Saturday, March 17, 2007

Atheists & Theists

A poster with the screen name “human being” brought up some interesting points, and since he/she seems to have an in with humanist groups perhaps I can learn a few things from her/him about how to address some of these issues.

HB wrote:
Actually, the Secular Coalition of America (the ONLY lobbyist group for nonbelievers) had a contest to try and find a high ranking atheist in government. They weren't even sure if they would find one.

I think they were hoping to find one with enough courage (I'm sure it took a GREAT deal of courage for Rep. Stark to come out) to publicly declare their non-belief. In this country, it is political suicide to actually declare your true beliefs, if they are atheistic. Because when you do, you're completely marginalized, and not allowed to be a part of the government. And christians claim this is a free country???

A couple things...

Number one, it seems to me that a contest like this would provoke regardless of how it was set up. I think the group responsible for this probably knew that. What was gained by the contest? What was the objective besides trying to find a high ranking atheist in government? These are serious questions. I’m not trying to mess with you in any way.

I do understand your concern about being marginalized, and as a Christian I’m not sure how to help. That is one reason why I wrote this post. I think there are two extreme sides in this problem, and I don’t think they include the majority of Christians or Atheists. Yet, their voices are the ones we hear and they get us riled up at times. I do not support treating atheists differently than anyone else. As far as electing a person without faith in God into a government office, it would depend upon the person. I know people who do not believe in God, but they aren’t involved in groups in which the objective is to denigrate religious beliefs. They have no interest in reaching others with their “rational” approach to religious thought. I would be leary of voting for those involved in the type of groups in which the objective is to do away with religious thought and replace it with what ~they~ deem as “rational” (a godless worldview).

Now, on the flip side, I would never vote for a guy like Pat Robertson because as a Christian I don’t think it is appropriate to try to infiltrate government in order to ensure that we live in a “Christian nation”. Christ was never about running an earthly government, and absolutely nothing good can come from a theocracy - nothing AT ALL.

But, on the other hand, if two people are running for a government seat, and one is pushing an agenda that doesn’t jive with my worldview and beliefs about what is best for our nation, then I’m going to have to vote with my heart on the issue. Most of the time that would probably put me in line with those nominees who are conservative, and they probably have a religious background.

I do know something about the feeling of being a minority. I’ve been posting on line for several years now in regard to the ID/evolution debate, and I find myself being talked down to, called names, etc. etc.. Many times I think I should just give up because it‘s useless to try to get people to understand my point of view, and it‘s not fun being told over and over that your views are so insignificant that, as a person, I don‘t deserve even an inkling of respect.

So, no, it’s not fun when your beliefs or disbeliefs are dismissed before you even get a chance to speak. Obviously we would all like people to understand and accept our viewpoints, although I’ve learned that everyone is much better off if they don’t push their beliefs on others. We need to accept each other for what we are, leave the lines of communication wide open, and try to make concessions when possible.

And the reason the SCA and the AHA made such a big deal about it was not to piss off the radical right, but to loudly acknowledge that there really truly is a nonbelieving government official.

All that the SCA and the AHA and any other atheist wants is to have fair access to the political process (be able to run for any office regardless of our religious beliefs), to be recognized as equals rather always cast as immoral, basically to be treated as human beings.

Here is where I think there is a difference between atheists who are quite pushy in their godless beliefs and atheists who simply don’t make such a big deal about it. For instance, say that PZ Myer and Pat Robertson were running for a position in government. Now, I would never vote for either one of them to any government position because they are loud, unbending, and simply don’t consider the feelings of others when they say the things they do.

I think this is why I feel defensive in regard to those who are involved with humanist and atheist groups. From what I read on their websites and discussion boards, their main objective is to degrade anything that they feel is associated with religious thought. I don’t think that mainstream religious groups focus on degrading atheists. They seem to focus more on how we find meaning for our lives from God’s word, how to help and treat others, and how to share our faith in a positive way (without ridicule). Certainly there are Christians who are nasty toward atheists, but I don’t think that is the norm.

This is not about both sides doing the wrong things. Yes, atheists sometimes do and say wrong things as well. But the bulk of the problem is the oppression of the atheist viewpoint in all things culturally, socially, and politically. Once atheists are recognized as equals, then things can improve.

As individuals, I look at atheists as equal in every way. I have friends who are atheist or agnostic and I certainly don’t treat them any differently than anyone else. But, I am very leery of atheist groups because they have an agenda that I’m not comfortable with, and since we can no longer discuss scripture in schools and have little time between all the extra activities our children are involved in, it is a worry that our kids won’t have the opportunity to learn enough about scripture in order for them not be influenced by these growing groups of proud & loud godless people. That is why I am involved in teaching a church group of teens ~why~ we, as Christians, believe what we do rather than telling them what to believe and to rely on their faith alone.

Anyway, I’m not sure how to be “tolerant” of these groups because they seem so completely “intolerant” of my views as a Christian. Any suggestions?

For example, all Rep. Stark did was publicly declare he is a nonbeliever. Not really a big deal. I read one article that went from this innocent statement to saying that atheists are keeping children from praying in schools and liberals are bashing christians all the time. They then went further and suggested that all congress officials declare publicly their beliefs for all to hear (and judge, IMO). All Rep. Stark said was what he believed about god. Why is this so terrible? And why is it so terrible to celebrate it and put the word out there?

I know you feel that you are in a minority, but as a Christian I also feel that we get our share of bashing as well. I’m a conservation, traditional Christian and maybe I’m too entrenched in this debate to have a good perspective on this issue anymore, but it seems to me that people consider me a “bigot”, a “liar for Jesus”, “intolerant”, etc. quite frequently merely because I am a Christian and hold a certain worldview. The cry from the left is louder than ever and we had taken the bible and prayer out of schools, the ten commandments need to be hidden from view, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the pledge and our currency drop that dreaded word “God”. It’s sad, IMO, and the fact that some groups are fighting so hard to get rid of what so many of us hold dear only stirs up the heat.

The radical religious right is the problem, not the liberal theists, and not the atheists.

In my opinion, you are quite wrong in your assessment. Why are liberal theists and atheists given the luxury of being without blame of stirring things up? Why aren’t people who have strong religious beliefs allowed to voice their concerns and opinions? How are their strong beliefs wrong and your strong beliefs right? You might think that that the right doesn‘t want to allow you a voice, but on the other hand, you seem to be saying that those with strong religious beliefs should not be allowed a voice. Do you understand that there are problems coming from both directions?

I’m curious what you thought about the blasphemy challenge. Was that something that you felt was productive to this culture war we seem to find ourselves in?

I think we all need to take part of the blame and try desperately to find a way to make things better. I’ll be very honest in saying I don’t have any idea how to accomplish that, but maybe others might have some idea.

Anyway, thanks for gave me something to think about.