Posts Tagged ‘Reproductive Rights’


FETUS, n. A “baby,” just as a maggot is a “fly,” and a pro-lifer a “rational, compassionate human being.”

* * *

–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

 


cover of Culture Wars by Marie Castle

 

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

(This piece originally appeared in the July-August 2014 Moral Atheist, publication of  Atheists for Human Rights.)
For some time we have wondered why atheist organizations have focused so much on ritualistic violations of state-church separation and almost never on the moral issues that affect our personal lives. Strange, because there are no laws that say we must have government-sponsored prayers in schools or religious monuments on public property. Yet we have numerous laws that restrict our most basic freedoms such as those involving sexuality, reproductive issues, end-of-life decision making, healthcare, and so on. These are seldom if ever challenged as atheist issues, and are dismissed as best left to other cause groups.

Now some poll results from the American Secular Census are in that may help explain this. It’s not good. The sticking point is women. On the fundamental issue of bodily autonomy, 44.1% of nonbelievers are not buying it. They want restrictions on abortion in various stages and situations. 55.4% favor no restrictions at all, with 0.5% undecided. On other issues, there is closer agreement. For example, 76.6% oppose school prayer and 97.3% favor gay marriage.

The problem is that morality cannot be dealt with cafeteria style. Something as critical to women’s wellbeing as the right to reproductive control cannot be denied while less critical rights are supported. Better to say all these personal issues are not related to atheism, even though every one of them is based on harmful religious beliefs, with no valid secular justification that has ever been identified.

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, says abortion is not a clear-cut issue, but doesn’t say why or how. And so he wants to bargain away abortion rights to attract the libertarians in the religious right to atheism.

At some point, this matter of whether women in their childbearing capacity are to be controlled by society or are free to control their own bodily functions has to be settled. Religion has everywhere and always sought to maintain control of women’s childbearing. The Catholic Church has staked its future as a viable organization on maintaining laws that restrict or outlaw abortion, including even some contraceptives. Why is this control so important? Perhaps it’s an evolutionary development that has made reproduction at all costs life’s most basic function. Every living thing is programmed to reproduce at all costs. Females in most species are limited in how much of this they can do, so are a scarce reproductive commodity. Is the always-and-everywhere behavior aimed at controlling women nature’s way to ensure maximum reproduction?

At some point, can we think through this primitive urge to treat women as community property and get over the notion that their reproductive concerns are the business of everyone but themselves? One would think atheists would lead in creating a moral society free of religious dogma and its focus on controlling women, but so far they seem to prefer throwing them under the bus.


cover of Culture Wars by Marie Castle

(excerpted from Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom, by Marie Alena Castle)

 

“[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life  opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the  empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”

—Christopher Hitchens, The Missionary Position:  Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice

 

It is impossible to talk about religion-based laws without discussing the people most severely victimized by them—women, half the world’s population. They are the childbearers, so you’d think that would count for something in terms of decent treatment, but it doesn’t. Largely if not entirely because of that primal function, women have been the object of male dominance, abuse, and social control throughout history and across almost all cultures. With some exceptions, women have existed as men’s property from the time people figured out where babies came from. Was subjugation of women considered the best way to relieve male anxiety regarding paternity? To establish unquestioned heirs? It seems likely, but who knows for sure?

Regardless, women traditionally have been culturally limited to bearing children, and not allowed to do much else. The social reforms of the 1960s did begin to remove that limitation, however haltingly. Although “women’s lib” was ridiculed routinely, increased higher educational opportunities received support—by attaching those opportunities to motherhood. I often heard the argument in those days that an educated woman would be better able to raise children to be productive citizens. That always reminded me of the story of Moses, who was allowed to lead his people to the Promised Land, but for some arbitrary reason was condemned to see it only from afar and never go there himself.

When sex discrimination was included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a last-minute amendment, it was greeted with laughter. Sen. Howard K. Smith, a Virginia Democrat and an opponent of the Civil Rights Act, proposed it. His motives were unclear. There was speculation that he thought his amendment would kill the bill; however, he had always been a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, so perhaps (as others speculated) he only wanted to embarrass fellow Democrats from northern states who opposed women’s rights in deference to male-dominated, sexist, labor unions. But the Civil Rights Act passed, and additional protections for women’s rights followed. Whether they’ll continue to hold is uncertain, given the misogynistic aspects of the culture war.

Religions seem always to have played on and reinforced misogynistic prejudices, assuming the right to control women’s childbearing function as a social necessity, with no consideration given to what women themselves might want or need. Irrational—even punitive—views of women have become so embedded in theology and in our laws that one could argue that controlling women’s sexuality and childbearing role has been the primary purpose of most religions. The contrived justification for such control is the Bible; and some of its interpreters go even further than it does:

  • Be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:28)
  • Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16-God’s punishment of Eve for seducing Adam into eating the forbidden fruit)
  • You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s. (Exodus 20:17)
  • Women will be saved through childbearing. (1 Timothy 2:15)
  • No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise. Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and are more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow chests, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children. (Martin Luther, in “Table Talk”)
  • Married life presupposes the power of the husband over the wife and children, and subjection and obedience of the wife to the husband. (Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii)
  • “However we may pity the mother whose health and even life is imperiled by the performance of her natural duty, there yet remains no sufficient reason for condoning the direct murder of the innocent.” (Pope Pius XI, Castii Connubii)
  • “Man was made to rule, woman to obey.” (Augustine, De Genesi)
  • “[I]n divine matrimony man receives by divine institution the faculty to use his wife for the begetting of children.” (Aquinas, Summa Theologica)

This is all mythical nonsense, of course, but the restrictive and demeaning attitudes toward women reflected in these passages remain much the same today around the world. Only in recent times, particularly since the 1960s, have patriarchal cultures and the religions that support them been forced in some places to loosen their control of women. These pockets of enlightenment, where women are free to make their own social, educational, economic and childbearing decisions, are the secular democracies.

