Posted by: Donna
So the National Republican Congressional Committee tweeted this yesterday:
Not that I would put it past the mensches of the NRCC to tweet the same thing had a Muslim organization endorsed a Democratic candidate, but if they did it would be recognized for what it was: The implicit suggestion that there’s something wrong with being Muslim and that being endorsed by a Muslim group is a bad thing. It would, correctly, be interpreted as religious bigotry.
I have no idea what religious affiliations Kyrsten Sinema or Vernon Parker hold and I don’t care. This isn’t about them or the CD9 race. Nor do I wish to engage in a criticism of religion or an argument defending atheism. I’m definitely not going to discuss recent global events fueled by religious zealotry. What I’m tired of is the rank intolerance routinely exhibited toward me and my fellow atheists in this country, simply for who we are. When I say I am an atheist (which I am) the only thing you can conclude from that is that I don’t believe in a deity. It tells you absolutely nothing about my emotional makeup, character, ethics, loyalty to my country, etc., period. Likewise, I don’t know anything important about you as a person if you happen to believe in a deity. It’s your business, not mine. If you keep it offa me, we are good. Which is not to say that I don’t think you should express your religious or spiritual beliefs in public. Not saying that at all. Go for it. Strut your stuff on the public square. Just know that I get to be on the public square too. I should get to proclaim my atheism in public without fear of social or economic reprisals. It should be no different than anyone else announcing that they are Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, or Muslim.
Atheists are the single most reviled group of people in the country, according to numerous surveys. Austin Cline, who writes for about.com on atheism, has a good theory on why that might be:
Although people may say that they consider atheists inferior because atheists don’t believe that civil law should be defined according to some group’s conception of what their god wants, I don’t think that’s the whole story. There are too many religious theists who also want civil law to be secular rather than religious. Instead, I think that a much better case can be made for the idea that atheists are being scapegoated the same way that Catholics and Jews once were: they are treated as social outsiders who create “moral and social disorder.”
Atheists can’t both be lower-class drug users or prostitutes and upper-class elitists and materialists. Instead, atheists are being saddled with the “sins” of American society generally. They are “a symbolic figure” that represent religious theists’ “fears about … trends in American life.” Some of those fears involve “lower class” crimes like drug use; other fears involve “upper class” crimes like greed and elitism. Atheists are thus a “symbolic representation of one who rejects the basis for moral solidarity and cultural membership in American society altogether.”
A lot of that is because most Americans don’t know, or don’t realize they know, any atheists. That needs to change. Many atheists do have valid reasons to fear going public but I am fortunate not to have any. I’m comfortable being open about my atheism to my loved ones and associates. So I feel that obliges me to be open in the public. The more of us come out, the more people will understand that atheists are legitimate members of society, whether you agree with us or not. And then more atheists will be free to come out. Which will be awesome because no one should have to hide who they are because of other people’s disapproval or misunderstanding.
I’ve never made an issue of this on this blog before but I’m saying it now: I’m atheist. And proud of it!
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