American Blood: Why the Atheist Fight is Everybody’s Fight

I’m sure you’ve caught the controversy over the mangled-beam cross at the 9/11 memorial site, and the fact that atheists oppose the thing.

You’ve probably also caught the blowback, which includes online death threats to atheists by nice Christians.

Responding to the subject on Facebook, a commenter named Janice D. blamed atheists for the whole thing:

“Yes, the Christians are feeling very threatened in today’s political climate [...] Their God IS being kicked out of everywhere in the name of political correctness.”

To which I say …

First, is somebody really defending the right of people to make death threats to those who disagree with them?

Second: IT’S NOT IN THE NAME OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.

It’s in the name of equal rights, and the constitutional principal of separation of church and state.

To the people being denied those equal rights, a response like Janice’s (definitely not hers alone, by the way) is as offensive and insensitive as all those white bystanders during the civil rights movement, who said stuff like “I just don’t get why these negroes are so angry. Why can’t they just get along?”

Yes, the Christians are feeling threatened. On the other hand, they STILL make up something like 85 percent of the people in the U.S. Every law passed in this country, every court judgment, goes through Christian hands. Every legislative body, from town councils up to Congress, is run almost 100 percent by professed Christians. You have to look VERY carefully at governmental bodies to find so much as a single Jew, much less a Shintoist, a Muslim, a Hindu … or an atheist.

Speaking of the civil rights movement, there’s something a lot of us probably never think of.

All that stuff the African-Americans did during the movement? You know, the marching, the demonstrating, the getting sprayed with fire hoses and attacked by dogs, the part where they suffered beatings and terror and murder?

THEY DIDN’T DO IT ONLY FOR THEMSELVES.

They did it for everybody. They did it so EVERYBODY could have civil rights. So EVERYBODY could be safer from beatings, and arrests, and lynchings, and being dragged out of their homes and burned to death by their neighbors just for being in some way different.

Black people paid that price so that every generation that came after could enjoy greater freedom and safety. But also, so that every generation could understand that being different – different from the majority – was okay.

In this sense, you can say that the civil rights movement was fought for the rights of black people AND for the rights of white people.

That’s the thing about equality: If you win it for yourself, you win it for everybody.

Civil rights was definitely about the RIGHT to be treated equally, but it was also about the RESPONSIBILITY of the people in power, the ones in the majority, to understand that nothing must get in they way of treating everyone equally.

Because, surprise, surprise, people aren’t “black” and “white,” or “them” and “us,” they’re just people. They’re the same.

Because of this second part, decades later, when the gay rights movement started, we saw the parallel to the civil rights movement and understood the point a lot faster: Gay people deserved equal rights.

Of course they did. Not because they were “gay.” Because they were PEOPLE.

The blood and determination of African-Americans had paid for that lesson.

In like fashion, the things the gay community did – in the face of the same death threats, the same beatings and arrests and blatant oppression (but nowhere near as purely evil as what happened to African-Americans, because things had changed) – they didn’t do it just for themselves. They did it for EVERYBODY.

They did it so that every future generation could be free to choose the nature of their personal relationships. They did it so that all the kids who would be born and, coming to discover that they were different, wouldn’t be thrown out of their homes and communities by the ignorance and hate of their parents and neighbors.

But again, they also did it so that all the others, all the non-gay people, could learn to understand this basic point of equality: When you’re defining humanity and apportioning rights, just as there is no dividing line between “black” and “white,” there is no dividing line between “gay” and “straight.”

Likewise, the women’s rights movement was and is about the rights of women … but it also was and is about the rights of men. What women did, they did for EVERYBODY.

Finally, in the matter of the current battle: Yes, the main point we atheists hope to impress upon people is that atheists deserve equal rights. Equal representation.

But the other point – again – is that EVERYBODY deserves equal rights, equal treatment. The powerful majority – whether it be white people, or straight people, or men, or Christians – does not have the right to treat others in a way that denies them life and liberty, equal access to the advantages and protections of citizenship.

So the things atheists are doing, they’re not doing it only for themselves.

