Guest Post: The Lord’s Followers Giveth to Themselves and the Lord’s Followers

I hope that everyone is having a great summer. If there are new readers who joined after my talk at the Fellowship of Freethought, welcome! I hope you will contribute to these discussions.

Derrick suggested that I solicit guest posts from our community of readers. I would love to share this platform with others who can offer their unique perspectives on the frustrations, challenges and/or solutions of living in a theist nation. Some of the best discussions on this sites have been the result of guest posts. If you are interested, please shoot me an email at kidswithoutreligion@gmail.com.

I appreciate Derrick starting us off with a great read that definitely resonates with me.  I look forward to reading the comments!

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The Lord’s Followers Giveth to Themselves and the Lord’s Followers
Taketh from Others

First, go read this article.

If anyone asks why atheists get so fed up with the religious world,
this is a good list to present them. Atheists suffer systematic
discrimination. There are still eight states in the US with laws on
the books preventing atheists from holding public office.

Theists seem to do everything in their power to stigmatize (and the
irony of that word is not lost) atheists. What they fail to realize is
that atheists are doing nothing more than standing up for their rights
as much as theists demand theirs. However, when atheists do it,
theists claim it is an attack. Theists want to believe that atheists
are trying to take something away from them while failing to admit or
realize they are the guilty party.

Most atheists do not care if theists want to believe in god. It is
their prerogative to believe. In fact, it is enshrined in the US
Constitution that the government shall not impede their right to
believe. Atheists are simply requesting that theists respect atheists’
right to not believe and to stop shoving beliefs down atheists’
throats. Christians believe atheists single them out, but it is
actually the reverse. Many christian sects are imbued with a
missionary tenet telling them to go out and convert. In the dark and
middle ages, this got taken to the extreme (just ask the jews about
The Spanish Inquisition). This continues in the modern day, and all
one has to do is look at Warren, Michigan, as an example.

One would think by this example it is only the laws against murder in
the US that keeps people like this mayor from actually burning
atheists at the stake. Here was a case of atheists simply asking for
equal access and to have their rights respected only to be met by a
public official who refused.

Theists tend to believe in their right to propagate their religious
beliefs willy-nilly in public places. All one needs to do is do an
Internet search about christmas displays or displays about the ten
commandments (too many links to list). Once more, theists get bent out
of shape when atheists ask for equal access. The question must be
asked why one group believes it should be favored over another. Why do
only theists get to make public displays? Part of the reason lies in
the fact they are fighting for the hearts and, more specifically, the
minds of the young. Theists would do everything in their power to
completely disparage and demonize (yes, irony again) atheists in order
to stop the young from questioning theists’ position of power. Simply
asking someone if such-and-such a belief is true is viewed as an
attack. This is why of late theists started playing the victim card.
They are trying to win by sympathy and not by logic. Anything that
questions their position of privilege is deemed hostile, and it seems
to them that looking wounded is better than appearing reasonable.

Atheists just asking for their rights to be respected must, if the
above is true, be seen as an attack. Hence, theists by nature must do
what they can to suppress atheists. It is not atheists who are really
hostile toward theists, but most often the other way around. When
atheists get tired of getting kicked around and start standing up for
themselves, theists are doubly offended. The basic act of telling them
to stop trampling atheist rights is an effrontery. To allow theists
an equal and free voice jeopardizes the very heart of theist
institutions. Ultimately theists are fighting against democracy and
freedom. This may be what they cannot tolerate the most about
atheists: atheists are all about democracy, equality, and freedom.

­ Derrick

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

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26 responses to “Guest Post: The Lord’s Followers Giveth to Themselves and the Lord’s Followers

  1. This is surely upsetting….

  2. I love the line about how theists would rather appear wounded than reasonable. So incredibly true. Great article!

  3. Nicely put, Derrick.

    It is because religious privilege is afforded so much accommodation that we have encountered a very real threat to respecting and upholding the fundamental principle of all enlightenment political values, namely, autonomy of the individual. This autonomy is the real enemy of those who would impose religious privilege on others and the cost is paid by an equal loss of personal autonomy.

    In the extreme, this payment is a loss of life such as the cost of 9/11… where the motivation for flying passenger planes into buildings was purely religious. The scope of this act and the willingness of people to carry it out led Sam Harris to call for the end of faith to be a justifiable reason to privilege it in the public domain and thereby stop reducing the autonomy of others.

