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Aug 16 2012

4 Reasons Atheists Have to Fight for Their Rights

This piece was originally published on AlterNet.

In the U.S., atheists have laws protecting us. But laws aren’t always obeyed, or enforced — and fighting for legal rights can have dire consequences.

“You atheists are just taking on the mantle of victimhood. There are laws protecting you — especially the First Amendment. Therefore, you’re not really discriminated against. And it’s ridiculous for you to claim that you are.”

Atheist activists get this one a lot. When we speak out about ways that anti-atheist bigotry plays out, we’re told that we’re not really oppressed. We’re told that, because we have legal protection, because anti-atheist discrimination is illegal, therefore we don’t really have any problems, and we’re just trying to gain unearned sympathy and win the victim Olympics. (I’d love to hear Bob Costas do the commentary for that!) It’s a classic Catch-22: If we speak out about oppression and point to examples of it, we’re accused of “playing the victim card,” and the oppression becomes invisible. And if we don’t speak out about oppression … then the oppression once again becomes invisible.

If you’ve ever made this “discrimination against atheists is against the law, therefore atheists need to shut up” argument, I have some really bad news for you. You may want to sit down for this, it may come as a shock:

People sometimes break the law.

thief posterTheft is against the law — but people sometimes steal. Bribery is against the law — but people sometimes bribe other people. Arson is against the law — but people sometimes set buildings on fire.

And anti-atheist discrimination is against the law. In the United States, anyway. But people still sometimes discriminate against atheists.

It’s illegal for public schools to prevent students from viewing atheist websites, while allowing them to look at religious ones. But the San Antonio Independent School District did it anyway.

It’s illegal to make atheists swear religious oaths when they testify in court. But the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Fort Myers did it anyway.

It’s illegal for the U.S. military to spend money evangelizing to U.S. soldiers, or to demand that U.S. soldiers attend chapel, or to order U.S. soldiers to take a “spiritual fitness” test and order them to visit evangelizing chaplains when they fail it. But the U.S. military did it anyway.

It’s illegal for businesses to give church-goers discounts that they don’t give to non-believers. But the Fisherman’s Quarters II restaurant in Asheville, N.C. did it anyway.

It’s illegal to deny atheist organizations the right to advertise in venues where religious groups advertise regularly. But when American Atheists and the NEPA Freethought Society tried to place a bus ad in Pennsylvania that simply had the word, “Atheists,” with the names and URLs of the organizations in smaller type, the transit system rejected the ad because it was “too controversial.”

It’s illegal to deny atheist students in public high schools the right to organize clubs. But it happens all the time. Talk to Secular Student Alliance high school specialist JT Eberhard. He spends a ridiculous amount of his working day pushing high school administrations to stop throwing up illegal roadblocks to atheist students, and to let them have the clubs they’re legally allowed to have.

And the list goes on, and on, and on.

ffrf_logoTalk to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or Americans United for Separation of Church and State, or the National Center for Science Education, or the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, or American Atheists. Ask them about the lawsuits they’re filing every month — heck, every week — about public school prayers, bible instruction in public schools, public schools’ promotion of faith and religious activities as “developmental assets,” government displays of the Ten Commandments and other religious texts, city council meetings and other government events being opened with prayers, religious creationism being taught in the public schools, or any of hundreds of similar incidents.

And then tell me — or any other atheist — that we don’t experience discrimination.

Getting anti-discrimination laws and court rulings is hugely important for any marginalized group. But it’s only a first step. After that, you typically have to play a decades-long game of Whack-A-Mole, in which violations of the law pop up in local venues all over the country, and have to be smacked down again, and again, and again. That’s true of sex discrimination, it’s true of racial discrimination, it’s true of sexual orientation discrimination in states where that’s illegal. To give just one example among zillions: It’s illegal for banks to discriminate in lending practices on the basis of race… and yet Wells Fargo just settled a $175 million lawsuit over charging higher fees and rates on housing loans to racial minorities. Not in 1946, not in 1969 — in the last decade, in the years 2004 to 2009. It’s illegal to do that. It’s been illegal to do that for decades. They did it anyway. The mere existence of anti-discrimination laws is no guarantee that those laws will be obeyed.