The Last Stand

But not all of them. In the United States, the fight to maintain control of women continues, carried on by the Catholic hierarchy, the Mormon hierarchy, and Protestant fundamentalists. This fight has become increasingly fierce, although it’s concentrated primarily in one area. Control of women is no longer about opposing women’s right to vote or get an education or pursue a high-level career or (to some extent) practice birth control—religious misogynists have lost those battles. What is left now is their last stand: women’s right to abortion, to have the ultimate control over their own bodies. The Catholic-fundamentalist-Mormon coalition will not concede that right.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision, and on November 20, 1975 the United States Catholic bishops, acting in defense of papal authority, issued their “Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities.”1 It signaled the start of the culture war, and within a few years drew in Protestant fundamentalist allies—notably the Moral Majority, founded by Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich in 1979—acting in defense of biblical authority. The Pastoral Plan was not a reflection of either group’s desire to “save innocent pre-born babies”—as the hysterical anti-abortion rhetoric would have it. Catholic-dominated countries in Latin America (where abortion is illegal) have abortion rates much higher than in the United States,2 yet there is no campaign to stop them. Before Roe v. Wade, there were clandestine abortion clinics all over the United States, and doctors willing to do abortions in their offices. I knew about them and knew how to find them, as did most savvy women who were willing to ask around, yet there were no Catholic or Protestant campaigns to stop them (other than an occasional dustup somewhere by a vote-pandering politician). The reason is that they were illegal. And that is all the anti-abortion movement cares about, as will be explained below.

The following quotations expose the fundamental, governing rationale for the bishops’ Pastoral Plan: the protection of the Catholic Church as an institution and the credibility of the pope as the infallible representative of God on Earth. The quotations are from The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy, by Stephen D. Mumford.3 This highly readable book spells out in great detail the plans and strategies the United States Catholic bishops implemented to bring about the culture war that has fragmented our society.

The book begins by describing the failed efforts of the Nixon and Ford administrations to implement the recommendations of National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) for controlling population growth. NSSM 200 detailed the security threat to the United States of uncontrolled global population growth. It urged efforts to free women economically and socially through education, and to make family planning options available to them. It emphasized that population growth could not be controlled if abortion was not among those options. Mumford carefully documents the Catholic bishops’ efforts to derail the Study. They were successful, and the study was shelved permanently by the Reagan administration. Because of Mumford’s thorough documentation—including reproduction of original texts—his book is arguably the most important ever written on the cause of the culture war and the social-economic-political dysfunction that has ensued. Consider the following:

In his book, Persistent Prejudice: Anti-Catholicism in America, published by Our Sunday Visitor [the leading Catholic newspaper at the time] in 1984, Michael Schwantz summarized the position of Catholic conservatives on the abortion issue: “The abortion issue is the great crisis of Catholicism in the United States, of far greater import than the election of a Catholic president or the winning of tax support for Catholic education. In the unlikely event that the Church’s resistance to abortion collapses and the Catholic community decides to seek an accommodation with the institutionalized killing of innocent human beings, that would signal the utter failure of Catholicism in America. It would mean that U.S. Catholicism will have been defeated and denatured by the anti-Catholic host culture.” (p. 124)

In April 1992, in a rare public admission of this threat, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, delivering a major address to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, acknowledged, “The fact is that attacks on the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion—unless they are rebuffed—effectively erode Church authority on all matters, indeed on the authority of God himself.”

It is important to note here that, as Mumford says, laws outlawing abortion “. . . need not be enforced to meet the needs of the Vatican. The Vatican requires only that the civil law not conflict with canon law. Then papal authority and civil authority are not pitted against one another. It is only legal abortion that threatens papal authority.” (pp. 310–311)

I encountered this view myself several years ago when I was deep into organizing for abortion rights here in Minnesota. The anti-abortion man leading the anti-choice forces told me that if abortions were outlawed the Church would have no interest in enforcing the law because all it cared about was having the law validate Catholic doctrine.

And for that we have been dragged through decades of social and political chaos with no end in sight. Even birth control, long considered a basic, settled right, again became a major controversy in 2012 with the presidential candidacy of Rick Santorum, staunch Catholic, father of eight, and a reputed member of Opus Dei, a secretive, authoritarian Catholic society.

Mumford describes how the problem of papal infallibility and institutional authority surfaced in 1964 when Pope Paul VI authorized the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control to see if there was a way to approve contraceptive use. (p. 126) The Commission met until 1966 without finding a way to do this consistent with Catholic doctrine. The commission’s lay members voted 60 to 4 in favor of approving contraceptive birth control, and the clerical members voted 9 to 6 in favor. Even though it undermined papal infallibility, the commission’s majority voted that way “because it was the right thing to do.” (p. 124) However, the minority (which included Karol Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II) prevailed to such an extent that Pope Paul VI, in his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, reinforced the condemnation of abortion and contraceptive birth control as well as his claim to infallibility. Here is an excerpt from the minority report:

If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti Connubii was promulgated), in 1951 (Pius XII’s address to the midwives), and in 1958 (the address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died). It should likewise have to be admitted that for a half a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now be declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved. (quoted by Mumford, p. 126)

In other words, the Vatican found that it had dug itself into a hole and decided the only way out was to keep on digging. This would not be a matter of concern—or even noteworthy—if Humanae Vitae applied only to Catholics (most of whom have ignored it). However, in the Vatican’s worldview, Humanae Vitae applies to everyone, and governments have the duty to enforce its view of morality. Monsignor John A. Ryan, in his 1940 book, Catholic Principles of Politics, explains the matter:

If there is only one true religion, and if its possession is the most important good in life for States as well as individuals, then the public profession, protection, and promotion of this religion and the legal prohibition of all direct assaults upon it, becomes one of the most obvious and fundamental duties of the State. For it is the business of the State to safeguard and promote human welfare in all departments of life. (quoted by Mumford, p. 114)

The Power of a Living Fossil

Any rational, thoughtful person would want to dismiss such an absurd, arrogant claim out of hand, but that would be unwise. As Mumford explains in detail, the U.S. Catholic bishops have such a high level of organizational expertise, political shrewdness, public relations skills, and talent for negotiating alliances with religious-right fundamentalists that they have now brought those “state duties” alarmingly close to realization.

