Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
This began as a reply to Rick's post below about "Freedom From Religion". Please see his post for context.
[RickU] I think that the theists have a serious misconception which drives them to make the errant statement. The misconception is that we want to push our godlessness onto them and remove god from everything.
This goes hand in hand with the other serious misconception religious folks have about atheism; that it is a religion.
The two are very simple to understand.
More below the fold...
1. "Freedom From Religion". The First Amendment protects the free expression and religious rights of individual American citizens. It also admonishes our government to be fair about it. So, we get the "equal access" stuff for public schools, and such. That's why churches can use high school auditoriums on the weekends to hold services - as long as *everyone who asks* gets the same access. So, theoretically, the Church of Satan could hold black mass in a school auditorium. Or we could have weekly freethinker's meeting. Or whatever. Basketweaving classes.
However, the misconception comes into play when people get confused and begin to think that the government itself has free expression and religious freedom rights. This is incorrect. The government does not have any rights at all. The government has to enforce and uphold our rights as individuals, but it has no rights of it's own. So, when a person is employed by the government, and thereby becomes a spokesman for the government, they do not have any rights while acting in that capacity. For example, a public school teacher - who is a city or county employee - is a government representative. In that capacity, they cannot lead a class of public school students in a prayer, or pass out literature from their church. Because in that situation, they are the government - and the government does not have any rights, remember? Folks lose sight of this and cannot separate the government job from the individual person who is performing it.
Understandable to a certain degree, I suppose, but frustrating - not to mention unconstitutional at times.
2. "Atheism is a religion". Everyone does this. Even some atheists do this. It is the single-most frustrating thing about being without god-belief. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry have their own idea about what atheism is - and they are all generally wrong. Sometimes I think that the word has become so mangled in the common usage that it's quite nearly useless. I have taken to describing myself to folks in person as "a person without god-beliefs." Or, "I have no god beliefs".
I have gone through this time and time again on this blog for the past five years - and on other folks' blogs. And in editorials, letters to the editor, op-ed columns, personal letters, etc.
It just doesn't matter. People still don't get it, and I am beginning to think that they never will.
Atheism and theism are two sides of the same coin. NEITHER are "religions". They are descriptions.
First of all, "Atheism" and "theism" BOTH are NOT:
- "World views".
- Ethical frameworks.
- Moral authorities
- Political indicators
- "How to" books.
Again, they are descriptions. "Theism" describes a person in which god-belief is present. "Atheism" describes a person in which god-belief is absent.
That's all. Nothing more. Black or white. On or Off. There or not-there. Mutually exclusive. You may be described as one, or the other, but not as both.
Now, after someone describes themselves, say, of having god-beliefs present within them, then they can be called a "theist".
Does this say anything else about them at all? Just because they have god-belief in them, can you now ascribe a political party to them? Tell them that "all of them" act in a certain way, and they "all you theists" want the same monolithic political even to happen?
No! Of course not. The ONLY thing we now know about that person is that god-belief is present within them. We don't know which god(s) they believe in, which religion they subscribe to, their political views, their predisposition towards puppies, babies, and cute fuzzy bunnies and kittens - N.O.T.H.I.N.G.
The same is true for atheists. All we know about them is that god-belief is absent within them. That's it.
Except - when your average American hears the word "atheist", they seem to picture some frothing-at-the-mouth, rabid, anti-Christian baby-eating nihilist devil who wants to use the government to persecute Christians in their own homes.
It's frustrating sometimes.
What do we do about it? I mean, I like the word "atheist". It's a perfect description to what I am. A person without god beliefs. But the colloquial and common usage of the word is becoming so tainted that it's almost impossible to use without having to re-explain, at great length, what it actually means - and even then, you get blank looks and hostility.
What do you folks think?