Thursday, January 12, 2012

Let Freedom Ring

This week, Jessica Alquist won a hard-fought court battle over a prayer posted in her public high school’s gymnasium.  The court found the prayer unconstitutional, and ordered its immediate removal.  Jessica is an inspiration to the ideals set forth in the First Amendment.  She is a credit to her school, her community and her nation.

Not surprisingly, the backlash has been harsh for Jessica.  Indeed, the judge in his decision noted that the school board meetings she attended would often turn into religious revivals.  People in high-ranking positions flagrantly chastised Jessica for standing up for her rights and the rights of all Americans.  The opposition used religious language, and even quoted the bible.  In the end, this noise helped Jessica’s case.  Part of the Lemon test is if the subject of dispute holds a primarily secular purpose.   With people espousing personal religious beliefs and quoting scripture, it was clear to the judge and to all that this banner was in no way primarily secular.

More than this, since her victory, Jessica has been bombarded with renewed harassment.  All this animosity is curious to me.  The anger and spite shown to Jessica is astounding.  And yet, her victory ensures the people who disagree with her, can still disagree.

See, the thing is that this wall that separates church and state protects the church just as much as it protects the state.  While religion is kept out of government, people will be free to worship any god or gods they choose, or none at all.  We enjoy free exercise, and live without any pressure from government to have or not have faith.  This is the principle of the First Amendment.

Perhaps religious people don’t understand that if there is no wall, we all lose.  Perhaps they think everyone thinks like them.  Perhaps they think people will convert if the government endorses their position.  Perhaps they should figure it out.

Victories like Jessica’s aren’t just for atheists.  They are for the religious as well.  Perhaps even more so.  This victory allows the debate over the triune god, the salvation by faith, the transubstantiation, the virgin birth, and all other theological questions to go on.  This keeps those differences, those denominations, those sects alive.  This empowers the religious people to hold to their delusions as much as they want.  They will receive no criticism from government.

But they will from me.   

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Positive Atheism

If you listen to the Atheist Experience, you’ll hear their motto is they promote “positive atheism and the separation of church and state”.   I like the phrase, “positive atheism”, but what does it mean?

I don’t think the AE crew means that they promote “hard” or “strong” atheism.  That is the belief that god is imaginary.  This is slightly different than the “soft” or “weak” atheist, who simply lacks a belief in gods.  I’ve said before that I am a strong atheist, but since I don’t think that is what AE means by positive atheism, I’ll save all that for later. 

I think the AE crew means that there are positive things about atheism that are often overlooked.  Perhaps there are also things about atheists that are misunderstood, misconstrued, or misinterpreted.  I think the idea is that there are positive things that come from the absence of god belief, and they want to try to emphasize them.

I heard on another podcast the term, “goblin atheist”.  This was used to describe the stereotype of atheists.  I think the pod cast was Ask an Atheist.  Anyway, the person using the term defined it as the atheist most religious people think is the norm, yet I’ve met none.  This atheist is angry ay god, having suffered some horrible twist of fate that the atheist blames god for inflicting upon him.  The “goblin atheist’ is angry, callous, mean, and hurtful.  He sees god as most religious people see the devil, as evil, diabolical and vicious.  The point was that this person, while there may be a few who fit the stereotype, is not the most common sample of atheist.  This is the outlier, the anomaly, the abnormality.  I have to say, I’ve met many atheists; I’ve not encountered a goblin.

Instead, I find atheists who are filled with joy, harmony, peace, and skepticism.  I find people who seek knowledge, truth and wisdom.  I find atheists who look for community and friendship.  If they are bitter about anything, it is the ever-encroaching, ever-intruding, ever-perverting force of religion.  If they are angry about anything, it is how victories in freedom of speech allow nutbags like the Westboro Baptists to protest funerals.  And yet, they remain focused on helping those who have come to reason to find each other, to network together, and support one another.

I think atheism is a positive thing.  It holds no supernatural savior will help us; we must help ourselves.  We must help each other.  God isn’t here; we are.