Tuesday, May 01, 2007

That’s Why I’m Leavin’ It All Up To You
My Final Word On This Subject
A lot of the talk about discrimination against atheists is kind of petty, the offense taken when they happen to be subjected to displays of religion not involving government and not directed at the atheist. To these all I can say is, well, ain’t life tough sometimes. You can try to avoid them. I try to avoid hearing rock and roll which, I can guarantee you, is a lot more ubiquitous and generally a lot more intrusive. With the advent of moron mobiles it’s portable too. Short of a violation of noise control or other legal provisions, you’re stuck with them.

As to those religious or other displays targeting atheists, those are a form of harassment and are a legitimate complaint. The displays involving government in some way are entirely appropriate things to which you can try to get legal relief. The only thing to add to that is the political and social outcomes of complaining or bringing actions in matters not involving actual harm, should be considered. If the results could be worse than the offense, is it wise to spend your political capital on them?

Anything which involves the denial of a public accommodation, even joining the Boy Scouts, is grounds for action. It is a stronger offense and requires being taken seriously.

Even stronger are physical threats and attacks. Those cannot be tolerated. With these things we are getting into discrimination of the real kind, the kind that can get people killed. When children are the victims swift and very strong action has to be taken to protect them. Even bullying of children should be considered the most serious kind of offense*. But, and never forget this, your relief will be through an appeal to the courts on the basis of violations of The Bill of Rights and the right to due process. That is sometimes essential and it is all well and good but it isn’t enough. It has been one of the most short-sighted mistakes of civil rights efforts that the courts have been relied on instead of building grass roots support.

The pseudo-discrimination most on peoples’ lips these days is the “ atheist electability” issue. That, I am sorry to tell you is not an issue of legal discrimination. An atheist doesn’t have “a right” to be president. No other member in any other minority group or in the majority has “a right to be president”. The only person who has what is constantly mislabeled “a right to be president” is the person who The People have elected to fill that office. In the United States it is the person who has won the majority of the electoral vote - which I would love to get into but I won’t here. To win an election you must win the most votes, it is as simple as that. No discrimination law exists which allows relief from any prejudice of The People in the election of the president**. Atheists who really care about correcting that prejudice instead of whining about it, won’t call the majority of the voting public superstitious, Spaghetti Monster worshiping, idiots. Anyone who does indulge their inner child in this manner and then whines about the entirely predictable results is the real idiot, an irresponsible jerk, a problem which any real civil rights movement will have to deal with if they ever hope to win an election or make progress.

Wasting time and good-will on lesser matters, pretending that occasions when you are subjected to nothing more than an affront to your aesthetic sensibilities and mislabeling those as “discrimination” will make your legitimate complaints in matters that require action less effective. They have the potential to lose you allies you will need for those serious fights. I can tell you this from going on forty years of being a witness to and participant in the struggles for gay rights. You have to be realistic and you have to be smart. You also have to be mature and ready for a lot of work. And you will fail unless you have strong alliances within the wider population. If, as atheists seem never to stop pointing out, you are that few in number and that hated, insulting potential friends is the stupidest thing you can do.

* Children’s first and most important right is their right to be protected by adults. Without that right none of the others will matter.

** The possibility of redistricting to enhance the chance of an open atheist being elected to lower office is a theoretical possibility but don’t count on it now. The ability to ensure minority representation by drawing district lines is being slashed to death in the courts as you read this.

Note: I have grown tired of the issues surrounding these issues. I will point out that this is the point I began, advising atheists that they should find out what will get them what they say they want instead of making enemies. I am quitting this field and going back to what I really am interested in, politics and music. Anyone who wants to read what I think can go to the top of this blog, put the word "atheist" into the search box and find what I've already written on the subject. Rational atheists of good will, I wish you luck in getting your civil rights. Idiots of all kinds, don't bother writing again. I'm not even going to bother reading it.

Examples of the "pseudo-discrimination", including the legal discrimination that you denied exists in the United States.

Texas State Constitution, Article I Section 4:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being (emphasis added)".

North Carolina State Constitution, Article VI, Section 8:

"The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God".

Tennessee State Constitution, Article IX Section 2:

"No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state".

South Carolina State Constitution, Article VI Section 2:

"No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution".

George HW Bush:

"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".

The above statements attempt to avoid the charge of religious discrimination, by referring only to 'God', or a 'Supreme Being', and so contrive the existence of a polytheistic get out of jail card by implying that, provided a candidate acknowledges an all-inclusive deity, then there is no problem of cross-religion prejudice. However, the Tennessee constitution makes a reference to "a future state of rewards and punishments", and this can only mean one thing: a candidate for public office must submit his or her endorsement to the state of 'Heaven' and 'Hell' described by the three Abrahamic religions. Although theism is not a religion in its own right, the relationship between someone acknowledging the existence a supreme being and that same person belonging to a religion is not entirely superficial; given that the Texas state constitution does not require a candidate for public office to undergo any special religious tests, but concurrently states that he or she must also "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being" there is good reason to suggest that this is a case of special pleading, and a false compromise. A "Supreme Being"; what supreme being? This is a religious test after all, but one that bears the hallmarks of sophistry and logical oxymorons [doubtless contrived on the advice of a legal expert proficient at making arrangements based upon 'technicalities']. In doing so, Texas excludes atheistic religionists, and irreligious atheists or agnostics, while almost suggesting that it is OK for prospective candidates to endorse a double-standard that favours monotheistic and polytheistic religionists over non-theistic groups. At its worst, it is Christian ethnocentrism of a style analogous to that of Dennis Prager's preposterous article in townhall.com in favour of mandatory Biblical Oath swearing; or even a median position would describe that it breaks article VI of the constitution which states that no elected representative shall undergo a religious test upon taking office.

Even if the references to 'God' and a 'Supreme Being' are sufficiently vague to warrant the claim that state legislation does not favour any particular religion, one is still left wondering why these states exclude non-believers. It seems to me, like a back-handed and dishonest way in which to obfuscate the line of separation between church and state, while denying the existence of non-believers who might potentially run for public office: don't ask, don't tell, like Clinton's "compromise policy" on gays in the US military.

So, there we are, godless atheists and agnostics. If you want to run for office in these states, be prepared to lie. Better still, contact your local representative, and get the law changed.
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