So yes. Anti-atheist discrimination is illegal in the United States — and it happens anyway. I know. I haz a sad. And I’m going to have to hit you with even more bad news:

Standing up for your legal rights sometimes has ugly consequences.

thief posterAsk Jessica Ahlquist. High school student and atheist Jessica Ahlquist fought a legal battle she never should have had to fight: the battle to get her public, taxpayer-paid high school to take down a prayer banner from the auditorium. From a purely legal perspective, this was an utterly non-controversial issue: decades of legal precedent clearly supported her position, and to anyone familiar with the law, the ruling in her favor was almost entirely unsurprising.

But as a result of filing this lawsuit, Ahlquist was bullied, ostracized, and threatened with violence. She was called “evil” in public by her state representative, and was targeted with multiple threats of brutal violence, rape, and death. And no, this wasn’t just from hateful strangers trolling on the Internet — it came from her own schoolmates and her own community. And no, this wasn’t in the Bible Belt — it was in Rhode Island.

And Ahlquist is hardly alone. When atheist student Damon Fowler tried to stop his public high school from having an illegal prayer at his graduation, he was physically threatened, publicly demeaned by one of his teachers, pilloried and ostracized by his community, and kicked out of his home by his parents. When atheist student Skyler Curtis tried to publicize his group at his high school, his posters were torn down, the local newspaper ran a letter from a parent calling his atheism an “atrocity,” and he received threats of violence. When atheist John Kieffer protested prayers at his local school board meeting, he was arrested.

Not everyone is able to fight these fights. Not everyone is able to risk hateful ostracism and violent threats from their community. It’s hard enough for a 16-year-old high school student like Jessica Ahlquist to face down this kind of venomous hostility. It’s even harder when you’re trying to hold down a job and support your family, and you literally can’t afford to alienate your bosses and co-workers and customers. Yes, the law is mostly on our side, and atheists and church-state separation advocates generally win these lawsuits . (Although not always — more on that in a tic.) But it doesn’t do much good to have the law on your side if fighting a legal battle is going to destroy your life.

And I have yet another piece of shocking news for you. I know, the terrible news just keeps on coming:

Sometimes laws aren’t enforced.

child custody bookTo give just one appalling example: It is — or it should be — illegal to deny custody to atheist parents, purely and explicitly on the basis of their atheism. And yet this happens, again and again and again. It has happened in states including Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas. According to Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy, “In 2001, for instance, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld an order giving a mother custody partly because she took the child to church more often than the father did, thus providing a better ‘future religious example.’ In 2000, it ordered a father to take the child to church each week, as a [lower] Mississippi court ordered… reasoning that ‘it is certainly to the best interests of [the child] to receive regular and systematic spiritual training.’”

Try to imagine a judge in this country denying or limiting custody to a parent, explicitly and specifically, because they were Jewish. Because they were Mormon. Because they were Baptist. And now, try to imagine a judge in this country denying or limiting custody to a parent, explicitly and specifically because they’re an atheist. You don’t have to imagine it. This is real. This happens.

It is illegal. Or it should be. But custody laws vary greatly from state to state — and family court is something of a special case, where judges have far more leeway than they do in other courts. So this is a very, very difficult legal battle to fight. The laws against it exist — but they are very difficult to enforce.

And finally, I have one last piece of earth-shattering news that will almost certainly shake your worldview to its foundations:

Not all bigotry is illegal.

gavelThe fact that atheists are the least-trusted group in America? Totally screwed-up — and totally legal. The fact that atheists are the minority group Americans least want their children to marry? Totally screwed-up — and totally legal. The fact that only 54 percent of Americans think atheists could share their vision of society? Totally screwed-up — and totally legal. The fact that only 54 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist for President — a lower number than any other group? Totally screwed-up — and totally legal. People have the legal right to not vote for an atheist… just like they have the legal right to not vote for a woman, or an African-American, or a Muslim, or a Jew. It’s still discrimination. It’s still screwed-up.

And it’s still worth fighting.

Plus, of course, all of this is just in the United States, where we do have a Constitution that ostensibly gives us the legal right to not be religious. In much of the world, the situation for atheists is far worse. In much of the world, it is literally against the law to be an atheist, and to say so, and to say anything critical of religion. To give just one example of many: In Indonesia, atheist Alexander Aan was beaten by a mob, arrested, convicted, and sentenced to over two years in prison — for stating his atheism on Facebook. (There is currently a petition to the White House, asking President Obama to speak out about the Alexander Aan case and call on the Indonesian government to correct this gross violation of human rights.)

