Friday, November 30, 2012

Do Prominent Atheist Groups In The US Secretly Hate Atheists?

It sure seems like it at times.....

Jesus statue, Montana war memorial
From Americans United for Seperation of Church and State attacking a veterans memorial that includes a Jesus statue in Montana, to a man forcing a restaurant  to give up it's Sunday church discount, extreme atheist organizations and people are in my opinion, causing harm to the atheist movement.

Here's why I say this:

Campaigns like this alienate even non fundamentalists.

In the case of the veterans memorial, how many people are going to be offended by the attempts to remove the statue that will then turn against the atheist movement? In US society, there's very few places that are considered more worthy of respect (and some might say sacred) that memorials for veterans. How many people will instead see this as an attack on US military veterans and the memory of fallen soldiers instead of a legal issue?

There's more important things to worry about restaurant discounts: 

Instead of worrying about a restaurant trying to thank a large group of it's loyal customers, how about worrying about more important issues? Oh let's see, how about a member of the state legislature that has been trying to outlaw atheism in Kentucky, by making it punishable by up to a year in prison, similar to "blasphemy" laws in the Middle East and South Asia?

What about the judge in Oklahoma that sentenced a teen to 10 years of church services for manslaughter. Not only is that unconstitutional, but this teen will not spend a day in prison for his crime, how is that justice?

How about the fact that the US has so many fundamentalists/is so anti-atheist that that former Christians, especially former fundamentalists are often afraid to come out about their unbelief? For some, it could cost them their marriage, their family may reject them, and they may even lose respect or standing in their career field.

Take the time some day to read the stories of people on the site, especially the testimonial section on the forums, to get an idea of what it is like to be a former Christian in the US (many of these people are now atheists)

It feeds the delusional persecution complex that fundamentalists have, draws their groups closer together. 

Though some leaders like Pat Robertson, who is now claiming that "atheists are trying to steal Christmas", will just outright invent anything to make it appear as though Christianity is being persecuted (despite fundamentalists holding an extreme amount of power in the culture and government), actions like the ones I just mentioned at the beginning of this post do nothing to help matters any. It just feeds the fires of these paranoid ministers and their followers, and draws their groups closer together, it causes them to unite against their opposition (the skeptic community).

It alienates moderates in the skeptic community:
When I posted about the attempts to remove the veterans memorial in Montana, even my fellow skeptics on Google + were divided by this, moderates, mostly agnostics, were disgusted by it, one said that this lawsuit showed to him that hard core atheists are little better than fundamentalists.

The skeptic movement can not afford to lose people because of the fact that some in our midst are this extreme. Why didn't Americans United for Separation of Church and State try to work out a deal with the US Forest Service to have ownership of the statue turned over to a veteran's group or a local religious organization?

That would have solved the constitutional issue of the statue being government owned (and maintained with tax payer dollars), without coming across as hostile to either veterans or historical monuments. What was the point of this lawsuit, really? Was it so that Americans United would get more publicity?  Were they deliberately looking to anger people? Is so, they truly succeeded in that mission.

Final thoughts:

Coming from the fundamentalist background that I did, I suppose it makes me wary of extremism in any philosophy. I feel that as hostile as US culture already is to atheists, misguided campaigns like this over issues that don't truly matter just makes the public perceptions of atheists worse

We can also not afford to become a more fractured group than we already are. Lawsuits and campaigns like this by atheist extremist isolate moderates within the skeptic community such as agnostics, deists and even the non-religious who may believe in a higher power but reject organized religion and it's power in the culture and government.

It really makes me wonder if some US atheist groups actually do hate atheists......


  1. Hi Sheldon. Great post. I just wanted to stop by and let you know that I learned about your blog from Andy Hall when we were putting together the BSA thing. Also, that I paraphrased you and linked to this article in my post today.--Keep up the good work. John

    1. Sweet! Thanks, I can use the help getting more readers :)

    2. Be prepared for a big discussion if you post this, it was a big discussion on my Google + page when I first posted it.

    3. Fair enough...I left it open for people to discuss, so far, not much response. I find that always happens to me...I write something that I put a lot of thought into and crickets for hits/responses. I write a rant that took me 10 minutes and hundreds of hits...go figure..

    4. I know that feeling exactly, it seems like people really love a good rant, and tend to skip over well thought out posts.

      I noticed no traffic coming from that post. Would you like to do a guest post sometime for this blog? I'm always trying to recruit guest posters.

    5. I would love too. Let me try to write something up in the next few days and I will send it you. We have a snowstorm coming Sunday, so I should have some free time on my hands this weekend. Thanks for the offer.

      Please allow me to extend the same back to you. I have had guest posters in the past and love doing it. I think cross-blog pollination is a great thing!

    6. Do you happen to be on Google +? We could IM on there, Google + is actually a great way to promote a blog.

      Anyway, if you want to send a post, my blog e-mail is

      How soon would you want a guest post from me?
      I have a post I can send to you now for posting tomorrow.

  2. Nobody has tried to outlaw atheism in Kentucky. Atheists have been circulating this urban legend for a while now, and it has no basis in truth. The law that they're referring to requires a plaque acknowledging dependence on God for security to be placed on a state building. It does not define a penalty, it does not require anyone to believe in God, and it does not affect anyone other than the official in charge of hanging the plaque. Note that this is a law relating to the functions of the state government -- not a part of the criminal code. No one is being prosecuted for atheism, because it is not a crime (and cannot be made one).

    1. Well, anon, I'll concede your point about the plaque, but read the article I link to, it does define a penalty, up to one year in prison if the law were not to be followed.

      The plaque would also violate the first amendment.

  3. I read the actual law and the "legislative findings" referred to in the law. No penalty is defined. If the official in charge of getting this done didn't do it, he would be reprimanded, possibly fired, but not jailed. The confusion seems to come from the dissenting judge in the court case that overturned the earlier court's finding that the law was unconstitional. She wrote that the law was inserted into a part of the state code that defined penalties for violating any of the laws included in that section. This is more likely cluelessness on the part of the legislators than any real attempt to jail someone for not hanging a plaque. People are not criminally prosecuted for not doing their jobs unless failure to perform a certain duty results in harm AND it is addressed separately in the criminal code.


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