January 17, 2009

Religious Bigotry

What if …
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What if a resident of a small town wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, stating “It’s time to stomp out Islam in America. The majority of Americans would love to see the Muslims kicked out of America”?

What if a MySpace forum dedicated to Judaism was hacked, the owner deleted and the name changed to “Allah is Love!”?

What if a serving U.S. Representative, commenting on a theatrical performance, said “I was very moved by the song that talked about the damage that Christianity has caused and is causing. It was very moving”?

What if a campaign advertisement for an incumbent U.S. Senator featured the candidate stating that Jews were “the most vile, radical liberals in America”?

What if a candidate for President of the United States and sitting Vice-President, in response to an interviewer’s question, replied “I don't know that Budhists should be considered as [American] citizens, nor should they be considered patriots”? What if a state comanager for the campaign later stated that “Everything the Budhists do is bullshit.”?

Do you think any of this would be tolerated in the United States? Do you suppose there would be a bit of a reaction? Now, let’s substitute the word “atheist” for each of the above to see if you still feel the same.

Do you?

All of this has already happened. In my first example, Alice Shannon of Soldotna, Alaska wrote a letter to the editor of the Peninsula Clarion which was published January 29, 2007, titled “Reader Voices Strong Opinion on Atheists”.
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It’s time to stomp out atheists in America. The majority of Americans would love to see atheists kicked out of America. If you don’t believe in God, then get out of this country.

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The United States is based on having freedom of religion, speech, etc., which means you can believe in God any way you want (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc.) but you must believe.

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I don’t recall freedom of religion meaning no religion. Our currency even says “In God We Trust.” So, to all the atheists in America: Get off of our country.

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Atheists have caused the ruin of this great nation by taking prayer out of our schools and being able to practice what can only be called evil. I don’t care if they have never committed a crime, atheists are the reason crime is rampant.

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The MySpace forum for atheists, with 35,000 subscribers, was hacked twice, deleted twice, many of the members banned, and the owner’s account deleted. Each time the forum was renamed “Jesus is Love”.

In my third example, the statements of Florida District 21 Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart were published in The Epoch Times. Congressman Diaz-Balart was commenting on a performance of the Divine Performing Arts show in Fort Lauderdale. The show is a musical and dance performance by a troop of Chinese artists associated with the Falun Gong.

Elizabeth Dole’s campaign is responsible for the bigot bating in North Carolina as she saw her chances for reelection slipping away. Dole ran not one atheist bashing advertisement, but two.

And my final winner goes to George H.W. Bush, who uttered “I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God" In an August 27, 1987 interview with Robert I. Sherman. When George Bush was campaigning for the presidency one of his stops was in Chicago, Illinois, on August 27, 1987. At O'Hare Airport he held a formal outdoor news conference. There Sherman, a reporter for the American Atheist news journal, fully accredited by the state of Illinois and by invitation a participating member of the press corps covering the national candidates, had the following exchange with then-Vice-President Bush.
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Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?


Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.


Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?


Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.


Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?


Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

On October 29, 1988, Mr. Sherman had a confrontation with Ed Murnane, cochairman of the Bush-Quayle '88 Illinois campaign. The following conversation took place.
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Sherman: American Atheists filed the Pledge of Allegiance lawsuit yesterday. Does the Bush campaign have an official response to this filing?


Murnane: It's bullshit.


Sherman: What is bullshit?


Murnane: Everything that American Atheists does, Rob, is bullshit.


Sherman: Thank you for telling me what the official position of the Bush campaign is on this issue.


Murnane: You're welcome.

A couple years ago researchers from the University of Minnesota asked somewhat more than 2,000 randomly chosen Americans whether they would disapprove of a child's wish to marry an atheist, 47.6 percent of those interviewed said yes. Asked the same question about Muslims and blacks, the yes responses fell to 33.5 and 27.2 percent, respectively. The yes responses for Asian-Americans, Hispanics, Jews and conservative Christians were 18.5 percent, 18.5 percent, 11.8 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.

