Why Atheists Make the Best Citizens (repost)

Posted: December 2, 2015 in Atheism
Tags: ,

cover of Culture Wars by Marie Castleby Marie Alena Castle, author of Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom\

(originally posted on August 26, 2013)

In our religious culture, atheists are not so much on the outside looking in as caught in the crossfire.

We’d just as soon be left alone, but the demand from all sides is that we believe in a god. Because we don’t, the Bible calls us “fools,” it is assumed we have no moral compass, and we cannot get elected to public office.

As for patriotism, “An atheistic American is a contradiction in terms,” according to Congressman Louis Rabaut, who introduced the bill putting “under God” in the pledge in 1954.

The elder George Bush reiterated this on August 27, 1987, at a Chicago press conference: “…I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens,” he said, “nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

All this simply because we accept that the natural world is all there is, having no reason to think otherwise.

These accusations have been piled on us for so long that atheists rank at the bottom in social acceptability. But, as the girl said as she picked up the shovel, “With such a big pile of crap, there has to be a pony in here somewhere.” There is.

The truth is that atheists actually make the best type of citizen and cause the least trouble of any demographic group.

We go only by what makes sense and improves life in the here and now. Our commitment to secular government has made us strong supporters of freedom of conscience and of every movement to repeal oppressive laws and improve human well-being.

We have supported abolition, women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, civil rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, children’s rights, medical research, and physician aid in dying. We appreciate liberal religionists who also work for the common good. We oppose religious authoritarians as politically and socially harmful.

In the workplace, we are there to get the job done. We need no accommodations for prayers, holy days, religious attire or services we refuse to provide because of religious beliefs. In politics, we have no contentious religious beliefs to impose and we don’t start or support religious wars. In public education, our interest is in educating students about the arts and sciences, and teaching them to think critically, behave responsibly, and make the most of their abilities.

Like all humans, atheists create myths to express ideas. While religious myths offer inspiration from the past with stories of miraculous and heroic events, atheist myths look to the future, often expressed through science fiction. Perhaps the most powerful is the world of “Star Trek,” created by atheist Gene Roddenberry, where humans have given up wars, social prejudices and divisive beliefs, and used science to end  hunger and poverty. That myth inspires us and has at least faint hope of realization.

This is the reality humans face and must deal with: We are a vulnerable species in a universe that is basically a huge debris field 14 billion light years old, full of violence and destruction.

We are hunkered down on a small, unstable rock wobbling through that debris field. The life forms that evolved in the thin biosphere surrounding this rock survive by eating each other.

The evolutionary process that brought us to consciousness works off of high birth and death rates and produces many defective products. There is no greater prescription for misery.

But here we are, with one life to live and no one to turn to for help but each other. We humans have worked mightily to overcome nature’s shortcomings, with the only “god” in sight being us, warts and all.

Despite the difficulties, life remains an exciting challenge, and we accept it.

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