This is truly bizarre. The Catholic Church has no real power, only a perceived power because of its 2,000-year history, ostentatious papal encyclicals, impressive cathedrals, colorful rituals, magnificent music, and priceless works of art. Or perhaps it’s the Vatican’s seemingly bottomless pockets and ability to make common cause with Protestant extremists. A Feb. 21, 2012, fundraising letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State noted this:

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a study last year [2011] that showed lobbying expenditures by religious groups have increased about fivefold since 1970, with $390 million now shelled out annually. Most of these groups are ultra-conservative and are working around the clock to convince politicians to make their theology the law of the land.4

When the bishops announced a new lobbying group in 2011, religious right activists were ecstatic. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, wrote, “I welcome their renewed commitment to the fight before us. We are united in the fight for faith, family and freedom.”

Evidence of this “conviction” was that the Catholic bishops spent $26.6 million in 2009 lobbying Washington. Of the top 15 groups the Pew Form lists, 10 are religious right organizations or are aligned with the Catholic hierarchy.

Yet all the evidence from surveys and church attendance shows that most Catholics have little or no interest in papal restrictions on sexual matters, and they dismiss the pope’s pronouncements. Almost every Catholic I know fits this description. They remain Catholic out of habit or because they think of the Church as a social welfare service that feeds the hungry and shelters the homeless (see Chapter 8 for what is really going on) or because they love the pageantry or for other personal reasons. Catholics will turn out in massive numbers to see the pope, listen to him rant about abortion and birth control, then go home and guiltlessly engage in all kinds of non-doctrinal, essentially harmless, sexual and reproductive “sinful” behavior.

So what explains the political power of the Catholic Church? Single-minded dedication and organizing ability, which can outweigh almost any majority opinion. Mumford explains it in describing the Church’s initial failure to get a Human Life Amendment passed:

In September 1991, Catholic activist William Bennett, former Secretary of Education, and other Catholic “conservatives” announced the formation of Catholic Campaign for America. Creation of this organization even 20 years ago would have been unthinkable. For nearly 200 years, Protestants have warned that the Vatican plans to create such organizations in the U.S. and that American democracy was threatened. One needs only listen to what these Catholics are saying now to understand that the strategy Stephen Settle described in the National Catholic Register is being implemented—and to recognize that this minority, with its “stamina, smarts and perseverance” intends to impose papal law using any means necessary and to “co-opt” our democratic institutions. (p. 172)

Although Catholics are no longer a reliable voting bloc, politicians seem to tremble at the thought of opposing the bishops’ imperious anti-abortion demands. None of them have the courage to stand up for the victims of religious tyranny. Oh, some of them speak legalistically, and almost apologetically, of defending Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. But none of them, as far as I know, defend the women that ruling is supposed to protect. Their support of reproductive rights is too pro forma to inspire confidence. What might be the impact on how women (and the men who love them) vote if a candidate said something like, “Of course I support Roe v. Wade. I support it because I respect women. They’re childbearers, but they’re not a public utility for us to regulate. I respect their intelligence and their ability to know what’s best for themselves and their families. They don’t need me or any legislative body to make their personal decisions for them.” Sounds like a vote-getting speech to me.

 


 

1. Stephen D. Mumford, The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy. Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996.
2. See http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals. The overall abortion rate for Latin America is 37 per 1,000 women of childbearing age. For the Caribbean it is 50, for Central America it is 30, for South America it is 39. (Data are from 1995 but more recent figures show little change.) For North America, where abortion is legal (though not easy to access), the rate is 22 per 1,000.
3. Mumford, op cit.
4. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, fundraising letter, Feb. 21, 2012.

 


20reasons-e-book-72

by Chaz Bufe

(20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity is now available as a low-price e-book on all of the common e-book retail sites.)

 

Preface

This essay briefly looks at many of the reasons that Christianity is undesirable from both a personal and a social point of view. All of the matters discussed here have been dealt with elsewhere at greater length, but that’s beside the point: the purpose of 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity is to list the most outstanding misery-producing and socially destructive qualities of Christianity in one place. When considered in toto, they lead to an irresistible conclusion: that Christianity must be abandoned, for the sake of both personal happiness and social progress.

As regards the title, “abandon”—rather than “suppress” or “eliminate”—was chosen deliberately. Attempts to coercively suppress beliefs are not only ethically wrong, but in the long run they are often ineffective—as the resurgence of religion in the former Soviet Union demonstrates. If Christianity is ever to disappear, it will be because individual human beings wake up, abandon their destructive, repressive beliefs, and choose to be here now, in the only life we have.

1. Christianity is based on fear. While today there are liberal clergy who preach a gospel of love, they ignore the bulk of Christian teachings, not to mention the bulk of Christian history. Throughout almost its entire time on Earth, the motor driving Christianity has been—in addition to the fear of death—fear of the devil and fear of hell. One can only imagine how potent these threats seemed prior to the rise of science and rational thinking, which have largely robbed these bogeys of their power to inspire terror. But even today, the existence of the devil and hell are cardinal doctrinal tenets of almost all Christian creeds, and many fundamentalist preachers still openly resort to terrorizing their followers with lurid, sadistic portraits of the suffering of nonbelievers after death. This is not an attempt to convince through logic and reason; it is not an attempt to appeal to the better nature of individuals; rather, it is an attempt to whip the flock into line through threats, through appeals to a base part of human nature—fear and cowardice.

2. Christianity preys on the innocent. If Christian fear-mongering were directed solely at adults, it would be bad enough, but Christians routinely terrorize helpless children through grisly depictions of the endless horrors and suffering they’ll be subjected to if they don’t live good Christian lives. Christianity has darkened the early years of generation after generation of children, who have lived in terror of dying while in mortal sin and going to endless torment as a result. All of these children were trusting of adults, and they did not have the ability to analyze what they were being told; they were simply helpless victims, who, ironically, victimized following generations in the same manner that they themselves had been victimized. The nearly 2000 years of Christian terrorizing of children ranks as one of its greatest crimes. And it’s one that continues to this day.

