Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

An open letter to religious Americans

Dear Religious People of the United States,

It's finally happened.  I've actually become really angry, and that takes a lot.

I'm not angry about your beliefs.  You are free to devote yourself to any faith you want.  I realize that there are atheists who would like to dictate to you what you can believe, who would like to change your mind for you if you're unwilling to change it yourself, but I am not one of those.  You will never get any quarrel out of me over how you spend your Sundays (or Saturdays, or whatever day you prefer to worship).

What I am angry about is the fact that the vast majority of you seem content to let narrow-minded bigots and blowhards be your spokespeople.  Men and women make statements in public forums that would be (rightly) shouted down if they were generated by any other source than the majority religion; statements that marginalize those who don't share those beliefs, which question the intelligence, patriotism, and (even) the right to citizenship of those who dissent.  And hardly a squeak of criticism is voiced.

Let's start with Sally Quinn's piece in the Washington Post, entitled "Romney Captures the God Vote at First Debate."  Responding to Governor Romney's statement that all Americans are "children of the same God," Quinn writes, "This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian.. We’ve got the Creator in our Declaration of Independence. We’ve got 'In God We Trust' on our coins. We’ve got 'one nation under God' in our Pledge of Allegiance. And we say prayers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to God...  Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous."

I beg your pardon?

For one thing, Ms. Quinn, you don't know your history.  The addition of "... one nation, under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance occurred in 1954, "to acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon … the Creator … [and] deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of communism."  "In God We Trust" was added to coinage in 1955, and became the official motto of the United States a year later.  Yes, the United States has been a majority Christian nation since its founding; but it has been only sixty years since the movement to make Christian belief a sine qua non for being a "real American" began.

Oh, and while we're quoting from US law, documents, and history, Ms. Quinn, perhaps I should remind you of Article VI, paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution, wherein it states, "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

The deeper problem here is that Quinn and others like her seem unwilling to acknowledge that the face of America is changing.  Atheists and agnostics are making up an increasingly large slice of the American citizenry.  A poll in 2004 found that 9% of respondents claimed "no religion;" a similar poll in 2008 saw the same demographic jump to 15%.  You may not like it, but atheists and agnostics are increasing in strength, numbers, and willingness to speak up against the kind of bigoted nonsense Quinn and others have claimed.

My disavowal of a deity has nothing whatsoever to do with my devotion to my country, its people, or its laws.   And it would be nice if some of the religious people in the United States would recognize that fact, and remind the officials they elected that the bully pulpit of American politics should never be used to ramrod religious beliefs (or disbelief, for that matter) down the throats of the American public.  It would be damn near a miracle if some of you would tell people like Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) to shut up and sit down.  Broun, you may have heard, is the politician who recently told a group of his constituents, "All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell.  And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior...  What I’ve come to learn is that (the bible) is the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it.  It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society.  And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that."  [Source]

You know what?  I'd do that for you, religious people of America.  If one of my fellow atheists started campaigning to have religion outlawed, to have freedom of belief suspended, to have churches closed, I would stand up on your behalf.  If one of us said, "You can't be a true American unless you're an atheist," I would shout him down.  A politician who stated that 'atheism teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society' would be, in my opinion, unfit for office.  No one has the right to tell another person how to settle a matter of conscience, and that includes what higher power, if any, to believe in.

I'm issuing a challenge to you.  We have enough divisive hate-speech in this country right now.  Partisan politics has become the flavor-of-the-month, and the flames are being fanned by media.  It's time for this to end.  Religion has no place in government, just as government has no place in religion.  Stand up for the commonalities that unite us all -- love of country, support of the rule of law, dedication to freedom of speech and freedom of belief. 

Be willing to say, "You know what?  The fact that I share your religious beliefs doesn't give you the right to question in my presence the morals, ethics, or patriotism of those who don't."

Be willing to challenge those who have already stopped listening to the likes of me, who have already decided that everything I say "is lies straight from the pit of Hell."

Be willing to stand up for the religious tolerance that the founders of this country wrote into law when they framed the Constitution.

Your silence just makes the fissures that divide this country wider.  And it is time for that silence to end.

sincerely,

Gordon (your fellow American citizen)

17 comments:

  1. Well done Gordon Bonnet, well done. Thank you for including -im my opinion, the most annoying thing ever- the statement about the motto "In god we trust " with actual facts. Its insane that some people of America dont even know that. Ignorance is fun.

