to Maryland to picket the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq inthe line of duty. The picketing took place on public land approxi-mately 1,000 feet from the church where the funeral was held, in ac-cordance with guidance from local law enforcement officers. The picketers peacefully displayed their signs—stating, e.g., “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Fags Doom Nations,” “America is Doomed,” “Priests Rape Boys,” and “You’re Going to Hell”—for about 30 min-utes before the funeral began. Matthew Snyder’s father (Snyder), pe-titioner here, saw the tops of the picketers’ signs when driving to the funeral, but did not learn what was written on the signs until watch-ing a news broadcast later that night.

(d) Westboro addressed matters of public import on public prop-erty, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of lo-cal officials. It did not disrupt Mathew Snyder’s funeral, and itschoice to picket at that time and place did not alter the nature of itsspeech. Because this Nation has chosen to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that public debate is not stifled, Westboro must be shielded from tort liability for its picketing in this case. Pp. 14–15.
580 F. 3d 206, affirmed.

SNYDER v. PHELPS

As long as Phelps follows the normal process for picketing – like staying on public property – then even his offensive speech can’t be censored.

As Blair Scott at American Atheist wrote:

It is easy to get caught up in the emotion and want to deny the Westboro Baptist Church any opportunity to speak their mind and enjoy their Constitutional rights. It is even easier to get swept away in the emotion of a military funeral and want to deny their constitutional rights just this one time or in this one instance. Constitutional Rights do not work like that. What judge or government entity gets to choose when and where your constitutional rights get to be overridden and denied? What does your local atheist group do when you are denied a permit because it might offend someone?

SCOTUS Rules Phelps and WBC Can Protest Funerals

As much as it pains me to say, I agree with the court.

Minnesota lawmaker trusts God to protect us from climate change

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Minnesota State Rep. Mike Beard is a cheap labor conservative and pro-business who denies climate change is a problem so he wants to lift the moratorium on coal-fired power plants in Minnesota. Of course he doesn’t as most cheap labor conservatives don’t think climate change is a problem. But then he had to base his views on his religion.

A lot of what Beard knows he learned in church. One Congressman, talking about global warming, recently said that God wouldn’t allow man to do anything to destroy the planet. Beard told me, “It is the height of hubris to think we could.” I asked him about nuclear war. He said: “How did Hiroshima and Nagasaki work out? We destroyed that, but here we are, 60 years later and they are tremendously effective and livable cities. Yes, it was pretty horrible,” he said, “But, can we recover? Of course we can.”

It’s like the old farm back in Pennsylvania.

‘We are not going to run out’
Beard believes that “God is not capricious. He’s given us a creation that is dynamically stable. We are not going to run out of anything.”

The International Energy Agency’s most recent analysis said world oil production peaked in 2006 and petroleum reserves are now in decline. We might not be running out. We are, it seems, running low. Beard continued, “God gave us our minds, creativity and ingenuity, and that is our most valuable natural resource.” I agreed with him. I don’t think we’ve peaked on those resources, yet.

Picking science that fits politics: Rep. Mike Beard on climate change

That’s right. Beard thinks God will not let us run out of resources or let us destroy the planet.

Imagine his face when our world ends due to a climate catastrophe. The warning signs ARE going off.