As an example of Christianity’s cruel brainwashing of the innocent, consider this quotation from an officially approved, 19th-century Catholic children’s book (Tracts for Spiritual Reading, by Rev. J. Furniss, C.S.S.R.):

Look into this little prison. In the middle of it there is a boy, a young man. He is silent; despair is on him . . . His eyes are burning like two burning coals. Two long flames come out of his ears. His breathing is difficult. Sometimes he opens his mouth and breath of blazing fire rolls out of it. But listen! There is a sound just like that of a kettle boiling. Is it really a kettle which is boiling? No; then what is it? Hear what it is. The blood is boiling in the scalding veins of that boy. The brain is boiling and bubbling in his head. The marrow is boiling in his bones. Ask him why he is thus tormented. His answer is that when he was alive, his blood boiled to do very wicked things.

There are many similar passages in this book. Commenting on it, William Meagher, Vicar-General of Dublin, states in his Approbation:

I have carefully read over this Little Volume for Children and have found nothing whatever in it contrary to the doctrines of the Holy Faith; but on the contrary, a great deal to charm, instruct and edify the youthful classes for whose benefit it has been written.

 3. Christianity is based on dishonesty. The Christian appeal to fear, to cowardice, is an admission that the evidence supporting Christian beliefs is far from compelling. If the evidence were such that Christianity’s truth was immediately apparent to anyone who considered it, Christians—including those who wrote the Gospels—would feel no need to resort to the cheap tactic of using threats to inspire “belief.” (“Lip service” is a more accurate term.) That the Christian clergy have been more than willing to accept such lip service (plus the money and obedience that go with it) in place of genuine belief, is an additional indictment of the basic dishonesty of Christianity.

How deep dishonesty runs in Christianity can be gauged by one of the most popular Christian arguments for belief in God: Pascal’s wager. This “wager” holds that it’s safer to “believe” in God (as if belief were volitional!) than not to believe, because God might exist, and if it does, it will save “believers” and condemn nonbelievers to hell after death. This is an appeal to pure cowardice. It has absolutely nothing to do with the search for truth. Instead, it’s an appeal to abandon honesty and intellectual integrity, and to pretend that lip service is the same thing as actual belief. If the patriarchal God of Christianity really exists, one wonders how it would judge the cowards and hypocrites who advance and bow to this particularly craven “wager.”

4. Christianity is extremely egocentric. The deep egocentrism of Christianity is intimately tied to its reliance on fear. In addition to the fears of the devil and hell, Christianity plays on another of humankind’s most basic fears: death, the dissolution of the individual ego. Perhaps Christianity’s strongest appeal is its promise of eternal life. While there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim, most people are so terrified of death that they cling to this treacly promise insisting, like frightened children, that it must be true. Nietzsche put the matter well: “salvation of the soul—in plain words, the world revolves around me.” It’s difficult to see anything spiritual in this desperate grasping at straws—this desperate grasping at the illusion of personal immortality.

Another manifestation of the extreme egotism of Christianity is the belief that God is intimately concerned with picayune aspects of, and directly intervenes in, the lives of individuals. If God, the creator and controller of the universe, is vitally concerned with your sex life, you must be pretty damned important. Many Christians take this particular form of egotism much further and actually imagine that God has a plan for them, or that God directly talks to, directs, or even does favors for them.1 If one ignored the frequent and glaring contradictions in this supposed divine guidance, and the dead bodies sometimes left in its wake, one could almost believe that the individuals making such claims are guided by God. But one can’t ignore the contradictions in and the oftentimes horrible results of following such “divine guidance.” As “Agent Mulder” put it (perhaps paraphrasing Thomas Szasz) in a 1998 X-Files episode, “When you talk to God it’s prayer, but when God talks to you it’s schizophrenia. . . . God may have his reasons, but he sure seems to employ a lot of psychotics to carry out his job orders.”

In less extreme cases, the insistence that one is receiving divine guidance or special treatment from God is usually the attempt of those who feel worthless—or helpless, adrift in an uncaring universe—to feel important or cared for. This less sinister form of egotism is commonly found in the expressions of disaster survivors that “God must have had a reason for saving me” (in contrast to their less-worthy-of-life fellow disaster victims, whom God—who controls all things—killed). Again, it’s very difficult to see anything spiritual in such egocentricity.

5. Christianity breeds arrogance, a chosen-people mentality. It’s only natural that those who believe (or play act at believing) that they have a direct line to the Almighty would feel superior to others. This is so obvious that it needs little elaboration. A brief look at religious terminology confirms it. Christians have often called themselves “God’s people,” “the chosen people,” “the elect,” “the righteous,” etc., while nonbelievers have been labeled “heathens,” “infidels,” and “atheistic Communists” (as if atheism and Communism are intimately connected). This sets up a two-tiered division of humanity, in which “God’s people” feel superior to those who are not “God’s people.”

That many competing religions with contradictory beliefs make the same claim seems not to matter at all to the members of the various sects that claim to be the only carriers of “the true faith.” The carnage that results when two competing sects of “God’s people” collide—as in Iraq, Ireland, the Indian subcontinent, and Palestine—would be quite amusing but for the suffering it causes to the innocent.

6. Christianity breeds authoritarianism. Given that Christians claim to have the one true faith, to have a book that is the Word of God, and (in many cases) to receive guidance directly from God, they feel little or no compunction about using force and coercion to enforce “God’s Will” (which they, of course, interpret and understand). Given that they believe (or pretend) that they’re receiving orders from the Almighty (who would cast them into hell should they disobey), it’s little wonder that they feel no reluctance, and in fact are eager, to intrude into the most personal aspects of the lives of nonbelievers. This is most obvious today in the area of sex, with Christians attempting to deny women the right to abortion and—ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence—to mandate ineffective abstinence-only sex “education” in the public schools. It’s also obvious in the area of science education, with Christians attempting to force biology teachers to teach their creation myth (but not those of Hindus, Native Americans, et al.) in place of (or as being equally valid as) the very well established theory of evolution. But the authoritarian tendencies of Christianity reach much further than this.