When asked which groups did not share the vision of American society, 39.5 percent said atheists. Asked the same question about Muslims and homosexuals, the figures dropped to 26.3 percent and 22.6 percent, respectively. For Hispanics, Jews, Asian-Americans and African-Americans, they fell further to 7.6, 7.4, 7.0 and 4.6 percent.

It appears that American atheists are seen as alien. We are, in the words of sociologist and lead researcher Penny Edgell, "a glaring exception to the rule of increasing tolerance over the last 30 years." She further states that atheists seem to be outside the limits of American morality, which has largely been defined by religion.

Interview reports indicated that many of those surveyed saw atheists as given to criminal behavior or drugs, dangerous cultural elitists, or amoral materialists. She states, "Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good."

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So it appears that it is okay to hate atheists; that it is acceptable to discriminate against and harass the godless. A crossdressing, gay, black, Jewish abortion doctor is better protected and has more friends. We are the Great Unwashed.

The study appeared in the April 2007 issue of the American Sociological Review and was co-written by assistant professor Joseph Gerteis and associate professor Doug Hartmann.

The number of atheists and agnostics in the United States is hard to measure, especially since most of us don't advertise, but most surveys put the number at about 16 percent of the population. That would tally into the millions.

The Great American Dream...

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6 Comments:

Rogue Medic said...

They forgot to ask about how people felt about atheists compared to kidnappers, terrorists, and child molesters. Surely there is somebody the American public thinks less of than atheists.

Maybe not.

MiniKat said...

"The Great American Dream"... more like the Great American Nightmare. Dang, Mule Breath. You made my headache worse. ;-)

jeg43 said...

All this is a surprise? Religious folks have a history of persecution since their beginnings and it isn't going to change.
No, that's not true. It was once zero tolerance for atheists. Now it is apparently up to 16 per cent.
Not great progress for two thousand years.

Mule Breath... said...

RM:
They think atheists *are* kidnappers, terrorists, and child molesters, so no hope there.

Kat:
Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

Jeg:
Until 140 years ago only white men had the right to vote in this country. It took almost another 100 years before citizens, regardless of race or gender, broke the bigotry barrier. The bigots have just about run out of classes with whom to kiss and make up… maybe we are in line for some change. The advances of every other oppressed class took some form of activism. Maybe we need to see some of that here.

jeg43 said...

I was raised in the south, pretty much by my grandfather as my father died when I was six and my mother was busy busting her ass to keep food and shelter available. He was an old-school gentleman who was absolutely non-committal on the subject of religion and hunted and fished on Sundays as a matter of course. He never went to church in the fifteen years I was close to him and it was a shock when (after his death) I learned he had been a church deacon in his earlier years.
While I was dragged regularly to church as a child, it didn't take and my grandfather gets at least partial credit for that. My feeling that religion is a very personal issue is also due to his influence and it is this feeling that has limited me to quiet disagreement when folks "pound the pulpit."
The methods of the proselytizing religions (are there any other kind?) and right wing republicans are abhorrent to me. Thus, I have trouble doing much more than disagreeing with the religious beliefs when confronted and voting my convictions. You make an excellent point: perhaps we do need some sort of activism to support non-believers. I'll just have to grit my mental teeth and join in.

Mark said...

And yes, it is time to take a stand and insist on the fact that Freedom Of Religion includes Freedom FROM Religion.

I'm think I shall be making a point of using terms like "bigot", "discrimination", "hate crime" and "knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing worshippers of a bronze-age Death Cult".

'Cause if they're going to be that nice to me, then I'm going to be that nice to them. Screw it. I'm sick of tiptoeing about everyone's Invisible Friend then getting kicked around for having a gh0d-free moral compass.

Being told you need a religion to be moral is like being told you need to work for the Gubment to carry a means of self-defence.