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  2. Extremely insightful and well put, Gordon. I'm all about this!

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  3. Well said indeed. I completely share your sentiment.

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  4. Disagree. At a glance your argument seems rational and fair, but that's exactly the problem. The religious people who you write this for are not swayed by such trivial things as logic, fairness, or even the physical realm of possibility. You treat them as equals, but they see you as a sad backward hell bound sinner. Your fundamental worldview is so radically different that you cannot ever get thru to them on this level. You simply don't speak the same language. Nice try sir, but effort wasted

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    1. I agree with his post, but I also agree with your comment. The main thing the Christians Diety tauught was "do unto others as you want to be treated." And as a fellow angry Atheist I support flaming religious tards and so on. They seem to have no problem doing it to us. That being said I's not like I immediately banish somebody on their religious beliefs. I do however banish bigots and idiots. The only thing I am intolerant against is the intolerant themselves.

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    2. Awkward Doctor, i would like to begin this post by stating that 1. you are incorrect in your assumptions, and 2. i agree that religion should not be involved with government. Civil religion is idiotic. why? becuase if a republican says god wants me in office, and wins then he feels vindicated but if come relection a democrat is voted into office he says its satans work. God cares about what happens to people yes, but do you really think he is going to get involved with affairs since in the bible it states multiple times that all man needs to hear his voice is to read the bible with an open heart.(its in like almost every page after the gospels -.-. Also I do not think atheists are sad backward hell bound sinners, my best freinds are BAPTISTS and THEY would disagree with that. What all TRUE chistians believe (as it is stated throughout both testaments) EVERY man and woman are fallen, that includes christians, it is only through the grace of god that we are able to go to heaven(not looking for a religious debate guys and gals)those who do not are people who have been led astray as we once were, just because we have been shown the right way doesn't make us better it simply means we have the ability to also show them the right way. Personally i dont care if the world is "old" or "young" most scientists back up evolution more because of their non-belief so their is more eveidence for it. Genesis could have taken place over BILLIONS of years. either way its cool with me. I like learning about both ways but the past is irreleveant to me as a christian and only the future and the present are what matters. Also i do my best to be unbiased although for humans in general that is bordering on the impossible. Secondly i want this to be known CHRISTIANITY IS FALSIFIABLE, granted it'd take alot of time and work, but if you all are so keen on "freeing us" from our ignorance. Find Christs body prove its him using the scientific method, and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt and every Christian who aren't sheople (which contrary to popular belief is a majority) will admit " yeah we sorta dropped the ball on that one, thanks bro". Granted many will go to judaism (myself included), but the old testament is also falsifiable since it has more places where it could be proven wrong. Granted yet again i personally dont believe that either are fallible, but if showed evidenceproving the contrary i will change my beliefs. thank you for your time, sorry for the wall of text.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Also I formally as a christian ACKNOWLEDGE that our country was founded on mans doctrine not christianity or what ever. HOWEVER it is true that it was a doctrine that was welcoming to allow all religion equal rights and also to have a seperation of church and state. that being said i do advocate for people of faith holding office and letting it be an influence on their decisions. I am NOT addvocating people saying it has been revealed to me by god to do ____. If so you should all ask for proof as would I since the bible itself says many will claim to be prophets but will only be false in their ways

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  5. Gordon, it will not be long before you get your wish, the Marxist have been working on our society for several decades now to remove God from all aspects of the American life. You may, indeed, be one of the products of their effort.
    A communist, or even a socialist form of government can not function with a society that still has faith and allegiances to a Living God. These people have to put their faith in the state and the regime that will control their lives.
    The tolerance you speak of should also be observed by the nine percent agnostics in society for the overwhelming number of people who have something to believe in more than themselves and their own perceived superior knowledge as the so called atheists do.
    Keep complaining and working for these evil powers and together you will be able to rid the world of these "ignorant, naive religious people" who have held this country together for the last 235 years and made t the greatest nation to have ever existed on the earth.