Is anti-atheist bigotry as bad as homophobia or racism, misogyny or transphobia? No. Almost certainly not. Not in the U.S., anyway. It’s worse in some ways — we consistently show up in polls as the least trusted group in America, and the least likely to be voted for — but atheists don’t seem to be subject to the same level of physical violence as gay or trans people, or the same level of economic oppression as women or people of color.

That’s not the point. Here is the point.

If you were mugged, nobody would tell you, “Quit whining — there are laws against mugging, you have legal protection, you don’t have anything to complain about.” The fact that there are laws against mugging did not stop you from getting mugged. It is reasonable for you to say something about it, and to express distress that it happened. And if muggings are happening a lot in your town or your country, it is reasonable to ask your community to pay attention, and to do something about it.

Atheists are getting mugged. Atheists are experiencing real, law-breaking discrimination. The fact that it’s illegal does not always stop it from happening. It is reasonable for us to speak out about it. And it is reasonable for us to expect people to give a damn. It is reasonable to expect our friends, our families, our colleagues, our communities, our country, to pay attention — and to do something about it.

31 comments

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  1. 1
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Well written and so true. Thanks.

  2. 2
    Timid Atheist

    To give just one appalling example: It is — or it should be — illegal to deny custody to atheist parents, purely and explicitly on the basis of their atheism. And yet this happens, again and again and again. It has happened in states including Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas. According to Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy, “In 2001, for instance, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld an order giving a mother custody partly because she took the child to church more often than the father did, thus providing a better ‘future religious example.’ In 2000, it ordered a father to take the child to church each week, as a [lower] Mississippi court ordered… reasoning that ‘it is certainly to the best interests of [the child] to receive regular and systematic spiritual training.’”

    This is exactly why I do all that I can to hide my real identity. My ex and I don’t agree on custody and I know that he would, without a doubt, use this as an excuse to try to take what time I do have with our child away. In the state that I live in the judge looks at a list of ten things that every child should have. One of those things is spirituality. And atheism goes against that in a big way.

  3. 3
    Nothing

    Bravo!

  4. 4
    r3formed

    I agree! We should remove/destroy/prevent any and all activity that offends anyone! We should start a group! Yea! Something that establishes a set of rules we would then all live by so no one gets offended ever! We’ll call it the Moral Majorit…

    Wait… Maybe that’s not such a good idea.

    I think most people complain about things to hear themselves talk and justify their beliefs. Even Christians *shock* *gasp*
    It’s ridiculous to say that there isn’t a problem, although I would ask atheists to look at the root of it and try to change that. (same thing I would tell anyone)

    How do we legislate that though? Especially without offending or alienating another group? (anyone involved with the moral majority I propose the same questions to you)

  5. 5
    Nick Gotts

    I agree! We should remove/destroy/prevent any and all activity that offends anyone! – r3formed

    That is a gross misrepresentation of the OP, as you must oknow. I suppose we should be grateful that you make your bad faith obvious right from the start of your comment.

    I think most people complain about things to hear themselves talk and justify their beliefs.

    Do you have any evidence for that, or is it just an illustration of your prejudices?

    It’s ridiculous to say that there isn’t a problem, although I would ask atheists to look at the root of it and try to change that.

    Well, don’t keep this useful information to yourself: what is “the root of it”, in your opinion?

  6. 6
    Hellbound Alleee

    “I agree! We should remove/destroy/prevent any and all activity that offends anyone!”

    If anyone needs a description of a “Straw Man Argument,” we’ve got a peach of a one right here.

    Go ahead and tell that to a mother or father who can’t see his/her children.

    http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Georgia_mother_loses_child_custody_over_humorous_religion

    Now, while the Church of the SubGenius is not explicitly atheist, it is atheistic in a sort of skewed way. Reverend Belaqua lost custody explicitly because she made fun of Christianity at a SubGenius event, and a conservative Christian judge took offense to that (“Why a goat?”*). 100,000 dollars later, her mostly grown-up son is with her–but she is not allowed to have any SubGenius materials in her home. The humor in this is that any SubGenius knows that Sub materials are not limited to literature written by famous SubGenii, or books with “Bob” on them. We consider “BullDada” to be SubGenius material. Not that any non-SubGenius judge would know BullDada (including bizarre, fundamentalist Christian rantings)from anything else.

