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Mar 01 2013

Imagine

Michael Nugent asks what if Ireland discriminated for atheism instead of for religion?

Imagine if 96% of our primary schools were run with an explicitly atheist ethos – not a neutral, secular ethos, but an explictly atheist ethos – where children were taught that there is no god, and that ethos was permeated throughout the entire curriculum.

The idea seems bizarre, doesn’t it. Surplus to requirements, just as god is. It would be odd to have schools run with an explicitly atoothfairy ethos, too. Secular is all that’s needed. Don’t teach math with extra added gremlins, don’t teach biology with added ghosts, don’t teach geography with added atheism. Just skip it. Don’t pack more than you’ll need. That bag will get heavy, so don’t pack a big coat if it’s not going to be cold.

Imagine if our hospitals were run with an explicitly atheist ethos, with signs on the walls saying that there is no god, and with atheist ethics committees, and with the danger of a dying patient being told ‘this is an atheist country’.

And yet without the danger of a dying patient being told ‘this is an atheist country’ as justification for refusing to prevent the patient from dying by completing a miscarriage, because it’s so very difficult to get from atheism to stupid arbitrary cruel anti-human “rules.” For that you need a Holy Superior Being, and atheism is Un that.

I walked up a trail through a park this afternoon and saw on the wide board at the top of the railing a small written message: “All praises for Allah.” What a nasty message, if you think about it. All praises for the imagined entity, so no praises for any real ones. The hell with that, I thought. Save your praises for real achievement.

That’s another one where atheism has no counterpoint. “All praises for no god”? Yeh, nobody would come up with that. Which is Michael Nugent’s point, of course: swapping atheism makes the absurdity of all the deference and knee-bending obvious.

Imagine if an atheist group that runs most of our schools had been found by various tribunals to have been abusing children, and covering up the abuse of children, for decades.

Imagine if an international atheist group, to which that atheist group was affiliated, that acted as if it was also a state, had been involved in moving atheists who abused children from country to country to avoid facing up to the legal responsibilities of their actions.

Imagine if our state continued to have diplomatic relations with that association, and exchanged ambassadors with it as if it were a legitimate State.

Imagine, further, if an atheist group had special magical men – men only – at the top of the group, special magical men who had a special magical connection to…to no-god. And those special magical men were the ones abusing children, and being protected by other special magical men with a special magical connection to no-god. And they all got away with it because the surrounding society is so deferential to atheism and to no-god that it lets these groups act like a law unto themselves. Imagine all that.

It’s hard to do, isn’t it.

Imagine if there was even one explicitly atheist school in Ireland – not a secular school, but an atheist school, that explicitly taught that there was no god.

Imagine that even one set of religious parents was forced by circumstances to send their child to that school.

We would never hear the end of it until it was resolved.

But in Ireland we have multiple times that discrimination continuing without anyone even thinking that it is a problem.

Why do you believe that your religion is more important than our atheism?

The State certainly should not believe that.

Because a special magical god trumps a special magical no-god.

Yes but why does it?

Ah, that’s a tough one.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    jenniferphillips

    All praises for the imagined entity, so no praises for any real ones. The hell with that, I thought. Save your praises for real achievement.

    Yeah, this is the one that always gets me. The range of human achievement never ceases to astound me. Brilliant intellectual breakthroughs, scientific discoveries, artistic masterpieces, triumph over adversity, kindness and compassion–just some of the many ways in which people leave marks to say ‘here is what I did while I was alive’. To take away the personal credit for that achievement and award it entirely to another entity is sad enough. That the entity in question doesn’t even exist makes it unbearably unfair.

  2. 2
    Simon

    That’s another one where atheism has no counterpoint.

    Believe it or not, Justice Alito has claimed in one of his opinions that the ‘IMAGINE’ text in New York’s Central Park as a monument to John Lennon was basically a government endorsement of atheism.

  3. 3
    Simon

    OK, I looked it up and what I said above was not accurate. Here’s more info on what I am referring to:

    apparently, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. today quoted at length from John Lennon.

    It came in Alito’s major ruling in Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, which redefined monuments placed on public land — such as a Ten Commandments monument — as a form of government speech, rather than private speech that can run afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Some briefs had argued that if a memorial was to be regarded as a message conveyed by government, the government ought to be forced to embrace the message through a formal resolution.

    In knocking down that argument, Alito, 58, makes the point that public monuments can convey multiple messages, or messages that change over time. The Statue of Liberty, for example, came to New York as a symbol of friendship between France and the United States, Alito said, and only later became viewed as a beacon welcoming immigrants.