Up until well into the 20th century in the United States and other Christian countries (notably Ireland), Christian churches pressured governments into passing laws forbidding the sale and distribution of birth control devices, and they also managed to enact laws forbidding even the description of birth control devices. This assault on free speech was part and parcel of Christianity’s shameful history of attempting to suppress “indecent” and “subversive” materials (and to throw their producers in jail or burn them alive). This anti-free speech stance of Christianity dates back centuries, with the cases of Galileo Galilei and Giordano Bruno (who was burnt alive) being good illustrations of it. Perhaps the most colorful example of this intrusive Christian tendency toward censorship is the Catholic Church’s Index of Prohibited Books, which dates from the 16th century and which was abandoned only in the latter part of the 20th century—not because the church recognized it as a crime against human freedom, but because it could no longer be enforced (not that it was ever systematically enforced—that was too big a job even for the Inquisition).

Christian authoritarianism extends, however, far beyond attempts to suppress free speech; it extends even to attempts to suppress freedom of belief. In the 15th century, under Ferdinand and Isabella at about the time of Columbus’s discovery of the New World, Spain’s Jews were ordered either to convert to Christianity or to flee the country; about half chose exile, while those who remained, the “Conversos,” were favorite targets of the Inquisition. A few years later, Spain’s Muslims were forced to make a similar choice.

This Christian hatred of freedom of belief—and of individual freedom in general—extends to this day. Up until the late 19th century in England, atheists who had the temerity to openly advocate their beliefs were jailed. Even today in many parts of the United States laws still exist that forbid atheists from serving on juries or from holding public office. And it’s no mystery what the driving force is behind laws against victimless “crimes” such as nudity, sodomy, fornication, cohabitation, and prostitution.

If your nonintrusive beliefs or actions are not in accord with Christian “morality,” you can bet that Christians will feel completely justified—not to mention righteous—in poking their noses (often in the form of state police agencies) into your private life.

7. Christianity is cruel. Throughout its history, cruelty—both to self and to others—has been one of the most prominent features of Christianity. From its very start, Christianity, with its bleak view of life, its emphasis upon sexual sin, and its almost impossible-to-meet demands for sexual “purity,” encouraged guilt, penance, and self-torture. Today, this self-torture is primarily psychological, in the form of guilt arising from following (or denying, and thus obsessing over) one’s natural sexual desires. In earlier centuries, it was often physical. W.E.H. Lecky relates:

For about two centuries, the hideous maceration of the body was regarded as the highest proof of excellence. . . . The cleanliness of the body was regarded as a pollution of the soul, and the saints who were most admired had become one hideous mass of clotted filth. . . . But of all the evidences of the loathsome excesses to which this spirit was carried, the life of St. Simeon Stylites is probably the most remarkable. . . . He had bound a rope around him so that it became embedded in his flesh, which putrefied around it. A horrible stench, intolerable to the bystanders, exhaled from his body, and worms dropped from him whenever he moved, and they filled his bed. . . . For a whole year, we are told, St. Simeon stood upon one leg, the other being covered with hideous ulcers, while his biographer [St. Anthony] was commissioned to stand by his side, to pick up the worms that fell from his body, and to replace them in the sores, the saint saying to the worms, “Eat what God has given you.” From every quarter pilgrims of every degree thronged to do him homage. A crowd of prelates followed him to the grave. A brilliant star is said to have shone miraculously over his pillar; the general voice of mankind pronounced him to be the highest model of a Christian saint; and several other anchorites [Christian hermits] imitated or emulated his penances.

Given that the Bible nowhere condemns torture and sometimes prescribes shockingly cruel punishments (such as burning alive), and that Christians so wholeheartedly approved of self-torture, it’s not surprising that they thought little of inflicting appallingly cruel treatment upon others. At the height of Christianity’s power and influence,  tens of thousands, quite possibly hundreds of thousands, of “witches” were brutally tortured and burned alive under the auspices of ecclesiastical witch finders, and the Inquisition visited similarly cruel treatment upon those accused of heresy. Henry Charles Lea records:

Two hundred wretches crowded the filthy gaol and it was requisite to forbid the rest of the Conversos [Jews intimidated into converting to Christianity] from leaving the city [Jaen, Spain] without a license. With Diego’s assistance [Diego de Algeciras, a petty criminal and kept perjurer] and the free use of torture, on both accused and witnesses, it was not difficult to obtain whatever evidence was desired. The notary of the tribunal, Antonio de Barcena, was especially successful in this. On one occasion, he locked a young girl of fifteen in a room, stripped her naked and scourged her until she consented to bear testimony against her mother. A prisoner was carried in a chair to the auto da fe with his feet burnt to the bone; he and his wife were burnt alive . . . The cells in which the unfortunates were confined in heavy chains were narrow, dark, humid, filthy and overrun with vermin, while their sequestrated property was squandered by the officials, so that they nearly starved in prison while their helpless children starved outside.

While the torture and murder of heretics and “witches” is now largely a thing of the past, Christians can still be remarkably cruel. One current example is provided by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Its members picket the funerals of victims of AIDS and gay bashings, brandishing signs reading, “God Hates Fags,” “AIDS Cures Fags,” and “Thank God for AIDS.” The pastor of this church reportedly once sent a “condolence” card to the bereaved mother of an AIDS victim, reading “Another Dead Fag.”2 Christians are also at the forefront of those advocating vicious, life-destroying penalties for those who commit victimless “crimes,” as well as being at the forefront of those who support the death penalty and those who want to make prison conditions even more barbaric than they are now.

But this should not be surprising coming from Christians, members of a religion that teaches that eternal torture is not only justified, but that the “saved” will enjoy seeing the torture of others. As St. Thomas Aquinas put it:

In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful and that they may give to God more copious thanks for it, they are permitted perfectly to behold the sufferings of the damned . . . The saints will rejoice in the punishment of the damned.

Thus the vision of heaven of Christianity’s greatest theologian is a vision of the sadistic enjoyment of endless torture.