    What is Bulldada? http://www.subgenius.com/pam1/pamphlet_p8.html

    *http://notesfromthegeekshow.blogspot.com/2006/06/why-goat.html

  7. 7
    GreaterThanLapsed

    Nice article, but it seems a bit of a straw man. Very few people are actually saying that atheists don’t face discrimination–only that atheists need to keep things in perspective and that atheists very often experience race, class, and/or gender privileges that enable them to center their activism around atheism.

    It’s not right for a school to have prayers posted in the gym, but that’s not exactly forcing people to be Christian. It’s more like something that is mildly annoying and technically unconstitutional. It’s nice that people are able and willing to stand up for these minor breaches of the law, but if a prayer banner in your school gym is the biggest source of oppression in your life maybe you are extremely privileged to have so few worries.

    Even the supposed accounts of discrimination against atheists in custody hearings are something that I have a hard time giving a lot of credence to these days, as movement atheism seems to increasingly overlap with so-called Men’s Rights activism.

    To be sure, there are some nasty things happening to atheists internationally, but there are also nasty things happening to, say, Muslims and Sikhs in the US. AND the marginalization of Muslims (and the danger that extends to people like the Sikhs who may be mistaken for Muslims) is something that has been contributed to in no small part by atheists. Christopher Hitchens was a notable warhawk and eliminationist. Sam Harris has written in favor of things like torture and racial profiling. Ayaan Hirsi Ali remains popular, in spite of basically her entire life story being a lie to slander Islam for her own personal gain. And so on.

    Atheists may be the “least trusted” or “least desirable as in-laws” minority in the US, but we’re generally not in danger because of it. Even in situations like Jessica Alquist’s, she was not facing threats to her safety simply for existing as an atheist–she was facing retaliation against her actions, which were a threat to the status quo. It’s not her fault, and it’s not okay, but that type of retaliation is largely to be expected when you engage in any type of activism–and engaging in activism is a choice. If you are not an activist or otherwise public atheist, you will likely live your whole life without being threatened for being an atheist.

    It’s cool if atheists want to center their activist efforts around atheism, but it would be nice if they didn’t act as if it’s the most important work they can do–or even as if there is some kind of united atheist movement with universal goals, which is most assuredly not the case. There is a fractured atheist movement, with a bunch of white dudes worried about prayers at high school graduations, a bunch of Ayn Rand worshiping misogynists, a handful of white women willing to throw in with the men who are running the show, and a confused minority of atheists who have an interest in social justice but haven’t yet become completely disillusioned by the continued popularity of Bill Maher and Penn Jillette as atheist heroes.

    It’s not that people don’t think anti-atheist discrimination happens–it’s that many atheists take it at once too seriously (by focusing on it as an exclusive activist issue) and not seriously enough (by focusing on trivialities like dusty prayer banners in forgotten corners of high schools).

  8. 8
    r3formed

    “That is a gross misrepresentation of the OP, as you must oknow. I suppose we should be grateful that you make your bad faith obvious right from the start of your comment.”

    Yes it was a gross misrepresentation. It was meant as hyperbole to illustrate the point. ( I also employed satire) I guess I should be grateful that you pointed out your inability to notice literary devices right from the start of your rebuttal.

    “Do you have any evidence for that, or is it just an illustration of your prejudices?”

    I began the statement with I think so…
    although i would certainly consider this opinion it is based off life experiences, or prejudices as you call them, and gathered evidence. I haven’t written a book on the idea or anything but i would think:)that many psychologists and sociologists would agree.

    “Well, don’t keep this useful information to yourself: what is “the root of it”, in your opinion?”

    Although I didn’t profess to have any secret knowledge I would be glad to provide you with my prejudice filled opinion. I think:) that some of it comes from the same place that many atheists aversion comes from. Many in the new atheist movement possess this evangelic tendency to spread the gospel of truth as they see fit, as do many Christians, and people tend to not like being told they are wrong. The point of the statement was to encourage introspection. 

    I don’t know why I expected someone involved in the new atheist movement to be able to see a root cause. You all still think religion is the source of the worlds woes. 