    The demand by the religious was and remains submission to some god. We see this demand for the surrender of personal autonomy wherever gods head up a religious framework (Buddhism is somewhere in between a religion a philosophy). Those who refuse to comply are held in some measure of contempt… usually by a suspicion masked in kindness and sympathy about a lack of a ‘common’ moral fiber, a lack of ‘proper’ piety, too much ‘selfish’ arrogance, to much ‘faith’ in science, and so forth. Refusing to accept these ‘shortcomings’ as true is often seen by the more evangelical and outreaching religious as a slap in the face of their proffered kindness and sympathy, a rejection of decency and social equality. By the more militant religionists and faitheists (faitheists as those who support religious privileging even if they themselves reject the dogma behind it) comes the vilification of those who refuse to join the herd and submit their autonomy. As befitting an example of doublespeak, those who wish to maintain their autonomy and demand compelling reasons independent of the religious assumptions to do so, are labeled as ‘militant’. If any dare to speak out against this vilification or the privileging of religion in the public domain, these folk become ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘evangelicals’. Their tone becomes important, usually labeled as ‘strident’, ‘whining’, ‘immoral’, and ‘angry’. Targeted criticism of specific religious privileges are called ‘attacks’ and even ‘war on’ whatever religion affiliation calls for the privilege!

    Mostly, however, I think that when the criticisms of religious privilege (and that’s what New Atheism is all about) make good sense and are presented by people worthy of respect in manner and thought, many religious adherents suffer cognitive dissonance and can’t figure out how anyone so nice, polite, ethical, clear thinking, moral, oftentimes funny, and compassionate fits the stereotype of the ‘enemy’ of some god.

    I think your post adds to this dissonance. Well done.

    • @TILDEB Wow, nice follow-up. I like your points, especially regarding the aspect of religious privilege. You added a lot of heft to my original thoughts. Thanks!

  4. Great comments!

    I recently had a rather dim-witted Christian tell me to, “Get some religion!” The irony was that this person epitomizes everything that is “un-Christian. Some theists try to wear religion as a badge or use it as a club, but they don’t even understand the basic tenets of their religion.

    The religious right, however, is shooting themselves in the foot by insisting on that their “beliefs” be legislated–as in the HL case. They’ve now opened the door for all sorts of special protections for every “religion.” Moreover, I’ve noticed that the large majority of my kid’s friends and my friend’s kids (high school and college-age) seem to be moving away not just from religion but also belief.

    • @Debbie In some respects I cannot wait to watch various religions starting fighting with each other as “deeply held religious beliefs” come into conflict. Sooner or later the US Supreme Court will realize the terrible mistake it made.

      I think younger people are sickened by the exclusionary tactics they see at work around them. The next round of freedom fighters in the United States will be nothing like the youth movements of the 1960s. It will not be focused on hedonistic endeavor but rather on how we can manage to survive in a world we’ve broken.

  5. I saw this, “Ultimately theists are fighting against democracy and
    freedom. This may be what they cannot tolerate the most about
    atheists: atheists are all about democracy, equality, and freedom.”

    I thought, “Man. That is an awful thing to say about my people.” I wish wasn’t true.

    • @haydendlinder One of the truths about the United States is that we are constantly trying to balance the rights of various groups. One of the early fears of the founders was a tyranny by the majority, so they tried to set up the rules to avoid this (and it seems hypocritical to us today that they excluded minorities and women among others). In the last thirty years or so, there is a trend to say there is a now a tyranny of the minority. In other words, groups who once held power and prestige are fighting against their loss by demonizing the distribution of and application of rights to others. This means some will lose their privileged status. Religions are used to this privileged status in the United States and are waging a war to hang onto to it. They fail to recognize that by doing to so they are denying rights to others, and they have no right to do that. However, they feel entitled to to do and are now using the final dirty tricks to maintain their status. It may seem like an ugly thing to say, but it is true as you state. Thanks for comment.

      • So true: “In other words, groups who once held power and prestige are fighting against their loss by demonizing the distribution of and application of rights to others.” I also find it frustrating that, when it comes to expressing disbelief in the same ways that religions have expressed belief (for example, through billboards), atheists are treated not unlike the gay community has been. “It’s okay that you are different, we just don’t want to see evidence of it in public.”

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  6. And then we have politicians who try to lead us in prayer to fix things like the drought in Texas. http://www.myfoxaustin.com/story/26182876/texans-unite-in-prayer

    Now, I ask you. If this god could send relief for the drought, and he is such a loving, all-knowing, all-powerful deity, why would he allow the drought to begin with? I love the comment by one of the women interviewed: “Our biggest problem is we’ve lost touch with our creator.” What does that even mean? (Although, I think this comment would work if our creator = nature.)

  7. @Derrick and Deborah, I think the biggest problem with the religious right is they do not even try to uphold the very tenets they are trying to sell everyone else. They go on and on about how persecuted they are and never stop to ask why. I talk to people at work and play about my God all the time and never have any issues. Probably because I respect the other persons beliefs and rights. If they’d just do that, then we wouldn’t be talking about them now.