8. Christianity is anti-intellectual, anti-scientific. For over a millennium Christianity arrested the development of science and scientific thinking. In Christendom, from the time of Augustine until the Renaissance, systematic investigation of the natural world was restricted to theological investigation—the interpretation of biblical passages, the gleaning of clues from the lives of the saints, etc. There was no direct observation and interpretation of natural processes, because that was considered a useless pursuit, as all knowledge resided in scripture. The results of this are well known: scientific knowledge advanced hardly an inch in the over 1000 years from the rise of orthodox Christianity in the fourth century to the 1500s, and the populace was mired in the deepest squalor and ignorance, living in dire fear of the supernatural—believing in paranormal explanations for the most ordinary natural events. This ignorance had tragic results: it made the populace more than ready to accept witchcraft as an explanation for everything from illness to thunderstorms, and tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of women paid for that ignorance with their lives. One of the commonest charges against witches was that they had raised hailstorms or other weather disturbances to cause misfortune to their neighbors. In an era when supernatural explanations were readily accepted, such charges held weight—and countless innocent people died horrible deaths as a result. Another result was that the fearful populace remained very dependent upon Christianity and its clerical wise men for protection against the supernatural evils which they believed surrounded and constantly menaced them. For men and women of the Middle Ages, the walls veritably crawled with demons and witches; and their only protection from those evils was the church.

When scientific investigation into the natural world resumed in the Renaissance—after a 1000-year-plus hiatus—organized Christianity did everything it could to stamp it out. The cases of Copernicus and Galileo are particularly relevant here, because when the Catholic Church banned the Copernican theory (that the Earth revolves around the sun) and banned Galileo from teaching it, it did not consider the evidence for that theory: it was enough that it contradicted scripture. Given that the Copernican theory directly contradicted the Word of God, the Catholic hierarchy reasoned that it must be false. Protestants shared this view. John Calvin rhetorically asked, “Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?”

In more recent times, the Catholic Church and the more liberal Protestant congregations have realized that fighting against science is a losing battle, and they’ve taken to claiming that there is no contradiction between science and religion. This is disingenuous. As long as Christian sects continue to claim as fact—without offering a shred of evidence beyond the anecdotal—that physically impossible events (“miracles”) occurred (or are still occurring), the conflict between science and religion will remain. That many churchmen and many scientists seem content to let this conflict lie doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Today, however, the conflict between religion and science is largely being played out in the area of public school biology education, with Christian fundamentalists demanding that their creation myth be taught in place of (or along with) the theory of evolution in the public schools. Their tactics rely heavily on public misunderstanding of science. They nitpick the fossil record for its gaps (hardly surprising given that we inhabit a geologically and meteorologically very active planet), while offering absurd interpretations of their own which we’re supposed to accept at face value—such as that dinosaur fossils were placed in the earth by Satan to confuse humankind, or that Noah took baby dinosaurs on the ark.

They also attempt to take advantage of public ignorance of the nature of scientific theories. In popular use, “theory” is employed as a synonym for “hypothesis,” “conjecture,” or even “wild guess,” that is, it signifies an idea with no special merit or backing. The use of the term in science is quite different. There, “theory” refers to a testable, well-developed, logically consistent explanation of a phenomenon, and an explanation that is consistent with observed facts and that has withstood repeated testing. This is very different from a wild guess. But fundamentalists deliberately confuse the two uses of the term in an attempt to make their religious myth appear as valid as a well supported scientific theory.

They also attempt to confuse the issue by claiming that those nonspecialists who accept the theory of evolution have no more reason to do so than they have in accepting their religious creation myth, or even that those who accept evolution do so on “faith.” Again, this is more than a bit dishonest.

Thanks to scientific investigation, human knowledge has advanced to the point where no one can know more than a tiny fraction of the whole. Even the most knowledgeable scientists often know little beyond their specialty areas. But because of the structure of science, they (and everyone else) can feel reasonably secure in accepting the theories developed by scientists in other disciplines as the best possible current explanations of the areas of nature those disciplines cover. They (and we) can feel secure doing this because of the structure of science, and more particularly, because of the scientific method. That method basically consists of gathering as much information about a phenomenon (both in nature and in the laboratory) as possible, then developing explanations for it (hypotheses), and then testing the hypotheses to see how well they explain the observed facts, whether or not any of those observed facts are inconsistent with the hypotheses, and whether or not the hypotheses can generate accurate predictions. Those hypotheses that are inconsistent with observed facts are discarded or modified, while those that are consistent are retained, and those that survive repeated testing and can generate accurate predictions are often labeled “theories,” as in “the theory of relativity,” “the theory of gravity,” and “the theory of evolution.”

This is the reason that nonspecialists are justified in accepting scientific theories outside their disciplines as the best current explanations of observed phenomena: those who developed the theories were following standard scientific practice and reasoning—and if they deviate from that, other scientists will quickly call them to task.

No matter how much fundamentalists might protest to the contrary, there is a world of difference between “faith” in scientific theories (produced using the scientific method, and subject to near-continual testing and scrutiny) and faith in the entirely unsupported myths recorded 3000 years ago by slave-holding goat herders.

Nearly 500 years ago Martin Luther, in his Table Talk, stated: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.” The opposite is also true.

9. Christianity has a morbid, unhealthy preoccupation with sex. For centuries, Christianity has had an exceptionally unhealthy fixation on sex, to the exclusion of almost everything else (except power, money, and the infliction of cruelty). This stems from the numerous “thou shalt nots” relating to sex in the Bible. That the Ten Commandments contain a commandment forbidding the coveting of one’s neighbor’s wife, but do not even mention slavery, torture, or cruelty—which were abundantly common in the time the Commandments were written—speaks volumes about their writer’s preoccupation with sex (and women as property).

Today, judging from the pronouncements of many Christian leaders, one would think that “morality” consists solely of what one does in one’s bedroom. The Catholic Church is the prime example here, with its moral pronouncements rarely going beyond the matters of birth control and abortion (and with its moral emphasis seemingly entirely on those matters). Also note that the official Catholic view of sex—that it’s for the purpose of procreation only—reduces human sexual relations to those of brood animals. For more than a century, the Catholic Church has also been the driving force behind efforts to prohibit access to birth control devices and information, and abortion—to everyone, not just Catholics.

The Catholic Church, however, is far from alone in its sick obsession with sex. The current Christian hate campaign against homosexuals is another prominent manifestation of this perverse preoccupation. Even at this writing, condemnation of “sodomites” from church pulpits is still very, very common—with Christian clergymen wringing their hands as they piously proclaim that their words of hate have nothing to do with gay bashings and the murder of gays.