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams

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    1. The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
      -- John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88), from Adrienne Koch, ed, The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society (1965) p. 258, quoted from Ed and Michael Buckner, "Quotations that Support the Separation of State and Church "

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    2. This statement was made in the Treaty of Tripoli. This was an attempt to explaining to the Muslims that we were not a theocratic government, like the Muslim government of Tripoli which was a government that is the enemy of anyone not belonging to the Muslim religion.
      Certainly, Our country was not based on a religious belief, but it was conceived for a religious and moral people and therefore was a Christian nation.
      The first amendment of the constitution guaranteed the people that there can be no government religion, and guarantees the right of the people to worship as they see fit, and not be restricted by the government, which is currently being violated by the government at the behest of the non-believers which are but a very small minority.
      A little "Real" study of history will reveal that most of the founding fathers were religious, unlike the non-believers would have you believe.
      When George Washington was sworn into the office of president of the United States, in New York City, which was the capital at that time, he dedicated the country to God, He and the entire congress then went, together, to a church which stands at the location that is now known as Ground Zero where they had a joint session of congress and, all together, they dedicated the country to God again.
      We were a Christian Nation, not in government, but by virtue of the citizens a Godly people who lived by godly virtues until ungodly people started forcing their ideals upon the citizenry through a government controlled by people who have lost track of the meaning of the constitutional protection of the citizens of the United States.

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    3. What is this "real" study of history you speak of? All the research I've done is in direct contradiction to this misinformation.

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    4. What I said was all Fact!
      Research has to be done without a preconceived agenda.
      If you want the truth, it's there for you to find. Just keep looking!
      Look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Tripoli

      George Washington's first Inaugural Address
      In the City of New York
      http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres13.html

      George Washington, along with members of the United States Congress, worshipped at St. Paul's Chapel on his Inauguration Day, on April 30, 1789.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Paul%27s_Chapel

      If you really want to know, you can expand this research and find much more on the subject.

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  6. If God is your creator, then you live for God.

    BUT PLEASE STOP TRYING TO PRESUME WHAT GOD WANTS.

    GOD NEVER SAID A DARN THING ABOUT WHAT AMERICA SHOULD OR SHOULDN'T BE.

    Ever heard the saying:

    "When you assume you make an ASS out of U and ME."

    To take it one step further, you're assuming what God thinks. You're making up God's mind for him/her. That's, like, a really bad thing to do, ya know?

    Nobody in this country should be proclaiming whether America is a "Religious Country" or not, because God didn't give you any direction on that.


    ...bit of yelling there, but I felt like being emphatic.

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    1. "Yeah but God would want this country to be a Christian Country!"

      Presuming God (the all-mighty, all-knowing) shares your fallible human opinion is hubris.

      I don't know if God is a historian or not, but from a human perspective, theocracies have had a bad track record. Never forget that America was founded by individuals who escaped oppressive theocracies that used religion as a smoke screen to get compliance from the populous. This is the thing that agnostics/atheists are afraid of.

      You put the power back in God's hands when you stop assuming that God favors America to win whatever war or social conflict is the flavor of the month.



      Oh and another thing to take the wind out of your sails:

      SO LONG AS USURY EXISTS IN AMERICA... AMERICA WILL NEVER BE A CHRISTIAN NATION.

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    2. I agree, theocracies never work, Islam proves that.
      America was never meant to be a theocracy.
      America was dedicated to God by founders and God has blessed us up until the time we, as a nation turned against him and began to violate his principals.
      We are now suffering the consequences of losing his blessings, by the vile and perverted society we have become.

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    3. Mr. Stoker,

      Humans sin. Always will. Any God I would believe in would not punish the whole of humanity for the sins of the few, or even the many. God takes each human on a case by case basis. If not, then we would not have a PERSONAL relationship with God.

      You have your relationship with God, I have mine... and never the twain shall meet.

      Any God I would believe in would not punish the innocent or the righteous based on a sliding scale of societal injustice. That would be... unfair. Any God I would believe in is fair, just, etc.

      So "we" are not being punished. Specific individuals get punished. The doom and gloom that you espouse over all of humanity is an attempt to use fear to gain allegiance. This coercion, to me, is vile and perverted. It takes love of God and turns it into wrath of God. For all we know this could be the most enlightened age humanity will ever have. You're assuming, as everyone else is, based on non-empirical (or benevolent) data. Nobody but God has the mind of God. STOP ASSUMING.

      If you are a good person, then you are an example of the goodness in man. Use yourself as a metric for the depravity of humanity.

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