Let’s bring up that atheists and civil rights issue once again — it makes everyone so happy. The Science Ethicist is really peeved with DJ Grothe, who in a recent Point of Inquiry podcast repeated his assertion that a) atheism is not a civil rights issue, and b) lots of atheists are making their civil rights a major issue.
The curious twist here is that he’s interviewing Peter Irons, author of God on Trial, who at the very beginning makes the point strongly that religion is the most divisive issue in the country after race, and that there is a deep intolerance towards atheists. Then Grothe springs his traditional assertion that those other atheists are making too big a deal of civil rights. Irons comes back with the argument that the discrimination against atheists does make it an issue of civil rights. I don’t quite get the point of Grothe’s argument. I agree with Irons that it is a civil rights issue, but I also agree willingly that there is no comparison with the oppression faced by women and homosexuals and blacks; most of the atheists I know would probably agree, that it’s a real issue, but it’s probably not the most important struggle we face right now.
I’m not quite ready to give up on the podcast as Aerik is since they get such good guests (and the Irons interview is very good), but I do think Grothe is flogging a dead horse. Can we at least agree that it has been settled somewhere close to the position that it is a civil rights issue, but not one that imposes the kind of discrimination that we need to resolve by new legislation? And that Grothe can stop complaining about all those nonexistent atheist leaders who think they are the next Martin Luther King?