10. Christianity produces sexual misery. In addition to the misery produced by authoritarian Christian intrusions into the sex lives of non-Christians, Christianity produces great misery among its own adherents through its insistence that sex (except the very narrow variety it sanctions) is evil, against God’s law. Christianity proscribes sex between unmarried people, sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, bestiality,3 and even “impure” sexual thoughts. Indulging in such things can and will, in the conventional Christian view, lead straight to hell.

Given that human beings are by nature highly sexual beings, and that their urges very often do not fit into the only officially sanctioned Christian form of sexuality (monogamous, heterosexual marriage), it’s inevitable that those who attempt to follow Christian “morality” in this area are often miserable, as their strongest urges run smack dab into the wall of religious belief. This is inevitable in Christian adolescents and unmarried young people in that the only “pure” way for them to behave is celibately—in the strict Christian view, even masturbation is prohibited. Philip Roth well described the dilemma of the religiously/sexually repressed young in Portnoy’s Complaint as “being torn between desires that are repugnant to my conscience and a conscience repugnant to my desires.” Thus the years of adolescence and young adulthood for many Christians are poisoned by “sinful” urges, unfulfilled longings, and intense guilt (after the urges become too much to bear and are acted upon).

Even after Christian young people receive a license from church and state to have sex, they often discover that the sexual release promised by marriage is not all that it’s cracked up to be. One gathers that in marriages between those who have followed Christian rules up until marriage—that is, no sex at all—sexual ineptitude and lack of fulfillment are all too common. Even when Christian married people do have good sexual relations, the problems do not end. Sexual attractions ebb and flow, and new attractions inevitably arise. In conventional Christian relationships, one is not allowed to act on these new attractions. One is often not even permitted to admit that such attractions exist. As Sten Linnander puts it, “with traditional [Christian] morality, you have to choose between being unfaithful to yourself or to another.”

The dilemma is even worse for gay teens and young people in that Christianity never offers them release from their unrequited urges. They are simply condemned to lifelong celibacy. If they indulge their natural desires, they become “sodomites” subject not only to Earthly persecution (due to Christian-inspired laws), but to being roasted alive forever in the pit. Given the internalized homophobia Christian teachings inspire, not to mention the very real discrimination gay people face, it’s not surprising that a great many homosexually oriented Christians choose to live a lie. In most cases, this leads to lifelong personal torture, but it can have even more tragic results.

A prime example is Marshall Applewhite, “John Do,” the guru of the Heaven’s Gate religious cult. Applewhite grew up in the South in a repressive Christian fundamentalist family. Horrified by his homosexual urges, he began to think of sexuality itself as evil, and eventually underwent castration to curb his sexual urges.4 Several of his followers took his anti-sexual teachings to heart and likewise underwent castration before, at “Do’s” direction, killing themselves.

Endnotes

1. A friend who read the first draft of this manuscript notes: “My moronic sister-in-law once told me that God found her parking spots near the front door at Wal-mart! Years later, when she developed a brain tumor, I concluded that God must have gotten tired of finding parking places for her and gave her the tumor so that she could get handicapped plates.” As Nietzsche put it in The Anti-Christ: “that little hypocrites and half-crazed people dare to imagine that on their account the laws of nature are constantly broken—such an enhancement of every kind of selfishness to infinity, to impudence, cannot be branded with sufficient contempt. And yet Christianity owes its triumph to this pitiable flattery of personal vanity.”

2. The Westboro Baptist Church directly addresses the question of its hatefulness and cruelty on its web site (www.godhatesfags.com): “Why do you preach hate? Because the Bible preaches hate. For every one verse about God’s mercy, love, compassion, etc., there are two verses about His vengeance, hatred, wrath, etc.”

3. The repeated mention of this sin in medieval ecclesiastical writings leads one to wonder how widespread this practice was among the Christian faithful, including the Christian clergy. One 8th-century penitential (list of sins and punishments) quoted in A.A. Hadden’s Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents states: “If a cleric has fornicated with a quadruped let him do penance for, if he is a simple cleric, two years, if a deacon, three years, if a priest, seven years, if a bishop ten years.” Similar lists of sins and penalties can be found in many other penitentials.

4.Given his religious background, and that his cult mixed Christianity with UFO beliefs, Applewhite was quite probably aware of the divine approbation of self-castration in Matthew 19:12: “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs , which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”


culturewars72

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

(EDITOR’S NOTE: One of the reasons many people dismiss atheism is that atheist organizations seem to delight in pissing people off. They focus on relative trivialities, symbolic affronts such as nativity scenes in public places, rather than on the very serious religious intrusions — laws restricting  reproductive rights, gay rights, the right to die — that damage the lives of millions of Americans.  In the following post, Marie Castle calls out America’s atheist organizations for their wholesale abdication of responsibility. –CB)

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

Here’s something we don’t think about, but should. Gloria Steinem said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free, but first it will piss you off.” So here goes:

Why is it that so many religions are founded by people who claim to believe in a god, yet use that religion in greedy self-serving ways? Consider the difference between a cult and a religion:

In a cult, the person at the top knows it’s a scam.
In a religion, that person is dead.

How many religions today were started as a cult by someone who knew it was a scam? Probably most of them. Yes, some religious founders are honestly deluded, think a god is talking to them, and they have been especially selected to carry out some half-baked ideas about a spirit world. There are others who start a religion honestly to promote a worthy way to live — an ethical system such as Buddhism.

We are not talking about those founders, only about deliberate scams, begun by con artists — faithless men and women who used the faith and belief of others to steal from them. And that is wicked. And those wicked con artists are … unbelievers .. atheists! And their followers drank the Kool-Aid and continue to drink it and it never occurs to them that it was and is served up by … atheists.

Not atheists of the kind that form and belong to freethinker organizations dedicated to forcing religions to be benign, only those who have no interest in god beliefs except as the hook for the greatest and most profitable and longest con in history.