     

     

  9. 9
    Responder

    Timid Atheist, I am an ordained minister and your custody battle saddens me. Please look into the book called “The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality.” It provides some really great arguments you and your lawyers could use in court to get you more time with your child. You should not have to hide what you are and what you believe because someone else does not agree with you.

    R3formed, I really dont like how you group everyone together. Not every person in the atheist movement wants you to be a part of it and from my own personal experiences people who profess to be atheists generally dont discuss religion unless it’s brought up. So your “evangelical” point I call moot.
    The root of the problem is that we’re different. We dont think the same. We do not agree on a fact-based set of truths, and therefore we can argue theory forever. And many people boo hoo over that. I personally love it. I will argue with someone until the cows come home (and I dont have any cows). If they would read the Bible (for example) more closely and take in some context clues “Do unto your neighbor as you would have done unto yourself” is more than a nice thing to say, it’s saying that if you want people to keep their noses out of your business you’ll stay out of theirs and in so doing you will find inner peace and spiritual freedom.

  10. 10
    researchtobedone

    This seems pertinent:

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2012/08/rudyard_kipling_1.html

    “You must remember, though you will not understand, that all laws weaken in a small and hidden community where there is no public opinion.”

  11. 11
    Greta Christina

    GreaterThanLapsed @ #7: I will leave it to others to eviscerate your “who cares about a dusty old prayer banner” argument, as I have actual work to do today. I will just take a moment to point out two quick things.

    One: Yes, some people do, in fact, make the argument that atheist have legal protection and therefore don’t have to worry about discrimination. Some people also make a different bad argument — that anti-atheist discrimination isn’t as bad as other forms of discrimination, and therefore we shouldn’t worry about it. I have seen both bad arguments. The existence of the latter does not negate the existence of the former.

    Two: Anti-atheist discrimination takes many forms other than “dusty prayer banners in schools.” They are extensively documented with numerous links in this piece — including documentation of anti-atheist discrimination in custody cases. If you can’t be bothered to click on a few links to investigate the claim you’re arguing against, please don’t waste our time by commenting here. Thank you.

  12. 12
    researchtobedone

    “You all still think religion is the source of a significant enough portion of the worlds woes that it is a subject which demands addressing.”

    Made that accurate for you.

    “Yes it was a gross misrepresentation. It was meant as hyperbole to illustrate the point.”

    Taking an idea to an extreme only works as an arguing point if you’re taking the actual idea that was used to an extreme, rather than a distortion of that idea. Hence, yes, it was a gross misrepresentation, because you were hyperbolizing something that no one said. Offense is not the same as discrimination.

  13. 13
    r3formed

    Responder,

    I would agree that my blanket statements certainy do not represent the whole atheist movement and I did construct a little bit of a straw man. Most atheists that I talk to do not engage in religious discussion as well.

    There are some though and many of those people and their ideas are expressed on this site. Being an ordained minister I would hope a familiarity with words would exist but I apologize if I’m jumping to conclusions, there are many ways to say all. I can be using in reference to all people or just a subset of those people. John 3:16 is a great example of that.

    I stick by my lumping together. Those involved in the new atheist movement make ridiculous claims such as religion being responsible for the worlds woes.

  14. 14
    r3formed

    Researchtobedone,

    If religion is the source of a significant amount of the worlds woes then why is their still violence and strife in places where religion has been made illegal?

    The problem is never an object or an idea but rather the person.

    To use a cliche’d argument
    Guns don’t kill people
    People kill people

  15. 15
    r3formed

    Oh and I’m pretty sure I said it was a gross misrepresentation. 

    Never denied that

    It was use to illustrate the point I was making that no one has addressed. 

    It’s one thing to say there is a problem and someone should fix it

    It’s a different thing entirely to say there is a problem and this will fix it. 

    Make sense?

  16. 16
    GreaterThanLapsed

    Greta Christina @ #11

    I don’t think I ever said “who cares about a dusty old prayer banner.” I simply think that it’s a relatively trivial issue to have been turned into such a cause celebre for atheists. Obviously Jessica Alquist cared about it, and she did something about it, which is great. It just seems to me that those sorts of issues get a wildly disproportionate amount of attention in the atheist community.