    Similarly — and here’s where Lennon comes in — the mosaic in Central Park in New York City that displays the word “Imagine” as part of the memorial to John Lennon conveys several messages. “Some observers may ‘imagine’ the musical contributions that John Lennon would have made if he had not been killed,” Alito said, while others might think of Lennon’s song by that name, which imagined “a world without religion, countries, possessions, greed or hunger.”

    Alito then drops a footnote that offers the full text of Lennon’s lyrics to the song “Imagine.”

    Source: http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2009/02/justice-alito-imagines-john-lennon.html

  4. 4
    testostyrannical

    It was a unanimous ruling. The case was weird because the the plaintiffs were arguing that if the government erected one monument with a particular message, then it should have to erect their monument too.I’m not really sure what the right way to think about monuments is, but that’s clearly an untenable policy.

  5. 5
    Simon

    I think what Alito was arguing is that a religious monument on government doesn’t imply endorsement any more than an atheist monument and therefore crosses on government property don’t violate the Establishment Clause. Which is reminiscent of Scalia’s “secular cross” line.

  6. 6
    Robert B.

    Hm. I’m not sure I’d assume that atheists aren’t prone to arbitrary stupidity. Yes, we’re against religion, which is one way to ignore (or resist) truth and good sense on a large scale – but if atheists got powerful enough and complacent enough we’d start finding others. Actually, based on what’s been happening to you, I’d say we’re already finding them. If there’s one thing I know about human nature, it’s that stupidity isn’t unique or difficult, it’s easy and ubiquitous. (Also, on a more practical note, if we are resistant to mass stupidity, it is because – and to the extent that – we do not assume we are immune to it.)

  7. 7
    Bjarte Foshaug

    @Robert B
    True. the best thing that can be said about “atheists” in general is that they lack one particular kind of unjustified belief that theists don’t lack. It obviously doesn’t follow that everyone who identifies as an “atheist” does so for good reasons, or that every atheist is also going to reject every other piece of “arbitrary stupidity”.

    To be fair, though, I don’t think that was Michael’s or Ophelia’s point. Atheism may not make you immune to unjustified beliefs, but it doesn’t in and by itself lead you to embrace any such beliefs either, as theism most certainly does. Lack of immunity to “arbitrary stupidity” is still not the same as dedicated endorsement. Atheism per se may not lead to critical thinking, but critical thinking – if applied consistently – does indeed lead to atheism, at least in its weak form. The logic becomes obvious if you substitute “atheist” for “atoothfairy” as Ophelia does.

  8. 8
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Re. atheist “counterparts” to religious concepts, I am hardly the first person to make this observation, but I never cease to be amused by the lengths to which religious believers will go in order to portray atheism as just another faith-based religion. It’s as if they’re acknowledging that faith can’t be rationally justified and invoking the tu quoque fallacy to justify not taking the consequences (“You are doing the same thing yourself, therefore your criticism of faith is unjustified”).

    Nobody wants to be the one holding unjustified beliefs, therefore apologists of all flavors – whether they are believers in God or believers in belief – have made it into an art form to re-frame unjustified belief in X as a rejection of non-belief in X, hence double negatives like “I’m skeptical of skepticism” [=I reject the rejection of unjustified beliefs.] or “I don’t believe in atheism” [=I don't accept non-acceptance of this particular subset of unjustified beliefs.]. If you re-frame unjustified belief in supernatural woo as an absence of philosophical naturalism/materialism/physicalism [=an absence of an absence of another subset of unjustified beliefs], it apparently becomes “sophisticated philosophy” and will be defended, even by otherwise rational people.

    As I have previously written elsewhere, the difference between a naturalist/materialist/physicalist and a non-naturalist/materialist/physicalist isn’t that the former believes in a natural/material/physical universe while the latter does not. The real difference is that the latter believes in something in addition to this universe. To reject naturalism/materialism/physicalism is therefore – strictly speaking – not to subtract an assumption, but to add one.

    To me “naturalism”, “materialism”, “physicalism”, or for that matter “atheism” are just different words for refusing to add something to the picture of reality that’s painted by science without a minimum of justification. Any such addition has to earn its place to make it into my ontology, and Occam’s razor takes care of the rest. This is very different from an a priori commitment to the view that the natural/material/physical universe is all there is. If that’s how you define philosophical naturalism/materialism/physicalism, then I don’t know of any naturalists/materialists/physicalists.

  9. 9
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes, it’s the whole addition thing that I balk at most. I’m a minimalist this way.

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