Let’s start with Moses. He is probably a fictional character but, if so, his story was created by con artists to achieve the desired results. Get a Bible and read about the Ten Commandments. Moses has led his people to the Promised Land. They are at Mt. Sinai. The mountain is rumbling, fire is coming from the top of the mountain as from a furnace. Moses says the rumbling is the voice of Yahweh, who wants to speak with him. (It’s just a volcano, but people always believe what they want to believe.) Only Moses is allowed to go up and talk with Yahweh. No one else must even come near. “Stay back,” he warns them repeatedly.

So this elderly man trudges up the mountain into the smoke and after a time returns with Ten Commandments carved at Yahweh’s direction on two stone tablets. Then there’s the Golden Calf incident, with Moses smashing the Ten Commandments, so he has to go back up the mountain for another set. They aren’t quite the same, but no matter. What’s important for the con is the instructions that go with them.

There are pages and pages of instructions for setting up luxurious tents for Moses, his brother Aaron and Aaron’s sons — a priestly class to be showered with perks: the finest fabrics, gold and silver vessels, the best the Israelites had to offer in food, drink and amenities. All for the glory of Yahweh, of course, even though enjoyed only by that priestly class. Nothing was too good. It was the Bronze Age equivalent of today’s televangelists with their mansions, swimming pools, and private jets.

The Catholic Church says the Bible story of the woman using precious ointment to wash the feet of Jesus instead of helping the poor was justified for the honor and glory of “god.” Same for why the church constructed such lavish cathedrals. After all, “the poor you will always have with you.” True enough if society’s wealth is squandered on the priestly class (now our biggest recipient of welfare through tax exemptions and perks and government giveaways).

Pope Leo X in the Middle Ages was quoted by his secretary as saying, “We all know how profitable this fable of Jesus Christ has been for our company.” Yes, another “faithless man,” like so many popes at that time, and even now. They know their church history as well as we do. They know there was no pope before the 4th century. They know it’s all a profitable fable. Some no doubt close their minds to that and convince themselves otherwise, but the facts are still there. People believe what they want to believe or have to believe to live with themselves.

How about the Mormons? This is history so close it’s beyond questioning. Joseph Smith was a known con artist with an arrest record. Can anyone read the account of his visit from the angel Moroni and those golden tablets (“evidence” that Moroni took back to heaven and so are not available) and his cobbled up hieroglyphics and Book of Mormon about Jesus visiting America and on and on without laughing? Yet Smith served up that Kool-Aid and his followers drank it and still do, never understanding that their faith comes from a con artist’s imagination — a faithless man using the faith and belief of others to steal from them. With Smith dead, his cult is now the Mormon religion.

How about Mary Baker Eddy? She had a carnival act with a guy named Quimby touting “mesmerism” — a mind-over-matter schtick about using one’s mind to control whatever. When Quimby died, Eddy turned the act into a cult purporting to use one’s mind to heal disease. Since Eddy is dead, her cult is now the religion of Christian Science. And it maims and kills children whose parents drank Eddy’s Kool-Aid and abandoned real medical care for prayer “treatments” that consist of refusing to admit a disease exists even when a child is clearly dying. It’s the ultimate in believing what one wants to believe. And we have legislators so determined to respect those beliefs that they refuse to rescind laws that support them. More Kool-Aid.

So What Should Atheists Do About This?

These and other cults/religions are clearly not founded by honest, well-meaning god believers. It’s time we honest atheists called them out. They are rogue atheists — hucksters playing the long con — with no more of a god belief than we have, but lacking the conscience that would keep them from exploiting believers. It never occurs to religious people that they are being conned by huckster atheists. Why not tell them?

Honest Christian behavior is immoral behavior because it hurts people. (Bible thumpers and “infallible pope” Catholics offer evidence for that.) Honest atheist behavior is moral behavior because it exists to oppose the harm religion causes. (Secular laws and social policies that help people live more productive lives offer evidence for that.) Organized atheism actually has no other valid purpose.

Christians become moral by abandoning traditional beliefs, in effect adopting the religion-free views of honest atheists. Atheists become immoral when they abandon atheism’s inherently moral position in respect to religion by becoming con artists in the name of greed.

We atheists drink our own Kool-Aid by not telling the truth. We need to rein in our outliers and expose their con game. And we need to learn something about public relations from the world’s reigning expert — Pope Francis. That is, you present a helpful, caring, friendly face to the world. In Francis’s case, that hides a con game intended to preserve and enhance doctrinal control over our social laws and public policies. There will be no retraction of the anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-death with dignity, etc., restrictions now in place. If anything, it will get worse. But it won’t seem so because Francis will smile and talk of loving the victims and “accompanying them” during the travail his doctrines inflict on them. Kool-Aid.

An Honest Atheist Public Relations Policy

City council prayers are wrong. So are god pledges and mottoes. But no one cares if we lose the lawsuits and may feel irritated if we win. Billboards that say we can be good without god imply the god standard is good when it’s not.

None of this shows we care about people — only that we want “a place at the table” in forming public policy. And we want that place only because there are now more of us. Why does that matter? We should want that place so we can make life better for everyone, not just us. We should show that we stand with the victims of religion-based laws. We should file lawsuits on their behalf. We should be their heroes. Instead we ignore them and say the oppressions inflicted on them “are not atheist issues” when they are exactly that.

Atheists have abdicated their most fundamental responsibility–to stand up for the victims of religion. The Secular Coalition for America recently released a Model Secular Policy Guide for legislative issues. It looks like something put together by a committee. Bland and legalistic, it does nothing to inspire activism. Shouldn’t it point out the massive harm religion-based laws do to individuals and society? No mention of that, only that the intrusions do not pass constitutional muster. That will change if Supreme Court rulings make atrocious laws constitutional, as could happen. It’s been done before. Ther document makes it seem that atheists have no human-centered principles to defend. By not making a forceful and principled stand for the victims of religious tyranny we make no stand at all. We are drinking our own Kool-Aid.

(Re-posted from the  Atheists for Human Rights blog)

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right to life

RIGHT TO LIFE, n. According to “pro-lifers,” the most fundamental of all human rights, though, curiously, one fully possessed only zygotes, embryos, and fetuses induced by rape or incest.

* * *

–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover