Those feisty, uppity atheists  

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

During the first decade or so of the Cold War, it was the most normal thing in the world for those defending the American way of life to denounce Communism as being “atheistic” or “godless.” The implication here, of course, was that atheism is a very bad thing. And if Communism, a bad thing, was made even worse by being atheistic, then non-communist American atheists, while not perhaps as bad as their “red” cousins, must be pretty bad. Another way of putting this is to say that during the middle years of the 20th century atheists were excluded from the theistic consensus—the Judeo-Christian consensus—that dominated American cultural life. Just as African-Americans were “second-class citizens” by virtue of belonging to the “wrong” race, so atheists were second-class citizens by virtue of having wrong views on religion.

Those days are gone—and probably gone forever, despite the wishes of some cultural conservatives who would like once again to define the United States as a Christian nation, or at least as a Judeo-Christian nation. There are now too many atheists in America for the US to return to that old self-definition of itself. Though still relatively small in number, atheists are disproportionately represented in what may be called the “command posts” of American culture[—]refer to elite universities (including law schools), the national press, and the entertainment industry. Their influence in American political and cultural life is very, very great. It is unlikely that theistic Americans will ever again be able to forget that significant numbers of their fellow-Americans are atheists, or to pretend that this atheistic minority simply doesn't count. (In the present discussion I am counting almost all “agnostics” as atheists, since the great majority of American agnostics, while willing to grant that there is a slim—an exceedingly slim—chance that God might exist, are for all practical purposes deniers of the existence of God.)

That's what David Carlin of the Community College of Rhode Island wrote in the Homiletic & Pastoral Review (June 2007). You can read more at Halfway There.

But there's also this quote from Thomas at Hope for Pandora that really is wonderful.
You might expect that I would - as a Christian - object to this campaign, or otherwise be put on the defensive by it. If you made that assumption, you'd be wrong. I think the Out Campaign is an admirable effort to unite a community of Americans that have been too quiet and too persecuted for too long.

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9 comments: to “ Those feisty, uppity atheists

  • Paul
    Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 3:29:00 PM CDT  

    I think Thomas and Carlin are right that in America atheists need to do something to improve their image. For years, politicians, preachers, and pundits have gotten away with blaming atheists for everything that goes wrong.

  • ordinarygirl
    Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 3:34:00 PM CDT  

    They've gotten away with blaming atheists because atheists have never been a large, cohesive, or outspoken group. Most atheists are content to just be like normal people. Many people don't even know if a neighbor or a co-worker is an atheist.

    If you mean "improve their image" by show they're normal just like everyone else, then I agree. But if you mean meek and mild so that they're better pushed into the closet and don't offend, then I don't.

    I'm thinking you mean the former though.

  • Venjanz
    Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 8:41:00 PM CDT  

    If atheists would get on the ball and build themselves a space station like the NeoCons, this would be less of a problem :)

    Seriously though, atheists are an easy target for any group with an agenda because most people believe in some sort of deity, and automatically distrust you guys. People see the horrors of the Soviet Union, Communist China, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh and to some extent Nazi Germany and the way they slaughters tens of millions of religious people, many simply because they were religious and therefore a threat to the state, and assume thats what you would do the same here if given the chance, much the same way many atheists seem to distrust religious people because of the historic persecutions by Christians and what is happening today in Muslim nations.

    No opinion here, just my analysis of the situation.

  • glomgold
    Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 11:48:00 PM CDT  

    Ahhhh!!! A "neo-con" mention! *puke

    Oh a brighter note, nice new page. :) I will update my links at some point, sooner rather than later I hope.

  • mamacita chilena
    Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 2:17:00 AM CDT  

    I am an ex-christian, agnostic, as are most of my friends. Almost all of us were brain washed as children in our ultra conservative town and then went on to make our own decisions based on rational thinking instead of blind belief. And more and more people I know are definitely coming around to that way of thinking. So I'm not surprised to see that the numbers are growing...

    btw, thanks for voting for me. if you were confused by the name Kyle, sorry. I am a girl with a guy's name but that really is me :)

  • ordinarygirl
    Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 6:39:00 AM CDT  

    Most Christians don't know their history very well because Nazi Germany was a Christian government and the church was complicit in the persecution of the Jews. They gave away genealogy histories so that people could be persecuted.

    I don't blame religion itself for the horrors humans have wrought. Religion is made up. I blame human nature because that's what's at the root of everything.

  • ordinarygirl
    Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 6:43:00 AM CDT  

    Mamacita, aha! I'm sorry. I didn't even think.

  • Nita
    Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 7:48:00 AM CDT  

    Why should one label oneself as a theist or atheist? What does it matter?

  • ordinarygirl
    Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 8:20:00 AM CDT  

    Nita, that's a great question. Most agnostic or atheistic people I know are pretty apathetic about religion. They don't really care if people believe in religion, a god, the pink unicorn, or whatever anyone wants to believe in.

    But not every person is content to let people believe what they want to believe (religious and I'm sure some atheists too). And when someone is trying to force you or your children to believe a certain way, then it does tend to make you care.


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