Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Atheist Consituents, Unite!

Hey, now we atheists have a lobbyist in Washington D.C. too! From a USA Today article "Non-believers raising voice in capital": "Lori Lipman Brown starts Monday as executive director of the Secular Coalition for America. Her two goals: keep religion out of government and win respect for a stigmatized minority." Great, I'm part of another stigmatized minority.

Here's how Brown will act:

• As part of broad coalitions fighting policies rooted in religious beliefs, such as limits on stem cell research and access to emergency contraception.

• In alliances with groups opposed to policies they believe breach the wall between church and state, such as giving taxpayer money to "faith-based" service programs.

• On causes Brown concedes are hard for politicians and the public to swallow, such as eliminating references to God from the U.S. oath of citizenship. She plans to stay out of the Pledge of Allegiance controversy for now because "the courts are on our side." Last week, a federal judge reaffirmed an earlier ruling that teacher-led recitation of the Pledge's phrase "under God" in public schools is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.

The first of these goals sounds good to me, but not so much the last two since I'm unconventional even as an atheist. I'm not really against this "God" idea. I differ from many of my godless brethren because I don't think religious faith is intrinsically dangerous or limiting. I don't believe we'd be better off if we grounded ourselves in scientifically proven reality instead of ancient myths. I call my attitude towards religion the milk theory. I don't believe in a god similarly to how I don't drink milk. Drinking milk causes me stomach aches so I don't do it, but I'd never try to convince everyone else to stop drinking it. Similarly believing in a god has benefits, but the damage I suffer from such beliefs outweighs those benefits, so I choose not to do it. But if the "God" idea works for others, so be it.

I do think Brown's idea of atheists today being like gays in the 1970's, "people just coming out of the closet to fight for acceptance" is interesting. Yes - accept me! Actually, I was a very "out of the closet" atheist in the last Catholic church I attended and none of them seemed to mind. Well, one of them seemed to, but for the most part I found that since to be a Catholic is to be conflicted (some beliefs and traditions makes sense while others you want nothing to do with), it's not so strange to attend church but refuse to profess the faith. The Catholic church is full of people who aren't sure just where they stand on Catholic doctrine and I think it makes them more accepting of wacko atheists like me. At least that's how it seemed to me. And oh, there’s no bitterness like an atheist who used to be Catholic. I sometimes call myself an “atheist zealot” because I not just don’t believe, I passionately don’t believe. Who wants to argue with me? I've out-talked Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Hey, what if this begins the splintering and branching off of different atheist sects? It's what the Christian church was warned to avoid but failed to prevent. If that starts, I'll found the Organization of Atheists Who Sometimes Have Trouble Not Believing...

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