    • haydendlinder If you’re talking to people about your god at work and play, you may be offending someone and not even realize it. You assume everyone welcomes your solicitation. In this sense, you are not really respecting the other person’s “beliefs and rights.”

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  8. It is nothing short of amazing how the religious (christian) right is playing the victim. Just because some people would like the US constitution to be upheld and the christian religious priviledge to be set aside…
    There is nothing good in the actions of religious right – they are hypocritical whiners who do nothing but disservice to the religious who would like to act according to their beliefs.
    @hayden: While I do know that evangelizing is a central tenet in christian faith, have you ever thought about it having a time and place? I would be very offended if someone at my work started to prozelyte or make me “understand” my wicked ways. It absolutely because the christian del…religion is so popular that the proponents feel like there´s somehow a permission to wave that flag at everyone else but should someone else try that then…well we´ve heard and read what happens then. Christians are offended and a breach of constitution ensues.

    • Oops. I see Konsta already addressed that evangelizing-at-work point!

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    • @saab93f First, I think the theists are terrified that other people are going to do to them what they did to others throughout the centuries (points finger at christians and mohammedans). They fear persecution because, as longtime practitioners, they know how bad it can get. They fear the boomerang effect.

      Second, I love it when someone starts proselytizing at me. I take it at overt permission to make them cry through the use of conversation. I just start punching holes, big ones, in their make-believe and challenge them to defend their illogical position. Since most have only memorized a few of their favorite pieces of scripture, it’s easy to get them twisted up (ask christians exactly what it was Lot’s wife did wrong (hint: god never forbade her to look back)). It’s fun to watch them get enraged and start having spasms. However, and as I always do, I let them start it first. I kind of see it as an invitational bloodsport.

  9. Lovely, thought-provoking post Derrik! Personally I think the victim/persecution narrative runs very deep in Christianity. Christ and his followers were persecuted – in fact, Paul, the person who ended up doing the most to spread their faith in early days was initially a persecutor of Christians. I remember learning about martyrs from a Catholic nun when I was a child. The idea that people in the past were put to death in gruesome ways just for their beliefs was an affront to my 8 year old self. However, not to stop there, the nun went on to tell horrible stories of modern martyrs in various parts of the world. I didn’t sleep well for weeks. Of course she omitted to tell our little Communion class about all the gruesome ways Christians had put others to death. I found out about that later. Anyway, my point is that Christians are kind of indoctrinated into feeling that the truly worthy are persecuted, and I think it actually feeds into their identity as “good Christians” to believe that they are victims.

    Additionally, nothing brings a group together more effectively than a common threat. It’s a great way to rally the faithful even if the threat is mostly in their own minds. I’m very ambivalent about the “New Atheist” stance because it gives certain religious groups a straw man threat to stand against. This leads to the Christian majority demanding even more favored treatment than they already have. Obviously they wouldn’t be carrying on about their rights if they didn’t feel that somehow their rights were threatened. (Same can be said for the gun rights activists who already have the least restrictive regulations of any 1st World nation). It just occurred to me that a great way to describe proselytizing is “Open Carry Religion”.

    • @Anne “Open Carry Religion” that is beautiful! Thank you for your comments. I, too, did time in the Big House (aka catholic school), so I really understand your tale about gruesome stories from nuns, I think you also raise a good point about persecution syndrome that runs deep in christianity. Nothing says “I’m better than you” than feeling like the other person is treating you unjustly.

    • I’m very ambivalent about the “New Atheist” stance because it gives certain religious groups a straw man threat to stand against. This leads to the Christian majority demanding even more favored treatment than they already have. Obviously they wouldn’t be carrying on about their rights if they didn’t feel that somehow their rights were threatened.

      Speaking as a New Atheist, I’ve noticed that all it takes for many in the Christian majority to feel their rights are threatened (aka under attack, victimized, martyred) is to dare criticize a religious privilege.

      I sincerely hope you are not suggesting that New Atheism is a problem because it acts to unify religious folk into a single group that shares a common enemy. That would be either blaming the victim (ie. if only she hadn’t worn, acted, been, seen, etc., she wouldn’t have been raped) or just another way to tell us we would be so much more effective if we just shut the hell up (If fewer rapes were reported, all of us would be safer because of a decrease in the rape rate).

      Compelling evidence suggests just the opposite, that the more we speak up and challenge religious privilege, the more people we convert out of theism (Convert’s Corner on Dawkins’ site makes for a very interesting and long read of just this effect).

