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:

nothing.

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.