“This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.” – John Adams, President and Founding Father
Why am I so outspoken on atheism? I feel that I have to make a vigorous stand in the face of the erosion of our Nation’s secular foundation. Atheists get a bum rap. In a certain respect, we’re lucky. There are no visible signs of atheism. We’re not a different color and we don’t have public behaviors that are easy to spot. We can stay under the radar if we choose. The one thing we cannot do is run for office. Not if we want to win, at any rate. An atheist can’t get elected dog catcher. Well, that’s not exactly true…you can in the most despicable and godless of all districts, The Bay Area. To date, there has been exactly 1 openly atheist congressman, Rep. Pete Stark D-CA. I am convinced there are many more secret atheists who have made a devil’s bargain, if you’ll pardon the pun, in order get elected. As Hemingway said, “all thinking men are atheists” though I suppose that could be taken a number ways depending on your view of Congress…and Hemingway. At any rate, it is politically safe to express contempt toward atheists in a way that we no longer tolerate when it comes to gays, or blacks or Jews or filthy awful Scotsmen.
The reason I’m writing about this now is that atheism is becoming a central attack theme in the race between Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan for Dole’s NC Senate seat. Dole is running attack ads calling Hagan “godless” for taking campaign money from the Godless Americans Political Action Committee. Dole’s people had this to say about GAPAC:
“Kay Hagan attended a fundraiser event in Massachusetts in September held in the home of two anti-religion activists, Wendy Kaminer and her lawyer husband, Woody Kaplan,” Dole’s attorneys said in a letter to Hagan’s lawyer.
They described Kaplan as a founder and advisory board member of the GAPAC. The letter said Kaplan and Kaminer were advisory board members of The Secular Coalition for America, which it described as “the national lobby for atheists, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans with the unique mission of protecting their civil rights.”
Protecting your civil rights is a “unique” mission now? Weird. I thought everyone wanted their civil rights protected. Those rotten godless sonsofbitches! How dare they demand to be treated with the same rights as everyone else.
Alright, so Dole calls Hagan “godless” like it’s a bad word, and Hagan responds by calling this attack “the lowest of the lows”. Hagan claims to be Christian, and judging by the fact that she took thousands of dollars from a secular rights group and then threw them under the bus, I’d say she probably is. Lowest of the lows – really? Worse than a terrorist? Worse than a genocidal dictator? Worse than a serial killer? Child rapist? Wall street swindler? Worse than a wife beater? A drunk driver? Worse than someone who borrows your stuff and doesn’t return it? The religious tyranny in this country, and particularly in politics, is swirling into a furor that will likely result in witch trials if we don’t get a handle on it. This country was founded deliberately secular, and for the safety of freedom of its citizens it needs to remain that way. I’m tired of watching politicians try to out-pious each other. Our Founding Fathers would be supremely pissed off about this, if they were here to see it.
Speaking only for myself, and not on behalf of any political party or organization, it’s my view that people should be ashamed of their religion, not proud of it. Religious belief is proof of a flaw in ones ability to think rationally, not a virtue. People should feel a certain amount of embarrassment in admitting that they think the Earth was created a few thousand years ago by an invisible man in the sky who then destroyed it with a flood because he was angry but saved all the animals by ordering one man to collect breeding pairs on a homemade boat. You’re kidding, right? We can all agree that Norse or Greek creation myths seem far-fetched, but this is somehow plausible? And I should take comfort in electing someone whose belief in this nonsense is more steadfast than their opponent’s?
Clinging to superstition puts us all back in the dark ages. We have 99.999% of the answers that religion used to provide. We know the history of the universe going back several billion years. We know how the sun will one day destroy the earth, a few billion years from now. We know how mankind evolved from out of the muck. We know about heredity, and DNA. We know germs cause disease, not demons. We know about schizophrenia, rather than possession. We can make wires a single atom wide. We have vaccines and heart transplants. We have computers that can perform billions of calculations per second – while communicating with satellites – that fit in your pocket. What have you done for me lately, religion? There are a few dark corners where we still have to guess, but religion provides nothing better there either…just more unanswerable questions. Who created the Big Bang? God? Then who created God? We can endlessly regress these questions like toddlers pestering our parents, or we can accept the reality that there might be some questions that will just go unanswered, and emerge into the intellectual adulthood of our species.
Being godless isn’t a bad thing, and atheists aren’t the lowest of the lows. We’re just ahead of the curve.