    In regard to your “One” point, my opinion is neither that atheist discrimination doesn’t happen nor that it’s not “as bad” as other forms of discrimination. Only that the ways in which atheists are marginalized generally do not rise to the level of “oppression” (at least in the West). I would also argue that many “atheist issues” are not strictly atheist issues at all but issues that affect anyone who is not at least nominally Christian and that forming explicitly atheist activist groups is exclusionary and even counterproductive to producing change.

    In regard to your “Two” point, I have read the links you included, and I have seen similar examples for several years now of reading atheist blogs (although I’m down to just reading yours and a handful of others these days). As far as the custody cases go, it’s not that I can’t conceive of them being true and it’s not that I even think any of the ones cited there are necessarily false. I simply find myself skeptical of them. As custody decisions are often based on sets of complex factors, I am hesitant to accept without question simplistic claims like “I didn’t get custody of my kids because I’m an atheist.”

  17. 17
    r3formed

    Although you may not appreciate my endorsement greaterthanlapsed it is nice to see a rational voice. The atheist movement needs more people making statements like you make.

    Mine isn’t one. I have too much fun.

  18. 18
    Makoto

    @16 GreaterThanLapsed – there are always more important issues to worry about. It doesn’t matter how big your issue is, there’s always something bigger. If you worry about prayer banners, there’s someone else worried about adoption. If you’re worried about adoption, there’s someone else worried about abuse. And so on, and so on.

    Jessica is celebrated because she stood up for what is right, what is legal, and what is in the Constitution, put up with abuse and death threats, and still won her case. It’s not because a prayer banner is such a big thing. If she’d posted her complaint and the banner was properly removed per the law, her name would likely be a side note at this point, possibly not even making it out of the local press.

  19. 19
    Greta Christina

    GreaterThanLapsed @ #16: If you continue to be skeptical of claims of anti-atheist discrimination in custody cases — even when presented with documentation of judges explicitly stating that they were granting custody to the religious parent and denying it to the atheist parent, and explicitly stating that they were dong so because the atheist parent was an atheist… I don’t see any reason to think you are arguing in good faith, and I don’t see any reason to engage with you further. Your concerns are noted. Thank you for sharing.

  20. 20
    Greta Christina

    Oh and I’m pretty sure I said it was a gross misrepresentation.

    r3formed @ #15: Translation: I admit that I didn’t actually mean the thing I was saying, and only said it to provoke a reaction. In other words, I admit I was trolling.

    It was use to illustrate the point I was making that no one has addressed.

    Translation: It was used to derail the subject, away from the actual topic and onto something else that I’m more interested in discussing.

    Deliberate trolling and thread derailing are both violations of my comment policy. Do not do it again. Thank you.

  21. 21
    r3formed

    Greta your links provide no such documentation.

    Have you clicked on the ones regarding these custody hearings?

    It looked to me like a secondary source that was just as biased as you

  22. 22
    r3formed

    Far from thread detailing

    Please detail how it was so

    Thanks

  23. 23
    r3formed

    Your translations were poor as well and a gross misrepresentation

    Thank you

  24. 24
    Makoto

    @r3formed – so you say “I stick by my lumping together. Those involved in the new atheist movement make ridiculous claims such as religion being responsible for the worlds woes.”

    But you also say “there are many ways to say all. I can be using in reference to all people or just a subset of those people”

    I just want to know – are you using the implied all on statement about the new atheist movement making ridiculous claims, or are you using the implied all about what you claim they’re saying about religion being responsible for the world’s woes, or both?

    If both, I think we can agree that some new atheists have claimed that some religious folks are the source of some of the world’s woes, yes. But sticking by lumping together doesn’t really fit with the statement about all-but-I-really-mean-a-subset.

  25. 25
    Timid Atheist

    @Responder

    Timid Atheist, I am an ordained minister and your custody battle saddens me. Please look into the book called “The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality.” It provides some really great arguments you and your lawyers could use in court to get you more time with your child. You should not have to hide what you are and what you believe because someone else does not agree with you.

    Thank you for the suggestion, I appreciate the concern. I’ll take a look and hopefully if things come to that then I can defend myself and ensure I still can be a good influence in my child’s life.

  26. 26
    r3formed

    Makato,

    This is where context is so important.

    When referring to “all” in my initial post it meant specifically the new atheist movement. For example, they all ridiculously claim Mithras to be an example of Christ. I don’t really understand the confusion for the all because it clearly represents both.

