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Evangelical Atheism

Published by Janus on July 1, 2008

As a self-proclaimed secular conservative, I often confuse people when I take aim at policies that attempt to institutionalize an Atheist approach to governance. But why? If Atheists don’t believe in God, wouldn’t that be the perfect way to separate church and state? While a Godless republic on its face seems like a great secular idea, I take issue with the evangelical Atheists who would spread Atheism just as much as I take issue with the evangelical Christians who want to spread religion.

I define “religion” as a collection of beliefs on the nature of the divine. Most religions include what God is, who God is, and how God wants people to behave. While people would doubtlessly disagree with me, I see Atheism as a religion. The premise of Atheism is simple: there is no God. But that very premise is a belief (or a conclusion, if you would prefer that word) about the nature of the divine – and that makes it a religion.

Our government is forbidden from adopting a state religion by the constitution. The establishment clause was written to guarantee each American the right to worship God however we want to without fear of persecution, discrimination, or disenfranchisement. It was written so that a Prodistant government could not abuse Catholic citizens, a Catholic government couldn’t abuse Jewish citizens, Jewish citizens couldn’t abuse Islamic citizens, et cetera. Free practice of our religious beliefs is a basic right we all share.

My problem with an Atheistic approach to government is that evangelical Atheists and extremist Atheists are no less ravenous than evangelical Christians and extremists Christians. An extreme Atheist approach – one where prayer is not permitted, the commandments may not be displayed, church groups may not distribute aid, politicians may not openly practice their beliefs, or where it becomes acceptable to openly mock persons of faith – is no different or less disturbing than any other extreme religious approach.

Our government is an instrument to defend our basic rights. The right to worship however we want to is one of those rights. Government should be above the religious debate. It should not be Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Scientologist, Jedi, or Atheist. Extremist and evangelical policies have no place in the halls of congress.

So, from a secularist to the Atheists: Religion has no place in government. Not even Atheism.

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Well said, but it seems to be somewhat of a leap to say that disallowing group prayer in public school is atheist, or even if it was, how you would then separate all religions from school to include Atheism, if not doing something or the negative of religion is a religion in itself.

 Comment by Joe on October 21, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

And might I add:

Matthew 6:5-6: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men….when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret….”

 Comment by Joe on October 21, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

The premise of Atheism is simple: there is no God.

Not quite, Sparky. The premise of atheism (btw, atheism, not Atheism) is belief in deities is currently unwarranted. Maybe one day there’ll be some evidence. Personally, I’m holding out for evidence of Nessie. Wouldn’t that be cool, huh? Until then, believing in that beastie is unwarranted, too.

Now if you read the Constitution, you’d know that it’s not the government’s place to either establish a religion, favor one over the other, favor religious belief over no religious belief, or give any appearance, no matter how innocuous, of engaging in any of that. To that end, things like the National Day of Prayer, “God” in the Pledge and in the national motto, religious icons on display on government property, and public school teachers leading prayers are violations of that. You were indeed correct when you said, “Government should be above the religious debate.” Unfortunately, government has been hijacked by those eager to place it not just squarely at the center of that debate, but ever closer to one specific side. In contrast, show me the atheist who wants “Under no god” in the Pledge, “In no god do we trust” as the US motto, A National Day of No Prayer, or public school teachers leading students in affirmations that there are no gods.

Now as far as mocking goes, I fail to see what that has to do with anything. The freedom of speech which is afforded to all of us in this country permits an atheist to mock a Christian, a Christian to mock a Jew, a Jew to mock a Hindu, and so on. We each are free to mock one another, something someone needs to explain to Mrs. Palin since she’s shown she’s got the First Amendment backwards.

Have a nice day. :)

 Comment by PhillyChief on November 3, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

You nailed it!

 Comment by aka Pete Seeker on November 29, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

The founding father had NO intention of separating church and state—their purpose was to prevent the establishment of a state church like England had (Church of England). There are always those who try and rewrite history to conform to contemporary values. The founding fathers did NOT intend to separate Christianity from the State. That is a recent concept, not one of the founders. They did favor slavery–that was changed by war and amendments to the constitution. If one want to change the constitution begin a revolution or amend it; but don’t try to change it by judical review.

 Comment by Ron Russell on January 19, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

If one reads Thomas Jefferson’s own writings, particularly relating to the Virginia Resolution regarding religion this whole “what the Founders intended” debate goes away. Some were Christians, some were Deists, and the majority remembered what a mess Europe became because of religion and wanted to avoid that here. NONE advocated making people worship. And by the way, Ron, a great many of the Founders did not favor slavery but there were bigger issues wrapped around that that could not be solved or separated at the time. Some Founders were fighting slavery before we were a separate nation.

But I digress. Atheism has gotten damn militant. I’m an atheist, but because I’m also an American I don’t see any problem with you praying. Just don’t insist that I do. See how that works? Freedom is a beautiful thing.

 Comment by Nietrick on September 1, 2009 @ 1:56 pm