      Also, the next generation is fast approaching a tipping point in group identity where atheism will be be a larger minority than all other identifiable religious groups. This has tremendous political ramifications: if the European model holds true, this the point where religions begin to fade away from having much effect in the public domain.

      • Sorry, edit fail. The italics should be closed right after the bold to indicate this is what Anne wrote.

        • I’ll fix this, tildeb.

          I, too, think we’re reaching a tipping point but am befuddled by how many (less than 2% of Americans) identify as atheists. I think they’re just surveying people over the age of 30! http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

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          • I’ve only met one Catholic (out of dozens I know) who actually believes the cracker turns into flesh. All the rest share my non belief almost across the board… except when it comes to checking a box on some form about religious affiliation.

            Without question, the Nones are the fastest growing minority and there is very little meaningful difference between self-reported atheists and the rest in this younger cohort of Nones.

          • It shows there are more agnostic than atheist, which is interesting but I am in my 20s and a lot of people I know who do not believe in any religion believe God exists. A lot of us are fed up with all the politics and want people to stop telling us what to believe regardless of whether or not we’re atheists, agnostics, or adhere to some religious group. So I think that tipping point will come regardless of how many people are actually atheists.

      • Hi Tildeb – sorry if I came across as critical of the actions New Atheists – I agree that it doesn’t take much for some of our religious citizenry to use rightful atheist outcry as a rally call to the faithful. I certainly hope we are approaching the tipping point as far as atheist identity is concerned. At the risk of saying something you might take the wrong way, your analogy to the blaming of rape victims made me feel compelled to defend myself. It made me feel under attack. That kind of rhetoric is more harmful than helpful. There were kinder ways to point out how my comments could be taken. I am sorry that my own carelessness in wording made you feel that you had to defend your position. See how easy it is to provoke defensiveness?

        • Hi Anne. The reason why I used the rape analogy was to shock you. You do not see yourself as someone who would ever blame a rape victim, are you?

          I’m relying on that.

          Of course, the risk I take is to be vilified as a mean and nasty person for using such a rhetorical tool but that’s a risk I’m willing to take if it means people like you will take your own comments as seriously as I do.

          And people usually will… but only if they are motivated to do so. Self defense is a wonderful motivator and can often break through the veneer of enunciating a somewhat generic opinion that may include a socially acceptable slightly biased and depersonalized criticism only if there is reason enough to do so.

          I don’t want you – or anyone – to be ambivalent about New Atheism and certainly not for the reason you suggested.

          Let me explain why.

          One of the well advertised methods for disregarding what I think is a very important and timely message about stopping religious privilege in the public domain is to convince people to have just enough doubt, just enough fear of being labelled as intolerant and militant, to at least sit on the fence. This tactic works for those who don’t want change.

          For example, the Heartland Institute has worked very hard (and spent many millions of energy sector dollars) to get people to be willing to think of climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels as possibly controversial. That’s a win for those who wish to continue business as usual. Sitting on a fence is equivalent to doing nothing yet feeling interested enough to care but not quite enough to be seen as perhaps too forward, too intolerant, too militant to actually hold a non ambivalent opinion and defend it on its own merits.

          Alternative medicines and therapies (anti-BigParma) use the same tactic to present their form of woo as respectable enough so that people won’t reject their claims outright. The same is true for anti-vaxers and anti-fluoridation advocates, tarot card readers and dowsers, priestly exorcists,faith healers, and astrologers, and the list goes on and on. If a few more people would just sit on the fence and feel good about doing so, then all kinds of faith-based beliefs can be better established (in the name of tolerance and open-mindedness) in the public domain.

          New Atheists and their message need greater exposure to individuals like yourself who will consider them on merit. But you short circuit this fair consideration if yo allow yourself to be diverted and think it reasonable to bring a new set of rules for New Atheism that isn’t equivalently applied to everything it criticizes.

          If you honestly think that religion and all other forms of faith-based belief and privileges sought for them should be curtailed for fear of offending (and increasing the number of) New Atheists, then your original reasons are sufficient and consistent enough for thinking the opposite might be the case.

          But I suspect you didn’t do this, in the same way most people don’t realize they are in effect blaming the victims rather than the perpetrators of rape when they consider aspects of the victim’s behaviour to warrant serious enough mitigating consideration. It’s a diversionary tactic used to effect by defenders of rapists as it is defenders of woo and those who profit most from business as usual.

          If you’re not going to condemn New Atheism outright and vilify New Atheists publicly, then your ambivalence is just what those who are criticized by New Atheists hope for.

    • Ha. Great analogy, Anne! ” It just occurred to me that a great way to describe proselytizing is “Open Carry Religion”.

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