It's always hard to start these blogs when I know they are going to be longer than my usual posts, but here goes nothing.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 12.3% of the population in this country is black. 12.3% is a very, very small number. The percentage has only grown a little over one percent point since 1960. Why am I bringing this up? Because even though blacks are in the tiny minority that they are, their cause was heard. The Civil Rights Movement took place and it provided a foundation for true equality among whites and blacks. Obviously there is still plenty more work to be done, but this is an ongoing task which started over 150 years ago.
Most Americans would agree that granting citizens equal rights regardless of race is a good thing. But, and there's always a 'but', if our nation had taken the approach to civil rights that it is taking towards religion, many of my friends would still be using the back entrances to the few restaurants that they were allowed to eat in, they would be drinking from water fountains marked "Coloreds Only", they would be forced to ride in the back of the bus, and their children would undoubtedly still be attending all black schools.
"How do you figure, Steve?" Here's how I figure: The majority of this country is white. It is "One Nation Filled With White People." That being said, it only seems fair that the government should only grant civil rights and liberties to its white citizens and never consider the opinions of the lowly Negro. Do you see what I'm getting at?
There are twenty million "out of the closet" atheists in this country. Based on the other type of person that keeps part of themselves in the proverbial closet, let's assume that there are at least twice that number. Couple that with the other forty million people who are agnostic or claim "no religious preference", and you have the largest minority in the United States. On top of being the largest minority, we have ZERO voice in the political and legislative process unlike the other ethnic minorities.
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, we get to so-called "Militant Atheism".
First off, I abhor this term. There is nothing militant about atheism or our movement. This is a derogatory term that serves only to demonize and group outspoken non-believers with the radicals of other religions that threaten the White Male Christian Power Structure ((c) 2007, Bill O'Reilly). Other folks' beliefs are routinely shoved in our faces and we maintain our right to voice our opinion on the matter. That's part of the American Dream. It's covered in the First Amendment. Let me also add that freedom of religion is guaranteed under the First Amendment as well, and atheists support freedom of religion because it is an issue of free thought.
We are promoting rational thought and the Separation of Church and State, which just so happens to also be covered under the First Amendment. Slowly but surely, this country has been gravitating towards a theocracy since the mid nineteenth century. The Founders, religious and non-religious alike, wanted God to have no place in our government, and they wanted our government to have no place in God (church). They knew of the horrors that accompany a state-sponsored religion thanks to the Anglican Church and they wanted none of it. In fact, that's the whole reason people came to the New World to begin with - to escape state-sponsored religion.
Contrary to what many evangelists believe, and what they would have you believe, "In God We Trust" did not appear on any currency until the 1860s. It also did not become the national motto until 1956. The same goes for the absence of "Under God" from the original draft of the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892. "Under God" was not added until 1952. These things and many like them have been injected into our government like a virus and it's only getting worse. The Reaganites accelerated this process by associating the Republican Party with the "Moral Majority". After that, people began to vote for their religion as opposed to their political preferences.
The far Right Wing of this country, which is supported by almost all of the 30 million members of the National Association of Evangelicals, was completely outraged during the 1960 presidential race because JFK was a Catholic. As a Catholic man, surely he would be taking orders from the Pope and not the American People... But, Kennedy, in all of his charismatic glory, rejected this notion, as did Catholics across the nation. And guess what - he kept his word. Right up until that fateful afternoon in Dallas, he kept his religion out of his politics. He was an American FIRST. This is terribly ironic considering the current political climate in this country, starting with Reagan all the way up to the current Teabagger movement that we see today.
Prior to his three year homosexual relationship with a prostitute, Ted Haggard (PRESIDENT of the National Association of Evangelicals) had WEEKLY conference calls with President George W. Bush. He was one of Bush's most trusted advisors, and contributed greatly to the decisions that were made in the White House. This led to the horribly offensive Bushisms that were used in reference to the war like calling it a "Crusade" and "Our God is not neutral". Pardon my French, but how in the blue fuck is this any different from what Bush's very own party was worried about with Kennedy?
Rev. Haggard was very open about the evangelical movement getting involved in politics as it was "part of their Christian duty". Not only do members of the National Association of Evangelicals preach about Christianity and Biblical morals, they preach about politics and where this nation needs to go, in a sense. They speak of the Christian responsibility to "bring America back to God" and elect candidates who are close with Jesus, despite any lack of credentials or qualifications that they may have regarding the office they intend to hold.