    Although there are exception to anything, doesn’t bar the use of the word all though, it is pretty easy to say that all those in the new atheist movement make ridiculous claims such as…

    You get the point yet?

    So yes I did lump all the new atheist together and they are the specific subset of atheism that I am referencing.

    The new atheist movement is very different than older atheism not for their militant stance but rather their supposed facts they use are often poor resources. For example this article

  27. 27
    Makoto

    Well, context was what I was trying to specify with my response, to give you an out, really.

    “For example, they all ridiculously claim Mithras to be an example of Christ. ”

    So, you’ve polled all new atheists on this point? I haven’t, personally, so if you have, I’ll trust your results, assuming you can produce them.

  28. 28
    researchtobedone

    @r3formed:

    “If religion is the source of a significant amount of the worlds woes then why is their still violence and strife in places where religion has been made illegal?”

    If smallpox was a significant cause of disease, and we got rid of it, why are there still diseases?

    “The problem is never an object or an idea but rather the person.

    To use a cliche’d argument
    Guns don’t kill people
    People kill people”

    To use an Eddie Izzard joke:

    “I think the gun helps.”

  29. 29
    Nick Gotts

    r3formed,

    That is a gross misrepresentation of the OP, as you must oknow. I suppose we should be grateful that you make your bad faith obvious right from the start of your comment.

    Yes it was a gross misrepresentation. It was meant as hyperbole to illustrate the point.

    The only point it illustrated was your inability or refusal to respond to the OP in a rational manner rather than, as Greta says, by trolling.

    Do you have any evidence for that, or is it just an illustration of your prejudices?”

    I began the statement with I think so…
    although i would certainly consider this opinion it is based off life experiences, or prejudices as you call them, and gathered evidence. I haven’t written a book on the idea or anything but i would think:)that many psychologists and sociologists would agree.

    Translation: no, I have no evidence.

    Well, don’t keep this useful information to yourself: what is “the root of it”, in your opinion?

    Although I didn’t profess to have any secret knowledge I would be glad to provide you with my prejudice filled opinion. I think:) that some of it comes from the same place that many atheists aversion comes from. Many in the new atheist movement possess this evangelic tendency to spread the gospel of truth as they see fit, as do many Christians, and people tend to not like being told they are wrong. The point of the statement was to encourage introspection.

    IOW, atheists are to blame for being persecuted if they exercise the right of free speech.

    When referring to “all” in my initial post it meant specifically the new atheist movement. For example, they all ridiculously claim Mithras to be an example of Christ.

    Evidence for this bizarre claim of yours? What would it even mean to say that Mithras is an example of Christ?

  30. 30
    'Tis Himself

    For example, they all ridiculously claim Mithras to be an example of Christ.

    Citation needed.

  31. 31
    JohnnieCanuck

    Our troll is claiming that all new atheists are wrong to belittle Jesus as a mere copy-paste from one or more previously invented gods.

    There are those who make such claims, to be sure. Just search for ‘Jesus and Mithras’ on YouTube. Mithras is not the only god alleged to be a template for the invention of the legend of Jesus. Osiris and others get pulled in too.

    Whether the argument has been settled yet, I don’t know. There do seem to have been a lot of virgin births and gods coupling with human women and resurrections going on, though.

    From my YouTube investigation, Stephen Fry and the researcher for QI seem to have been convinced of the many parallels claimed.

  1. 32
    Are Atheists Really Discriminated Against in Child Custody Decisions? « Greater Than Lapsed

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    [...] Christina recently posted on Alternet and on her own blog a piece titled “4 Reasons Atheists Have to Fight for Their Rights.” I have, admittedly, become increasingly critical of organized, activist atheism over the last [...]

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    [...] like that!”, “YOU’RE the ones taking away OUR religious freedoms!”, “I never see discrimination!“, and, of course, “Why are you atheists so [...]

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    White “flight”? Not exactly | The Crommunist Manifesto

    [...] by federal law, and yet are simply not investigated or enforced. Greta Christina talked about the reasons why atheists still have to fight despite the law being on their (our) side. The case is no different for people of colour facing [...]

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    White “flight”? Not exactly | Crommunist

    […] by federal law, and yet are simply not investigated or enforced. Greta Christina talked about the reasons why atheists still have to fight despite the law being on their (our) side. The case is no different for people of colour facing […]

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