We want EVERYBODY to have the right to think and live free. We want EVERYBODY to be able to use their own independent minds, and to speak their conclusions freely in public without death threats or social shunning. We want ALL children to have access to an education based on facts and reality, untainted by narrow sectarian views or mythology.

As we’ve seen in all these past battles – civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights –  the thing about equality is that it’s not something you can enjoy in exclusivity.

If you win equality, you win it for everybody.

 

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It’s been pointed out to me that ALL of the battles I reference here — fights involving race, gender and orientation — are ongoing. And yes, I absolutely agree.

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School Persecutes Innocent Christians

After weeks of meeting behind closed doors to come up with a suitable scheme, debauched officials of the Desert Sands Unified School District viciously attacked the treasured freedom of speech of good Christians everywhere, when they chose to deliberately assault the Constitution-loving sensibilities of two perfectly innocent believers by denying them their right to place good American Bible verses in Desert Sands schools.

The utterly offended individuals, who had no idea that Bible verses and overt Christian messages aimed at the district’s school children might be frowned upon by non-Christians — such as heavy-browed Muslims, computer tech support immigrants with thick accents and saffron-discolored teeth, not to mention condom-wearing atheists — expressed their displeasure, rightfully, by suing the school district.

Ostensibly conceived as a fundraiser featuring memorial bricks intended to be placed at new buildings on Palm Desert High School’s campus, the mis-conceived effort was without doubt an attempt to deny full American rights to two good Christian women, the delicate flowers known in court filings as Lou Ann Hart and Sheryl Caronna.

“Christians should be allowed to express themselves on public school campuses just like everyone else,” said David Cortman, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, the conservative Christian organization which initiated the lawsuit for Hart and Caronna.

Cortman rightly noted “It is cowardly to shut down everyone’s participation in this program simply out of animosity toward Christian speech. There is absolutely nothing unconstitutional about a Bible verse on a brick when a school opens up a program for anyone to express a personal message. The school could simply have allowed the Bible verses, but instead, it chose to punish everyone.”

As the school had already accepted a brick inscribed with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi, a brown-skinned non-Christian known to be from India, there can be absolutely no doubt about the true purpose behind the whole scheme.

Though the school district was forced to cancel the entire fundraising effort, to return the $45,000 raised so far to every community group or individual who purchased a memorial brick, and to pay court costs out of sharply-limited school district funds for the tragically oppressed and completely shocked ladies, Christians everywhere, who have long been bent under the yoke of oppression by the roughly 15 percent of Americans who have a variety of misguided, AIDS-spreading non-Christian beliefs, celebrated.

Officials of Palm Desert High School, which is about 10 miles east of Palm Springs, California, declined to comment on the story, citing pending legal action and an untapped kegger in the board’s secret meeting room and lube-splashed hot tub grotto.

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A New Hope for America!

Submission.

No, really.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas — my home state, by the way, the formerly wild, proud, independent place I was born — has a sensational idea for fixing things.

There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.

He actually said that. The equivalent of  “On your knees, Americans! Surrender! Give up, let it go, turn over control to someone else.”

The sad fact is that a LOT of people, broken by religion, will really believe this is their last hope, and they need to do exactly that. They will hit their knees and be happy about it. Expecting that if they are obedient, submissive and obsequious enough, that someone else will fix everything for them.

America is in the midst of a historic crisis. We have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. The youth of America are in grave peril economically, socially, and, most of all, morally. There are threats emerging within our nation and beyond our borders beyond our power to solve.

Gah. This is pure fear motivation, a predator’s bite aimed to hamstring the prey by shutting down whatever critical, rational faculty he still possesses, rendering him helpless for any response but trembling obedience.

Take special note of the “beyond our power to solve” phrase. Is this the voice of a leader encouraging his people to RISE UP? To meet whatever challenges we face? To tough it out, see it through, and keep on trying and working no matter what, because that’s the kind of people we Texans, we Americans, we humans, are?

Or is it the voice of a manipulative parasite who will do anything to keep power over his victims, and damn the long-term consequences?

Sorry, but I can’t resist a historical comparison: If Rick Perry had been the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II instead of Winston Churchill, who said, before Nazi Germany’s massive 1940 air attack, the Battle of Britain …

We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

… Post WWII history would be very different.