To top this off, you have people who are supposed to be part of an objective mainstream media taking sides and attacking non-Christian members of the population. Glenn Beck is a great example. All you have to do is tune in to his show and I can almost guarantee that at some point during the broadcast he will make mention of atheists being un-American because, after all, this is One Nation Under God. Beck and others like him also insist on calling every non-Republican candidate's faith into question in every election as a means to discredit them. They do this when a person's faith is the very last thing that should be of concern to us. Consider this and the fact that there are still some states, Texas being one, where it is still illegal, that's right, illegal, for an atheist to hold a public office.
Here's where we atheists come into play: We reject the notion of any god or gods or goddesses, but we are completely cool with people practicing their religions as long as they don't discriminate against us or interfere with our personal lives. I understand that it's part of some faiths to "witness" and prosthelytize to every person they come into contact with, so I just do what a normal person would do, and I politely tell them to fuck off.
Our argument, while just as unsolicited as the evangelical argument, is one of sanity. It's the idea that our species has potential. Atheism is not just about the non-existence of a deity, it's about being reasonable and moral without the influence of a god or goddess. It's about doing good for the sake of doing good, and not behaving a certain way for fear of eternal consequences. It's about an objective look at the way things should be so that they may better the lives of all mankind equally.
This will undoubtedly be countered with the Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin argument (if we're really lucky the proponent of this point will be extremely ignorant and throw Roman Catholic Adolf Hitler in there as well) that atheistic societies have contributed to as many, if not more deaths than theistic societies. The missed point that these "atheism is evil" advocates fail to see is that Stalin's atheism did not make him commit those horrible atrocities. There are crazies in every crowd and godlessness is not exempt from that. I believe it was Richard Dawkins that stated, "Stalin's atheism made him no more prone to evil than his moustache did."
But, as atheism did not contribute to those leaders' massacres, religion has influenced and contributed to massive amounts of killings in human history. You've heard about the Crusades and the Inquisition and today's Islamo-fascism, etc. etc. It's very easy to look over just the last 2,000 years and see a very gruesome scar on our past left by religion. Atheism has no set moral code or list of commandments, whereas religion has many. On top of all of the good that can be found in any holy text, there is an equal or greater amount of bad in there as well. You can't rationally use atheism to justify murder or any other type of injustice committed in this world, but you can certainly use the Scriptures to do so. I won't bore you with the endless Bible verses and excerpts from the Qur'an to prove this point because honestly, I don't have the time and I don't think any reader has the patience for it.
So how do we "militant" atheists "combat" this phenomenon of increasing religious intolerance that is sweeping the nation? We do what has earned us this awful title - We go out and inform others of our lack of belief and try to exhibit our humanity simultaneously. We promote critical thinking and rational thought. We aim to educate in all areas, but especially in the social forum that presents us as amoral scoundrels. We want the world to see that we are not without morals and principles the way that the church says we are. Most importantly, we want to uphold the Separation of Church and State that the Founding Fathers so desperately wanted.
It's one thing to have a view on one's own life that is based on religious teachings, but it's another thing altogether to want that same view to be reflected in the operation of the government that writes legislation that affects the lives of the entire population. To put it in perspective, you Christian folks that are terrified of the possible implementation of Sharia Law know exactly how the rest of us feel when you attempt to restrict marital and reproductive rights. Just because something doesn't negatively impact your lives doesn't mean that it's positive. While you may be the majority, if something isn't good for one man, it's no good for the rest. Obviously I'm referring to legislative actions in the government.
So despite the fact that it's still taboo to criticize religion, we continue on. We want to spark constructive, intelligent debate along with equal treatment from the government regardless of religion or lack thereof. I, and the others like me, will continue to be vocal about this issue until there is no more theological discrimination occurring. It may be to the emotional detriment of innocent theists who don't contribute to the overall problem, but that's just going to have to be a necessary casualty in this whole process. It's not personal in the sense that it's not aimed directly at any individuals, but it is personal in the sense that it is something that affects us all and we are very passionate about it.
"The divide of race has been America's constant curse. Each new wave of immigrants gives new targets to old prejudices. Prejudice and contempt, cloaked in the pretense of religious or political conviction, are no different. They have nearly destroyed us in the past. They plague us still. They fuel the fanaticism of terror. They torment the lives of millions in fractured nations around the world. These obsessions cripple both those who are hated and, of course, those who hate, robbing both of what they might become." ~President William Jefferson Clinton