Thursday, April 4, 2013

Atheists Should Not Be Shot: A Multi-part Rant on the Separation of Church and State, Part 1

Ok, everybody, let's remember that our country was founded in large part on the principle of religious freedom.  It goes like this:
CHURCH                                                                                                         STATE
Separated, got it?

I would have thought this truth self-evident.  In fact, I did, until two days ago, when my friend Jessica posted something I thought a bit strident and anti-religious on her Facebook page.  Now, Jessica is, among other things, a physician, a wife, a mother, an atheist, a knitter, a horsewoman, and a moral and ethical person.  I feel confident enough of her upright character that I once gave her a dog I loved (The dog needed something to guard, and I was out of sheep.  Now the dog guards Jessica's goats, chickens, and children.).  So, knowing Jessica, and feeling that her post was a touch off, I didn't just roll my eyes and delete her from my friends list.  I posted a comment that may have been a bit strident as well.

I'm glad I did.  She posted back, and I posted back, and we started a dialogue which made me understand that Jessica was actually being defensive, not offensive:  that she's feeling attacked for being an atheist, probably because she's being attacked for being an atheist.  She's been told things like, "Only Christians belong in our country," and "People who don't believe in God should be shot."

Shot.  Really?  I'm trying to imagine what the tone of my posts would be if I kept hearing, "Only atheists belong in this country," or "Catholics should be shot."

Let's review history for a moment.
"All Jews should be shot."  The Holocaust.
"All Christians should be shot (by Muslims.)"  Jihad.
"All Muslims should be shot (by Christians)."  The Crusades.
"All Protestants should be shot (by Catholics)."  The Spanish Inquistion.
"All black people should be shot."  The Klu Klux Klan.

We could add ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, Bosnia, and other places.

I would submit that these are not humanity's finest moments.  I would submit that whenever we start a sentence with "All _____..." we end up with something that sounds a lot like racism, or whatever you call racism if it's aimed at religion instead of race.

One of the great things about our country is that we guarantee freedom of religion as a Constitutional right.  This means I have the right to be Catholic.  Episcopalian.  Lutheran.  A Quaker.  A Scientologist.  Jewish.  Muslim.  Hindu.  Pagan.  Shinto.  Mormon.  Southern Baptist.  Heck, it means I have the right, the Constitutionally guaranteed right, to worship a used McDonald's soda straw if I so chose.  As long as the tenets of my Soda Straw religion do not break civil laws, I can hold them as dearly or loosely as I wish.  If my Soda Straw religion requires that I never eat chocolate again, and I eat chocolate, I may be sinning, but I'm not going to jail.  If my Soda Straw religion requires the ritual maiming of small children I'll be headed to the Big House, where I will still be permitted to worship my Soda Straw, just without any weapons on hand.

So--if I as an American citizen am free to worship any thing and any way I want, I am also free to worship:


I am free to say I don't believe in God.  Happens I do, but that's not the point.  Your average atheist, agnostic, person who is "spiritual but not religious," or person who has never bothered to think about God at all, is just as American as Jerry Falwell (evangelical), Antonin Scalia (Catholic), or Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Jewish).

Thus endeth Part One of the Rant.  But don't worry, there'll be more. 


  1. And the congregation says, "Amen."

  2. I cannot express how much I love this post, Kim. The main reason I have recently been more open about identifying as atheist (although I prefer the term "secular humanist", but whatever, I'm not religious) is because the only way that we are going to get public perception about the non-religious to change is to "come out". To show that belief in God is not necessary to be a good, ethical person (although if God helps you to be a better person, that's cool). But just as gays risked being ostracized by society when they began vocally identifying themselves as gay, those of us who are not religious face similar risks. I am still not comfortable discussing my lack of religious beliefs at work.

    I'm looking forward to part 2.

  3. I understand; the other day, my husband and I were talking about how much more open people are about discussing homosexuality than they were back when we were in high school. My husband said, "Well, before they had actual science showing that it being gay had a biological basis, the only stuff you heard was churches saying it was wrong, so everyone was afraid to speak."

    I hate it when the truth is something to be feared. I really do. Give Gabs a great big kiss for me, we miss him.

    1. One of the leaders in the secular community just wrote an editorial about things that can be learned from how the gay community has gained more acceptance, and "coming out" is the most important part.

      A book that I think you would really enjoy is "Candidate Without A Prayer", written by the author of the article above. It makes many important points but it's also really funny.

      As far as Gabby, I'll get you some pictures. He's a real character. He gets so happy, running around in huge circles followed by flopping onto his back and rolling over, whenever the kids play with him. Such a goof. I wish I could get him to sleep in the barn when the weather is nasty but he refuses - he has a number of "nests" around the property that allow him to watch his "herd" at night.


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