The registration page for the event features two check boxes:

I want to fast one day a week between now and August 6 and pray for The Response and our nation.

.

I want to set apart August 1 – 6 to spend a focused time of consecration in prayer and fasting for The Response and our nation. Please send me The Response’s daily prayer guide during those 7 days to help me prepare.

I’m curious about the “daily prayer guide,” so I checked that box. I expect I’ll be getting something in my in-box any day now.

………………………………

I wish Molly Ivins was still around. Ivins was the author and political commentator who found so much humor in Texas and national politics, and referred to the Texas governor as Rick “Goodhair” Perry. This would be meat and potatoes for her. We miss you, Molly.

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Easter Trash 3

voting booth

Voting Booth

Remember this post from last November, about the hazards of siting voting booths in churches?

Turns out I was probably right. The story is a year old, but the conclusions are as fresh as the day they were written:  Five separate studies show a correlation between WHERE you vote and HOW you vote.

Polling locations can exert a powerful and precise influence on political attitudes and decision-making,” psychologist Abraham Rutchick of California State University, Northridge, writes in the journal Political Psychology. He describes five studies that, together, ‘suggest that the use of churches as polling places could be advantageous to politically conservative candidates and to supporters of conservative positions on abortion, same-sex marriage and other relevant issues.’

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Easter Trash 2

A British woman on holiday in Orlando, Florida saw a 16-month-old baby dangling from a fourth-floor balcony. She ran under the kid and caught her as she fell something like 30 feet. According to the stories, the kid wasn’t even bruised.

The mother’s tedious response?

I’m thanking the Lord above right now for saving my child’s life. I’m also thanking that lady because she was an angel sent from heaven.

Sadly, she’s probably serious.

And this is yet another of the hidden harms religion does in our society. The gratitude owed to the heroic woman of the story, Helen Beard, is diverted off into goddy channels.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the baby’s mother, or some other relative, will go to church this Sunday and donate generously … to people who had nothing, and less than nothing, to do with it. And the story to be told in the church will include praise of all the mythical glories of their god, and less than half of the glories of big-hearted, compassionate, heroic Helen Beard.

Fortunately, authorities of Orange County, where the incident happened, were more generous. Sheriff Jeffy Demings praised her at a presentation of the Medal of Merit, which is rarely given to anyone but police officers:

Mrs. Beard showed unusual instinct and initiative when she exited from the swimming pool area and was able to catch the child as she fell, thus saving her from extreme physical injuries and/or death.

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Banning Dogs

Anyone who’s read me for any length of time knows what I think of dogs: They’re just about the best thing humans ever invented.

But they’re also “selves” in themselves. My definition of “people” is very broad, and dogs — whom I know to have feelings, consciousness, and a great deal of life-stuff that is uniquely their own, things humans never get to know — qualify.

I feel this so strongly that I have a passionate distaste for the people who breed any of the small deformed breeds. You can’t call a dog your friend if you’ve participated in any way in making him/her helpless and unhealthy. Moreover, you can’t accept a living being into your life (and under your complete control), and then DO things to it just for your own amusement.

So here comes Islam, showing me yet another reason to dislike it. Apparently dogs are unclean — “impure and dangerous” — in the eyes of Islam, and 39 members of the Iranian parliament have put forth a bill that would outlaw the walking and keeping of dogs.

Walking dangerous, unhealthy or unclean animals such as dogs in places and public transport is forbidden.

It would be illegal even to have a dog in an apartment.

The bill provides a fine ranging from $100 to $500, and forcible confiscation of the animal by “health authorities” if the owner doesn’t dispose of it within 10 days.

None of the stories I located said anything about what would be done with the “unclean” animals, but they’re obviously not going to be transported to adoption centers and then freed to live in nice homes elsewhere. They’re just going to kill them, don’t you think?

Apparently there are not many dogs in Iran. One story said dog numbers probably numbered a few thousand, at most. But that’s a few thousand dogs that will be killed just because a bunch of medieval old fuckers want to assert the power of their ugly myths over some poor, defenseless animals who had no choice about any of it.

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